Reviewby Theron Martin,
Ultimate Otaku Teacher
episodes 1-12 streaming
Junichiro Kagami is a prodigy who, at the age of only 17, made widely-published breakthroughs in the field of physics. Several years have passes since then, and he is now a NEET who is most concerned with staying on top of the anime blogging world. His teenage sister is not about to let him get away with claiming that he can't work because he suffers from YD (a supposed condition whose sufferers can only do what they Yearn to Do), and under threat of a beating with a baseball bat gets him to take a maternity leave fill-in teaching job at his alma mater. Between that and a second position he later gets recruited for, he shows that when he is properly motivated and sets his mind to it, he can achieve wondrous things in reforming difficult students. His means for doing so are well beyond conventional, of course, and more often than not his driving motivation is triggered by something related to his otaku nature, but his results are hard to deny.
The unconventional teacher who finds ways to reach out to and motivate troubled students has been a recurring story element for decades in live-action movies and TV shows, and anime has certainly had its share of them (see GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka, amongst others). 2015 has seen two series built around this theme: Assassination Classroom and this adaptation of a 2011-originating manga series. Of the two, Ultimate Otaku Teacher is decidedly the lower-budget effort and, in a relative sense, the more ordinary one in execution. However, it still stakes out its own novel angle on the concept by following the recent trend of otaku protagonists and making its lead a dedicated otaku, too.
Ultimately, though, the otaku element is more flavoring than an actual integral part of the story. In the first twelve episodes he works with seven different students, and in most of those cases his otaku nature plays little or no role in what he does to help the students beyond giving him a thin impetus to get involved; for instance, in one case his motivation to step in against a bully is that an anime-related ornament is being threatened by the bully's actions. Instead he achieves his aid to students through a combination of life coaching, psychological ploys, programming wizardry, and gimmicks that are borderline (if not outright) unethical, nearly all of which could have been accomplished without the otaku context. (The exception to this is the case of the manga-ka, in which case convincing the girl that she could get good source material at school is part of his method for getting her to come back.) His methods can be harsh but are (naturally!) inevitably effective, and do go beyond just preaching, as they also force the students to recognize on their own what thinking needs to be corrected and how they can go about it. In that sense the series is a bit clever, and therein lies its greatest strength and appeal.
Which is good, because Junichiro is otherwise something of an ass, to the point that his behavior could single-handedly turn away some potential viewers off. He is smarmy and self-righteous, and his insistence about his supposed “YD” condition comes off as a childish justification for being lazy and self-centered. The degree to which that behavior is at odds with the lengths that he goes to in helping resolve the problems of his students is apparently meant to illustrate the nature of his YD, and indeed, seeing people radically change their behavior when their motivational switch is flipped is hardly unheard-of. Still, it comes off more as a storytelling convenience that an honest characterization. One part of his shtick is giving a nickname to everyone (and sometimes not a complimentary one, either), and his habit of snapping his fingers and declaring that a lesson is in session gets irritating by the fourth or fifth time. Recurring supporting cast members are mostly a collection of anime stereotypes who are typically more interesting for the problems they face than their actual characters.
The actual cases in the first 12 episodes vary in length from one-shot episodes to a four episode arc which closes out the run, with one episode stuck in which mostly involves the protracted effort to recruit Junichiro for his second school. Even the one-shots typically have consequences which carry forward, though, so little in the series happens in isolation; this even proves true when Junichiro leaves behind the first couple of people that he helped when he changes schools. Topics can range from bullying to stealing as stress relief to helping a violent loner finding the value in connecting to/working with others, all of which are satisfying to some degree in resolution. The stand-out case is its longest one, which involves a student who has been truant ever since middle school classmates discovered that he was transgender (he has favored looking and dressing like a girl since an early age, though comments he makes suggests that he is straight on sexual preference) and harangued him about it. While I may not be the best judge of such things, the story seems to do a reasonable and nonjudgmental job of exploring some of the issues such an individual might face.
While the story elements and themes may attract some viewers, no one is likely to be watching it for its visual aesthetic. Of all of the anime titles that A-1 Pictures has taken the production lead on, this might be their weakest effort. The animation is frequently limited (and never impresses when it does fully animate a scene) and problems with characters being off-model or the artistry just generally being a bit rough are rampant, especially in the early going. Even beyond that, none of the characters have looks that are all that distinct and nothing about the artistry – even the background details of otaku paraphernalia – could be considered “sharp,” though this does improve some in later episodes. The series is virtually devoid of fan service beyond some sexy fantasy outfits in the MMO game, however, which is undoubtedly helped by the fact that the female students whom Junichiro works with are merely deeply grateful to him rather than romantically interested in him. (At least so far, anyway.)
On the audio front, the musical score plays up the dramatic moments with great verve but otherwise is fairly ordinary. Both the opener and the closer are thoroughly generic anime fare.
As of the time of this writing, the first ten episodes have gotten dubbed into English. Common complaints about the quality of Funimation's “simuldubs” will not be assuaged here, as performances in general are not as smooth as typically expected from the company's hard copy releases and some are problematic enough to weight the series down. The most important casting choice, Anthony Bowling (Ashiya/Alciel in The Devil is a Part-Timer!) as Junichiro, does work, as even though his vocal quality is different from that of the original performance of Hiroshi Kamiya, it fits the character well enough and Junichiro's attitude comes through exactly right. Much more problematic is relative newcomer Mikaela Krantz's take on Junichiro's sister Suzune. She tried to mimic the style of an original performance that was not very good to begin with (it was the debut role for the original seiyuu), with predictably awkward results. Other English performances are very hit-or-miss. The dub does settle down some in later episodes, and it does start inserting more English memes into its script, but this is definitely not one of Funimation's finer efforts.
As a high school teacher who considers himself an otaku (and has been known to use anime screen shots in lessons), I find myself very conflicted about this series. While the extent to which Junichiro goes to help students he gets interest in is laudable, his attitude about teaching bugs me and some of his actions cross boundaries of professional conduct. I cannot divorce that from my evaluation of the series, hence some negative personal bias should be assumed in the grades assigned below. Accept Junichiro for what he is, though, and this can be a mildly entertaining series which tells some mildly compelling vignettes about helping students get on the right track by whatever means are necessary.
Overall (dub) : C-
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C
Animation : C
Art : C
Music : B-
+ Sense of story continuity despite being told mostly as vignettes, some satisfying outcomes.
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