Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei

I’ve been wanting to take a look at this one for years. I actually bought this together with the first two volumes of Train*Train and volume one of Saber Marionette J. After rereading it, the series holds up. Well, to a point. “Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei” is a great series that has very little changes in the formula, but still entertaining.

Nozomu is a suicidal teacher who hangs himself. Kafuka stops him, and tries to put some positivity into his life. Apparently Blogger doesn’t consider “positivity” to be a real word. What does that say about Blogger? Nozomu is in despair constantly, and he points out to his students (Kafuka included) the negative aspects of life. Negativity. Okay, Blogger accepts that.┬áNozomu’s students have quirks of their own, like Chiri, who insists on precision, Kaede, who wants to sue everyone and has two personalities, Meru, who looks shy but communicates through obnoxious texting, and Abiru, who’s always wrapped in bandages. To name a few.

The humor is spot on, and many of Nozomu’s observations are excellent commentaries on society and humanity as a whole. It’s supposed to be Japan-oriented, but much of the ideology translates well. What does not translate well is everything else. A lot of the references (and there are a ton) don’t really mesh with a Western audiences. Who is Shogo Hamada, and why does the song “Money” seem to only exist in covers?

I’m glad they kept the translation team from changing the references, especially since some of the references are to Dragon Ball Z. Like “Krillin, the strongest human, is overshadowed by the Saiyans” or “Krillin, who’s weak, laughs at Yamcha, who’s even weaker”. That’s alright by me.

My problems with the series, however, do not rest solely on the abundance of Japanese references. No, there’s more. I get a bit annoyed sometimes by the repetitive nature, even though I’m always amused. Sure, it’s a comedy, but the series finds a comfortable niche and stays there. Comedy should try to mix things up a bit more than changing the discussion and adding new jokes. Give new ideas! New horizons! Show us a day in the life of Chiri, I don’t know!

Well… there is a bit mixing up at the very end. The series stopped nearly halfway through in America, but Japan went on for 30 volumes. I’m kind of glad we never got that far. Spoilers ahead.

Okay, so the manga has certain recurring elements and jokes. All the girls fall in love with Nozomu, Majiru is Nozomu’s semi-adopted nephew, and the students constantly repeat the grade.

Are you ready for this?

Ahem…

Oh, so Blogger accepts “ahem” too. What is with this site?

ANYWAY.

All of the students were possessed by ghosts.

Let me say that again, with more elaboration.

The girls in Nozomu’s class were all attempted suicides. They were possessed by ghosts who really did commit the deed. So Nozomu held a “class” to exorcise the ghosts, giving them satisfaction to move on. It makes… it kinda makes sense. Abiru in bandages is a mummy, a stalker is a stalking ghosts, a recluse is a “stay in one place ghost”, Chiri, who can extend her neck, is a “long neck ghost”… they were setting it up all along, weren’t they?

That’s not all. Majiru is a ghost too, and now Nozomu goes to an island that has three other ghost children to “teach” them as well. This was foreshadowed in mock preview pages of the first volume.

That’s not even half. Kafuka didn’t really exist. She was an organ donor, and all of the girls had received part of her. Any time “Kafuka” appeared, it was one of the girls being possessed by her. Nozomu had a donation from her as well.

Here’s more. The girls ALL MARRY NOZOMU. Not at the same time, that would be indecent. No, the last chapter reveals that Nozomu marries whatever girl is currently being possessed. Then when another is possessed, he divorces the previous wife and marries the new one. A reporter comes to the island, and after an accident, she gets a donation as well, adding her to the harem.

I’m gonna be honest. I’m a little hurt.

“But that sounds nuts! How could you not like that?” It’s strange, isn’t it? That kind of twist ending should have been right up my alley. But I can help but feel that it was cheap. Sure, Koji Kumeta must have been setting it up all along; that’s fair.But it’s kind of jarring at the same time. Like finding out the turtle you bought is actually dead, it just has great reflexes after passing. I know some series are faux-cutesy, but turn out to be horrifying. That’s fine. But to take 30 volumes to say “everything was a lie!” is a bit cruel.

