Tuesday, March 10, 2020

“Gokusen” aka “Gangster Teacher” Japanese classroom drama-comedy, synopsis, Season 1, Eps. 1-13 (no spoilers)

You can watch or download videos of “Gokusen” Season 1 in Dramacool (Eps. 1-12) or in KissAsian (Eps. 1-13).
Jump to synopsis of Episode 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12; 13; Websites where you can watch “Gokusen”; How I wrote these episode summaries with no spoilers; Historical backgrounders and other information; Lessons in photography from “Gokusen”; “Gokusen na!” (reaction, first published on June 16, 2006)

From Wikipedia: “Gokusen” is a manga series by Kozueko Morimoto. The story follows Kumiko Yamaguchi, the granddaughter of a Yakuza boss and teacher at an all-male private high school. In 2008, an SP manga was published, featuring some of Yankumi's (Kumiko) old students who are by now working adults.

In 2002, the manga was adapted into a television drama with Yukie Nakama in the title role. In the 33rd Television Drama Academy Awards, Yukie Nakama won the Best Actress award, while Matsumoto Jun won Best Supporting Actor award.

A second series was produced in 2005. The third season of the (live action) series was aired as Nippon Television’s 55th Anniversary Program in 2008.

A movie as part of the drama series was released in Japanese theaters on July 11, 2009. It grossed ¥490 million in opening weekend. According to the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan, the film grossed ¥3.48 billion as of December 2009. The movie was exhibited during the 29th Hawaii International Film Festival.

Websites where you can watch “Gokusen”

You can watch Season 1 of “Gokusen” in the following websites: KissAsian (Eps. 1-13) and Dramacool (Eps.1 -12 only; this website’s URL constantly changes). With both websites, you have to be patient with the pop-up ads or use an ad blocker. Seasons 2 and 3 of “Gokusen” are also available in these websites.

How I wrote these episode summaries with no spoilers

1. I assumed that you will be reading these recaps and watching the videos chronologically.

2. I narrated the main actions in each episode without revealing the plot’s twists and turns.

3. I followed this structure all throughout except for Ep. 13 (Special Episode) where I included some spoilers. Reason - some people want to know if the drama has a good ending or a sad ending before they invest the time in watching it.

I used this same structure in my synopses of “Queen In-Hyun’s Man” (2012, hit Korean rom-com, action drama) and “IRIS” (2009, blockbuster Korean espionage-action drama).

Ep. 1: “3-D Class of Shirokin High School”

Yamaguchi Kumiko is the granddaughter of the 3rd-generation leader of the Oedo Yakuza family. But, instead of someday assuming her grandfather’s position, her greatest desire is to be a schoolteacher just like her late father.

Kumiko is accepted into her first teaching job in Shirokin High School; despite her lack of experience, the Head Teacher assigns her as the homeroom adviser of 3-D, the most notorious class. Leading 3-D’s rowdy bunch of misfits is Sawada Shin, who was expelled from his previous school for punching a teacher.

The Principal has told Kumiko that her Yakuza connections must never be revealed, but things become complicated when she meets Shinohara, a handsome police officer.

As Kumiko tries to get through her students’ distrust of teachers and adults, one of her students, Kumai (“Kuma”), is accused by the Head Teacher of stealing the school’s money that was placed inside a yellow bag. Believing Kuma’s words that he didn’t steal the money and that he threw his own yellow bag into a river, she searches the river day and night.

Ep. 2: “Yankumi”

To her delight, Kumiko again meets Shinohara, the police officer; as she arrives in school, she also sees her student Minami being sweet with a girl. Her sunny mood is swept away, however, when she sees the posters on the school’s bulletin board.

The 3-D students give Kumiko the nickname “Yankumi” which combines her surname “YAMaguchi” (with “m” changed to “n”) and first name

Yankumi, another female teacher, and the school nurse go out on a date with Shinohara and his fellow officer. But the date is disrupted when they see a student being beaten up by a group of students from Ara High School. The student turns out to be Yankumi’s student, Minami.

Sawada recognizes the girl, but when he warns Minami to stop dating her, they get into a fight. A teacher breaks up the fight, and when the Head Teacher sees Minami’s beaten-up face, he orders Sawada to write a letter of apology or else be expelled.

Ep. 3: “Operation Blondie”

Three months after Yankumi started teaching ...

When several people are victimized by a masked snatcher, Shinohara goes to Shirokin High School to investigate. Despite Yankumi’s protests, the Head Teacher and the other teachers suspect that the snatcher could be one of the 3-D students. In contrast, the Head Teacher highly praises a student from another class who has won an essay-writing contest.

