According to the translation of the NTV description of Kamen Teacher (仮面ティーチャー) posted on DramaWiki, teachers in the 21st century lost their power to discipline students because they were no longer allowed to mete out corporal punishment, and to get around that legal restriction, the government creates a corps of special masked teachers who will be able to beat up delinquent students in the hope that this will keep them in line. I’m . . . not too thrilled by that description of the show’s premise (being someone who thinks adults in positions of authority being violent toward young people is generally a bad thing), but let’s be sensible here. The premise only exists as an excuse to have a motorcycle-riding masked hero double as a teacher by day. Reading too much into it is probably not worthwhile.
In short, I’m not expecting too much by way of plot from Kamen Teacher. What I’m looking for is action, perhaps a touch of comedy, and a chance to assess the acting of the young talents involved. Fujigaya Taisuke-kun plays the lead character, Araki Gota, and I’ve reviewed two of his past dramas – Beginners and Priceless. So, will we see something new from him? While I’ve also reviewed dramas with Jesse-kun and Kyomoto Taiga-kun (both were in Shiritsu Bakaleya Koukou and the former was in Sprout), this will be my first chance so see how Kikuchi Fuma-kun and Kishi Yuta-kun do.
Anyway, on with this special hour-long first episode! Naturally, an action hero series has to begin with the hero in action. The Kamen Teacher intervenes to save some schoolgirls who are surrounded by gang members, and we see that he does possess preternatural powers.
But when one gang member runs out and is cornered on a railing over a significant drop . . .
. . . the Kamen Teacher’s powers can’t save the guy when he slips and falls over.
This results in a primal yell that made me snort with laughter. I’m sorry, but the whole scene was half-baked and that yell had no credibility whatsoever.
Thirteen months after that . . .
. . . our hero is simply fresh-faced new teacher Araki Gota in a crisp suit. He meets coworker Ichimura Miki (Omasa Aya) and considers her a good omen.
Of course, it depends on what you call ‘good’. After all, as the new teacher in a Japanese drama, he naturally gets the toughest class in the school. To be fair to dramas, this is not far from the way things really work, though in real life the other teachers do not cast doubt that the newbie will last a week. Presumably, real veteran teachers know from watching dramas that the newbie always has unending energy and will somehow manage to turn the class around by the end of the season . . . I mean, semester.
The hallway looks nice and clean until they get past the 2-C sign, at which point it looks like a war zone. Now, the kids would certainly create havoc and graffiti all around the school if they’re this undisciplined, so this concentration of the filth suggests that the janitors simply refuse to go anywhere near this end of campus, though they clean up the rest of the mess. Ah, but young, energetic teachers will gladly go where janitors fear to tread!
So yeah, the kids are sort of like this:
And Araki tries to be like this:
But when he tries to get them to fill out some . . . rather badly formulated introduction sheets (couldn’t he have typed it up?) . . .
. . . they’re having none of it, with Kotaro (Maeda Goki) actually punching Araki in the stomach when the teacher tries to insist.
But Araki keeps getting up, shocking some in the class.
I appreciate his persistence (it was a good scene all around), but there are those who don’t. When Araki turns to Takehara Kinzo (Kikuchi Fuma) and tries to have him fill out the form, Takehara sends Araki flying.
Not that it’s going to stop Araki. This led to a good laugh when Kotaro called him a zombie and Kondo Kanako (Taketomi Seika) turned instantaneously into an Araki fangirl.
Ichimura helps to revive him and tries to set him straight about keeping his distance from the students because, you know, teachers don’t have any power because they can’t attack students anymore. They already said this in the intro at the beginning of the show, and here they’re repeating it again. If I have to hear this one more time in this episode, I’m going to have to rant.
While Araki listens politely to Ichimura . . .
. . . he’s more interested in trying arrange a date with her. I like that about him.
Meanwhile, we see that the principal knows about the top secret Kamen Teacher program and Araki.
And so does another mysterious individual at higher up in the educational food chain.
Okay, okay, we get all of that – what’s this episode going to be about? Now that we’ve gotten all the introductions and preliminaries out of the way, surely we have to have some events that lead the Kamen Teacher to don his mask.
Before that, he gets beat-up while trying to break up a fight that Bon (Kyomoto Taiga) has arranged for with a promise to pay. If it wasn’t in the middle of a school and with minors, that would make Bon a budding boxing promoter, wouldn’t it?
Anyway, Kondo Kanako explains it all, introducing the four main sources of trouble – the M4. Bon is the money man, Kotaro is the mad man, Ryota (Yanagi Shuntaro) is the ice man, and Shishimaru (Kishi Yuta) is the shadow man. Besides them, there’s also the mighty Takehara.
Okay, enough with the exposition. Araki gets to see Bon in action – flashing his money to get everyone to do his bidding. Before the serious stuff, we get a touch of humor here, too, so that part of my expectations seems to be going well.
Isn’t it wonderful how characters reveal everything about their psychology in an instant? Excellent acting by Kyomoto-kun here, though.
I’m . . . not going to comment on the acting of Tsukada-kun. He plays a teacher in a TV drama – Kinpatsu-sensei (an obvious parody of the famous Kinpachi-sensei) – that Araki watches.
Nice backflips and flexibility, though, and the humor was golden.
Araki is still haunted by the tragedy that occurred thirteen months before . . .
. . . so is he willing to don the suit again in the hope that he can use his power to straighten out the lives of these wayward students?
Well, yes, of course he is. There wouldn’t be much of a series if he wasn’t, right? It all starts because Bon wants to make his point about how little friendship is worth. To do that, he creates a sort-of Battle Royale situation, where the last person standing will win 100,000 yen (around $1000).
The M4 plus Takehara know about the Kamen Teacher program, and now they know they have one in their midst. What are they going to plan to do about it?
Well, the internal dynamics of M4 are really interesting, and we get another bit of good acting from Kyomoto-kun.
How is Araki planning on helping Bon to see that there is something real to friendship? Surely he can’t punch it into the kid. And what is Takada Sho-kun doing in this series?
I’m not going to give any further details away, but I can at least assure you that we get a big fight scene at the end:
So, the action end of things worked out well. I’ve already said that they did a fair job with the comedy, and as long as you keep in mind that this drama is an action-comedy, you won’t make the mistake of taking it too seriously.
The acting was on par with action-comedy expectations except that both Kyomoto-kun and Takada-kun did superior work. Kyomoto-kun should probably get particular consideration for further roles after this one. To a large extent, the success of this series will continue to depend a lot on the supporting cast.
The character of Araki is somewhat typical, but he also showed an additional spark that will keep the audience engaged as long as he doesn’t get broody toward the end the way Fujigaya-kun’s character in Beginners did.
Fortunately, Araki’s previous experience – the one we saw at the beginning of the episode – leads him to avoid using force against the students except in the critical fight-breaking situations like the one Bon set up in the Battle Royale style. That’ll suit me just fine.
With it being an action-comedy, I don’t anticipate any pacing problems, and there certainly weren’t any in this episode.
So, it all looks good so far. The first half of this episode had me sort of worried, but everything turned out fine once they started on the Bon plot.