I love this series. Great humor, quirky characters and occasionally amazing art. But if you want to check out the whole series, be prepared for that ending. It shouldn’t ruin everything, but it is upsetting. Positivity. Seriously, I’m getting a red line. I’m in despair over word correcting tools that don’t know words!

All these words make me despair!
-Positivity
-Faux
-Texting
-YOLO
-Bing
-Gmail
-Twerk

Man, I was sure “twerk” would be known by Blogger.

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Wish

CLAMP is interesting. Sometimes they’re brilliant, while other times they can be bizarre and unfocused. “Wish” kinds of falls in the middle.

Kohaku is an angel sent by God to Earth to find an AWOL angel master. She is saved by Shuichiro, so she offers him one wish. Now, Shuichiro is some fella. He don’t care ’bout nothin’ at all. The guy never changes facial expression, and I love him for it. So Kohaku moves in with him until he makes a wish.

I have no idea what God looks like, sorry. My guess is CLAMP universes are all connected, so Mokona is still God. Maybe not! Who knows! It’s CLAMP!

I think the designs are brilliant. Not only is Shuichiro great (personal favorite scene is when kids are climbing all over him and he acts like they’re not there), but Kohaku and the angels and devils can be passed off as gender-neutral, since that’s the intention.

That, however, is where the manga falls apart. Early on, a footnote says that angels and devils have no genders, but the former are referred to as “she” while the latter is “he”. Okay, I can dig it. The designs never allow for breasts, so it works. But later on in volume one, It’s revealed that the AWOL angel master and Satan’s son had sex. HOW? And why? If they don’t need sex or have genders, it just seems like they’re making unnecessary trouble.

That’s my biggest issue. The manga forgets its own physics. It’s said that angels don’t eat or drink, but Kohaku has milk later on. And angels are big by day and small by night, while devils are the opposite. But sometimes they’re both small or both big. But what would you expect from a God that disguises itself as a bunny-esque creature?

Plus, some good ol’ fashioned heresy crops up. The angel master tells Kohaku that “God wouldn’t understand why I left.” Nope, yep, nope. GOD. GOD WHO CREATED THE UNIVERSE, AND LOVE. HE WOULDN’T UNDERSTAND. But again, Mokona.

I kind of like how the angels have Japanese names. I guess they’re regional. It’s a nice touch, or lazy writing. You be the judge.

I think Kohaku makes for an engaging protagonist. She’s cute but clumsy, although not in an overbearing way on either account. At the very least, she could be much worse.

Overall, I say take a look at this one. It’s odd and very unpolished, but it’s sweet and top-notch in many regards.

Worst

Get it? The “Worst” manga? “Worst”? WORST! It’s actually pretty good.

Happy New Year, everyone! You may have noticed a lack of a plot section in the reviews yesterday. This is because I don’t want to have it anymore. I liked those reviews without the section, so it’s a new year with new possibilities! So let’s take a look.

I love thug manga. That’s what this is all about, thugs. Cromartie High, Midori Days, Oresama Teacher… they all make me really happy. Worst is no exception. There’s nothing but thugs in this title. Well, Hana, the resident nice guy, isn’t so thuggy. He’s just tough, and when some creeps knock over the riceballs his grandmother made him, he knocks them out. Hana moves into a boarding house, run by a supposed Yakuza member and his crossdressing twin. There’s other boarders, and they quickly become as close as brothers. All of them are thugs, and most of them go to Hana’s new school, Suzuran High School, filled to the brim with tough guys. Hana enters the Freshmen’s Battle, a fight competition that determines who will rule the freshmen. But Hana wants to rule everyone and unify the split-up factions. Will he succeed?

I love the relationship between Hana and the boarders. The boarders try to determine who will be the “eldest” brother, the superior one, but Hana wants equal footing, so he beats them up and wins. So they get along great. The obvious star of the show is Hana, and he gets the most focus. That’s not to say the others are flat, because they’re not. The other “brothers” have different personalities. Takehumi is a bit pompous, Toranosuke is kind of a weakling, and so on. The problem is that they don’t hold a candle to Hana. Sure, he’s the star, but I would have liked more on the other boarders than what we get in volume one.