When she finds out that Uchiyama has not paid his tuition fees, Yankumi goes to the eatery where Uchiyama’s mother works. Meanwhile, as Uchiyama plays at a video arcade, Sawada watches him from afar.

After another woman is victimized by the snatcher, the police put up posters with the drawing and description of the suspect. The description matches Uchiyama and his long, blonde hair.

Sawada, Kuma, Noda, and Minami decide to help clear Uchiyama’s name by patrolling the neighborhood to catch the snatcher. But Yankumi overhears their plan and decides to join them.

Ep. 4: “Love story”

3-D student Noda has fallen in love with English teacher Fujiyama Shizuka. But unknown to everyone in Shirokin High School, Shizuka works part-time as a hostess in a night club.

Shizuka’s secret eventually becomes known to all the teachers and students, and the Head Teacher threatens to fire her. When Yankumi intercedes on her behalf, the Head Teacher says that he won’t fire Shizuka if everyone in 3-D gets a score of at least 30 out of 100 in the English midterm exam. But the 3-D students say that it’s an impossible condition — most of them have never scored above 30 in their previous English exams.

With Shizuka suspended for a week, Yankumi volunteers to tutor the 3-D students for the English exam. But on the first day of the tutorials, she finds an empty classroom. Later, she’s mocked by the Head Teacher who says that he will prepare the most difficult questions for the English exam.

Ep. 5: “A real fight; Kuma to the rescue!”

Sawada finds Yankumi’s phone and answers the call from one of her Yakuza men.

A group of guys who wield iron pipes has been terrorizing people on the streets at night. To protect Shirokin High School’s reputation, the Head Teacher organizes the teachers and personnel into several “delinquency patrol groups” to keep their students off the streets and entertainment centers at night. Included in the Head Teacher’s group is Yankumi.

Kuma falls in love with a high school girl, but the problem is, the girl already has a boyfriend. One day, several boys from another school scare away the boyfriend, who leaves the girl alone. Despite being outnumbered, Kuma charges in to rescue the girl.

Ep. 6: “Operation 3-D First Place Winner!”

Shirokin High School schedules its annual sports competition, but the 3-D students don’t want to play because being sweaty isn’t cool. But because of the Head Teacher’s insults, Yankumi finally convinces them to join the competitions in soccer, table tennis, softball, and basketball.

Yankumi becomes even more competitive when the other classes begin practicing and Shizuka gets Shinohara as her students’ basketball coach.

The rules state that a student can join only one competition, and Yankumi lacks one player for the basketball team. To her dismay, she finds out that she has another student in 3-D who has not been attending classes since the start of the schoolyear. She also finds out that the boy was bullied by Minami, Kuma, and two students from another class.

After Yankumi remembers how she was bullied as a little girl, she persists in trying to convince the missing student into coming back to school.

Ep. 7: “Parents-Teachers Conference”

After the first day of the parents-teachers conference, Yankumi and her students meet Sawada Shin’s younger sister Natsumi; later, at the bowling alley, Yankumi finds out that Sawada is living all by himself.

Sawada’s sister Natsumi skips her classes for several days and then later decides to run away from home. Yankumi and the 3-D students scour the streets that night looking for Sawada and Natsumi. Sawada finally finds Natsumi and her friends inside an illegal gambling den. As he gets into a fight with some guys harassing Natsumi, the police raid the den.

Ep. 8: “Yuta”

Kawashima Kikuno, the school nurse, gets a surprise visit from Yuta, the 7-year old son of her late husband. Yuta wants to spend the night with her, but the Head Teacher refuses to allow her to skip the medical conference. Yuta ends up spending the night in Yankumi’s house.

The next day, while waiting for Kikuno to come back from the conference, Yuta spends time with the 3-D students. But Yuta’s grandparents show up in Shirokin High School, saying that he left their home without permission.

When Yuta asks when he can see her again, Kikuno says he must first learn twirling on the playground bars. After Yuta and his grandparents leave, the 3-D students confront Kikuno on why Yuta isn’t living with her. Kikuno defends herself, saying that Yuta doesn’t know that she is not his biological mother.

On the way home with his grandparents and after seeing some children learning how to twirl on the playground, Yuta runs away to go back to Kikuno.

Ep. 9: “Sailor Moon and the cheerleaders”

For the first time in its history, Shirokin High School’s volleyball team qualifies for a national competition. But Kurosaki, a former student and player, vows to do everything to ruin the team.

Yankumi finds out that two 3-D students are part of the volleyball team. She decides to help uplift the school spirit by asking the other 3-D students to help form a cheerleading team composed of students from all classes, but they refuse. Finally, she bribes the 3-D students into volunteering themselves and recruiting other Shirokin students. But when the Head Teacher finds out about the team, he rushes to the gym to confront Yankumi.

