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Fansub Review: Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei

I had a half-dozen clever opening lines thought out for this review, but all of them pale in comparison to the nitty gritty. So instead of some witty introductory paragraph with hints of symbolism, I’ll just jump right into the heart of the review.

Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei is a series about pessimism. Despair and suicide, to be more precise. In such, it is one of the most hilarious anime series I’ve had the extreme pleasure of viewing in many years. “What’s so funny about suicide,” you might ask? Listen to the premise, and you’ll understand.
Nozomu Itoshiki, our hero of sorts, is a high school teacher with the uncanny knack for turning anything that could be remotely positive into melodrama and heartbreak. Within the first two minutes of the show, Itoshiki tries to hang himself from a cherry tree, however he’s “saved” by a young girl, Kafuka. The girl is the first of a litany of hilariously disturbed students from Itoshiki’s class that we meet.

The series follows Itoshiki as he reluctantly gets to know his students and helps them grow in the forlorn, hate-filled world which will surely tear them to pieces and leave them broken and battered in a bleak future. His students include an obsessive compulsive know-it-all, a foreigner with “bi-lingual personalities,” a girl with constant “mysterious” injuries, an illegal immigrant, a serial stalker and a girl with such a great fear of public that she hasn’t left her room in months. In the midst of all this, Itoshiki is just a poor man trying to end his life in this crazy, mixed-up world and he doesn’t want to be bothered by all this drama gripping his students.

Sound good so far? It gets better. The art is beautiful. The character design is very CLAMP-esque, with soft features, thin bodies and pretty eyes. However, the scenery is gorgeously done and the style and general design of the show is very reminiscent of 50s Pop Art with retro colors and minimalist backgrounds.

To top it all off, every episode has a slew of not-so-inside jokes in the form of chalkboard graffiti that changes with each camera angle. Sometimes it moves so fast that you actually have to pause the video just to catch what’s said. Hilariously random and so outside the realm of comprehension, you’re almost better off just watching it through the first time, then watching it again to get all the quick sight gags.

Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei is a blend of a quirky premise, beautiful art and random humor that works on so many levels. How it’s managed to escape the mainstream audience so far is beyond me, but I hope to rectify this great injustice as soon as possible. Download this series. Kill for this series. Kill yourself for this series! Do everything and anything within your power to watch Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei. To use the movie cliché, “If you only see one anime series all year, make it Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei!”

-Joshua Kaplowitz
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei -  -
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei -  -
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei -  -
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei -  -

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