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Initial Thoughts on Zoku Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei

After finishing Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei, the two friends I have a regular anime-watching night with were divided; one likes the comic and wanted to give the sequel, Zoku, a shot, the other was disappointed enough by the end of the series to be losing interest in more of the same.

Four episodes in so far, and pretty good. It definitely picks up the humor a notch or two relative to the later episodes in season 1, visually it’s the same (possibly slightly higher budget, and no bits of live action, though the creator’s face is still there), and it mixes things up some, all definite positives.

On the dirty front the opening isn’t quite as bad, and they haven’t hit the Hikikomori/teacher thing yet (though in ep 4 it looks like maybe it was the kid, not the teacher, bringing the pervy stuff after all), but there was some REALLY dirty stuff involving poor Gaijin-girl. Dang near “they did not just do that!” territory (particularly for a TV show).

The first episode opens with a complete non-sequitor alternate-reality tale of Zetsubo Sensei’s background, then finishes with a brilliant way to re-introduce everybody without rehashing—it covers the normal girl’s intro (which was skipped in the first season), and how she completely fails to get attention when compared to all the other psychos in the class. Good stuff for initiates and will get you up to speed if you’re not.

After that… well, we’ll see. Doing half an episode in Pororoca-ese (that is, gibberish from that planet Kafka came up with in the first episode) with near-random subtitles, however, more or less wasted what would have been a decent extended Admiral Perry joke. It didn’t help that the fansub we were watching put accurate subtitles at the top of the screen (presumably from the comic?) and literal translation of the Japanese subtitles, which are mostly garbage, at the bottom; I suppose this made it make more sense than it would have if you’d just been watching it in Japanese, but we spent half that segment trying to figure out what was wrong with the file we were watching. As it turns out, just the creative team being batty.

I did like the idea of having an entire half an episode with “today’s random rant about society’s ills” as a
radio drama in the background while the foreground scene is the manga-girl at home deciding whether to draw H yaoi pictures of an obscure character pairing or something equally dirty but more marketable. If anything, the whole series might work better like that, to keep the beat-the-topic-to-death rants from getting too boring.  Episode 4 goes all alien-invasion with an entirely different sort of split-screen action, which also worked for me.

Whether it keeps mixing it up in creative ways or runs out of steam like the first season remains to be seen. That, and I’m still not sure whether I even like it, though when it’s on it’s gotten me laughing pretty hard.

Oh, and I almost forgot, the opening animation is now just faintly disturbing (another catchy song by the same artist + cast), but the end is horrifying. See, it features each of the main cast members done in extreme shoujo style with a wafish, goth-y lean. Most just look very emo, but the invisible balding kid… ouch. Hello, random religious symbolism and dramatic hair-loss-in-wind!

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