Nozomu Itoshiki is depressed. Very depressed. He’s certifiably suicidal, but he’s 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, it’s 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?
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei had eight volumes published in English as Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei by Del Rey from February 24, 2009 to November 23, 2010. Kodansha Comics USA picked up the license, releasing volumes 9-14 from June 21, 2011 to April 3, 2012 and republishing the previous volumes digitally on July 16, 2013.
Good day class, now today we are going to learn how to make one's self taller, now excuse me while I pass out the nooses...
STORY: Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei is a dark satire comedy manga by Koji Kumeta, and yes it's the kind of dark with notions on suicide and the gross underside of society (With a satirical pinch of looking at the light side of the underbelly of things).
Each and every chapter are mostly stand alone stories, so there's not exactly a real story to talk about, but rather they're like school lessons, each chapter goes into a certain topic and solely focuses on so. From topics ranging from culture to hibernation, from mistakes that people make to why college students who are studying for exams get certain privileges and so on, but not in a normal sense, but from how Zetsubou-sensei himself perceives.
Zetsubou-sensei (Literally meaning Mr. Despair), or his actual name, Itoshiki Nozomu, is the main character of the series and a teacher of a predominant female class in a middle school who looks at everything negatively and wants nothing more than to die by his own hands (You'll see him try to commit suicide on a constant basis).
Now when I said he's a teacher, the truth is he doesn't exactly teach his class per-say, but instead rants about something, saying nothing but the bad about it to the class and then after he's done he goes into despair as he gives up hope on whatever he was ranting about. So then after hearing his single minded preachings, several class members decide that's enough as they go on to counter argue what their sensei had said, trying to convince him that not everything about so-and-so is not all that bad as he wants to believe.
That is the usual routine of each chapter, with each chapter ending with ridiculously absurd and bizarre conclusions that you might even learn something from.
Aside from sensei, the class itself is full of the most unique and hilariously quirky characters, though they all have just one single character trait going for them, they would not be anything anyone would call average, typical. or normal (Except one of them, that's what the character's trait is, being the normal one, and is even insulted for being normal).
These characters aren't your typical tropes like tsundere or yandere, but instead how about a girl that only sees everything positively (The literal exact opposite of Zetsubou-sensei) or a girl who can only communicate by sending text messages, nasty insulting text messages. Instead of your typical shy girl, why not go a couple of steps further to a Hikikomori (A shut in) girl.
And with the episodic formula of the manga, expect to see each of them featured in their own chapters from time to time.
Even with all the hilarious and absurd characters, the great satire and dark comedy, and the simple yet effective use of it's story in episodic manner, there is one very pressing issue with Sayonara Zetsubou-sensei: The majority of the references and jokes are very, very Japanese.
By Japanese I mean do you know who Hiro Tsunoda is? How about Hitonari Tsuji? And honestly if you do not even know what a hikikomori or what a neet is, then this will not be very funny towards non-japanese manga readers. And these references are not one in a few chapters, they're once in a few pages in every chapter common, but if you consider yourself to be very versed in japanese culture, then there shouldn't be a problem.
If not, then get yourself a handy dandy japanese reference notebook or prepare to wiki everything. (But for those who want to read from the english language releases of this manga, there is an impressive guide for just about everything referenced in the backs of the manga volumes).
ART: Now to be fair, you shouldn't be reading Zetsubou-sensei for the artwork. It's not bad or anything, just don't go in expecting the artwork to be equal to the comedy.
And no it's not bad or ugly at all (Though it is intentionality ugly for humor at times), it's just simple, but it gets the job done (And the art is good enough to show you the secret of the universe).
The character designs are diverse enough, but the female characters do look all the same just with different hair styles, but not to the point where you can't tell who from who.
But this a definitely a not manga you read for the artwork.
+ A hilarious, strange, and insightful dark satire comedy.
+ The characters are unique.
+ Simple and effective use of episodic story telling.
- Very japanese, not exactly funny for people not versed in Japanese culture.
- Simple artwork.
You can still get plenty of laugh from this manga, despite not knowing japanese culture, because there's plenty of absurd comedy to please that funny bone.
