ANIME REVIEW: “Ultimate Otaku Teacher” – Animation Scoop

ANIME REVIEW: “Ultimate Otaku Teacher”

The 2015 broadcast comedy Ultimate Otaku Teacher focuses on the nutty Jun’ichiro Kagami (Anthony Bowling). At 17, Kagami was a physics prodigy, authoring a paper that proved it was theoretically possible to create Doraemon’s Anywhere Door. But when he discovered the technology needed to realize his vision wouldn’t exist for at least another century, he lapsed into apathy. He spends all his time working on a geeky anime blog, and claims to be suffering from “YD Disease:” He can only do what he Yearns to Do. His baseball bat-wielding younger sister Suzune (Mikeala Krantz) has had enough: she finds him a job as teaching at his alma mater, Higashi Shinmei High School.

Within weeks of introducing his unconventional teaching methods to Higashi Shinmei High, Kagami’s recruited by the prestigious private school, Icho Academy. This grand institution is run by Koyomi Hiiragi (Jad Saxton), who finds modern Japan too boring. Something needs to be done to make it more “amusing,” and Hiiragi realizes she’s found the ideal ally in Kagami. But his outré manners and refusal to obey rules infuriates student council president/enforcer Makina Momozono (Caitlin Glass), who brandishes a bokun (wooden practice sword) with dismaying force and frequency.

Kagami demonstrates the effectiveness of his offbeat approach to teaching when he squares off against school bully Seijiro Nanami (Jarrod Greene). Using a combination of video games and soccer, he shows Seijiro the error of his antisocial ways. While Seijiro retains some of his badboy attitude, he starts helping students in trouble and makes the first friends he’s ever had. Kagami persuades truant Sachiko Tanaka (Apphia Yu) that her schoolmates offers a gold mine of material for the manga she writes and draws. She begins attending class regularly, sketch pad in hand.

Like ex-biker gang leader Eikichi Onizuka in Great Teacher Onizuka and the alien Koro-sensei in Assassination Classroom, Kagami uses off-the-wall strategies to help his students solve their problems. Although he often speaks flippantly, Kagami sees the hidden potential within his problem kids and treats them with affection.

This very silly comedy takes on a unexpected immediacy and relevance when Kagami insists his students join him in a multi-player on-line game to learn battle strategy and gain a better understanding of history. He’s joined by his long-time gaming partner, Luce, whose cute appearance and formidable skills make her an immediate hit with the kids. Then Kagami discovers that Luce is actually Kotaro Araki (Tia Ballard), a boy who’s supposed to be in his class but has a long history of truancy.

Kotaro refuses to come to school because he prefers to dress as a girl. He’s afraid of being taunted and bullied, as he was in junior high. Kagami sets out to prove him wrong, and uses the game to win him friends. With Seijiro taking the lead, the entire class welcomes Kotaro. Some of the girls get jealous when they see how cute he is in his sailor suit uniform—and how many boys he attracts. But he’s not interested in a boyfriend, he just feels comfortable dressing as a girl. The filmmakers handle this multi-part storyline with a gentle sympathy that would be hard to find in an American animated series.

Like Great Teacher Onizuka and Assassination Classroom, Ultimate Otaku Teacher can be read as a comedy concealing a blunt critique of the grueling Japanese educational system. Beginning in elementary school, kids are subjected to a crushing battery of memorization, cram school, competition among their peers, parental pressure and batteries of exams. The unremitting stress causes children to suffer breakdowns and even commit suicide.

This system educated the men and women who built the postwar “economic miracle” and put Japan at the cutting edge of technology. But the emphasis on rote learning and exams left precious little room for originality, individual expression or personal satisfaction. In the final episode, Kagami commandeers the school audio system: He urges the students to ignore their assignments and find what they’re passionate about in life. Their passions will lead them to what they need to learn to succeed in the field they’ve chosen, rather than the profession they’ve been assigned.

It’s a siren’s song countless young Japanese viewers wish they could follow.

Ultimate Otaku Teacher: Part 1
Funimation: $64.98 4 discs, DVD and Blu-ray

Ultimate Otaku Teacher: Part 2
Funimation: $64.98 4 discs, DVD and Blu-ray

Charles Solomon

Charles Solomon

Internationally known animation historian and critic, Charles Solomon has written over 15 books books including Enchanted Drawings: The History Of Animation, The Art of Disney's Frozen,The Making of Peanuts Animation, and Tale as Old as Time: The Art and Making of Disney Beauty and the Beast .
Charles Solomon
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