Saturday, February 9, 2013

Rosy's scrawled manga recommendation: Gokusen by Morimoto Kozueko

Morimoto Kozueko


At first glance this looks like the female version of GTO. However Kumiko is the daughter of a Yakuza boss and must hide her background so she doesn't get fired from her first teaching job. Comparisions aside, Gokusen stands in it own right with its witty humour and dialogue.

Fresh out of college, Kumiko "Yankumi" Yamaguchi becomes a math teacher at an all-boys high school. Unfortunately for her, she's assigned by the school board as the homeroom teacher for class 2-D, which happens to be the class of delinquent students. When the class attempts to make a living hell out of Yankumi's career, they fail as her persistence and aggression gain their respect. However, little does anyone in the school know that Yankumi is actually heir to the Kuroda Group - one of Tokyo's most powerful yakuza clans.

Alternative names
Gokudo no Sensei


Manga reader sites (free)
Manga Fox, Manga Reader, Manga Here

Rosy's scrawlings on Gokusen
After reading the blurb above you may be wonder what GTO is. GTO is the manga Great Teacher Onizuka and in it a young motorbike gang member decides to become a teacher in order to get girls and some money. His aims were originally higher but he settles for being a teacher and thus the trials of someone used to acting the ruffian but now has to act respectable begins. It is extremely male orientated and quite annoying for it as the focus is on fights and girls being rather too seductive and manipulative. To be honest, after reading a few chapters I couldn't take it anymore as I found there was little respect for men or women in the story. Men were stupid, lust driven and violent while the girls were manipulative and sex driven. It wasn't a great picture.
After reading these few chapters out of interest, as I wanted to know what genre trend and Gokusen was following and what the common plot devices were, I skipped back to Gokusen and began reading. Gokusen is, by far and away, the better of the two mangas. At least as far as I'm concerned. In this manga Yankumi, a young woman with a Yakuza background, decides to become a teacher in order to care for those who are otherwise neglected by the system for being too rough, violent and impossible to teach. She sees these kids as she sees her adopted Yakuza family members and desires only to drive them into a more respectable life, be that by Yakuza rules or the ordinary rules of society (both are respectable to her). One residue of the GTO sex mania remains in the early chapters and that is found personified by the female teacher hired at the same time as Yankumi, although she is far more controlled and would never follow through, even at the beginning. You also soon find out why she was hired into the roughest school and why she would never harm her charges, giving you greater sympathy for the character than you ever have for those in GTO.
With Yankumi's introduction into school life, hilarity and a complicated love story follows. Yankumi hides her background as best she can, going to extremes to defend her students by force while still remaining anonymous - something one of her students sees through in a flash. She's also drawn to the student who begins to understand her, all while being head-over-heels in a crush for a non-corrupt lawyer that helps defend her family whenever they're in trouble with the police. There's a constant flow of odd situations, usually resolved with fists and idiotic attempts at decoys, that bring these three into a play for who will be the next Yakuza generation's boss. Also, there's a question of which 'romantic' character, the distanced lawyer or the intrigued and entertained student, will finally end up with Yankumi.
All in all, Gokusen is a light comedy and romance and quite and enjoyable read for it. It has a  smooth and even pace that draws you on and the curiosity over who will become the next boss as well as who will finally become Yankumi's love. There's an occasional dog based episode - you'll understand if you read the manga - of which you can skip the short ones but there are one or two you will need to skim over or you'll miss a development. These are the only annoying breaks in the manga even though the dog is rather cool.
The artwork of Gokusen is rough and in many ways minimalistic. It isn't as rough as GTO though and is much easier to read. It also has a style that is completely different to GTO's, adding to the manga's stand alone nature. The art of Gokusen is mostly made of lines with a bit of shading for depth and 'colour'. The faces are all on the uglier side, graded in ugliness of course, which just adds to the roughness of the artwork. At first the art may seem either too old fashioned or too rough but it definitely grows on you, with the ugly faces and extreme expressions adding to comical story.

I'd recommend this manga to: those who love comedy and light romance stories as well as those who like to read about the culture clash between gang members and those who don't belong to any gang (I won't say normal). This would probably appeal to women more than men due to the female protagonist but only just as most characters are male.

Notes on manga reader sites
The quality of manga readers can vary. The uploads are often done cheaply or as a serious hobby by a collective. Be aware that sometimes licence hasn't been given but the sites noted above, Manga Fox in particular, are extremely careful about adding and pulling mangas according to license agreements. So you shouldn't have to worry too much about the material being pirated. There are also translated works and non-translated. Amongst the translated works you will find that the quality of translation may vary according to the skills of the translators. Usually the works are perfectly readable anyway, with only a few added or dropped words or a word in the incorrect tense or with/out plurals. But sometimes the text becomes gobbledygook. In which case, either seek another version or give up and buy an official copy once a printed translation comes out. The other issue of note is you may need to expand the screen to read the text easily as sometimes the scans are minimised a little.
I find that if a page doesn't download properly or some other issue occurs (too slow or someone ordered the pages incorrectly etc.) with one reader then skipping across to another reader and picking up where I was is quite easy and rarely annoying.
Otherwise, enjoy and watch out you don't get too addicted you forget about the necessary things in life.

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