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Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei 1: The Power of Negative Thinking Paperback – February 24, 2009
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From School Library Journal
Grade 10 Up—This award-winning series makes its first appearance in English. Kumeta utilizes satire and dark humor to bring to life Zetsubou, whose name, when written horizontally, means "despair." He is a high school teacher intent on killing himself. Each of his attempts is thwarted by Kafuka, the most optimistic girl in the world. Each of the saves, however, nearly kills Zetsubou, and he shouts, "I could have died," leading Kafuka to believe that he truly wants to live. Zetsubou is assigned to investigate odd situations with his students, which include a girl who refuses to leave her house and another who appears to be getting abused at home (but turns out to be fighting animals in her spare time). Kafuka accompanies him and tries to find the positive in every situation. Over-the-top characters, including a student returning from study abroad, whose sole role is stated to be showing her panties, and subtle satire make this title best suited to older high school students, who are most likely to understand some of the humor. The story is told in a student-by-student/case-by-case basis, but the suicide attempts and other continuing subplots do work their way through the individual chapters. The artwork is simple with few details and leaves something to be desired, but it does its job in this quick read. Sayonara is a suitable purchase for libraries with generous graphic novel budgets.—Sarah Krygier, Fairfield Civic Center Library, CA
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Top customer reviews
But the best part, in my opinion, of this manga is the glossary in the back. Some of the jokes require some knowledge of the Japanese lifestyle, and many puns that may be obvious in Japanese, get lost in translation when read in English. So the translators added a glossary that explains all of the references in the manga. If you come across a reference or joke you dont understand, simply flip to the glossary and you wont miss out on any of the humor.
I know it is in good hands.
"Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei" revolves around one young, eccentric teacher Nozomu Itoshiki. Always depressed and thinking of dying (that's what he says, anyway, and he has a guidebook for that purpose), Mr. Itoshiki is actually a good teacher, well, a much better teacher than you might imagine, for these unique (mostly girl) students in his class including Miss Kahuka (her penname), the most optimistic girl in the world, and the stalker student, a "shut-in" student, and a very shy student who keeps sending poisonous email, and....
The comic started in 2005 and has been serialized in "Weekly Shonen Magazine" since then. The unpredictable comedy is based on the characters' exaggeratedly eccentric behaviors, which often lead to unexpected and hilarious results, but the comedy also heavily relies on the parodies and pop culture references. As more than four years have elapsed since the first publication of the series, some of the gags are now obscure, hard to understand even for Japanese readers. Fortunately there are many jokes and the character-driven story never lets up ... and all the girls are charming and funny ... in their own peculiar ways.
Manga artist Koji Kumeta has created a very unique world in which old-fashioned Japanese culture such as kimono costumes and old wood school buildings co-exist with modern technologies like cell phones and pop culture references. His illustrations are meticulously drawn and not a single space is neglected. Sometimes jokes are crammed into such small spaces as TV screen or newspapers the character is casually watching.
[TRANSLATION] This means that translation is virtually impossible. I was truly surprised at the decision of Del Ray to publish the English edition because their job must have been extremely a tough one. Though I disagree with some of the words they chose (I think it is "National Team of Japan" not "Representative"), English translation is very good as a whole. Del Ray's book has also a 12-page translation notes explaining some of the obscure references to Japanese culture.
[NAMES] Most characters have strange names. I never met someone with a name like "Itoshiki," which is part of the comic's jokes. The fact is most character names are puns which are often very silly read in original Japanese. For example: the timid girl's name Meru Otonashi means "Silent Mail"; Chiri Kitsu means "Exactly"; Kaere Kimura means "Go Home, Kimura" and is also a joke on Japanese pop singer's name Kaera Kimura; Abiru Kobushi means "Get Hit with a Knuckle"; Kiri Komori means "Always Confined"; Tsunetsuki Matoi means "Eternally Stalking"; "Nami Hitou" means "Ordinary" and so on.
Volume 17 of the comic has already been released in Japan (May, 2009), proof of the popularity of the comic. I sincerely hope that Del Ray will keep publishing the book, but you may not find "Zetsubou Sensei" as funny as I do for the reasons I explained above. I believe it is worth a try, though, for the delightfully strange characters you will meet in the book.