So with season 2 having just begun airing in Japan, it’s about as good a time as any to review Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei.
Simply put, this is a good series.
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei is the story of a harshly pessimistic and cynical teacher, the titular “Mr. Despair,” Itoshiki Nozomu, and his student, Fuura Kafuka, who can put a genuine positive spin on anything. Their interactions with each other, the other students in the school, and their environment at large are approached in multiple layers of dangerously effective meta-humor, like getting a heart attack from Azuma Kazuma’s ultimate croissant.
Akiyuki Shinbo, the director of SZS, has a very distinct directing style which is evident in pretty much everything he does. You will find in Zetsubou Sensei a keen awareness of the anime as an anime, as an image projected from a television screen (or some other type of monitor). This applies not only to the strong use of flat colors as well as the placement of objects within each scene, but also to the characters and personalities. The characters could easily be thought of as gimmicks: Optimist, pessimist, anal-retentive, cell phone, fujoshi, hikikomori, on and on and on. I, however, believe it is better to think of them as character traits in their purest forms. Watching a character in Zetsubou Sensei is like chewing the coffee beans right in your mouth.
For me, the example that stands out most is the anal-retentive Kitsu Chiri’s perfectly symmetrical hair. It is a representative of her desire for symmetry in everything, and when shown on screen close-up, Kitsu’s hair becomes negative space and the split turns into a vivid shape on a flat plane. The split hair is quite literally symbolic.
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei is a show I feel I can appreciate on a very artistic level, but it also satisfies my simple desire to watch an entertaining show. I look forward to Season 2.
By the way, if I had to choose: Kafuka, Kitsu, and Fujiyoshi in that order.