You Comics, 2000
I probably would not have purchased this manga series if I hadn’t watched the live action drama first. Boy I am glad I did, because I am now hooked! The art style in this is not something I am usually attracted to. There are only 3 nice-looking characters in this series. Everyone else looks kind freaky shounen-manga scary. Vaguely Initial-D-ish. But the story is a lot of fun, and that is what hooked me and kept me interested. If you have heard of the drama, anime, and manga ‘GTO’ you may think the plot of Gokusen sounds a little familiar. But believe me, Gokusen has enough wit and charm and humor to make it a great series in its own right, despite the obvious comparisons to GTO.
It is the story of young high school teacher YAMAGUCHI Kumiko. At the beginning of the series, she is 23 years old, and fresh out of school. She has just accepted her first real teaching position as a math instructor at an all-boys high school. Kumiko is very cute in an awkward, quirky way. Her clothing is unfashionable, and she wears her long hair in two ponytails that make her look younger than she is. Her glasses add to the geeky effect. Her attitude is optimistic and almost naive. She wants to be a great teacher, and she believes in her students.
Kumiko’s first class does not share in her dorky cheerfulness and optimism. They are a class of juvenile deliquents with multicolored hair, sloppy uniforms, and rough attitudes. They are lead by SAWADA Shin, their class leader who has a habit of being lazy in class. They are not thrilled to have such a lame looking teacher like Yamaguchi-sensei, so of course they try to bully her and force her to quit. Their attempts do not get them far.
What the class does not know is that YAMAGUCHI Kumiko is a lot tougher than she looks. In fact, she has a secret life outside of the classroom that she goes to great pains to conceal from her students and coworkers. Kumiko is not your average shy geek. She is, in fact, the 4th generation heir to an infamous and powerful Tokyo Yakuza group! 7 years ago, Kumiko’s parents passed away, and Kumiko was sent to live with her grandfather, the leader of the Yakuza group. Living with them has shaped Kumiko’s personality in strange ways. When flustered or angry, she will switch from normal speech patterns, to the rough, crude slang speech of the Yakuza. She is also an excellent fighter, and can easily defeat a group of attackers.
The series focuses on Kumiko’s attempts at earning the trust and respect of her students and helping them become better people, beating up badguys, imparting life lessons (often through inspirational speeches ^_^;) and occasionally teaching math. And through all this, she must keep her unusual background a secret. If the school were to find out, she would be fired. There is, of course, a little romance going on, as Kumiko falls for someone very unsuitable for her, and a few people also fall for her.
Gokusen has action, mystery, comedy, and some romance, and is a lot of fun to watch and read!