A bittersweet feeling kicked in as I typed the words above: “Onizuka’s wild trip comes to an end.” Yep, it’s all over. GTO: 14 Days in Shonan ran a solid nine volumes, with a fully realized story that ends on a satisfying note, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want more. Sure, Vertical also releases GTO: The Early Years, but it’s Shonan‘s story specifically that really hooked me back into Onizuka’s world, and it is with a fistful of fond memories and plans to revisit its pages that I bid it all farewell.
One of the most impressive things about 14 Days in Shonan becomes even more apparent as it approaches the final stretch. The last couple of volumes continue to deal with heavy subject manner, as the youth residing at the White Swan group home are faced once more with the horrors of their past. Thanks to the Mayor’s greedy, vote-hooking plan to reunite families and make the city free of group homes, one of the girls ends up back in the care of her severely abusive father. Needless to say, this doesn’t end well at all.
That is, of course, until Onizuka steps in and sticks his neck out way further than anyone else would ever dare to make things right and ensure the Mayor’s plan not only falls flat, but completely blows up in his face. These stories aren’t played for laughs, but there are laughs to be had. The subject matter is treated delicately without being heavy-handed, and Onizuka always takes protecting the youth of the White Swan seriously. Thus, it ends up being touching without veering into melodrama, and the methods of righting the series’ many wrongs are always entertaining.
I’ve always appreciated that Toru Fujisawa gives props to the small squad of assistants and editors that make 14 Days in Shonan possible. As far as I’m concerned, the art therein is pretty much perfect, and that isn’t the result of one man’s backbreaking effort. It’s the combined talents of a team, including helpers that tend to get overlooked in the creator-driven way world of manga tends to be viewed. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fantasy of Fujisawa slaving away to produce such a pristine product, but just look at this series. The backgrounds are as immaculately toned as the perverted gym teacher who gets caught barking orders with a hard-on in the bonus Black Diamond chapters.
That’s right, volume 9 of 14 Days in Shonan stops a little short, so the rest of the collection is filled out nicely thanks to bonus stories that center on Miko and Riko Sakaki, now members of Chigasaki Kahoku Academy’s Disciplinary Committee. They don’t handle problems like your average disciplinarians, however, opting for a more hands-on route that sees their martial arts expertise getting plenty of use. They’re the daughters of a yakuza boss, after all, so it stands to reason that they know how to hold their own in a fight.
This micro-volume of extra chapters stands well on its own. I don’t know that I need more of the Sakaki sisters’ adventures in helping troubled students, but it works remarkably well considering Onizuka is nowhere to be found. He remains the true allure of this series, though, and GTO: 14 Days in Shonan comes highly recommended whether you’re coming in as a fan of the original series or not. It’s just a damn fine blend of comedy and action, and it manages to bare its heart on a regular basis without eliciting a cacophony of eye-rolling groans. The only thing I’m not looking forward to is the inevitable withdrawal symptoms that should start hitting in roughly a month or two.
Publisher: Vertical Inc.
Story & Art: Toru Fujisawa
© 2013 Toru Fujisawa