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Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, Volume 1: The Power of Negative Thinking [Paperback]

Koji Kumeta
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

24 Feb 2009 Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei (Book 1)

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?

Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey Books (24 Feb 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345508939
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345508935
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 13.3 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 622,752 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Goodbye, Mr Despair... 26 April 2011
By Sarah A
Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei. A story about a depressed teacher and his class of um... unique students.
This book is 16+ due to suicidal references, political discussions and panty shots. Definitely not for children!
It starts off with the strangest introduction to a character I've ever seen. Nozomu Itoshiki (Zetsubou Sensei) is seen hanging from a cherry blossom tree. For such a gruesome scene, the art sure is pretty. Koji Kumeta's art is very bold and plain looking but for this manga, that is a good thing.
As for the students, we have a super positive girl, a hikikomori, a stalker, a foreigner, a quite girl, a perfectionist, a girl with a tail fetish, an illegal immigrant and a normal girl. All these girls have their own chapter in volume 1.

With plenty of bonus pages and 12 (yes, 12!) translation note pages. This manga takes a little more time than a normal manga to read.

I recommend this if you have a little knowledge of japanese culture. If you don't, you may find it a little difficult even with the translation notes help.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, the despair manga is in my hands 23 Mar 2009
By forest fairy - Published on
I fell in love with Professor Despair's artwork and sense of humor after watching the anime version last year. Since it was so well done, I was in doubt about whether the manga would be as good. Well, after the first volume, all my doubts have been dispelled. This is certainly a worthy addition to my manga collection.

Kumeta-sensei excels in biting satire of Japanese society and the world at large. While some of the jokes will be obvious to the American readers (such as the one about naming rights - a sports arena near me has changed its name four times in the last ten years), others will be more difficult to comprehend unless one is more familiar with Japanese society. This isn't a manga for everyone. Readers who don't like very dark humor will not find this funny at all. I would recommend it to those who already know a little about Japanese literature, pop-culture, family and school life, etc. The more one knows, the greater the fun derived from reading this series.

That said, the notes in the back of the volume help a lot. They are detailed and cover much of what needs to be explained. They do not always fully clarify the puns related to characters' names and such, but I am still grateful to the translator/editor for providing them. The background signs in the drawings themselves are not always translated either, with a note that to do so would disturb the artistic integrity of the pages. While I agree with that somewhat, I still wish I knew what all of them say. I suppose that's another incentive to learn more kanji.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars (4.5 STARS) Hello, "Good-Bye, Mr. Despair": Off-Beat, Unique and Hilarious 29 July 2009
By Tsuyoshi - Published on
Despite its curious title ("zetsubou" means "despair") and the ultra-pessimistic protagonist who keeps thinking about dying, "Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei" is a comedy. Yes, it is a comedy and not a usual one. My advice is, 1) Don't take anything in the comic too seriously; and 2) if you don't get some of its jokes, just skip them and read on. I am Japanese and after repeated reads I still don't get some of the comic's gags.

"Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei" revolves around one young, eccentric teacher Nozomu Itoshiki. Always depressed and thinking of dying (that's what he says, anyway, and he has a guidebook for that purpose), Mr. Itoshiki is actually a good teacher, well, a much better teacher than you might imagine, for these unique (mostly girl) students in his class including Miss Kahuka (her penname), the most optimistic girl in the world, and the stalker student, a "shut-in" student, and a very shy student who keeps sending poisonous email, and....

The comic started in 2005 and has been serialized in "Weekly Shonen Magazine" since then. The unpredictable comedy is based on the characters' exaggeratedly eccentric behaviors, which often lead to unexpected and hilarious results, but the comedy also heavily relies on the parodies and pop culture references. As more than four years have elapsed since the first publication of the series, some of the gags are now obscure, hard to understand even for Japanese readers. Fortunately there are many jokes and the character-driven story never lets up ... and all the girls are charming and funny ... in their own peculiar ways.

Manga artist Koji Kumeta has created a very unique world in which old-fashioned Japanese culture such as kimono costumes and old wood school buildings co-exist with modern technologies like cell phones and pop culture references. His illustrations are meticulously drawn and not a single space is neglected. Sometimes jokes are crammed into such small spaces as TV screen or newspapers the character is casually watching.

