Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sayonara, Zetsubo-Sensei vol. 1 by Koji Kumeta review

Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei vol. 1

Author/Artist: Koji Kumeta

Publisher: Del Rey

Rating: OT – ages 16+

Genre: Shonen, Comedy, School Life

Grade: A

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at http://liheliso.org/. Check it out! ***

I'm the type of reader that whenever I hear (or in this case read) a lot of hype surrounding a particular title, I tend to shy away. Actually, I'm like that with more than just books but that's beyond the point. Really the only reason why I decided to volunteer to review this manga was because I was trying to round out my shipment of review materials from the editor here at J LHLS. I have to say I can see why the buzz surrounding this title is so positive. It's a really wacky title. Many say that this title is mostly geared to the otaku (major manga and/or anime freak) but I think that the layman, like me, can enjoy it.

Nozomu Itoshiki is a high-school teacher. He's also one very depressed man. He basically feels that he's no good so his goal in life is to find the perfect place to die. But he is the beloved teacher to a class of misfits. In this first volume we meet these unique female students. You have Kafuka Fura the most optimistic person on earth and every cloud has a silver lining to this young girl. She seems to cancel out all of Itoshiki-sensei negativity with her positive attitude. Next up is Kiri Komori. She's the class shut in. Matoi Tsunetsuki is the third in line. She's always falling madly in love with her crushes that she soon becomes an obsessive stalker. Abiru Kobushi always shows up to school with weird scrapes and bruises, is she being abused? Kaere Kimura is a Japanese student who spent time abroad and seems to have a split personality. One being like an aggressive American and the other personality being like the meek ideal Japanese woman and she cycles between these two extremes regularly. Meru Otonashi doesn't speak, well at least not like others in the class. She chooses to use text messaging to get her points across and they are poisonous in their tone. Chiri Kitsu probably suffers from a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder; everything has to be precise. If things aren't like the way she wants them she freaks out. Taro Maria Sekiuchi has moved to Japan with her entire family by hiding out in a shipping container. Finally we have Nami Hitou. She wants to be pitied and feel special so she behaves in such a manner that she can get sympathy but in this class of misfits Nami is only an ordinary girl.

What kind of influence can Itoshiki-sensei have on his students?

I found this to be a very fun manga. Not only does it have obvious humor but there are some inside jokes as well. It seems that when it comes to shonen manga there are particular things that need to show up (like the regular panty shots). Not only do these things show up but it is done in a tongue-in-cheek manner that makes it that much funnier.
Each of these characters are so unique and crazy you can't help but love these girls. I especially found myself relating to Chiri Kitsu, the obsessive-compulsive girl. Plus anyone who knows me will see me in her as well. Even though the girls are charming in their own wacky way you can't help but love Itoshiki-sensei. Even though he's negative he cares for his students and goes out of his way to help them, even if it's not needed.

The art is very low-key and rather simplistic but for this story it works very well. Plus Itoshiki-sensei wears more traditional clothing like kimono and hakama. Everyone seems to look similar yet they are so unique in the way that they are portrayed story wise they are easy to tell apart. The art and story aren't the only thing that make this a stand out title. Del Rey definitely did a great job not only with the physical aspects of the book but also the extras that they provide. The volumes are slightly larger than normal sized manga titles and this particular book has a matte cover that has a velvety fell (what can I say I'm really into tactile sensations). In every volume they always provide a section for Translation Notes. Because this is a rather deep and layered with irony title the Translation Notes do come in handy for someone who is not seeped in Japanese culture, like myself. It points out the puns and have explanations on what the normal everyday reader might not pick up on. I have read some other Del Rey titles and have been very impressed with their high quality.

Whether you are an otaku or not I can't see why you would want to miss this title. I know I'm kicking myself for avoiding Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei for as long as I have. Since this is a series, I have high hopes for the upcoming volumes and I can tell you now that I won't miss them.

***Review Copy provided by Del Rey***
***Reposted with permission from The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society***

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