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Final thoughts: Kyouran Kazoku Nikki, Zoku Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei

Just wrapped up a couple of series I’ve been watching my way through slowly.

Kyouran Kazoku Nikki managed to hold it together right through the final episode. Yes, it gets a bit more dramatic toward the end, but then it got way the heck more dramatic in episode 2, so it was hardly out of character for the series. No downer end, still plenty of conceptual funny in the climax. I mean, you’ve basically got a weenie Galactus asking Cthulu’s human “parents” if he can marry their daughter. Tell me that’s not a sort of beauty.

It did, however, pull one total cheap shot of a cliff-hanger—one of those “Oh no!” followed in the next episode by “Actually, it didn’t happen that way at all.” Hardly an issue in the big picture, but really, that’s not necessary. In the end, the only issue I had with the entire thing was that I would’ve liked the world to be a little more concrete and internally consistent. That’s a personal pet peeve of mine, and it didn’t end up being bad enough to matter in the end, but the general idea of a semi-normal alternate present with monsters and demons walking around openly in small numbers could’ve been more than just a backdrop.

There were also a number of plot threads left conspicuously unaddressed—like what’s up with central character Ouka’s past—but it’s wide open for a sequel, and it was easily satisfying enough that I didn’t feel cheated.

On the flip side, that may have been the funniest Christmas episode in anything, ever. And I’m comparing to The Tick here, so that’s not just saying something, that’s about the biggest compliment I can give when it comes to funny. To explain it would be to spoil it, but really, even if you only watched the first episode (to get a handle on the setup) and the Christmas episode, you’ve got to see it if you like wacky comedy.

Speaking of worlds with monsters and demons walking around, I’m pretty sure one of the last things I expected to see a reference to in Zoku Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei was Hellboy. Much less an entire end theme done in full-on Mike Mignola style. Hell of a way (hah!) to close out the series, to be sure.

In general the second of Zetsubou Sensei season held it together better than the first, and the longer, marginally more coherent (if even more complete non sequitur) plots were an improvement over the more random first season. There was a completely straight (ok, as straight as it gets) old-school murder mystery parody that ran an entire episode, low-key opening credits included. Relatively funny parody, and a welcome break from “hammer the joke ’till it’s dead.” Contrast that with a “say what?!” weird Ultraman/Godzilla-ish survival of the fittest picture-book… thing that kept coming back through an entire episode. It was probably a reference I didn’t really get, but still, head-scratching.

The best of it, though, was the “don’t hate on noobs” episode; it started sticking huge blocks of explanatory material in the margins through a scene. Most was just funny—character explanations—but when it deconstructed the abstract patterns the visuals use heavily and explained the use, that, that was something else. Of course, it also explained the stick-dog. Ugh. I could have done without that making multiple appearances in every episode. Come to think of it, that series had the only time I can think of that I’d really have liked a much larger censor spot when the inevitable way-too-graphic BL doujinshi joke came around.

Sadly, the season also seemed to run out of steam toward the end; a couple of the later episodes just didn’t have me laughing much. Not as bad, though, and on the whole I’d say definitely a step up from the first season.

Final thought: The giant lists the series throws onscreen to cover the examples of today’s rant that didn’t fit are occasionally funny. However, the classic gamer geek in me was laughing hysterically at two in the list for “things some people got into from the wrong direction”: Castlevania — S&M, and Ghouls and Ghosts — Pants.

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