- As with the 1998 drama, the story has been moved from middle school to high school and the class is 2-4 instead of 3-4.
- This version is based on source material both from the original GTO manga as well as the recent GTO: Shonan 14 Days. The material in the first episode is pretty much all from the original, however.
- In 1998, Anko’s character was combined into Miyabi’s. Nanako’s character was expanded upon. In 2012, Anko and Miyabi both get to exist – but Nanako’s story has been absorbed by Anko.
- The last scene where Miyabi “recruits” Miki Katsuragi is obviously based on the original scene where she similarly enlists Urumi’s help to get rid of Onizuka. This makes me wonder how they’ll handle Urumi’s arc (if and when they get to it), especially since she’s present in class right from the start here.
- AKIRA as Onizuka. I never thought I’d so easily accept another actor in the role after so many years of being used to Sorimachi – and let me be clear, I did love Sorimachi as Onizuka – but this guy nails it. He’s got the look, he’s got the attitude and he’s fun to watch. He could do with some crazier facial expressions but I’m really liking his portrayal so far.
- The title sequence, short though it was.
- The fact that it’s so different from the 1998 version. As much as I would have liked a live action GTO that stayed true to the manga throughout, it’s very interesting to see a fresh new take on things.
- Onizuka gets to be badass in this version. The 1998 version had almost no fights/action scenes. Now, the action in this version may not be of big budget action movie caliber exactly, but it’s still a BIG step up.
- Inclusion of manga characters ignored by the 98 version – Ryuji, Anko, etc.
- References to Nagisa. References to Onibaku. Mad Dog. SJG-era flashback. This version acknowledges history. In the 1998 version, it was as if SJG never existed.
- Some characters physically resemble their manga counterparts – Onizuka, Uchiyamada, Fuyutsuki…
- The bike. Onizuka rides a motorcycle, as he should. The 1998 drama had him on a bicycle most of the time.
- Noboru doesn’t jump off the roof. It doesn’t seem at all as serious when he doesn’t actually jump. It just takes the edge off the whole scenario (no pun intended).
- While I did appreciate them doing a new spin on Anko/Noboru, I have mixed feelings about WHAT they did with it. The whole “Anko bullies Noboru but it turns out she had a reason” thing… I feel it’s bordering on blaming the victim for the bullying, which does not sit well with me.
- The theme song. I won’t hate on you for liking it if you’re into that sort of music or anything, but it doesn’t at all fit GTO stylistically.
- Uchiyamada needs to be properly established as Onizuka’s nemesis. So far, he’s done nothing but whine, and get German suplex’d. In the manga he was caught groping Fuyutsuki on a bus by Onizuka, then they had that disaster of a job interview, then the German suplex scene, then Onizuka wrecks his car. In the 1998 drama, they left out the bus scene but kept the other events. In the 2012 version, however, all that remains of their interaction is the German suplex scene. That alone simply isn’t enough to establish Uchiyamada as THE antagonist. However – in this version, Onizuka isn’t a teacher until the end of the episode, so maybe that’s going to kick in later.
- I almost feel like Onizuka comes across as TOO heroic in this. In a way, all he does in this episode is going around helping random people he doesn’t know and doesn’t have any kind of responsibility for (yet). Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that I think Onizuka wouldn’t lend a hand to people in need of his help. But his heroism isn’t properly offset by his comical flaws here… We need to see more of his stupid and perverted sides.
As a long time GTO fanatic and someone who absolutely loved the Takashi Sorimachi version, I was both excited and skeptical when I heard a new adaption was coming about. How can I accept other people portraying these characters? What will the changes to the storyline be like? Can the music possibly be as good as what I’m used to from previous versions?
As I said initially, these are some big shoes to fill. To answer my own questions from before: Can this new adaption possibly measure up? No. Not just yet. But it’s not a fair question. It is only the first episode, which hardly covers enough ground to justify direct comparisons to the memories we have of the entire original series. But I’ll say this: It’s off to a very promising start. No, it’s not all there yet, but this is just the beginning. Despite my misgivings, there is a lot to like here. A lot more than there is to dislike. We need to give this new GTO time to accomplish what it sets out to do and then judge it on its own merit – and I for one will absolutely be enjoying the hell out of the ride.