There’s also a boarder that goes to a different school, which I really don’t get. Sure, it wouldn’t make sense if they all went to the same school, but that just means he’s left out of the action.

I love how each thug in the manga looks different. In Cromartie High, almost everyone has the same face, and I tend to get confused. Here, there’s lots of differences between characters, and best of all, they all look their part.

The action flows decently. Well, what action there is. Unfortunately, most of the time the action scenes are glossed over with the aftermath. Hana and Takehumi’s brawl? Nope! Next scene has Takehumi apologize for trying to make a hierarchy. Nor do we see Hana fight for his fallen riceballs. Like I said, the action is decent, but not great. This is where the manga falls short. I never felt the intensity of a brawl. It’s fine for the manga, but nothing to write home about.

For a manga called “Worst”, it really isn’t. It’s certainly not the best of its field, but it’s fine. I just wish Digital Manga Publishing hadn’t given up putting out the series at volume three. There’s a total of thirty-one volumes, so that’s probably enough time for the action scenes to improve. I still don’t recommend it if you want nonstop action. I say just check out something else.

Saikano

Love.

Love is such a simple word. In French, love has no real meaning. But it does in all other languages.

In German, love means “Hello, Scottish neighbor”.
In Spanish, it means, “I’m unflatteringly squat today”.
But in English, love means “Easy storytelling device”.

Do something crazy? Love made me do it.
With someone you want to hurt? Love is the reason.

Yes, love truly breaks all barriers of storytelling. The hard ones, basically.

“Saikano” reminds me a lot of “Love Roma”. Chise and Shuji (shy girl and nervous guy respectively) have begun dating, but they’re so awkward! Chise constantly apologizes, and Shuji says the wrong thing too many times. After a fight, they reconcile and realize their “awkward love”. It’s a sweet manga with a rewarding ending.

I love this! They’re two fat bears trying to ice skate! What a great analogy! The first chapter ends so wonderfully! I can’t wait to see more of these two falling in love for the rest of the volume!

Oh. Oh wow.

Um… that took a dark turn. Wow. Shuji goes to Sapporo with some friends, and the whole place gets bombed. I’m just glad Chise didn’t get wrapped up in this.

OH. OKAY. SHE’S A WEAPON. I DID NOT EXPECT THAT.

Yeah, so Chise got selected for some, like, government program, and they turned her into a combat cyborg. Although “cyborg” feels wrong. Slowly, the mechanical side starts taking over her body. Jesus.

This adds a whole new level into the romance equation. As if it wasn’t hard enough for these two, now they have not only a war to deal with, but Chise’s changing body as well. And this whole thing… it’s not like Steel Angel Kurumi, alright? There’s no fun in being a combat machine. It’s lonely. Shuji doesn’t see Chise as much because she has to run off and fight terrorism.

There’s a shared journal, and I think this adds a layer of depth to what’s going on. Shuji reads Chise’s hopes and dreams, as well as fears and concerns. It works really well.

Chise is amazing. She’s not the hyperactive girl lead. Instead, she’s extremely shy. But by no means is she a complete pushover. The first chapter, she defends herself angrily when Shuji tries to break up with her. It’s portrayed only once in the first volume, but I don’t think it needs to be too recurring.

Shuji is also amazing. He wants to be a good boyfriend, but he keeps flubbing up. But he’s still concerned with his girlfriend and her changing lifestyle, instead of trying to bail on her. He almost gets to home run with Chise, actually. Honestly, it’s kind of neat, if you like that sort of thing. Eh.

I would check this manga out for these two alone. There’s other characters, but they’re not quite developed in the first volume. Frankly, this manga was a great surprise for me. It proved that the cute robot warrior girl genre can be done really well on an emotional level.

That’s 2013 for you, folks. Check in next year when we start off with a review of the Worst manga.