The Ultimate Teacher
by Justin Sevakis,
To be sure, there's a lot of garbage, like Crystal Triangle, Dog Soldier, Roots Search. We all know the classics that spawned from that era as well (Project A-ko, Dominion Tank Police, etc...). But what of that vast middle-ground? Well, there's a lot of mediocre in there, but occasionally you find something interesting...
The Fearsome Bio-Reconstructed Man: The Ultimate Teacher
Let me say this up front: you have to have a very special sense of humor to appreciate Ultimate Teacher. Many people, it seems, just don't appreciate the kind of tongue-in-cheek snicker this odd little OAV coughs out. I found two reviews online. The first called it "inspired and hillarious," while the second remarked, "it was a waste of 60 minutes of my life and I'd be horrified to find others getting introduced to anime through this title."
Back in my old anime club days, I was warned about Ultimate Teacher, just as I was warned about MD Geist and many of our other favorite punching bags of the day. Inevitably, curiosity won out, and I rented the tape. Boy, was I glad I did. I hadn't laughed that hard since the first time I saw Dragon Half, and I wondered why in the world nobody else seemed to appreciate it. Perhaps it was because most of my fellow club members had no sense of humor. (As proof, I was later ridiculed for producing a satirical AMV that matched all of the animation mistakes in MD Geist to William Shatner's rendition of Mr. Tambourine Man.)
There's something about Ultimate Teacher that sort of defies description -- an edgy nervousness in the way it throws weirdness at you as if it were suffering from Tourette's Syndrome. Most of the actual jokes are completely random throw-aways that have nothing to do with the burned out shell of a story, and the key jokes get played so much they almost become tiresome. The real humor in the show is from the absurdity peppered generously throughout.
It's morning in a quiet, mountainous Kanto suburb, and one sweet high school girl, Hinako Shiratori, is on her way to school. Waiting for the bus, she is approached by a peculiar man munching on a fish skeleton, perched atop a dumpster. "Does this road go to Emperor High? Better known as the worst school in the entire region?" Why, yes it does go to Emperor High School, big creepy guy, but before Hinako can offer that there's a bus as well, the man has scampered off, clinging to a wall and muttering like a luantic.
The man is Ganpachi Chabane, and he's the new teacher at Emperor, which looks something like a Japanese high school if it had been ground zero for a very long, drawn out war. This isn't an exaggeration: armed guards, barbed wire and an ad-hoc graveyard adorn the campus. The violent student body has apprarently sent teachers fleeing for their lives. The principal tearfully explains that the only faculty they have left are either recent ex-cons, or are attempting to spread a weird cult.
But FEAR NOT! Ganpachi is in town, and he will whip this school into shape! Soon, he's waging war with the worst class in the school, and the ringleader is none other than the sweet, innocent girl he met at the bus stop earlier. The remainder of the OAV is a slowly escalating battle of stupidity on both sides -- Hinako's secret shame (she's never outgrown the Lucky Kitty bloomers she wore as a child) and Ganpachi's secret past (he's a genetic mutation of a human and a cockroach) -- and finally, an ultimate showdown ensues.
See what I mean about a shell of a story? It's barely enough for a one-shot hour-long OAV. The narrative lumbers along drunkenly, getting distracted by shiny things and occasionally forgetting where it's suppposed to be going. It's so much fun that we don't much care either. It's obvious from the first few frames (which feature Chinese soldiers on bicycles, a Cherokee in full head-dress, and half a dozen other ethnic stereotypes just randomly going about their daily business), that there's little else to care about other than a laugh. There are so many quick sight-gags that it's hard to keep track of them all. It seems that almost nobody on staff could resist adding something... either that, or there's some deep symbolic reason why so many characters have boogers hanging out of their noses.
An OAV released in 1988 (and given a short theatrical release), Ultimate Teacher was directed by anime veteran Toyoo Ashida, who brought us such legendary works as Vampire Hunter D (the original) and the Fist of the North Star movie. His sense of comic timing is hard to describe, but imagine, if you will, the over-the-top lunacy of Fist of the North Star with the random, offensive humor of Tex Avery at his peak. The animation is about TV quality for the era, meaning flat colors and virtually no detail, but a full range of motion that handles the speed required for such rapid-fire comedy. The disco-infused funk soundtrack (courtesy of the Dang Gang Brothers band) keeps the energy high.
Nonsense can be fun. Sometimes we forget that. Sometimes it's fun just to sit back and watch a bug-man in girls' gym shorts and a spider-man in spandex go at it over a high school swimming pool. If the humor is done well, we can even avoid feeling ourselves getting dumber.
|A||Abundant. Available anywhere that carries anime.|
|C||Common. In print, and always available online.|
|R1||US release out of print, still in stock most places.|
|R2||US release out of print, not easy to find.|
|R3||Import only, but it has English on it.|
|R4||Import only. Fansubs commonly available.|
|R5||Import only, and out of print. Fansubs might be out there.|
|R6||Import long out of print. No fansubs are known to exist.|
|R7||Very rare. Limited import release or aired on TV with no video release. No fansubs known to exist.|
|R8||Never been on the market. Almost impossible to obtain.|
|Adapted from Soviet-Awards.com.|
How to get it: We're back to the hard-to-find this week, folks! Central Park Media did indeed release a subtitled version on VHS and LD back in 1993. Manga UK and CPM also released a dubbed version in 1996 that was well-produced but played the comedy so straight that most of the humor doesn't come through at all. Unfortunately the rights lapsed before a DVD could be produced, and indeed, to this day none has been made in any country so far. Prospective viewers are likely stuck with hunting down used VHS copies online. (I found a few copies on half.com for dirt cheap in case you're interested.) As this title seems to have been completely forgotten around the world, I wouldn't exactly hold my breath waiting for a re-release.
Screenshots ©1988 MOVIC/Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc.
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