Recently finished watching Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei. On the whole, the series started strong and then seemed to run out of steam toward the end. There’s more or less only one joke, told in variations through the series, and so far as I can tell they either ran out of interesting new characters to introduce or just ran out of good jokes. Either way, the last few episodes had me laughing a whole lot less than the early ones, and seemed to be beating jokes completely to death before moving on. Ok, MORE to death, since beating today’s joke to death is what this series does.
It’s the most visually distinctive anime I’ve seen outside possibly Soultaker (and Cat Soup, if that even counts). I love the fancy kimono patterns; that they stay static underneath the moving characters isn’t nearly as annoying as I would have thought.
I could have done without the bits of live action, though; there’s a shot of dropping cake into a blender in early on that’s jarring enough to half-ruin the joke. Photos of the creator’s smiling face are constantly showing up in places I really, really wish it wouldn’t. One of my friends hates that with a passion, on account of it being distracting from the continuity (if this series even has such a thing); personally I’m torn between finding it amusing and occasionally horrifying. Using his head as a censor spot was enough to make me fear panty shots, at the least (glad that didn’t continue past the first couple episodes).
Speaking of which, there are little out-of-nowhere scenes with the counselor doing ambiguous but increasingly dirty things with the Hikikomori kid; by the end if they had kept going at the same rate of escalation they’d just have been having sex.
Biggest overall issue I see with the whole thing (apart from it being so completely cracked that it’s only going to appeal to some small subset of people) is that the humor is very heavily pop-culture reliant. Family Guy level, at minimum. It hits so much pop culture that there’s plenty recognizable (least expected Peanuts reference ever), but a whole boatload is going to go right past anybody who hasn’t been living and watching lots of TV in Japan for the last few years. (It’s possible that the later episodes were less funny because there was less recognizable references, but I don’t think that was it.)
Also: You could probably spend an hour watching each episode if you paused long enough to read the continuous stream of completely random background text on blackboards and signs and such. Some of it is commentary on the scene, but for the most part it’s completely random or free association. Maybe the animators were given free reign to write whatever they felt like at that moment in the background. Not even funny most of the time, but still.
Last, before I forget, the opening and ending songs are energetically vicious rock that is hugely catchy; I believe the opening is an existing song by that performer with the show’s cast joining in for the female lines (definitely the cast, I’m just not sure if there’s an “original” version of the song). While the end theme has appealingly unsettling imagery, the opening is so dirty, without any nudity at all. It looks like schoolgirl bondage diagrams, and I need to ask Akemi what that art style is evoking; it looks very familiar, but I can’t put my finger on what exactly. Oh, and since the fansub I was watching didn’t translate it, I checked; the text that fits in the pictures is just labeling exactly what it’s on—the characters’ faces are replaced by their names, the notes on the diagrams are just labeling what they’re pointing to, and the egg/sperm image at the end says exactly that.
I’m still not sure exactly how good I thought it was; too uneven to call a complete success even if I give full credit for the massive originality and totally ignore the raw crazy. Memorable, anyway, and I kinda want to check out the comic.