by Tohru Fujisawa
published by Tokyopop; $9.99 US
As I expected, jumping this far ahead in the series, there’s now a much larger supporting cast, consisting of Onizuka’s students, fellow teachers, and the school principal. Thankfully, there’s an illustrated who’s who at the beginning of the book to bring me up to date.
The story begins with the class on an island, digging for treasure in the guise of a science project. The kids quickly figure out they’re being taken advantage of, and for payback, they bury Onizuka in the sand up to his neck and begin torturing him.
Meanwhile, three cool girls have taken a nerd into the jungle to lose him. They quickly find themselves lost, though, and the loser winds up saving their lives. This segment, with the island setting, the character mix, and the “I didn’t mean to touch you there” teases reminded me of later volumes of Love Hina, only with edgier art.
As a result of their experience, the lead girl finds herself wondering whether she can really care for a geek. Her angst drives the rest of the book, with Onizuka deciding a haunted house will bring her in touch with her real feelings.
I didn’t care much for the island setting, since I was expecting more school hijinks. Maybe if I’d read the series sequentially from the first book it would seem more like a fun, fresh twist and less like an abrupt jump in premise.
I miss the focus on Onizuka and his motivations. He’s become a cartoonish figure of fun, someone to be mistreated in outlandish ways for throwaway humor. He’s almost a supporting character here as the spotlight shifts to the kids. It makes sense that this change would be needed to keep the book going, but I don’t have the connection to these characters that readers of the whole series presumably do.
I found the first book oddly believable, even with its exaggerated goings-on. Here, some of what happens is simply too outrageous to reach me on the same level.