Japanese delinquents are generally seen as troublesome and even problematic. They refuse to conform to societal norms, often seen with dyed, unconventional hairstyles, customized uniforms, and strong personalities. As such, they have been shunned by society. Anime series like Tokyo Revengers and Great Teacher Onizuka revolve around these groups of people — but instead of prompting judgment from fans, one could say they actually end up getting inspired by these characters due to the central themes of the stories.

Friendship is one of the most prominent themes in delinquent anime and manga. Both Tokyo Revengers and Great Teacher Onizuka successfully navigate through the importance of solid friendship bonds, loyalty, and upholding one’s own values. While delinquents’ actions and mannerisms may be considered questionable in Japanese society, it’s undeniable that their dedication and loyalty toward their group and one another is an admirable feat.

Takemichi Hanagaki smiling

Tokyo Revengers follows the life of 26-year-old Takemichi Hanagaki, who finds out the Tokyo Manji Gang killed his one-time girlfriend in middle school, Hina, and her brother Naoto. After getting pushed onto a train, he gains the ability to time leap, traveling back to 12 years ago. Knowing what will happen in the future, he promises to himself to save Hina. The story offers a wide array of multi-faceted characters, some of whom are hard to hate entirely despite their bad deeds.

Themes like friendship and loyalty are integral to Tokyo Revengers. They are already highly evident with Takemichi’s character, who does everything in his power to save his friends. His strong determination to help them over and over until they are alive in the future timeline shows how important they are to him. If Hina or one of his friends remains dead in the future, Takemichi will return to the past and make sure this isn’t the doomed ending his friends will meet. Even though it causes him intense emotional and physical pain, he remains strongly determined.

These themes not only revolve around the individual characters but the gangs as well. The Tokyo Manji Gang also follows such values, upholding honor, loyalty and bravery. During the founding of Toman, Baji said they should be the type of gang where they put their lives on the line for each other. Taking into consideration the history of these characters, their devotion and trust for one another are perhaps rooted in the fact that all they have is each other — which makes their bond strong and special.

Such values are also evident in an older delinquent anime from the ’90s called Great Teacher Onizuka — which focuses on Eikichi Onizuka, a former biker gang member who becomes a private school teacher. Primarily due to his delinquent upbringing, Onizuka was consistently questioned or looked down upon as a teacher — especially by the students’ parents. Nevertheless, his students greatly admire him. Onizuka has his own (albeit chaotic) way of helping them out, which may be considered questionable, dumb, smart, or perhaps even all three. But ultimately, he still ends up being of great help.

The values he learned from his past, especially loyalty and dedication, are always highlighted in Great Teacher Onizuka. As a teacher, he puts his own life on the line. Even though he suffered three gunshot wounds from saving a kidnapped student, he still pushed through with an important test he needed to take to continue being a teacher. In addition, there are multiple instances where he saved numerous students in different ways, forming special bonds with them. Two notable ones are Yoshikawa, whom he saved from taking his own life, and Kanzaki, who becomes like a little sister to him.

Since delinquents are rejected by society, they only have each other and the spaces they created for themselves. Their similar situations are probably why the bonds between them are so special and unique. As seen with Takemichi and Onizuka’s unwavering dedication to the people they care about, Tokyo Revengers and Great Teacher Onizuka show the admirable side of delinquents — whose strong bonds represent the expression “ride or die” to the greatest level.

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