Meditations on realism via the GTO anime and live action shows

March 16, 2012

Once upon a time, back in the days of anime clubs in Toronto, there was a particular anime club that made a lot of interesting and odd programming choices. One of them was that they started showing the Great Teacher Onizuka anime series, but then partway through decided that it was too close to the manga so they switched to showing the live action version instead. This gave us an interesting compare and contrast between the two, since both series covered essentially the same story but somewhat differently.

What I found especially interesting (and what has stuck with me ever since) is some of the changes made in the live action version, which I have always assumed were done to make it feel more realistic (in general I remember the live action version as less crazy than the anime, although still periodically crazy). Two changes have especially stuck in my memory.

The first change is that the live action reduces Onizuka's living quarters significantly. In the anime (and the manga) he winds up basically living on the roof of the school in a relatively cool pad full of cool stuff. In the live action series he has your basic tiny cramped mini-apartment that is essentially devoid of coolness, which I assume is what someone in his circumstances could rent and have in real life.

(The next bit involves a spoiler and some dark stuff, and I'm operating from a decade-old and imperfect memory.)

The second change requires some background explanation. Onizuka is sweet on Fuyutsuki, one of the other teachers at his high school, but she is also pursued and creepily stalked by another teacher, Teshigawara, who eventually descends to attempted date rape. In the anime this attempted date rape doesn't get very far; Fuyutsuki is never in any real danger and the situation is rapidly defused. In the live action series things are significantly darker. Teshigawara successfully drugs Fuyutsuki and comes much closer to success before she is able to break free.

Now, bearing in mind the problem of interpretation, it has always struck me as interesting that the producers of the live action show appear to have felt the need to make Fuyutsuki's situation significantly worse in order to make it feel more realistic. I can easily believe that the live action version is more true to life, but it seems an odd thing for a drama to actually admit (especially one that was otherwise relatively cheerful, goofy, and upbeat).

Comments on this page:

From at 2012-03-19 14:52:42:

I wonder, having not read the manga, how dark and detailed that part of the story was in the source. For some reason I can understand more moderation in the animated adaptation for keeping overall tone consistency. I have a feeling the attempted date-rape was detailed in the manga but carries a serious tone that sticks out among other parts of the story. The drama may have decided to carry out the scenes to maintain the adaptation rather than the story's tone.

One of the things I find discouraging in fictional media is genre-shifting and tone-shifting to an extent. There's a risk of leaving the feeling that details were out of place or not belonging to a story.

-Ryan A

Written on 16 March 2012.
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Last modified: Fri Mar 16 23:48:14 2012
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