Taiyo to Umi no Kyoshitsu aka (Homeroom by the Beachside) is another take on the Great Teacher Onizuka theme starring Oda Yuji, Kitagawa Keiko and a classroom of talented familiar faces. During the first episode, I was rather surprised to find AKB48’s Maeda Atsuko as part of the staple (but secondary cast). A detailed review of this drama, below.
In Japan, school dramas featuring zany teachers have become a whole genre on their own. It is popular theme among the Japanese and each year, at least one such drama is bound to see airtime. In all such stories, a single unconventional teacher is introduced into an unruly school and reforms the students with a refreshing perspective. This is a concept not unlike America’s Dangerous Minds starring Michelle Pfeiffer. However, the Japanese variation of this theme usually feature less drama and a greater emphasis on exaggerated characters and slapstick humor.
Perhaps the most famous title of this kind is the legendary Great Teacher Onizuka (GTO). The show benefited from a strong manga to reference from but owed its success to its main star, Sorimachi Takashi. Sorimachi Takashi fit the role so perfectly that he has since become synonymous with the GTO character. He continues to be cast into similar roles in all other shows.
Recreations of this theme in the decade following have met with mixed success but never to the heights of Great Teacher Onizuka. The reason simple, there has never been anyone as charismatic as Sorimachi Takashi to take up such a role.
Despite favorable ratings, I wouldn’t call Taiyo to Umi no Kyoshitsu a good drama. Sure there were entertaining moments scattered through the series, but the show falls flat most of the time. The two principal flows of the show being the weak script and horribly ill-casted Oda Yuji.
Even at first observation, Oda Yuji is a poor choice as an actor in a genre that depends so heavily on a lovable main character. He was awful in Last Christmas and he continues to be a bad actor even now. Adding to the fire is the obnoxious nature of the featured teacher character in the show.
GTO was a gung ho ex-biker, Gokusen brought us a zany Yakuza princess and Dragon Zakura gave us the ever quirky Abe Hiroshi. All of these characters motivated students to work hard with their uplifting speeches derived from their street savviness. Taiyo to Umi tries to innovate by having Oda Yuji star as a preachy retired war veteran.
Instead of getting the students to study, he encourages them to slack off during the summer before their final examinations. He justifies this by saying that it will improve their moral character.
The character played by Oda is obnoxious, rather than inspiring or endearing. In each episode, he enforces his self-righteous beliefs and interferes with the students personal lives. Like in other similar dramas, Oda appears when students are facing problems to “save” them. If viewers were to think through though, they would realize that he often leaves the students in far worse situations than before.
It’s a shame that Taiyo to Umi no Kyoshitsu turned out the way it did, for apart from Oda, the show features a decent cast. Deserving of mention are Okada Masaki (Otomen), Yoshitaka Yuriko (Shiroi Haru) and Tanimura Mitsuki (Mei-chan no Shitsuji) who play students in the drama. Many of the talents have a far wider portfolio, despite being a fraction of Oda’s age. The show stays bearable since the individual students still contribute to the plot after each of their featured episodes.
Surprisingly, even AKB48’s Maeda Atsuko pulled off an admirable performance as the classroom’s eccentric student. There were various other familiar faces such as Nakamura Yuichi (Kamen Rider Zeronos) and Yamamoto Yusuke (Kamen Rider Sasword) but their acting were sub par at best. Kitagawa Keiko also plays a supporting role as Oda’s assistant but doesn’t feature as prominently as even the students.
Instead of giving viewers the usual feel good ending from such a drama, the show heads for the worst midway through the series when it begins to suggest the not any less cliched “someone is going to die” outcome. The show then continues to lead into more excuses for Oda to continue forcing his personal values onto the students.
As suggested from the title, Taiyo to Umi no Kyoshitsu is filmed by the seaside. The beautiful background scenery is one of the show’s saving graces.
Taiyo to Umi no Kyoshitsu also deserve an honorable mention though for having one of the most interesting closing videos for a drama ever. Inspired by Gulliver’s Travels, it features the students attempt to capture a sea monster approaching from the beach, a giant Oda Yuji. The classic “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” plays as the theme. This incredible footage was achieved through a combination of blue screen and tilt shift rendering. After a few episodes, the editors realized that they were better off putting it as the intro too.
Save yourself the trouble of watching this drama. Instead check out the amusing opening/closing video here.Click here to search CDJapan for official AKB48 goods.