[TRANSLATION] This means that translation is virtually impossible. I was truly surprised at the decision of Del Ray to publish the English edition because their job must have been extremely a tough one. Though I disagree with some of the words they chose (I think it is "National Team of Japan" not "Representative"), English translation is very good as a whole. Del Ray's book has also a 12-page translation notes explaining some of the obscure references to Japanese culture.

[NAMES] Most characters have strange names. I never met someone with a name like "Itoshiki," which is part of the comic's jokes. The fact is most character names are puns which are often very silly read in original Japanese. For example: the timid girl's name Meru Otonashi means "Silent Mail"; Chiri Kitsu means "Exactly"; Kaere Kimura means "Go Home, Kimura" and is also a joke on Japanese pop singer's name Kaera Kimura; Abiru Kobushi means "Get Hit with a Knuckle"; Kiri Komori means "Always Confined"; Tsunetsuki Matoi means "Eternally Stalking"; "Nami Hitou" means "Ordinary" and so on.

Volume 17 of the comic has already been released in Japan (May, 2009), proof of the popularity of the comic. I sincerely hope that Del Ray will keep publishing the book, but you may not find "Zetsubou Sensei" as funny as I do for the reasons I explained above. I believe it is worth a try, though, for the delightfully strange characters you will meet in the book.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Funny, But... "Wha?" 16 Jun 2009
By Ellen W. - Published on
"Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei" is probably the funniest manga about a depression you will ever read. But while I enjoyed it and laughed a lot, I had mixed feelings about it.

The manga itself is great. I liked the zany characters and the strange sense of humor. The characters drive the comedy, and they are an odd bunch. All of them are extreme in some kind of way- extremely depressive, extremely happy, extremely neat, etc. It could be zany, but a lot of the humor is understated, which I appreciate. If you like dark comedy, you'll like this. I was especially impressed by the comedic timing here.

There isn't much of a plot, but that's because it's slice-of-life. The art work was simple, but I liked it. It's not extraordinary, but it is distinct. Both the plot and the art are fine as they are.

The problem here is with the translation. The English is fine, but there are too many jokes about Japanese pop-culture. Sometimes I could almost sense the question mark floating over my head. At one point, the translator muses that even Japanese audiences are probably baffled by some references. If that's so, then we America-jin don't stand a chance.

There are comprehensive notes in the back, but when you have to pause and read a cultural note to get the joke, the humor is lost. There were several instances where I felt the translators could have substituted a reference that would have been more recognizable to Western readers. Also, there were too many unnecessary notes, such as translations of signs in the background. They cluttered up the pages, and I sometimes had trouble finding the note I was looking for.

Manga fans often complain that changing cultural references makes the translation less authentic, but there needs to be a balance between aunthenticity and accessibility. The job of a translator is to try to give the reader the same experience as the overseas audience, and that means making some changes. This manga has lots of funny bits that are easily understood in any culture, but most of the ones dependent upon culture references left me flat. It's kind of hit and miss. All in all, I'd say that this is a great manga that needs a better translation.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars hilarious! 25 Jun 2009
By D. Sills - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Although I am somewhat new to manga, this one is definitely my new favorite. Mr. Itoshiki's nickname, Zetsubou sensei, is a sort of written pun in Japanese. this story is jam-packed with these puns as well as loads of social satire on normal Japanese lifestyles. each student in the class is a hyperbole of some social stereotype. There's the shut-in who is finally convinced to attend school...only to lock herself in a storage closet. Then there's Kafuka, the super positive girl. She refuses to accept the possibility of anything bad happening around her. For example, in the first scene she stumbles across Zetsubou sensei hanging himself. but she insists that no one she knows would ever want to commit suicide, so she concludes that he is trying to make himself taller, perhaps to tryout for basketball.
But the best part, in my opinion, of this manga is the glossary in the back. Some of the jokes require some knowledge of the Japanese lifestyle, and many puns that may be obvious in Japanese, get lost in translation when read in English. So the translators added a glossary that explains all of the references in the manga. If you come across a reference or joke you dont understand, simply flip to the glossary and you wont miss out on any of the humor.
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun manga - kindle reading experience is good 19 Mar 2014
By Elizabeth - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I started reading this because I love the anime and wanted more. You find that the anime was a pretty faithful adaptation, so there isn't a lot of new content in volume one, but it is still a blast to read. I have been reading it using the kindle app on my iPad, and while the panels don't zoom in and out like some guided reading comics I have read in other apps, I have found it very easy to read and follow. Check it out if you like dark humor - Zetsubou Sensei is a great read!
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