Pairing: Kumiko Yamaguchi ("Yankumi")/Shin Sawada
Gokusen is a manga, anime, and live action Japanese drama about a dorkily awesome yakuza heiress named Yamaguchi Kumiko. There are some significant differences between the manga and jdrama, but the primary plot is always the same: Kumiko fulfills her dream of becoming a teacher when she's hired as a math/homeroom teacher at Shirokin Gakuen. Her class is full of delinquents who don't think very highly of their dorky new teacher. Kumiko grew up with some of the toughest thugs around; no bratty high school kids are about to get the best of her!
Sawada Shin is the undisputed leader of class 3-D. He's smart, handsome, and has serious trust issues when it comes to authority figures. He's intrigued by Yankumi, and quickly becomes her (reluctant) ally. He also falls in love with Yankumi, while she remains cheerfully oblivious of his feelings.
I love Shin/Yankumi ("shinkumi") because they complement each other beautifully. They're both dorks in their own way, and they're always looking out for one another. From the blurb above, you may have gathered that this is a teacher/student pairing. Most fics that have Shin and Yankumi in a romantic relationship take place after he graduates. Those fics set during his time as Yankumi's student tends towards frustrated yearning on his part, and complete obliviousness on hers.
Most Gokusen fic tends to be centered on the jdrama, although some stories do incorporate elements from the manga. The fandom isn't tiny, although it is definitely small. You can find more Gokusen fics at Fanfiction.net, AO3, and shinkumi.
In no particular oder, I present you with fic recs about my adorkable OTP:
Fic Rec #1: Stupid Ideas
Why This Must Be Read: I may as well admit this now: I like seeing Shin squirm. There's just something about a self-composed man going all dorky and off-balance around the woman he loves that always gets to me. Set post-series, Shin and Yankumi are temporarily cohabiting. Naturally, this is a situation ripe for comedic misunderstandings (or: The Fic Where Kumiko Catches Shin Getting Off).
“Er.” His voice was dry, surprised.
“Er,” she repeated. Her eyes were wide, pupils shot and somehow unseeing, even as they stared at him.
“Er,” he tried to start again, but couldn’t. He fumbled for his jeans on the floor wildly, almost flailing. She knelt and carefully scooped up his shirt, handing it to him. His voice came back to him. “Just what the hell did you think you were doing?” he demanded, panic raising his voice to a squeaky yell.
Fic Rec #2 The Absence of Nothing
Author: Avelynn Tame
Why This Must Be Read: The story tracks Shin and Yankumi's evolving relationship through Shin's school attendance records. Beyond being an original way to frame a story, this fic is well worth reading for the excellent take on Shin and Yankumi's relationship. I'm particularly fond of this story's Shin, first trying to figure out Yankumi and his reaction to her, and then struggling to deal with what he's discovered about himself. Note: a romantic relationship develops between Shin and Yankumi while he's still in school.
Then there was the matter of her strange, unflinching loyalty to them. Their education was important to her. Their lives were important to her. It bothered him. He could see the way the others were slowly warming up to her, still putting up a front of disinterest, although their hostility was long gone.
And Shin knew he was headed the same way.
If he was wrong about her - if they were all wrong about her, and she was just like all the rest... it would be different this time. It would hurt. So for his own sake and for everyone else's as well, he wanted to figure her out.
Too bad the only way to do that was to go to school.
Fic Rec #3: Dumb and Tragic
Why This Must Be Read: Shin contemplates his hidden (more or less) tendencies towards dorkiness, as well as his feelings towards Yankumi. The two are not unrelated. I love the humour in this fic--the houseplant!--and the easy warmth between Shin and Yankumi.
There is something about Yankumi that makes a deeply hidden, very nicely buried part of Sawada Shin want to well up and spill all over everything.
It is a deeply uncool part of himself, and Shin would really rather forget all about it.
Fic Rec #4: The simplest solution
Why This Must Be Read:
A lot of my favourite Shinkumi fics involve zany! wacky! adventures! and comic misunderstandings. This isn't one of those fics. Instead, orange_crush takes a quiet moment between Shin and Yankumi, and makes it shine with possibilities.
They’d been walking, just walking; passing the people on the street at a different pace, like they always did, always walking too fast or too slow, always walking together. She’d been talking about something, a student in her new class, some kid with an attitude, he doesn’t remember; he’d been drifting in her voice, smelling the rain before it fell, wondering if today was the day. Or tomorrow. Or ever. Three years out of school and he’s still marking the changes in the weather by the first day she wears her hair up.
Fic Rec #5: Yamaguchi-Anti-Cupid
Rating/Warning(s): PG. Secondary Noda/Fujiyama.
Why This Must Be Read: I love stories that make use of Yankumi's other students. Noda finally gets his date with Fujiyama-sensei, and Yankumi reacts badly. Shin is torn between his friendship with Noda, and his feelings for Yankumi as he tries to support them both.
While Yankumi is my favourite Gokusen character, I really appreciate how emothy shows her flaws in this fic: Yankumi can be hard-headed, and short-sighted, and unknowingly hurts others with her absolute certainty that she has the moral high ground.
