|Who Knew Despair Could be so Funny?||4 out of 5 users found this review helpful.|
Publisher: Del Rey
Author: Koji Kumeta
Genre: Comedy / School / Satire
MSRP: $10.99 (USD)
Contents: 10 Chapters / 176pg.
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei is first and foremost a comedy series that rips off the scabs of issues in society. Things people might be rather sensitive about coming to light. Nozomu Itoshiki is a teacher in despair as the head of a class of unique individuals, but he was pretty down before his first class ever took place. The world is filled with a dark side, and he's just the kind of guy to see it and point it out for all to see. Though dark, thankfully for us it always seems to have a funny side to it as well.
It was last week when I was hoping to purchase the first volume of Highschool of the Dead, but when I got to the store I learned that my local store was only selling it via online. Rather than doing that, I took advantage of the store's buy four and get one free deal. This was one of the many manga I purchased that day.
The joy in reading this series has to be in the absolute over the top cast that fills it. Each character has a personality flaw that is taken to extremes. Though the teacher is determined to always see the bad side of things. He has a student named Kafuka that is just as determined to see the positive to equally wild extremes. We got to meet most of them in the first volume, but in Volume 2 we actually get to meet some of Nozumu's family, and their names are just as dark and twisted, if you get the joke.
We also see the cast make wishes for their next life, they go to the famous Comic Market convention to sell doujinshi, we learn just how absurd and outdated the concept of a Miai can be, take some training in being criticized, and we learn the truth of the universe. Even Commodore Perry, who opened Japan back in 1854, drops by. Bet you never expected all that in this manga.
The artwork is unique in this series. It's simple, but I find the style to be often beautiful. The characters are unique in their designs so that you always know who you're looking at. One of my favorites has to be Chiri Kitsu. It's funny to watch her flip out when things aren't just right.
Satire is the kind of comedy style that is best enjoyed when you know what the author is making fun of. Otherwise, would you really know why these things are so funny? Think of movies such as Spaceballs or the Scary Movie series of films. In their own right they are funny movies, but the fact you are familiar with Star Wars, Star Trek, and the list of horror films these movies makes fun of does make these movies a lot funnier, right? That kind of makes the Sayonara Zetsumou Sensei series a challenge to read, because it's target is Japanese culture. That's not to say there aren't things for the manga and anime fan to enjoy as well. In the first chapter about people making wishes, there is a wish hanging from the bamboo tree that was written by Vegeta that he wishes to beat Goku in the next life, and a Gundam SEED reference. Also, there are detailed translator notes in the back of the volume to explain some of these issues.
This manga series is so heavily dependent on Japanese culture. I really couldn't imagine this being published by anyone other than Del Rey. They don't touch the story what so ever. In a way, the series serves as a light and entertaining lesson in modern Japan.
A downside to a series such as this is that I think it would be hard to appeal to a wider audience. It's not something you read if you want wild action and heavy fanservice, thought there is a little bit of that here. It's all about social commentary. The thinking man's comedy, but the author Koji Kumeta does it with a goofy twist. The personalities of the class and teachers sell this.
There are a lot of jokes in this manga that went over my head, but reading the notes helped me understand a bit better. I think you need to be willing to sit down and carefully read the manga. The chapters average at about twelve pages, so, it's not difficult to enjoy in short bursts. This is Volume 2. If you haven't read Volume 1, some of this could be overwhelming and confusing.
The culture shock might turn off many readers, but I think you might have fun if you give it a shot. Either way, it's very well published by a company who knows their stuff. Del Rey does a great job at holding your hand through the culture. It's a funny manga, well translated, and has a wildly interesting cast that makes this all fun to read.
While I can't recommend this for all readers. Enjoy the personalities and stay for the comedy. I would rate this a 4 out of 5.