Review: Gokusen 2 (2005)

Yankumi: If only you guys spent half as much time studying as you did on your hair...

The cast: Nakama Yukie, Namase Katsuhisa, Akanishi Jin, Kamenashi Kazuya, Mokomichi Hayashi et al

Let me start by saying that I *heart* Gokusen. I have the manga, I’ve watched all the episodes in the first drama series at least three times and I’ve even tried my hand at writing some truly awful fan fiction. All things considered, I really wanted to like the second live-action installment even though Sawada (Matsumoto Jun) wasn’t in it.

The verdict? The second series isn’t as much fun as the first one, and it’s really just a showcase for Akame’s debut. Having said that, it isn’t as much of a stinker as some reviews have made it out to be. Sure, the episodes follow a similar trajectory – Yankumi’s students get into trouble, she saves their butts, and everybody slowly begins to trust her – but it’s unfair to criticize the series because of this. These are high school students we’re talking about; no matter how fiendishly creative they are, there are only so many kinds of trouble they can get into. When you consider the manga, it’s difficult to stay true to the series without giving more weight to the yakuza characters in the story, and I am assuming that the network didn’t want people to think they were glorifying the crime syndicate, so that’s probably why the drama series turned out the way it did in both seasons.

There are, however, a couple of things that could have been done better. For a start, compared to the first series, there wasn’t really a strong sense of class cohesion here and the kids didn’t have much of a personality either; they were, for the most part, a sum of their accessories. What made Shirokin-tachi particularly endearing was that they had their own distinctive traits; you could see their characters evolving gradually as the show progressed. It wasn’t just a matter of them learning to accept Yankumi after having their asses saved. Take Sawada for instance. What started out as disdain soon gave way to a grudging acceptance, which gradually grew into admiration and possibly something else altogether.

Sadly, this just didn’t happen in Gokusen 2. Hayato (Akanishi Jin) is the leader of the gang only by virtue of the fact that he kicks tables and everyone follows him. Unlike Sawada, he isn’t particularly smart and there isn’t anything he does that the others can’t do themselves. As for Hyuga (Koide Keisuke), he could have been left out of the script and it wouldn’t have mattered one bit — there’s nothing he does that makes him an indispensable member of the gang. And while I like Takeda (Koike Teppei) and Tsuchiya (Mokomichi Hayami), they are, for the most part, the guy with the hairclips and the tall dude with the fan; everything else they do is pretty much secondary. If you’ve read the manga, you’ll know that Ryu’s (Kamenashi Kazuya) character is based on Shin but without the intuition and perceptiveness, which explains why Ryu just sits around, mopes and gets beaten up.

One of the things I really like about the first series is that it’s not always about Yankumi coming to her students’ rescue. In fact, my favourite episodes are the ones that show her scheming to get her class involved in whatever activity the school’s organizing, like the inter-class sports competition. It’s really nice to see everyone, not just the main characters, getting out of their little cliques and coming together as a class. And what’s equally nice is that you actually see them doing little things for her – like turning up for her English tutorials (never mind if Noda has to beg them and it’s for Fujiyama-sensei’s sake) and eavesdropping on her omiai.

Speaking of which, why is Yankumi such a martyr in the second series? It’s plain overkill to see her pleading for jobs on her students’ behalf and running half the length of Tokyo to get things done for them. I know she’s super strong but she’s still human – doesn’t she get tired? Doesn’t she fall sick? Not only that, how ridiculous is it that a group of at least 20 punks can’t take down a pint-sized chick? (No, I don’t care that she’s the yondaime, it’s still 20 against 1.) I do think the overall tone would have been much better if she had been hospitalized for exhaustion or something like that. Also, how about giving Yankumi some romantic respite? The woman is 25 and it’s about time she got some. Sawada, please come to your sensei’s rescue.

Also, why is practically everyone visiting her at home? Part of the appeal of the show is how she has to keep her background separate from her life as a teacher. It’s one thing to have two people know her true identity. It’s quite another when you have a troop of students and the head teacher popping by for a visit. If this is how things are going to be, you might as well invite everyone in the neighborhood to the house for tea and cookies.

I guess the producers wanted to capitalize on all the things that made Gokusen a hit in the first place and in doing so, they ended up exaggerating a number of things. However, like I said in the beginning, this isn’t a terrible series by any means. It does have its entertaining moments and if you like pretty boys with sensitive hair, there’s plenty of eye candy to be had – just don’t expect too much.

[Note: This was written back in 2006. I can’t remember much of what happened in the drama any longer except that it introduced me to Akanishi Jin and a whole lot of ero ero vids on YouTube.]

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7 comments

  1. I’m back, so I lied.
    Why? Because I heart
    Anego and Gokusen 2
    cause I’m an Akanishi Jin
    stan! and Youtube’s
    been deleting Jin and
    his ero ero dancing,
    hip thrusting, nose bleed
    inducing vids. So I’m here
    for some AJ fix, even
    if its just to drool over
    some screecaps and
    squeel in pervy mode
    delight!

  2. Hi! Fun review! We may have completely different views on the Gokusen franchise (you’re a fan of the manga while I’ve never read it; the repetitive formula didn’t bother you that much, while it single-handedly destroyed my viewing enjoyment) — but I don’t care! I still had fun reading your take on this drama. Very entertaining.

    I’m no Akame shipper and I thought Jin pretty useless in his role, but I did like Kame’s character. Immensely. (As I did Jun’s character in the first Gokusen. It’s that Too-Cool-for-School (literally, haha) Alpha Male archetype — gets me every time, argh.) Odagiri Ryu was the main reason I stuck around to finish G2. Glad he showed up in the movie. ;-)

    Looking forward to more Jdrama reviews on your blog! Hehe

    1. Hello Ender’s Girl! Thank you for dropping by! Er…I wrote this review four years ago but only just got around to putting it up so my memories of Gokusen 2 may be a little fuzzy.

      I wouldn’t say the repetitive formula didn’t bother me. I liked the first series a lot, I liked the second one a lot less (probably because of its whole rinse, wash, repeat cycle) and I didn’t bother with the third at all.

      I guess I was just trying to rationalise why G2 turned out the way it did. There’s a lot more emphasis on the yakuza side of things in the manga and since they couldn’t bring that part of the story into the show, I guess that’s why they had to keep repeating the student hijinks side of things, which I’ll say got old pretty quickly.

      I think it would have been a lot more enjoyable if they had just gone straight for fan service and gotten Jin and Kame to sneak in one of their ero ero dances. Haha.

      The last J-drama I watched was BOSS. I wanted so very much to like it. Unfortunately, 30 minutes was all I could take because I had a very hard time getting behind the characters. Maybe I should write about that…hmm.

      1. Oh, G1 was the best of the lot, hands down — in spite of Shun’s awful hair and those caterpillars on Jun’s pre-HYD eyebrows. ^^;;

        Good thing you steered clear of G3. I think I popped Ep.1 into my player mainly for Miura Haruma, and then about halfway I realized that my love for the kid — er, man! man! — would not be enough to go the G3 distance. @__@

        And I get ya on that Jdorama backlog. I can see you’re nuts over Kdramas at the moment. :-) I used to be gaga over Kdramas from 2002 till early last year, when I got bitten by the Jdorama (= KimuTaku) bug. My Kdrama at the moment is Chuno, so you can imagine just how kilometric my Kdrama backlog is. X_O

        Have not seen BOSS. I tend to be actor-centric in choosing my dramas, so I’m aiming to complete the dramaographies of Kame(done)/Pi(almost)/Kimura (almost)/Miura (trying to!). XD

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