True to his vow of ruining the team, Kurosaki targets the volleyball coach and then beats up two of the volleyball players.

Ep. 10: “A God-given job”

Yankumi becomes brokenhearted over Shinohara, but the Head Teacher’s wife (an avid matchmaker) sets her up with a blind date with a Tokyo University graduate who’s currently teaching at the elite Eisho High School.

Contrary to the expectations of the Head Teacher and her fellow teachers, Yankumi’s blind date wants to see her again. Although most of the 3-D students rejoice over Yankumi’s romantic success, Kuma becomes afraid that if Yankumi gets married, she might resign as their teacher.

That night, as Yankumi and her date meet for dinner, her date tells her that there’s a vacant position for a math teacher in Eisho High School. Meanwhile, as Kuma, Sawada, and their 3-D friends wander around the streets, a video store owner accuses Uchiyama of shoplifting. In anger, Uchiyama punches the store owner.

Ep. 11: “Passionate people”

Kuma and his 3-D friends become celebrities when they capture a notorious serial murderer-robber. But Yankumi gets carried away emotionally, and, during the press conference, she monopolizes the time and attention of the newspaper and tekevision reporters.

Proud of what Kuma has done, his father goes to Shirokin and gives away free food to all the teachers. But Kuma becomes embarrassed by his father and gets into a fight with him in the faculty room.

Because of the publicity, a weekly magazine asks Yankumi for a 24-hour look at her life. The magazine’s reporter and a photographer record all her activities in school. Later on, however, Yankumi realizes that her Yakuza connections could be exposed, and so, she runs away from the writer and the photographer.

Kuma’s father dies suddenly. Overcome by guilt because of the harsh words that he spoke to his father, Kuma skips classes and walks around the streets in a daze, picking fights with strangers.

Ep. 12 “Goodbye, Yankumi!”

The weekly magazine publishes an exposé of Yankumi’s Yakuza connections. As Shirokin High School is besieged by dozens of reporters and photographers, the school’s Director arrives and orders Yankumi to resign.

Yankumi refuses to resign, but when the 3-D students beat up the magazine reporter who wrote the exposé, the Director gives her an ultimatum — resign or else, all the 3-D students will be expelled.

Ep. 13: “Goodbye, 3-D!” (with some spoilers)

As Yankumi promised at the beginning of the school year, everyone in 3-D qualifies for graduation.

Sawada Shin becomes the class valedictorian and is accepted by Waseda University and Keio University, two of Japan’s most prestigious, private universities. Noda wants to enroll in a fashion design school; Kuma plans to go to Chef Academy and turn his father’s ramen shop into a Chinese restaurant; and Uchiyama wants to work as a carpenter for a construction company and later become an architect. Minami, meanwhile, says that he got accepted into a small Australian college.

When some of the 3-D students break one of the school’s windows while playing baseball on a corridor, the Head Teacher warns them that they could still be expelled before graduation day and Yankumi could also be fired.

To celebrate their coming graduation, the 3-D students go on a road trip to a resort town with hot springs. Unknown to them however, Yankumi, English teacher Shizuka, and nurse Kikuno are also on their way to the hot springs.

The truth about Minami’s acceptance into an Australian college becomes known. Meanwhile, Noda and several other 3-D students become “ronins” when they fail to pass their college admission exams. When Noda and the other ronins decide not to attend their graduation, a fight breaks out between him and Sawada.

Historical backgrounders and other information

1. “Gokusen” is an abbrevation of “Gokudo no Sensei” which means “Gangster Teacher.”

2. I used my own titles for the various episodes. The original titles are; Ep. 1: A zealous teacher goes on a rampage; Ep. 2: Don’t abandon your friend; Ep. 3: Don’t judge only by appearance; Ep. 4: If you fail, start over; Ep. 5: To fight is different from violence; Ep. 6: Don’t let bullying get to you: Ep. 7: Believe in your own child; Ep. 8: Aren’t you his mother; Ep, 9: Don’t blame others for your own mistakes; Ep. 10: I’ll believe my own students; Ep. 11: No one is alone; Ep. 12: Goodbye, Yankumi; and Ep. 13: Goodbye Class 3D ~ Yankumi’s Tearful Graduation

Lessons in photography from “Gokusen”

High angle shot, background blur
Out of focus foreground element as a partial frame
Foreground and background blur
Establishing shot, high angle shot
Line of direction, lead room

“Gokusen na!”(first published June 16, 2006)

For the past several days, I have watched snatches of “Gokusen,” a popular telenovela shown on GMA 7. Minutes before 6 PM, my nephews (Darwin and Gino) and niece (Chloe) would come running home from playing “patintero” or “tumbang-lata” in the streets and shout to each other “Gokusen na!” (in English, It’s Gokusen time!). They would then plop themselves before the television set to watch Miss Yamaguchi’s bittersweet experiences with her students.