Yankumi is squinting behind her glasses. Shin watches her fingers twitching on the tabletop. He thinks idly about giving her some kind of support, reassurance, and his hand creeps silently forward past the drinks-
"Did she just brush her leg against his?!" Yankumi squeaks, aghast. Her hands go to her mouth and as she leans forward she starts chewing on her thumbnail. Shin flops back in his seat and through a veil of bitterness prays that Noda at least gets some; one of them should after all this trouble.
Fic Rec #6: Closet Secrets
Why This Must Be Read: I believe that I already admitted to my fondness for seeing Shin embarrassed. While a bit rough around this edges, this fic makes me snicker at poor Shin's expense as he tries to maintain his dignity in front of Yankumi.
Although slightly irked by how blatantly Yankumi referred to him as merely a student, and a LITTLE student at that, Shin couldn't help but feel a certain smugness at how easily he could read Yankumi. All they needed to do was just to ask for her help, and he was sure she would walk to the ends of the earth for them if she had to.
Maybe that was why he liked her so much.
Fic Rec #7: Live by the Sword
Rating/Warning(s): PG13. Slight sexual situations, and mentions of past violence.
Why This Must Be Read: This is a nice, intimate moment between Shin and Yankumi, as well as a look at how Yankumi grew into the woman we know in canon.
“Where,” he inquired slowly, “did you get this?”
He ran his index finger along the scar on her back that he had just spotted. He didn’t know how he’d never seen it; it was quite large, and very noticeable. It started just under her bra, and ran in a diagonal line down her back, well beyond the gentle swell of her hips, and disappeared into the waistband of her pants. It looked deep, and the scar tissue that bunched up around it was thick and firm and discoloured.
Fic Rec #8: Shades of Red
Why This Must Be Read: Mklutz's 30 Kisses may have been the first English language Gokusen fic. While her 30 Kisses series is certainly a classic in the fandom, it's this fic that really sticks in my mind. Shin moves in with Yankumi and her family, and she's startled again and again to see how seamlessly he fits into her life. Because Yankumi is our PoV character, the depths of Shin's feelings for her remain subtle--but all the more poignant because the reader knows what his small gestures and shifts in expression truly signify.
But strangest of all - stranger than sharing the bathroom with not just the usual residents, but Sawada as well, and stranger than having him play trump with them or watch movies or practice their fighting - stranger than all that, and most embarrassing was oddly him seeing her doing stupid things at home. Generally, she was clumsier at school because she got so excited about things, and at home she was more cool and collected with her hair down and the kumi treating her with respect. But that respect had everything to do with how she could and would beat any of them in a fight, and almost nothing to do with her favourite television dramas (some of which made her cry), or the way her hair was stupid in the morning, or how once or twice (or more) she had gotten too excited over things like male cheerleading and Kuma's love interests. The people she had grown up with were just as tough and scary, and just as soft-hearted and sentimental as she was. They had raised her.
But part of her was uncomfortably conscious of how Shin had never seen these things, how he had grown up in a strict and boring Senator's house with a police officer parked on his front step all his life, and how no one in his house probably had a Doraemon bento box with matching chop-sticks, or watched Wives of the Yakuza every week and bawled when Shiori had fought Sato-san and broken his leg just to prove a point.
Fic Rec #9: The Way to California
Why This Must Be Read: Yankumi gets a clue. Finally. I loved how long-suffering her grandfather is in this fic, and how Yankumi eventually decides to show Shin how she feels. This fic is manga-based, so the ending will probably be more meaningful if you've read the manga. If not, just know that Yankumi once told Shin that he was a hundred years from being a man. She also finds fundoshi deeply attractive and very manly.
When Kumiko, years after Shin’s graduation, and long after she’d given up trying to distance him from her family, finally realized that she just might, perhaps, maybe, possibly have the teeniest, tiniest, itsy-bitsyest crush on the red-haired man, she panicked. Naturally.
Fic Rec #10: untitled
Rating/Warning(s): PG13/R for non-explicit sex
Why This Must Be Read: darkeyedwolf is a fabulously funny writer in general; her fanfic is no exception. The fic is short, and the plot simple, but the delivery is fantastic.
The first time, Shin pulls back and says "want to?" while lazily, carelessly running a hand through his hair, and Kumiko says "eh?" in flustered half-clothed confusion before Shin makes the kind of hand gesture that proves he really did belong at Shirokin, and even, perhaps, excelled there.
Kumiko doesn't even have to put her shirt back on to flatten him.
Fic Rec #11: Stumble and Fall
Author: Avelynn Tame
Why This Must Be Read: I didn't want to rec any author more than once, but I got to the end of this rec set and realized that I hadn't reced a single multi-chapter fic! An old schoolmate of Yankumi's joins the staff at Shirokin. He quite obviously has his sights set on Yankumi, and Shin is not pleased by this particular turn of events. In addition to the very nice shinkumi relationship developed in this fic, I really like how Yankumi's entire class reacts to Maruyama.
Is this story realistic? No, but it's Gokusen.
School was supposed to be safe, he thought clumsily. Outside, she belonged to her family, to that world – and previously, to Shinohara as well – but at school she spent her time with him. At school, he shared her only as a teacher, but the woman, the real Yamaguchi Kumiko – the one who swore violently and drank men twice her size under the table – he shared with no-one.
And now, apparently, all that was going to change.
And so we conclude our brief--but hopefully pleasant!--tour through my little fandom. I hope some of you enjoyed getting to know Shin and Yankumi. If you're interested in learning more about them, there are scanlations and subs available online.