Tag: Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei

Maynguh Memories of Japanese Japanese Comics

clampSo, say you’ve started taking Japanese classes. What do you want to do, especially if you’re a bibliophile like me? Start reading, right? Novels and poetry are pretty tough, though, so you go to the next best thing – comics, which you’ve just discovered are not mayn-guhs but manga. I mean, hey, they’ve got pictures and stuff to help you out, so they’ll be easy, right?

I won’t say “wrong,” but they’re not really “easy,” either. Unsurprisingly, I suppose, it depends on which series you have the fortune (or misfortune) of picking out. My experience with Japanese comics in the original language started inauspiciously with the first two volumes of CLAMP’s X, which I found at a Half Price Books. It may as well have been printed in Mandalay, for all I could get out of it; a few years later I got an English edition, which only improved matters slightly but did show me that the density is not a bug but a feature, so I needn’t feel too bad about getting totally lost in the Japanese volume.

As a general point, though, already knowing the story does help immensely in following these comics. I fared much better with another CLAMP series, Cardcaptor Sakura, which I’d read in English not too long before. Being written at a generally lower level helps, too.…

Read More Maynguh Memories of Japanese Japanese Comics

Maynguh Memories of a Long, Long, Long Time

belldandyBack in high school, ten dollars for a volume of manga (or mayn-guh, as I and many unfortunately pronounced it) was a pretty good deal for my precious allowance money. I could certainly afford more of it than I could American graphic novels, and it was also cheaper per volume than anime DVD’s. However, manga did have one drawback in that they could get very, very long.

I remember looking at the first volume of Ranma 1/2 in a Bookstop outlet, knowing it was popular and liking the first couple chapters I read in the store, and hey – I could buy two or three volumes at a time! At that rate, I’d finish the whole thing  in about a year, and spend over three hundred dollars. For that money, I could buy a new game console, and some games to go with it!…

Read More Maynguh Memories of a Long, Long, Long Time

Maynguh Memories of the Dropsies

I’m sure we’ve all met the type of comics fan who’s determined to finish every series he begins, no matter how long it goes, no matter how silly or overly convoluted the plot gets, no matter how bad the art deteriorates; he’s started this comic, and nothing will stop him from finishing. I can’t help but respect the completionists’ determination, but I can never count myself as one of them. Though money is sometimes of little object to me, time is too valuable for me to spend hours on something I no longer enjoy.

Sometimes, that line of when to drop a series is clear enough. For example, I read the first four volumes of MariaHolic, and though not outright bad, they weren’t very good, either; the jokes, art, and plot were all competent, but just barely. I don’t even know how long the series is, but when something hovers around that C- or D+ range, I feel comfortable just not bothering to seek out anything more of it.

A little more difficult are those disappointing series that start off strong. Very soon after I first started following anime and comics, I came across recommendations for KareKano. Most of the enthusiasm was for the anime adaptation, but a couple years ago roughly I came across the first volume of Tsuda Masami’s original comic and decided to check it out. I didn’t care much for the art, but the characters and humour drew me in and gave me high hopes for the rest of the series. As it happened, a local Half Price Books had a bunch of volumes available, so I bought a bunch of them – up through the ninth.…

Read More Maynguh Memories of the Dropsies

Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei (Comic)

I’m currently creating a fansite for Kumeta Koji’s comic, Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei. For now, it’ll be a fairly simple affair, with reviews and reference information about each volume. Since one can find most basic information about the series from Wikipedia and fanart on any of a number of fanart sites (e.g., Danbooru or Safebooru), I’ll focus on my own impressions of the series, and some more detailed information than what one finds on more general sites, like when different memes or characters are introduced, or how the different translators have dealt with the source material.

