Serving as a sequel to Tooru Fujisawa’s Shounan Jun’ai Gumi, (which tells the story of the teenage Eiichi Onizuka and Ryuuji Danma), Great Teacher Onizuka has the former Onibaku moving into Tokyo trying to figure out their place in the world. Ryuuji has opened his own auto shop while Onizuka has trouble finding a job. After discovering a high school girl he tried to hook up with was actually dating her teacher, he is inspired to become a teacher in hopes of hooking up with high school girls himself. However, his motivations gradually change when he sees first hand how the administration of Seirin Academy disciplines students and assaults the Vice Principal for calling minors trash. Believing the school needs somebody unorthodox to fix the unruly class 3-4 in its junior high department, the director of the Seirin Academy hires Onizuka to get the job done.
Around the world, especially in first world countries, people can take GTO for granted when they have the opportunity to go to school and get an education. GTO, in its own unique way, does a great job of putting that into perspective in a Japanese context and yet feel universal. Though Onizuka’s methods are likely to get him fired and ultimately in jail, in reality, his students get the lessons they need to learn, and that their actions have consequences. Teens going through growing pains can go through isolation, bullying, and other kinds of complexes. You name it, Onizuka has to deal with it and ultimately finds a solution. However, Onizuka-sensei isn’t the only teacher out there who has to find creative ways to help problem students. There is numerous manga out there that are like GTO for fans to check out and here are our top six recommendations to take a shot at.
Similar Manga to GTO
1. Hammer Session!
- Author: Namoshiro Tanahashi (Story & Art), Yamato Koganemaru (Story), Hiroyuki Yatsu (Story)
- Genre: Action, Comedy, Ecchi, School, Shounen
- Volumes: 11
- Publications Dates: Nov 15, 2006 – Dec 10, 2008
Otowa No. 4 (real name Yuu Yazawa) along with his associate, Azabu No. 10, have finally been arrested for their con games and are being transported into custody. However, they manage to escape and take refuge into a private school, Hikari Gakuen. They acquaint themselves with the principal and get jobs there. Yuu changes his name to Goro Hachisuka, a Tokyo University graduate, while Azabu takes the name Shohei Imamura and becomes a clerk. And as a way of showing he is capable of reforming, Yuu decides to use his cunning skills to help his assigned class of troublemakers.
It is very easy to make the comparisons between Hammer Session! and GTO because on the surface, it is about two rambunctious young men who really have no business teaching in the classroom, but have their own unique personalities, motivations, and development. In the end, their backgrounds and experiences are what make them the men for the job. In order to help their students, both Yuu and Onizuka use reverse psychology to get their students to learn the consequences of their actions. However, Yuu takes a more systematic approach by being more studious while Onizuka naturally goes with the flow. Both series have unique styles of comedy and make readers laugh in their own ways. Last, both GTO and Hammer Session! Do excellent jobs in making use of its large cast of characters and getting to know them. So if you want something like GTO but with something still different, this series is a great gateway to that.
2. Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei (Goodbye, Mr. Despair)
- Author: Kouji Kumeta
- Genre: Comedy, Parody, School, Shounen
- Volumes: 30
- Publications Dates: Apr 27, 2005 – Jun 13, 2012
Nozomu Itoshiki is a high school teacher who for some reason has hit rock bottom. In fact, his name literally means despair. He has hit low to a point that he is suicidal and this gives him the ability to see the dead. His classes are focused on him and his negative ramblings, but his students want him to see that not everything is so bad.
While GTO is about Onizuka reaching his students, Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei is the exact opposite. It is about Nozomu’s more optimistic students trying to reach him and seeing everything he says is not all bad. The series has its own unique brand of comedy that is distinct from GTO. While GTO is slapstick and relies on pop culture, Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei is cynical satire in relation to Japanese society. It may be funny to a reader who is aware of some issues such as Hikikomori and NEETs, but educational to those who are not. Sometimes, students can make the best teachers and Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei is the best representation of that saying and why we recommend this manga.
- Author: Masanori Morita
- Genre: Comedy, Drama, School, Shounen, Sports, Slice of Life
- Volumes: 24
- Publications Dates: Feb 3, 1998 – Aug 25, 2003
24-year-old Koichi Kawato is the newest teacher at Futagotamaga High School and is assigned to supervise the baseball team, which once won the prestigious Koushien, the national high school baseball tournament. Unfortunately, the present team is nothing more than a shadow of its former self since they were previously suspended due to delinquent related activities. Now Koichi must reform the team and recapture their lost glory.
Like Onizuka, Koichi is a 2nd-degree black belt in Karate, and it is later revealed that he improperly used his skills at a previous school he taught at and resigned. And to make things worse, he has no experience in baseball and doesn’t even know the rules. Other similar traits he shares with Onizuka is that he can be a little childish. While Onizuka’s behavioral is more juvenile, Koichi’s behavior comes across as naive and innocent. At times, Koichi can have something of a temper but does his best to hold back from being violent, but his feelings can get the best of him. While Onizuka’s feelings for his students are more passive and hidden, Koichi’s are much more open.
This manga is a great representation that changing one for the better is possible, and it is important to be motivated and have a goal. When it comes to something like winning the Koushien, you have to make the sacrifices and put in the hard work. Koichi may not be able to teach you how to hit a homer, but he can still teach you the meaning of teamwork, trust, and disciple.
Any Manga Like GTO?
