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Sayonara, Zetsubou Sensei Vol. 3
Distributor Del Rey
Author/Artist Koji Kumeta
I'm in despair! The lack of quality manga on my book shelf has left me in despair! Thank goodness then for the latest volume of Sayonara, Zetsubou Sensei from Del Ray to bring a healthy dose of satirical humour to my reading schedule.
We've discussed in some depth from reviewing the first two volumes how Koji Kumeta uses this manga to blend the surreal with the satirical, high culture with pop culture, and poking fun at distinctly Japanese traits with those far more recognisable by those of us living outside of Japan - An eclectic mix which can be tough to comprehend at times but ultimately makes for a hugely satisfying and occasionally laugh out loud read. Thus, this particular volume allows us to enjoy gags about Gundam SEED Destiny on the one hand and the substituting of the traditional "test of courage" with a "test of grossness" or the serving up of a particularly bizarre hotpot on the other. Even the final pages which offer themselves up as extracts from Koji Kumeta's "diary" (I'd like to think they aren't actual diary entries for his own sake) put together some hilarious little anecdotes which would make for a great read in their own right.
Again as per previous volumes, Sayonara, Zetsubou Sensei in an English translated form lives or dies based on its translation notes, which serve to explain as many of the references and plays on words as possible upon which this series relies so heavily. Thankfully, the comprehensive nature of these translation notes is a real thing of beauty, serving to point out and explain the news stories and pop culture references behind the jokes, and even filling in the gap between the Japanese manga's original publication a few years ago and the present day on a few occasions where Kumeta's jibes at certain individuals have proved to be sagely prescient in the intervening period.
Add to that wide-ranging sense of humour Kumeta's bevy of delightfully oddball characters and the wonderfully detailed settings in which they are illustrated, complete with all of the detritus and signage of everyday life, and you have yourself something of a visual tour de force as well - It might not be the most technically good-looking manga you'll ever read, but the style and attention to detail found throughout make it worthy of admiration in its own unique way.
Overall then, whether this volume of Sayonara, Zetsubou Sensei is due consideration of a place on your book shelf really depends on if you've read either of the first two volumes - I'd be the first to admit that it can be hard going without a fair amount of knowledge of Japanese culture and frequent trips to the translation notes, but if you can get beyond that barrier to entry then you'll be handsomely rewarded with a consistently funny read that has no qualms mixing otaku culture with politics with plenty of day -to-day real life musings in-between.
Another great volume packed with satirical comedy, as long as you're prepared to be baffled by some of the gags.