For now, here’s a draft of my overview of the series as a whole:

~~~~

So, introducing Kumeta Koji’s Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei. Though much of what I’ll present on this site is plain, factual information, perhaps I’ll say up-front that I adore Zetsubou-Sensei. With the sole exception of Yotsuba&! (its spritual opposite, I suppose), it’s my favourite comic series, and the anime adaptation is one of my top five. So, though it’s not my style to go over-the-top fanboy, almost everything about the series appeals to me so much that I can only write from the viewpoint of a fan.

With that disclaimer, I’ll start with a few words on the series as a whole. The title means “Good Bye, Mr. Despair,” possibly a reference to James Hilton’s Good-Bye, Mr. Chips. That is a literal translation, so why the North American publisher, Del Rey, decided to use the Japanese title here confuses me. The fansub I have of season one of the anime uses the title “So Long, Mr. Despair,” which has a decent ring to it, I think, better than the unwieldy (in English) “Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei,” and gets the meaning across just fine. At least the average anglophone can look at it and know right away what it means. That said, Del Rey did mostly redeem themselves by adding the subtitle “The Power of Negative Thinking.” The twist on Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s classic The Power of Positive Thinking fits the tone of the comic very well. I don’t know if they consulted Mr. Kumeta, but I imagine he would probably have approved the addition.

Regarding the comic itself, Kumeta uses a satirical tone throughout the series, and almost every chapter revolves around roasting some societal problem or personality quirk, like shut-ins (hikkikimori), perfectionists, stalkers, media hype of all kinds, comic conventions – there’s even a page on TV Tropes dedicated to listing the tropes Zetsubou-Sensei undermines!

As one would expect, Kumeta definitely favours a dark sense of humour. The protagonist’s rampant cynicism is the comic’s hallmark joke, which leads him to attempt suicide multiple times per volume. He even tells a student in chapter four that the true love is best expressed by double suicide.

Kumeta also keeps up a frenetic pace. Text fills some pages like wallpaper, and jokes come fast and often, not only in dialogue but in the background art and text lists on the sides of panels. Luckily, the minimalist art style prevents the panels from feeling too chaotic. There’s no unnecessary detail, and no colour. Literally, black and white dominate the palette – even shades of grey are kept to a minimum. The art does its job well, though – the characters are distinct, the action is clear, and overall I find it quite stylish and appealing.

The series does have the fault, though, of falling into a pattern after the first two or three volumes. Most chapters begin in the classroom, a topic is introduced,  Sensei declares that some aspect of that topic leaves him in despair, there’s some dialogue, then everyone goes into town and finds examples of that topic. Though the solid material usually holds up the unimaginative presentation, the series could use some more variety in its later volumes.

On a final note, I’ll mostly cover what’s available in English, and at least for now I’ll focus on the comic rather than the anime. Though both versions are excellent, the comic is currently more easily available, though once I get caught up with the comic I’ll probably look into adding a section for the anime, as well.…

Read More Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei (Comic)

More Sweet Zetsubou

Volume 9 of Kumeta Koji’s Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei just came out here in the US, and of course I bought it as soon as I could. It’s all standard SZS stuff, if you’ve read any of the last eight volumes you know what to expect. I love Mr. Kumeta’s fast-paced, satirical humour, and as a whole it’s one of the most quotable series I know.

I did notice that Kodansha has started publishing the series themselves, rather than licensing them through Del Rey. The layout’s almost identical to Del Rey’s; they just swapped out the logos on the spines.

The spines of zetsubou senseiGood for them; I’d have been irritated if they’d totally redesigned the thing and made them look weird on my bookshelf. There’s also a new translator, Joshua Weeks, taking over from David Ury, who himself took over from Joyce Aurino at (IIRC) volume five. Without reading the original I can’t vouch for accuracy, but Mr. Weeks seems to do a pretty good job keeping everything coherent for us anglophones, though I do have a couple nitpicks. Neither he nor Mr. Ury seem to use Zetsubou-Sensei’s standard formula ‘I’m in despair! (whatever) has left me in despair!’ as often as Ms. Aurino did, though Mr. Weeks uses it sometimes, which disappoints me a little. They use ‘hopeless’ or ‘I’ve lost all faith in (whatever)’ instead, which I’ll admit is just as technically accurate (AFAIK) and, perhaps more importantly, generally sounds more natural in most of these cases, but ‘despair’ is a stronger word. For what it’s worth, it’s also what fansubbers generally used in the TV show, so it’s what a lot of fans expect.

I’m also a little disappointed in the relative lack of translator’s notes. Ms. Aurino used a lot of them, Mr. Ury used fewer, though still more than most other series, and now there’s really just a few pages worth. Again, I don’t blame the translator (or editor or whoever decides these things). Most people probably don’t read them and, as the saying goes, ‘It’s not funny if I have to explain it’. Still, as someone interested in Japanese culture and translation, I always read the notes and usually find them interesting. That’s especially true of a series like Zetsubou-Sensei, which packs references so densely. I’d at least like to know the references in the chapter titles, most of which (again, AFAIK) refer to classic works of literature.…

Read More More Sweet Zetsubou