Monday, December 6, 2010

Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei Volume 8

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

As always, pretend I took a while here to bitch about the shoddy editing job on these volumes. I don't blame the adaptor, who mostly does a pretty good job, but it's clear the series (and Del Rey's manga in general) has no editor at all. They get Harumi's last name wrong. One of the main characters. That's sad.

Moving on, it's another funny observational humor volume of Zetsubou-sensei. Even though we've evolved to the point where the characters aren't really that relevant except as stock gag pieces, we still get another 'regular' introduced here. In fact, Manami has been around since the very first chapter, she just hasn't done much. This happens a couple of times throughout (Mayo was also around at the start), and we'll see it again in a much later volume with Kanako Oora. And of course, because Zetsubou-sensei is now observational rather than character-based, she doesn't even get a full-blown intro. She shows up, reveals her quirk, and leaves.

Her quirk is that she's a married high-school student, which is possible in Japan but generally frowned upon. The 'attendance list' picture at the end notes that she's working to pay off her husband's debt, neatly giving us far more than we got within the actual chapter. We never do meet her husband, which is likely a good thing, as from what we can work out, he's rather scum-like. In any case, Manami is there now if people need jokes about being either married, working 8 jobs at the same time, or being very gullible, all of which she excels at.
As for the others, they all do their part. We don't get any major Chiri freak outs or mass murders here, but perhaps she's taking a brief break after the last few volumes. Seeing Abiru's other eye was rather startling (and, as Nozomu notes, creepy). Kiri's utter devotion to caring for her teacher, even if he's taking advantage of her, is sad in its very true to life aspects. I laughed with recognition at Nozomu pointing out Harumi's infection with 'pointy chin' syndrome, wherein her characters get more elongated faces with pointier chins as the months go by. And Chiri does get a wonderful spotlight where she is told by a Brain Age parody that her brain is 28 years old, and so decides to live like a 'Christmas Cake' OL, listening to Miki Imai and riding strange exercise machines.

This volume does very well in having things discussed that are fairly universal, rather than just relevant to Japanese culture. We've all gotten presents that we don't want but don't quite have the heart to simply toss. I can identify with self-imposed duties myself, feeling a need to post a review a day even though people probably don't care as much as I think they do. And I loved the whole chapter about being an extra in someone else's life story, which was one of the few chapters from this book that was used in the anime series.

Zetsubou-sensei will never be a big seller - I suspect the third volume hitting the NYT list was an aberration - and in fact it even reads like a cult hit rather than a mainstream shonen manga. But it's a lot of zany fun, and the characterizations are broad and yet likeable for the most part. Certainly I hope that Kodansha USA continues it with Volume 9 when they start up their own line, though I do hope they add a copy editor to staff.

1 comment:

  1. I also found this volume to be quite Meta in places, taking quite a few pokes at other manga and the industry itself. It was quite fun.

    I do so hope this makes it over to Kodansha USA and cry if it doesn't and School Rumble does