There have been few feel-good mangas from the 90s that touched the hearts of enthusiasts worldwide quite as Great Teacher Onizuka did. With its easy-going plotline and even more laid-back protagonist, Eikichi Onizuka, fans have flocked to this story time and time again. But the fate of our main lead is somehow just as elusive as it was 20 years ago.
Stories set in high school are pretty traditional, as far as manga goes. But a high school manga focusing on a teacher, instead of the student is a rare treat. And while Great Teacher Onizuka tends to be a little dated upon rewatch or reread, that doesn’t take away from the heart of the story. Which, at its core, is about chasing a better life, even if it feels like the time has passed for any growth.
The way Onizuka bands together this class of deviants through his own journey of self-discovery and comes out passionate about a field he chose on a whim, is really refreshing. So, whatever ending he meets, whether it’s the manga or the anime, both are heartfelt.
Great Teacher Onizuka is a Japanese slice-of-life Shounen manga, with Tōru Fujisawa at the helm for both writing and illustrative work. It is the last part in a trilogy that includes Shonan Junai Gumi and Bad Company, which also chronicle the life of Onizuka. The manga was a bestseller, leading to several adaptations including anime, a tv drama, and even a live-action movie. But some of these have varying endings, leading us to ponder over our favorite teacher’s fate. So, let’s dive in!
Great Teacher Onikuka: The Story So Far
Eikichi Onizuka is an aimless peeping tom, an ex-biker, and a karate champ with nothing going on in his life. But somehow, he still ends up being somewhat enigmatic and profound. That doesn’t excuse his more unsavory behavior, of course, which is how we find him: peeping up skirts at the local mall. His luck strikes out when he finds a girl agreeing to go out with him, only to find her leaping into her ‘current’ boyfriend’s arms the moment she sees him. The boyfriend is a teacher, unattractive and old but he still has the girl hopelessly devoted to him.
This confuses Onizuka, and he wants the same kind of charisma to pull in the ladies. And so, he resolves to become a teacher, then and there. Strangely enough, he does try his best, earning his teaching degree from a second-rate institute, but still accomplishing what he set out to do. Albeit, with very questionable motivations.
But maybe this is exactly what he needed because during this journey he learns two things about himself: He has both a conscience to consider consequences and a sense of morality. Which, thankfully, puts a damper on the whole ‘soliciting underage girls’ thing he had going on. But hey, the moms of those girls, on the other hand, are fair game!
When he is hired to work as a teacher at Holy Forest Academy in Kichijōji, he’s excited. Despite the class being renowned as a collection of deviants that has led at least one teacher to an untimely death and another to lose their sanity. He is unfazed, choosing to tackle this issue head-on and bring change to the lives of these misunderstood kids in a holistic way.
What Great Teacher Onizuka Gets Right
You rarely have a mentor figure be the star of their own manga. Usually, they are the support, the guiding light, which is what Onizuka is here as well. But you get a real close look at his process, how he meets everyone in the middle, truly offering solutions in the most out-of-the-box way while still staying true to his authentic self.
But more importantly, you learn that Onizuka genuinely enjoys teaching. He likes directing young minds through unconventional methods and bringing out the best of their potential. The traditional education system, to him, isn’t helpful, being more condescending than anything.
Armed with a personal philosophical ideology and the ability to accomplish anything under enough pressure, he sets out to change a tired system to benefit the students. His mission of self-discovery eventually gets through to the students, one by one, helping them understand their issues and how to cope with them. But he also shows them how to live fully, without fear. Sure, his methods are often unorthodox, illegal, and even a little fatal, but they work. His students, so closed off and untrusting, actually open up to him, realizing that while academics are important, they aren’t everything. Letting him be their lighthouse during the storm of puberty and teenagerhood.
Where Does Eikichi Onizuka End Up?
So, this is where the story divulges and leaves fans more than a little confused.
In the finale of the anime, we see Onizuka taking the fall for his last problem student, Miyabi, and getting fired. Now, since he did something VERY illegal, he decides to go on the run from the law and settles in California, USA as a teacher in a high school.
This is seen as his last sacrifice. Sure, he joked about wanting to hook up with a fellow teacher, Azutsa Fuyutsuki, and partying it up with students, but that didn’t matter. That was empty air, because, in the end, he showed how much he cared about his students, enough to throw himself under the bus for their betterment.
Whereas in the manga, he recovers from the entire ordeal and stays as a permanent fixture at Holy Forest Academy. He even manages to get Fuyutsuki to fall in love with him! She ends up being thankful to him for teaching her the joys of being a mentor because she often felt like she was forced into the profession.
There is an ongoing sequel, Great Teacher Onizuka: Paradise Lost, but we don’t know much about it as it went on hiatus in the middle of 2021. But it will be the last manga revolving around Onizuka, so we’ll know his permanent fate there!