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The Gokusen: The Complete Lesson PDF Print E-mail
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R1 DVD Reviews
Friday, 05 January 2007 04:00
Gokusen CompleteWhat happens when the granddaughter of a yakuza boss (who's no pushover herself) becomes a teacher in a high school full of delinquents?  You get a teacher who will not only beat some sense into her wayward students (in a subtle way, of course), but will also make sure that the less desirable elements of the outside world leave them well alone.  Introducing the Gokusen, now in handy box-set form...

Kumiko Yamaguchi is granddaughter of the leader of the Ooedo Group, as respected a family as its possible for a yakuza family to be, and heir to the control of the group.  But as well as eagerly taking on her family responsibilities, Kumiko's about to realise her lifelong dream: to become a teacher, and be a positive influence on her students.  The only problem is, if the school where to find out about her yakuza connections her career would come to a very abrubt end, and so Kumiko treads a fine line between appearing to be a complete klutz to her students, while still making sure they stay out of harm's way.  One of her students, however, isn't so easily fooled.

Senior staffIntroductions

The problem student is Shin, nominal leader of the class and a lot smarter than his performance in class would lead you to believe.  He's also difficult for Kumiko to deal with, as his father is Police Commissioner and one of the few people that her yakuza position can't influence - quite the opposite, if she wants to keep her job.  He twigs on quite quickly that Kumiko (or Yankumi, as her students nickname her) isn't quite the ditz she tries to appear to be, and a lot of the first two volumes cover his attempts to find out her secret.

Kumiko herself is in a lot of ways a typical 20-something woman - she has dreams, ambitions, someone she loves - she'd pass for perfectly normal in most situations.  Come time to carry out the family business, though, and she's as hard-ass as any man, with a lot more guts and determination than anyone who works for her.  It's quite strange seeing her switch between the two personas, especially when she slips into ojou mode while her students are around - old habits are hard to break.

Singing lessonsHighschool girls!

The rest of her class cover the usual anime archetypes, from hardmen to dumb, but they're all likeable enough.  When they're not in class, they're getting in various form of trouble that Kumiko usually has to get them out of.  Their antics provide plenty of comedy moments, along with showing the serious side of Kumiko and her efforts to become a good teacher.

Away from the students, there are the other staff at the school - the principal, who's generally clueless about what's going on at his school, the vice-principal, who's determined to get the school closed down, and a variety of other teachers, usually in some degree of panic about what their students are going to do next.

DropoutThe Clan

I'm used to high-school comedies revolving more around girls than guys, and if I was being honest I'd probably admit to preferring the likes of Azumanga Daioh over this.  Cromartie High School is probably the nearest series to Gokusen in tone, although this isn't nearly as whacked-out, but the lower key of the comedy suits the setting well.  Kumiko comes across well as the star of the show and is a character you can genuinely like and almost relate to, while the quirks of the other characters are all well-used in creating the show's stories.

Overall, it's a pretty good series - there's very little chance of boredom creeping up on you while watching it - and at this low a price it should really be a no-brainer.  There's also a live action version that I live in hope of being brought to R1-land, but in the meantime this will have to do.  If you have any liking for high-school comedy, go get it.

For more details and screenshots from the individual episodes, check our reviews of the single-disc releases:
» Volume 1 - The Unteachables
» Volume 2 - Kumiko's Way
» Volume 3 - The Road to Graduation

Rating - ****

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