“Gokusen” (I don’t know what the word means) is immensely popular because Filipinos have learned to love Miss Kumiko Yamaguchi’s sincere, caring ways for the welfare of her Section 3-D students from Shirokin High School. In going out of her way to help her students who never seem to run out of problems, “Yankumi” (the lead character’s nickname) even gets to display her martial arts skills, beating off the bad guys threatening her students. As the story is developing however, it seems that Yankumi has her own deep, dark secret about to be exposed to her students, school, and community.

The actress who plays the role of Miss Yamaguchi is very pretty, with soft features and shoulder-length hair. She is a bit thin, though. (Maybe that’s part of the role.) But I also like the scenes showing the Head Teacher. He’s got a great hairdo that reminds me of the Philippines’ very own “Asiong Aksaya,” the role popularized by the late actor Chiquito. It’s sometimes disorienting, however. to see and hear blonde Japanese speaking in Tagalog.

In the Philippine educational setting, we spend more or less 14 years studying, from grade school to college. We all have known teachers who have inspired and encouraged us and who have marked us positively for the rest of our lives. To a large extent, who we are and who we will be are the result of our teachers’ influence on us. And this perhaps explains why “Gokusen” is so popular.

Some of the most memorable characters in Philippine literature (specifically in the short story in English category) are teachers. These are Miss Noel in “The Visitation of the Gods” by Gilda Cordero-Fernando; Mr. Reteche in “Zita” by Arturo B. Rotor; Miss Samonte in “Dear Miss Samonte” by Bienvenido Santos; the schoolteacher in “Blue Skull and Dark Palms” by NVM Gonzales; and to a lesser extent, Emma Gorrez in “The Sounds of Sunday” by Kerima Polotan.

If you haven’t read any of these stories in your classes, you can find these stories (except “Dear Miss Samonte”) in the anthology of Philippine literature by Croghan, available at National Bookstore.

Stand and Deliver

Dead Poets Society

To Sir With Love

Welcome Back, Kotter!

Some of the popular movies with teachers as the main characters are “Stand and Deliver” (starring Edward James Olmos and Lou Diamond Phillips), and that movie (I can’t remember the title) starring Morgan Freeman as the tough-talking, bullhorn-wielding school principal. There are also "Finding Forrester" starring Sean Connery as the reclusive writer and mentor of a promising young, black basketball star and writer, and the still to be shown in the Philippines "Freedom Writers" based on the real life story of a teacher Erin Gruwell, I think. Of course, there is also “Dead Poets Society” starring Robin Williams. Remember what the character played by Williams said to the students as they faced a wall filled with pictures of generations of students now dead and gone? Carpe diem! Seize the day!

In the 1960’s, there was the movie “To Sir, With Love” starring Sidney Poitier and Lulu, who sang the theme song of the movie. The movie was based on the experiences of a British teacher named E.R. Braithwaite. I remember reading this book in the late 1970s in my alma mater, Philippine Christian University.

Of course, there’s also the sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter!” starring Gabe Kaplan and John Travolta as Vinnie Barbarino.

I studied in Mandaluyong Elementary School from 1963 up to 1969. I remember, during my Grade 4 days, every day, I would pick sampaguita or champaca flowers from our neighbor’s garden and give them to my teacher (Miss Umali or Miss Mendoza, I don’t remember really). That was probably the reason why she gave me the lead role in a school play … Hey, quid pro quo! Kidding aside, practically nobody saw the greatest performance of my life. When the rain started pouring on the open air auditorium (it was only the stage that was covered by a roof), all the audience scampered for cover. I and the other actors were left to continue the play with no one watching us. Hey, the show must go on!

The teachers from MES that I remember are Miss Mabayad (Grade 1), Mrs. Medel (Grade 2), Miss Comsti (Grade 5), Mrs. Velasco (Grade 6), and of course, Miss Lopez, the librarian. I remember being filled with wonder, mystery, and awe looking at all the things on exhibit in the library, especially the World War 2 relics.

As high school students right now, some of you might not appreciate the things your teachers are doing for you. But I’m sure that years from now, you will look back and remember with fondness the teachers who inspired and encouraged you.

I could probably go on and on talking about teachers and students, about high school being the best years of our lives, but hey, I’ve got to stop writing. It’s already 6 PM. Gokusen na!

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