The producers of the GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka live-action television series remake confirmed on Wednesday that EXILE band member Akira will star in the series. Akira replaces Takashi Sorimachi as the title character in the remake of the 1998 drama. Both live-action versions are based on Tohru Fujisawa's original school comedy manga about a former gang member who becomes an unorthodox teacher.
20-year-old actress Miori Takimoto (Higanjima) will play the heroine Azusa Fuyutsuki, and 51-year-old Hitomi Kuroki (20th Century Boys, Dark Water) will play the principal who believes in the teaching abilities of Onizuka. 26-year-old Yuu Shirota (The Prince of Tennis) will play a friend from Onizuka's biker gang days who now lives with Onizuka. 24-year-old Yūsuke Yamamoto and 60-year-old Ryōsei Tayama round out the cast; Tayama will play the loud-mouthed vice-principal and Onizuka's nemesis. The series will premiere in July on the Fuji TV network and will run on Tuesdays at 10:00 p.m.
The Nikkan Sports newspaper had reported earlier this month that the 30-year-old Akira would replace 27-year-old actor/singer Jin Akanishi. Nikkan Sports had noted in April that Akanishi was forced by Johnny & Associates, his talent agency, to leave the remake. Akanishi married the actress/singer Meisa Kuroki (23) on February 2, and he reportedly did not notify Johnny & Associates until after registering his marriage. Kuroki confirmed last month that she is pregnant.
Tokyopop published the original manga in North America. In 2009, Fujisawa returned to the character of Onizuka with the manga Shonan 14 Days. Vertical announced in May that it licensed both GTO: Shonan 14 Days and Shonan Junai-gumi (the predecessor to Great Teacher Onizuka) for North America. Fujisawa just finished Shonan 14 Days last year, but he launched a three-chapter spinoff in November.