Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei Volume 7

By Koji Kumeta. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Del Rey.

For my ongoing war with Del Rey's lack of an editorial department, see the reviews of Volumes 5 and 6. Again, endnotes are chosen almost at random, with many relevant things left unexplained. This is especially noteworthy in the chapter on inappropriate names of books, as the chapter clearly depends on knowing the books in question (that they're parodying) for the gag. Also, saying that Dice-K pitches for the Yankees? You fail forever, Del Rey.

This is, however, a very strong volume of Zetsubou-sensei, featuring a greater than usual amount of topics that make sense to both Eastern and Western readers. And, to be fair to David Ury, translator/adaptor since Vol. 5, some of the adaptation is excellent. My favorite story in the volume, which features Nozomu going on about how people say 'half-' something when they don't mean exactly half, is a great example, as it works in both straight translation of the original (when relevant) and adaptations of hard-to-translate gags (when needed). In particular, Chiri is at her scary best here. My favorite is when she confronts the student about being half asleep, and just says "No." over and over as he tries. She actually said "No." in English for the anime, making it even creepier.

There's a lot of disturbing, weird and creepy in this volume, as you'd expect from a gag manga. I was expecting the naked guy's full-frontal nudity, sketched and indistinct as it was, to be censored - very happy that it was not. Even if it's the exact opposite of fanservice. Chiri's half-crying makes even Meru gibber, and justifiably so. However, the prize has to go to the giant 50-foot Nozomu made entirely of people, which just makes my flesh crawl. Naturally, Chiri loves it.

There are a couple of things in this volume that will become important later, or at least as important as it will ever get here. We discover that Harumi is skilled at far more than just manga, but how she uses her God-given talent is somewhat questionable. We meet the one character whose punny name might actually be recognizable to Western readers, Jun Kutou's rival Kino Kuniya. He doesn't actually do much, but then few of the male classmates do. We also meet another main female character here in the girl who's the library aide, though she's been around silently since Volume 1, and we won't get her name and quirk till Volume 8. She's funnier with her quirk. :)

And of course there are the gags. Which are hit-and-miss, as you'd expect, but with far more hits than misses. Some of my favorites are Nozomu's red strings of fate (shades of Ataru in the 3rd UY movie), all of the Matoi robots stalking the Nozomu robots, "I was only half-joking", Harumi's reaction to the soccer ball being kicked at her head, and using before and after pictures of Michael Jackson to show things deviating from the original idea. My favorite gag, though, as to be Chiri's 'authentic witch' costume. Koji Kumeta has mocked Ghibli before, and he will again, but this is one of his subtler and better timed jokes.

If you can get past some questionable editorial practices (one more example: Chiri saying "Goodbye, Zetsubou-sensei" at the climax of Chapter 69. Come on, Del Rey, you even begged Kodansha to let you keep the original title! If you're going to tell a joke using your title, TELL THE JOKE), but is still a strong comedy manga with striking art, laughable mocking of various habits, and the biggest set of sociopathic classmates you'll see this side of a horror manga. Recommended.

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