But hey if you're not knowledgeable in japanese culture but you want to read a comedy manga anyway, I suggest you go pick a shonen jump and read Gintama, just make sure you know what a shonen jump is.read more
I own 8 volumes of this manga and thats because thats all they sold so far in america. I agree with the other reviewer that this manga is very worthy of having reviews of it im actually somewhat surprised that this is only the second. Well i don't review much so sorry for the ranting. As for the manga i gave the story 6 because there is not much of a plot(so far), its more just random situations that are hilarious.
The art i give a 9 because its wonderful i love the way the artist makes us of patterns. For characters i gave it a 9, i almost gave it a 10 but i dont give out 10s ever.The characters are the main appeal to this manga they are all so different and interesting you cant help but relate to at least one of them(you can easily find out about the characters so i left that out). For enjoyment it gets a 9 because it kept my eyes glued to the pages and was always good for a laugh. I almost always finished each volume in one sitting could have read more but wanted to space it out. So for the overall it gets a 9, highly recommended by me. You will probably like this manga if you like dark comedy, i came across it because i loved Welcome to the NHK and this was always recommended through it. Well this was my first review on MAL i hope it was helpful.read more
Quite possibly my favorite manga series, SZS is a masterpiece of satire, social commentary, and fiendishly twisted romance.
The artwork is done in Kumeta's gorgeous abstract style. Solid darks and whites in flat planes and intricate geometric patterns. Kumeta demonstrates a genius for character design, taking the concept of the silhouette to its most extreme by actually portraying his characters as silhouettes when it suits him. This plays into the fact that they are all references and satires to various manga character tropes, effectively shadows cast by other characters that came before them, yet visually distinct and instantly recognizable, boiled down to a simple geometric conglomerate.
SZS's humor is a biting satire of contemporary Japan, everything from rampant commercialism and media sensationalism to the closer to home commentary about manga conventions and life as an artist. SZS is never satisfied with merely referencing these issues, there is always an opinion associated with them, often with an almost Socratic dialogue taking place between Nozomu and his students. SZS relishes in exploring social issues in an unusual light, something done brilliantly with the immigrant character Maria, whose view of everything from commercial waste to lolicons was markedly different and elicited surprise from various characters.
Lastly I want to talk about the romance of Fuura Kafuka and Itoshiki Nozomu, and the truly staggering amount of foreshadowing that went into setting up the last two chapters. SZS toys with the conventions of the harem sub-genre of romance manga, but little does the reader know just how insidiously Kumeta has undermined the notion of the harem or the traditional romance. Anyone familiar with the harem manga is familiar with the shipping wars that come with it: who will end up with the MC? Or will it be open-ended without the MC choosing, so as to appease all the fans? Or will it be the legendary, unattainable true harem-end? Kumeta's choice is none of these, instead he opts for a weapons-grade mind fuck that will force you to pour over the manga's earliest chapters to verify that he had indeed been planning this ending from the very beginning.
SZS is a manga that has to be read to understand why it is great, I cannot properly put it into words.read more
I have only read two volumes, but felt SOMEOME should write a review!
This is an interesting manga, the strength to me is the insights into everyday Japanese life. There is an index at the end of the book explaining different words, puns and concepts familiar to Japanese readers, but you would have to be a scholar to know them if you are American.
One downside for me is I am constantly flipping to the end to read the references - which breaks the reading flow and makes the read a lot longer than it should be. The manga almost demands two reads, just to get through the story unbroken once.
The characters are all over the top - taking one particular aspect and carrying it to an extreme: the eternal optimist, the control freak, the suicidal depressed teacher, etc.
Each volume consists of a series of chapters, pretty much unrelated, that deal with a character's personality, and the explanation of why a trait is ridiculous or useless in society. The teacher in the series is always pessimistic, but it ends up somehow improving his students. The students ALL have some issue, and the class is a collection of misfits that the school administration marvels at - because the teacher seems to have such a rapport with his class.
Not sure how long term of a read this is - it seems a little open-ended to me right now - like a series of sketch sitcoms.
Overall, a fun read, with lots of cultural references. Worth a look.read more