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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Gokusen (2003)


SEASON 1
 Country: Japan
Format: 12 episodes + SP
Genre: school, youth
Cast: Nakama Yukie, Matsumoto Jun, Oguri Shun, Narimiya Hiroki, Waki Tomohiro, Ichigaki Yuma, Namase Katsuhisa, Utsui Ken, Kaneko Ken, Uchiyama Shinji, Ito Misaki, Nakasawa Yuko, Sawamura Ikki, Sakata Tadashi, Matsuyama Kenichi, guests: Ichikawa Yui, Wentz Eiji, Tanaka Kei, Hiraoka Yuta
Synopsis: Yankumi`s life long dream has been to become a high-school teacher. After passing her exam she becomes teacher to 3-D class at Shirokin Gakuen high-school. She does not know yet that her class is put together of delinquents and troublemakers, but neither know students that actually she is the grand-daughter of 3rd generation yakuza boss.
Rating: 4/5
At last I decided to watch "Gokusen" also known as one of the most famous school dramas in the history of school dramas and I cannot argue with that. There is something great about it that just hooks you on to the screen.

The power behind the success is the leading lady Yamaguchi Kumiko whose identity must be a
secret. Students give her the nickname of "Yankumi", which at first is given as an insult and mockery. She is very strong female character, but there are so many comical things about her. She does not act like an usual teacher, she tries to fit in with students and she is really good at sneaking into the scene without anyone noticing it. Her self-control is amazing, despite the fact that she is too used to yakuza-slang, which makes her step into the bucket at many times. In addition, for the first time she is having a crush and apart from trying to act like a cute woman, she finds out that her dreamy crush happens to be a detective. Nakama Yukie is amazing in this role. Not only plays she out Yankumi with her appearance, but she also has a great yakuza-speaking manners. Of course it is difficult thing to notice for people who do not know much about Japanese, but when she is angry then she speaks rudely, in short forms and yakuza phrases.
The most important student is Sawada Shin, even though I do not remember any extremely important thing he does except for getting close to Yankumi. He got expelled from previous school for hitting a teacher and that made him lose trust in teachers. In reality he is not violent and is the best student at school, only problem is that he takes little interest in things. I do not think it is the best role by Matsumoto Jun, because it seems a rather easy role, but there is one thing that made me hooked. It is amazing that without any romantic scene between Yankumi and Shin, Nakama Yukie and Matsumoto Jun had the on-screen chemistry which makes you kinda hope that their characters share something. Though I am still against teacher-student relationships in all dramas, but you may read more about this subject in Spoiler-review. If we leave out Yankumi, then other guys are seriously worried about him not showing any interest in women, because they have never seen or heard of Shin being on the make.
Kuma is the reason that makes Yankumi see things at school in a bit more realistic way. Also, his situation makes Shun realize that Yankumi is not the like other teachers. "Kuma" means "Bear" in English and his name comes from his appearance, eating habits and personality which seem similar to bear. In addition, his surname is Kumai. He is so cute that I would like to give him a big big hug (I have a teddy-bear whose name is also Kuma and that's why I kinda like bears :D) He has two stories to tell and both affect Yankumi very much, which in a way puts Yankumi's capability on try out. As I know from cast-list he is the only character who will re-appear in the next seasons too.
Uchiyama is played by Oguri Shun and he is the example of cool hairstyles. Kidding, some of them were really bad, but some I liked - for example the beautiful curl from the goukon scene. Though he is the most hot-tempered of the guys and is eager to pick up fights, he actually has the kindest heart when it comes to parents and girls. As an only child of single mother, he does not like to burden his mom, but at the same time he does not clearly understand what is the best help for her. I think he is the manliest of them all, but that might have been due to Oguri Shun's body built.
Narimiya Hiroki stole most of the scenes for me. I love his cat-face too much so I had to pay
attention to Noda when he was in scene. He starts playing dirty when he is hurt, so at some moments I really wanted to yell at him to be a man and stop bitching - especially in Special, but about it in Spoiler-review, but most of the time he is really sweet. In a way Hayato from "Stand Up!" (also Narimiya's role) has some similar characteristics to Noda - they both are the "masters" of finding porn. Noda was the only one who was shown with a laptop and gyoza, I hope he did not forget to clear his history.
Minami has the least screen-time to fill and sadly, I have seen Ishigaki Yuma only in "Hanakimi" as
Tennoji, so I am not so familiar with him. In his story I also had a feeling of getting angry and enlighten him about one basic unwritten law as it is "Bros before ho*s", though as a woman I should not say it. But the truth is, as much as I have seen from relationships (fortunately, haven't had any dealing with it myself), when a friend informs you about your girlfriend/boyfriend cheating on you, then probably he is right. These are moments when the saying "Where's smoke, there's fire" hits the nail, especially when you are informed by a really close friend. Other times, Minami tries to be a carefree guy who is willing to sacrifice his own fun for others.
It is weird that even though the five of them were really great friends they did not share their problems or worries at all and tried to handle everything on their own. All of them had been acting before, so it is only natural that they got the lead roles, but when you watch around the classroom you might see Matsuyama Kenichi in his first acting role and some more in guest roles like Ichikawa Yui, Wentz Eiji, Tanaka Kei, Hiraoka Yuta (though he was well-known before it). Matsuyama Kenichi even had 4 lines in it! I just laughed all the time, when I saw him, because I always thought "And look where he is now!".
The most usual thing about school dramas is that the school vice principal is a jerk. From the start he is putting spokes in Yankumi's wheel and absolutely everything is 3D's fault and they should be expelled from school. I understand that teachers like Yankumi need that kind of resistance, but there are limits. Of course it was softened a bit by Sawatari's fondness of cabakura hostess'. There is not much about other teachers, except for new English teacher and the nurse who become close with Yankumi. Shizuka's way of teaching is her sex-appeal that makes guys learn more. Of course it comes in handy in all-boys school, but I wonder how many of them were actually learning in the lesson..
(woah, I just remembered my philosophy-professor.. even girls were unable to concentrate on the subject)
She also does not worry much about her position and thinks that as long as nobody knows she might "earn" money from different places. If she wanted it to stay a secret she should not have messed with guys brains so much. I think that Kawashima-sensei looks like the most incapable nurse in the history of school nurses - how sterilized is it to wear so much make-up and long nails while working as a nurse? Just to think logically it is not okey for a nurse to clean wounds and stuff like this. I know it all looked really nice and clean, but that is not the point. Otherwise she is a cute character, though at some moments she lacks spine.
Shinohara and the "other guy" (I feel sorry for him, because he was ignored in drama and even I was unable to remember his name) are detectives who go out drinking with the teachers and nurse. And you might guess that if Sawamura Ikki plays the part of Shinohara, he will become the love-interest and to all 3 women! I had different feelings for him and for a second I even had a vibe that he is actually gay, but as a confusing character even after finishing the first season I am not sure who he liked and sadly he is not in the other seasons.
"Gokusen" shows yakuza through different lenses than usually. Everything that Yankumi has learned
about what is right or wrong, the whole life-philosophy comes from yakuza upbringing and if you think of them then they are right. Like 1-on-1 fight is not violence, if there is something to protect, but it becomes violence if it is made unfair. I know the line between them is thinner than a hair, but it is important to understand the difference. I really started to like the whole yakuza family, because they were supporting, protective but at the same time understanding. I would have wanted to know how Tetsu was brought to the family, but I guess I should read manga. Though for a long time Tetsu wanted Yankumi to take over the business, I did like him the most from her admirers. I think I really support the extremely long crushes He was cute and I felt that even grandpa was rooting for him, but we will see what happens with the family situation in the next seasons.
Lastly, the reason why "Gokusen" did not receive its last star from me was that the important lectures by Yankumi got a bit too tiring. She taught many important things that I agree with, but the fact that scenes got lingering made it a bit less interesting, until in the end the episode scenario got predictable. Or maybe I am the one in fault and do not like to give the last star away so easily. But it does not matter much, as "Gokusen" is and will stay one "must-see dramas".

