Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei (Goodbye, Mr. Despair)

A brief impression of the series from the first two volumes

Today, I’m taking a look at Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei, which means “Goodbye, Mr. Despair” in English. Let’s have a look at the blurb:

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?

Basically it’s a kind of Japanese Satire. Not all of the jokes translate well to English, but a lot of the humour is quite multinational, so the translators obviously decided that this would be a good Manga to translate anyway even if not everyone will get all of the jokes.

It starts out by having the “Super Positive Girl”, who plays nicely against “Mr. Despair”, finding Mr. Despair trying to hang himself from a tree. One of the running jokes is that the teacher always tries to hang himself and never succeeds for various reasons - mainly because he has a character-shield. However there is more to him than just repeated suicide attempts; he’s actually quite a funny character anyway and is often quick to comment on things.

He’s not the only star of the Manga of course; the point of the plot is that each episode there’s usually a new girl introduced. We are are meant to think that each has an odd personality quirk, however in actual fact each girl is taking the mick out of a different Japanese stereotype.

Every so often the teacher is told to go and try and sort out one of the girls - but of course this is Mr. Despair we’re talking about here, and when he has to go try and sort out someones life the impact isn’t always positive; but he usually manages to change something about their personality, even if not always for the best. For example, one of the first we meet is an obsessive stalker, who starts out stalking one of the boys that she likes, but then winds up trying to stalk the teacher. 

It’s quite a good Manga; the fact that most of the humour is solely aimed at the Japanese market will start to bother you in that you won’t get every single joke. The list of translations is about 10 pages long, not that I’d recommend reading them as if you don’t get a joke it won’t be funny to have it explained. But most of the humour is still quite relevant to an English speaker and this series is probably worth checking out.