4. Kamen Teacher (Masked Teacher)
- Author: Tooru Fujisawa
- Genre: Action, Comedy, Ecchi, School, Seinen
- Volumes: 4
- Publications Dates: 2006 – 2007
Is GTO the only school related manga Fujisawa-sensei ever made? Think again because we have Kamen Teacher, which also serves as a parody of the Kamen Rider franchise. In fact, one character’s name is Hayato Juumonji, the exact name as one of the first two Kamen Riders. But in this crazy manga, there is a secret teaching training program that specifically prepares teachers to deal with unruly students.
This takes what you may have seen in GTO and takes it to a distinct extremity. In this series, teachers are allowed to use corporal punishment by using martial arts skills on the children and at times, shave their heads bald. Its insane concept is enough to get readers interested if some of you are looking for a similar comedic flare. But thankfully, this series isn’t about glorifying corporal punishment. Instead of disciplining kids through violence, this series shows that in order to solve problems, adults must find the root of it and create solutions. That includes involving everyone and having open communication. Also, the art style implemented in GTO is consistent in this series so this may be comfortable for a lot of readers.
5. Dragon Zakura
- Author: Norifusa Mita
- Genre: Drama, School, Slice of Life, Seinen
- Volumes: 21
- Publications Dates: 2003 – June 2007
Kenji Sakuragi is a reformed biker who has gone on to become a lawyer, but his past has been an obstacle from being successful in his career. He is assigned to Ryuuzan High School, one of the lowest ranked schools in the nation and is on the verge of closing in order to give the eviction notice. But what does he do instead? He takes five students to tutor with the expectations of getting them to enroll in the University of Tokyo, the equivalent to an American Ivy League institution. Eventually, he hopes to get 100 students in within five years.
Other than reformed gangsters who become unorthodox teachers, the similarities between Dragon Zakura and GTO end there. If anything, Dragon Zakura shares a lot more in common with Stand and Deliver, the movie of Jaime Escalante, who took some underachieving and underprivileged high school students who couldn’t do the elementary math and got them to pass calculus. So what other reasons are there to recommend this series? Both of them are great underdog stories. Onizuka is not taken seriously because he is open about his impure motivations for becoming a teacher and his co-workers look down on how he dresses his bleached hair and his criminal background.
For Sakuragi, his motivations are very internal being a similar kind of underdog to the students he teaches, though not to the same extent of Onizuka’s. This series also does a great job of also exploring of modern Japanese youth and society’s relationship with it. The students that Sakuragi selects are the bottom of the barrel, and at times are subjected to ridicule by their peers, teachers, and families that they won’t amount to anything. Sakuragi’s methods can be underhanded at times, but he does everything he can to help his students.
- Author: Kozueko Morimoto
- Genre: Action, Comedy, Romance, School, Slice of Life, Josei
- Volumes: 15
- Publications Dates: Dec 15, 1999 – Feb 14, 2007
Last and not least, we have Gokusen, which is actually short for Gokudou Sensei, or Gangster Teacher. 23-year-old Kumiko Yamaguchi is set to become the next Kumicho (the Japanese way of saying Don) of the Ooedo clan. In the meantime, her maternal grandfather is calling all the shots. So what is she going to do before she takes his place? While she still has her youth, she becomes a teacher out of respect for her parents, and thankfully her grandfather and the rest of the gang are happy to support her. Kumiko is hired to teach at a boys’ high school and is assigned to be the homeroom teacher of the worst class, 2-4. Through the combination of her passion fueled by her youth and her strict upbringing, she is going to whip these boys into shape and at the same time, keep her yakuza connections a secret.
Try to think of Onizuka as a woman and that’s what you get with Kumiko, nicknamed Yankumi by her homeroom students. Similar to Onizuka, the principal of the school that hires her is aware of her background and that she is the one capable of getting a troubled class in order. Kumiko does her best to play nice with the students and compared to Onizuka, her reasons for teaching are purer. But when push comes to shove, she is willing to use rough yakuza expressions to get her students to listen. And like Onizuka, whenever she has a student that is in trouble, she is willing to put her life on the line for them and show she is a capable fighter. Last, due to the strong combination of the discipline problems in her class and her unorthodox methods, she tends to be at odds with the vice principal just like Onizuka.
Education with all of its intentions can come with numerous controversies, and it can happen just about anywhere. In Japan, there are disputes about textbook content and how education as a whole is centered around preparing students for tests as opposed to real world applicability. In America, there are too many issues to count from teaching evolution vs. creation in the classroom to the effectiveness of common core methods, which have become memes on Facebook. In addition, disciplining misbehaving students is another controversy from ignoring the problem to no tolerance policies. But if there is anything these mangas can teach the readers, it is the duty of the teacher in the classroom and for parents/guardians to find some way to reach the children. It goes beyond teaching students what 2+2 is. It is about finding one’s true potential and opening one’s minds beyond their world and experiences.
Many of the manga titles we share on this list deal a lot with students who are not the cream of the crop and are left to rot. These mangas tend to be a very good reflection on how Japanese society views that some of these kids are likely not amounting to anything until a teacher comes along to prove differently. Some of these teachers are no different from these students. They’re human, too. Characters like Onizuka have been overcoming adversities since their youth, and take what they learned and share that with their students. In the end, the manga teaches readers that any child can achieve anything if they apply themselves and have the right support. Some kids may not be good at math, but they could be great artists and it is important that adults nurture their potential and that is what we can all take from these mangas.