Here we are: the final episode of Kamen Teacher (仮面ティーチャー). If you haven’t watched the rest of the series, you might want to do that before reading the rest of this review. Or, you could just read the rest of my reviews 🙂 I know some people like to check out the end of a book before deciding to read it, but as a writer I find the very idea of that . . . problematic.

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With that caveat to the reader out of the way, we discovered that the Jinrou brothers – you know, these guys:

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. . . that they’re officially sanctioned to be violent assholes. That seems weird to me, but apparently the guy in charge of the Kamen Teacher program is also in charge of them. At least it explains why they were able to beat up on Kusanagi (Jesse) a fw episodes back even though Kusanagi as the dark kamen teacher has super fighting skills. To get to be officially sanctioned to be violent, the Jinrou brothers must be exceptionally good at it. Wonder if there’s some sort of audition for that, and whether it looks anything like Battle Royale.

So the fight between the brothers and the two kamen teachers is on . . . .

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I found the scene where all the students suddenly become pro-kamen teacher to be a bit depressing. I mean, the fact that Ryota (Yanagi Shuntaro) suddenly says the kamen teachers are fighting for the students is unbelievable since he was literally beaten senseless by the dark kamen teacher – he was a nervous wreck after that. Sure, Araki (Fujigaya Taisuke) has been fighting for the students all along, but Kusanagi has been very explicitly fighting against the students. If Kusanagi was fighting for anyone, it was the school administration.

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So yeah, that came off as wrong, and the whole scene reminded me of the one in Peter Pan where they all go ‘I believe in fairies’ to revive Tinker Bell (I forget which version that was in).

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Interestingly, instead of continuing the fight immediately, we cut to an episode of Kinpatsu-sensei, where the eponymous character expounds on the topic of hope (希望 – kibou).

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Well, we know Araki can’t be watching . . .

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. . . but his buddy at the café is, trying to get Saeko (Yamamoto Maika) to say “I believe in kamen teacher”, too. Thankfully, she doesn’t bite, though we know that she’ll forgive Araki in the end, right?

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After the opening credits roll, it’s epic comeback time.

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Is the way it ends really a spoiler?

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Finally, the principal is getting uncomfortable about the whole Kamen Teacher program and what the guy controlling it is doing – you know, now that there’s been an open student rebellion led by Misaki, who was enabled by the thugs hired by the government.

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The principal accuses the guy at the education bureau of using the school for an experiment and the students as test subjects. The bureau chief basically dismisses him and acts all authoritarian. Like I’ve been saying from the very start of this, there’s a conflict here that the kamen teacher need to address. It looks like they don’t have time to do it here, but there’s still a movie coming up – will we get a setup for the movie in this episode?

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While they walked out of the gym all cool, the kamen teachers show that they’re really beat-up once they get to take off their masks.

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Araki wonders why Kusanagi decided to protect the students, which is not quite as good a question as why students like Ryota believed that he would after having ample evidence otherwise.

Kusanagi replies that he’d like to ask Araki the same thing. Seems like, more than Ichimura-sensei (Omasa Aya) constantly bringing up his mother, it was the practical example that Araki set which led Kusanagi to decide to be a slightly better person.

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As Kusanagi points out, though, he’s going to continue to be the clean-up crew. If Araki can’t reform them with his ways, Kusanagi will still beat the living daylights out of them too make sure they get the point. I thought this was wonderful – I would have been so disappointed if he had just made one of those 180 degree turns in character that we’ve gotten from some of the other students, and thankfully it doesn’t look like his change is going to be that drastic. More like a 45 degree turn.

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The principal calls Araki in to tell him that Misaki is going back to the correction center, but it sounds like Misaki wants to try and turn over a new leaf (you know, make one of those 180 degree turns that I was lamenting).

