This time, we’re going back about 15+ years to talk about a series that was quite popular when it was released: Sayonara, Zetsubou Sensei.
This series is a black comedy and a satire written by Koji Kumeta. It was published in Kodansha’s Weekly Shonen Magazine from April 2005- June 2012.
As a warning, this series does make jokes about suicide, trauma, and abuse.
If that makes you uneasy, please read something else.
Sayonara, Zetsubou Sensei follows Nozomu Itoshiki, a teacher who is pessimistic about everything. He usually tries solving everything by trying to kill himself which is a big fat mood really. At the beginning of the series, he tries to kill himself at the beginning of the new school year on campus. However, he’s calmly stopped by Kafuka Fuura who tells him that he shouldn’t do something like that on a nice day.
Annoyed that his plan was thwarted, he ends up going to meet his new classroom and sees that Kafuka is one of his students. The rest of his classroom is also filled with students who have their own issues to deal with such as: being possessed by multiple personalities, being a stalker, and being a shut-in.
It is Itoshiki’s job to help his students overcome their issues. He does this by taking jabs at Japanese culture and customs and asking his students to think about generally positive things in a negative light. As a result, the series is filled with references to literature, anime, and many more topics.
His teachings tend to lead his students to strange conclusions which make him scream the iconic line:
The anime had three seasons that aired from July 2007-September 2009. It also had two three-episode OVA series. It was animated by Studio Shaft, who is responsible for animating Puella Magi Madoka Magica and the Bakemonogatari series.
The anime does not have a solid story, and it relies heavily on gags. There are also a lot of puns and jokes that require explanations. You will have to pause the episode several times to understand some of the jokes since all these jokes are based on Japanese life.
Season One: Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei
In season one, we are introduced to some of the cast and their issues. In this season we meet the hikikomori, the stalker, the student with multiple personalities, an illegal immigrant, and many more students with their own set of issues. Even though Itoshiki does his best to help his students, it somehow always ends up backfiring on him in some way.
This backfiring leads to either him being injured or the victim of some sort of violence. In some cases, it affects students. For example, after receiving Itoshiki’s help, one of the students becomes a masochist.
This first season serves as an introduction to some members of Itoshiki’s class full of gags and questionable antics.
Season Two: Zoku Sayonara Zetsubō Sensei
The second season focuses less on introducing characters and more on the day to day life of the classroom. This season begins by introducing one more student in order to reintroduce the major characters in the series.
The rest of the season follows Itoshiki and his class, their shenanigans, and their constant critiques of Japanese culture. They prevent a total alien invasion, but they can’t remember how they fended them off due to their hyper fixation on all the little details. They also deal with an admiral who we believe is Goku, and the preference Japanese culture gives to students who are preparing to get into college.
These incidents set up the cast for questionable reactions and actions with hilarious results at the expense of one another. This season ends with Itoshiki meeting an enemy character, and in an odd turn of events, they become friends.
OVA: Goku Sayonara Zetsubō Sensei
These OVAs were aired from October 2008 to February 2009. This three-episode series features a dissection of Valentine’s Day and Halloween and a critique about the way Japanese people focus more on the journey to do something rather than the result. The OVA series ends with an episode that tells the story of how Itoshiki became the pessimist he is today.
Season Three: Zan Sayonara Zetsubō Sensei
This final season continues the trend of the second season and focuses solely on gags.
In this season, we see one of the students is put in a mock Blue Man Group due to a misunderstanding. Itoshiki ponders what came first: the chicken or the egg, and the class critiques society’s fixation on minor mistakes instead of big mistakes. This leads to its usual shenanigans and laughs from the audience.
The series ends on a gag based on mispronunciation turning ‘silent night’ into ‘Kiyhiko’s night’ that brings the main cast together for a Christmas episode.
OVA: Zan Sayonara Zetsubō Sensei Bangaichi
This three-episode OVA series follows the sporadic gag formula as well. The first episode was released a day after the anime ended. The second, a year later in 2010. The final episode aired in 2012.
In these three episodes, we see one of the students using her looks to get out of big trouble such as putting out the Olympic Torch. The students also end up creating zombies by using dysfunctional AEDs which leads to Itoshiki being bitten. The final episode ends with a murder case Itoshiki has to solve.
The solving of the murder marks the true end of the anime series.
The manga ended in June 2012, five months after the release of the final OVA. The anime does follow the manga; however, the anime does jump around since each chapter can be seen as a stand-alone. If you watched the anime, you only have 10 chapters left to read.
Those ten chapters bring everything from the series together with chilling revelations. It sparked discussions online about the hints the author dropped throughout the manga.
Was it Popular?
It was extremely popular when it was released. In the series, there are running gags that fans constantly used as memes or referenced in their own animations.
The episode cards were constantly referenced in many fan-made videos online. Memes were constantly made of the series. Today, the screencaps from the show are being used as memes themselves, and modern memes are also emerging.
One key recurring gag that was in every episode was Madeax. He was one of the author’s assistants, and his face always made an appearance in each episode. One of his most notable appearances was as a censor bar.
Yeah, a censor bar.
It is so out of place, but it fits in perfectly with the chaos of this show.
Where Can I Watch/Read This?
Unfortunately, the anime isn’t legally available anywhere.
We have talked about it getting a release in North America for this year. However, Nozomi Entertainment has yet to set a date. Due to the world’s current state, we may not get the 2020 release.
The manga was fully printed in Japan, but the series was never finished in English. Only 14 out of the 30 volumes are printed. Kodansha USA currently has the rights to the manga and has not made any moves to publish the rest of it.