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Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, Volume 1 by Koji…

Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, Volume 1

by Koji Kumeta

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A wickedly dark comedy where the main character is a high school teacher who is constantly in depression (the Mr. "Despair") as he comes with all the negatives and tragedies in life. Balancing this out is his classroom of eclectic students, each seeming with a personal disorder of their own, with the lead being a girl who is always cheerful and seeing things to the positive, even to the most absurd levels (think Pollyanna's 'glad game' except you also believe in extraterrestrials, spirits, and anything out of the ordinary).

The humor of this series is crazy to the extreme and can come out so fast and so sharp that alot of us would probably miss out on all the inside joke references, if it weren't for the translation notes in the end that goes for 11 pages (most of the time they're around 5).

The art might be somewhat on the simple side but somehow fits the theme of the book with its deep contrasts between light and dark. But when necessary, the frame can be filled to the brim with detail (all with its jokes).

A fun series to start, especially if one is into gallows humor. ( )
  timothyl33 | Jul 23, 2011 |
I loved the concept behind the Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei series: teacher overreacts to everything, his whole life is one long drawn-out moment of despair, and he just happens to be in charge of a class of strange girls (each one a stereotype of sorts) who all happen to be in love with him. The series is a gag manga that parodies and satirizes modern Japanese society without a true storyline, but with many running jokes and developments that carry from one chapter to another, or which are referred to many chapters later in order to make a joke.

The first volume is, possibly, the best of the series because it is fresh and everything is new. Each of the ten chapters introduces a new character, whether it is Nozomu Itoshiki the suicidal teacher, or Kafuka Fuura, the perpetually optimistic student, or Kiri Komori, the hikikomori. The students all have one defining character trait which is established in these introductory chapters, and which is also related to some aspect of society that leaves Sensei in despair.

The art style is a bit rough in this first volume, compared to much later ones, but it is still very representative of Kumeta's recent style. It's very stylized with clear, distinguishing silhouettes and not a lot of reliance on screentones for shading or visual interest (perhaps expected, since this is NOT a shoujo manga, where they are all too common!).

I'm not very confident in recommending the manga, though I enjoy it. It has a lot of jokes and references to very Japanese things (the kind called "wijits" by many for "Weird Japanese Thing") that are probably completely bewildering to people that know very little about Japanese culture, and many yet which are confusing even to those familiar with it. A wiki exists because so many of the references that Kumeta pokes fun at are obscure even to Japanese people.

Because of the wijits and the gag nature of the manga, it doesn't take very well to repeated readings. I'm not entirely sure I want to spend money on further volumes of the series, since I mostly enjoy reading them once and then am done with them. However, I do really like the visual style of the series, and this first volume is a lot more appealing simply because it is setting the stage with the character types rather than going straight into the gags.

DelRey did a pretty good job with the translation and footnotes, I think. There are a lot of footnotes with the series, as might be expected, and the quality over all seems pretty good. ( )
2 vote keristars | Oct 21, 2010 |
Not an enjoyable read. Disappointed in the content and the character development. Not suitable for a young audience.
  jesnikula | Oct 17, 2010 |
Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei is so ridiculous is fun. Each story is quite short, and more or less self-contained. A suicidal teacher, a king of woe and despair, meets the world's peppiest teenager. She's only one of a handful of crazy teenagers he has to teach. The series makes references to other anime and Japanese culture items, so half the fun is figuring out what the heck the characters are talking about.

Art's very simple but elegant, like the folds of a kimono. (Maybe I'm just thinking that because each chapter opens with a shadowed figure wearing an exquisite kimono.) ( )
  makaiju | Sep 26, 2010 |
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"Nozomu Itoshiki is depressed. Very depressed. Hes certifiably suicidal, but hes also the beloved schoolteacher of a class of unique students, each charming in her own way: The stalker. The shut-in. The obsessive-compulsive. The girl who comes to class every day with strange bruises. And Kafuka, the most optimistic girl in the world, who knows that every cloud has a silver lining. For all of them, its a special time, when the right teacher can have a lasting positive effect on their lives. But is that teacher Itoshiki, a.k.a. Zetsubou-sensei, who just wants to find the perfect place to die?"--Back cover.… (more)

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