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The principal himself is suddenly making a similar turn himself, going from being totally enthusiastic about the Kamen Teacher program in the all the other episodes so far and reveling in the violence that was keeping the students in line to now despairing about the whole thing and saying that he was wrong. I really wish this had been a smoother transition, with him happy with the program through the first half, then steadily growing more concerned about where it was leading through at least four episodes. Instead, it’s a one episode personality pirouette (I think I’m going to have to use ‘personality pirouette’ more often – that’s a good one).

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Kinzo (Kikuchi Fuma) and Shishimaru (Kishi Yuta) see Misaki off:

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Holy mackerel – Kinzo totally channeled Araki here. Totally out of character. At least the writers had the decency to acknowledge that by having Shishimaru say so.

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Araki literally dragged himself to the café in an attempt to patch things up. He gives one of those speeches that I’d be embarrassed to write – such platitudes will never pop out of my pen.

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It’s time for the students to write down what they plan to do with the rest of their lives so that parents and teachers will have time to criticize their dreams before it’s too late (you want to be an astronaut? Please be a bit more realistic! How about an accountant – you’re good at math, right?). Not saying Araki would do that, of course.

Bon (Kyomoto Taiga)’s musing that he has enough money anyway was a good laugh . . .

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. . . and I bet you know what Kanako (Taketomi Seika)’s plan for the future is, and he didn’t even shoot this one down.

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The Kinzo plan is too gushy for me.

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Sure makes Araki proud of himself, though.

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So . . . all that’s left is to score a date with Ichimura, right?

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For the first time in the series, Araki also gets to talk to the guy pulling all the strings. Is there enough in this conversation to set up a movie? You’ll have to judge for yourself.

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It sure didn’t sound like Araki was even thinking that the education bureau had been unjust in playing around with students as they did – with Misaki and Kusanagi especially. I thought he’d be a bit more strident – perhaps bringing up the point that the Jinrou brothers did what they did under the behest of the bureau – but he didn’t. Disappointing.

This series was a smooth and fun ride, but a mostly forgettable one. It was very cotton candy. The story was very predictable, as were most of the characterizations with the possible exception of Kusanagi (though plenty of people predicted that ahead of time, too).

The acting was okay. Highest marks went to Jesse-kun for Kusanagi. Kyomoto Taiga-kun for Bon gets the best supporting actor, though it’s mostly because he fit the role so perfectly. Fujigaya-kun had no trouble playing Araki, but except in the first two episodes where his character seemed truly dynamic, the role seemed like familiar ground for him. In fact, I’d say that his role in Beginner was more challenging. I’ve never considered Omasa-san a good actress and I still don’t. Taketomi Seika-chan did good work as Kondo Kanako – I just didn’t like the character. When Yamamoto Maika-chan got a chance to have a subplot revolve around her character – Saeko – she came off as very wooden in a series full of extreme characters.

Speaking of extreme characters, Tsukada-kun’s Kinpatsu-sensei didn’t turn out too bad. He was often a welcome break and touch of humor.

They could have done much more with this plot, and ultimately devolved into the same game played in the last few episodes of Bad Boys J – introduce new characters who are all bad, and have the heroes make them do personality U-turns. The way you should do it is have the existing cast take small, smooth steps over the course of the series – the way we saw it happen with Kinzo and Kusanagi, but less so with the other students.

And I still feel like the teachers and administration deserved a little taste of their own medicine. Rather than have Misaki be the weak character that he ended up being, with a pair of hired thugs behind him, I’d have introduced him earlier and had him actively seek retribution against teachers who used the kamen teacher to threaten students, and in general to frighten the teachers much more than Misaki ever did.

Kamen Teacher was never boring, but unlike my favorite dramas, I see no reason why I’d want to watch it a second time. It’s very much an average drama that does all the standard things in a very well-established and popular genre. Except in the excessively facile ending, it doesn’t make many missteps (unlike Bad Boys J, which preceded it in this time slot and in the same genre and rarely got any footing at all). In short, it’s safe viewing and entertaining, but nothing to get excited about.