SPOILER-review:  Most of the scenes Yanne was giggling beside me and shipping Yankumi and Shin only to find out later that she was totally right. Though Shin tells it only once in the end of the 12th episode and Yankumi does not show any feelings towards Shin, then actually in manga they share much more together - especially in manga special when Shin has already graduated and years have passed by. But I remind you that in drama version there is absolutely nothing from Yankumi and as much as I have understood then Shin is not coming back from Africa.
In Special I was really annoyed by Noda, who after not getting accepted into 3 universities started to bitch around and act like a jerk. Well, to tell you the truth, I was annoyed because it reminded me last summer when I had to take exams and interviews for university entrances. I think I have mentioned it before, that I applied for 4 different art-related specialities in 3 universities and got all "NO-s" - And compared to Noda my grades were over average and I had gone to art-school for 3 years. So even 2 weeks before the university time started, I did not have a school! But I was not bitching around with my friends when they got into prestigious universities with first try even before graduating from high school! Before I understood I had ended up in my current Academy, it is a third rate university, but I can learn what I really love and I like it there! So the point is - If you have a dream, then it does not matter how many "no-s" you get, don't give up and soon you will find yourself studying or doing it!

Read Season 2 review here!
Read Seaseon 3 review here!
Read "Gokusen the movie" review here!

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