A seemingly naive first year teacher at Shirokin Gakuen is assigned to class 3-D, which happens to be well known for the delinquent behavior of its students. None of them trust or listen to anything a teacher has to say, but luckily, Yamaguchi Kumiko is no ordinary teacher. The 4th generation in a yakuza family known as the Ooedo Group, Kumiko has chosen teaching over being the next clan leader, to her grandfather's disappointment. Eventually gaining the trust of her students through her unconventional teaching methods, 'Yankumi' (as they dub her) is constantly rescuing the boys of 3-D from false accusations, fawning over her forbidden police officer crush, Shinohara Tomoya, and hiding her caring but obvious family members from the public eye. With the help of class leader Sawada Shin, she leads 3-D towards graduation, defending them every step of the way while struggling to keep her secret hidden.
Gokusen is a show that's widely loved and has spawned a few sequels. For me, it was a battle to finish this show. And while I can see the reason - somewhat - for the show being well received, I'll just be honest. If it wasn't for Oguri Shun, I would have dropped it at the end of the first episode.
I'll give the show credit on the acting. It's nothing great (all of the actors have done better) but it's not terrible either. Everyone does their job, and there's great camaraderie between the classmates, so yes, you do get invested in seeing the teacher try to guide these kids towards a better future.
But my one grip with the show is the plot. While the story is interesting for sure with a teacher raised in a unique background trying to stop her class from going down the path of her clan members, the repetitive nature of the episodes drove me nuts. You could lay out the episode almost down to the minute a scene would happen. And while the shot of Kumiko going from 'innocent teacher to yakuza member' is iconic, at a certain point, you want to scream, "we get it already!"
It's worth giving it a shot, since there is an appeal factor for the series but you may find yourself gritting your teeth when you see Kumiko undo her ponytail and remove her glasses for the 5th time.
I'm going to be honest, and tell you what I thought of this drama right off the bat. I struggled to watch it all.
When I first got around to watching it, the third season was already airing. I thought, "Surely, if it has been recommisioned twice it must be good."
So, following from my love of good-teacher dramas Kinpachi-sensei and Great Teacher Onizuka, I started from the beginning.
On the face of it, it's not all that bad. A bit like GTO, or a reverse of My Boss My Hero, it takes a fairly standard genre and gives it a slight twist.
Meet Yamaguchi Kumiko, or Yankumi, a short unimpressive teacher with a whole lot more frightening background. Being orphaned fairly on in life, she was brought up by her grandfather - oyabun to a powerful Yakuza family, making Yankumi the heir apparent to the family trade.
Like all good teacher dramas, she, trying to live a normal life away from that of her family, becomes a teacher and immediately gets given the responsibility of teaching a class full of delinquents.
Over the course of the drama, she does her best to transform these simple bullies, teaching them a sort of Delinquent's code of honour - derived from her upbringing in a Yakuza household. And in doing so, gradually wins over the kids, turning them into good students (though they do maintain that delinquency streak).
Standard fair for this genre, and I've nothing to fault them for it.
The characters themselves are well-written and memorable. The actors do a decent job of their roles. And the drama is, on the whole, a good one.
But one thing really annoyed me. The predictability.
By only a few episodes in, you've usually clocked on to the formula and will often be able to accurately predict how each episode will unfold (and ultimately end) by about halfway through. And, while that ending was entertaining at first, it soon grows tiresome.
I stuck with it, however. At least for the first season. Upon achieving completion, I nosied around a bit in the first couple episodes of season 2, learning, much to my dismay, that it was a carbon-copy of the first series.
I have no idea how the second season, the third season, or the movie ended and played out respectively, because I stopped watching only a few episodes into S2. But people often ask me what I thought of Gokusen, to which all I can normally say is "too repetitive".
It's well worth a watch. Do as I did, and stick with it for at least the first season, because the characters are pretty well-writen and entertaining and do go someway to making the drama bearable.
If, unlike me, you can look past the somewhat predictable, repetitive nature of the plots, then I know you'll find this a very good drama to watch.