Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei Volume 9

By Koji Kumeta. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.

Fans of this series may know that the translator/adaptor for the first four volumes was Joyce Aurino. She then left, and as of Volume 5 the translator was David Ury. Well, either Kodansha has a policy of switching up every few volumes, or this series burns translators out faster than most (the latter is more likely), as we now have a third translator, Joshua Weeks. Joshua has translated Pink Innocent, I Am Here!, and Panic x Panic for Del Rey in the past. How will he be able to handle the adaptation nightmare that is Zetsubou-sensei?

Well, for the most part, pretty well. The one piece of bad news is that there are even fewer endnotes than ever. I think Kodansha has realized that most folks don’t care who Mitsui-kun is or why he was hospitalized, and that explaining these would make the book 26 pages longer. For the most part the ‘Despair list’ references are ignored, and we just get footnotes when it’;s an important piece of plot or dialogue, such as Setsubun, or Giri Chocolate. I think I’m fighting a losing battle caring about this, so will try to shut up from now on.

That said, the actual translation is pretty excellent. Nozomu is despairing again, something that makes me happier than words can say. Kiri’s “Don’t Open” is also back to sounding more like what I was used to with earlier volumes. In general, though, it’s an excellent translation because I didn’t really notice it. There weren’t the continuity errors of past volumes that made me angry that Del Rey never credited an editor. (Kodansha does not either, in case you were curious.) So hooray, I am pleased and can now move on to talking about the actual volume.

The volume starts off with three very “Japanese” stories, and they’re possibly the weakest in the collection. That said, I was amused at Rin’s cherry chocolate factory, a giant cynical snarl at the Valentine’s Day industry in Japan. As the chapters go on we begin to discuss issues that are more “universal”, such as overaccessorizing, biased viewpoints, and the concept of “overcharging”. My two favorites were the ones that resonated with me the most, as Nozomu talks about people who try to look down on their betters with condescension, and trying to pretend that major decisions and announcements are really no big deal.

As the series has gone on, we’ve moved from a series driven by the insanity of its cast to one where it’s all about observational humor, so it’s no surprise that there’s not as much to discuss here character-wise. There are no major murder sprees from Chiri; in fact, her scariest moment is in a courtroom scene where she proves that the line between funny and terrifying is microscopically thin. We do see Jinroku-sensei has a huge tattooed back (implying he was once a yakuza, though this isn’t in the notes), and see the dangers of Chie-sensei being the serious type who doesn’t usually joke. My favorite character bit of humor was probably Manami, who’s absent from the overcharging chapter because she’s far too busy with housework, noting “Housewives don’t have time to recharge.”

Oh yes, one other reference I loved that wasn’t spelled out. As this volume was being written, the first anime series was broadcast. This meant that some of the characters were becoming associated with their voice actresses. Particularly Rin, who Kumeta Koji was very amused to see was voiced by Akiko Yajima, best known in Japan as “Crayon Shin-chan”. As a result, at the end of this volume and in subsequent ones, Rin will appear with her ass facing the reader, in tribute to Shin-chan’s tendencies. (Rin also joins the class as a student this volume, but will continue to be a “semi-regular”, only showing up when she needs to.)

I could go on about this series for a while, as you can see. And I’m pleased to see that many of the issues I had with prior volumes in terms of the editing and continuity seem to have been sorted out. Definitely recommended (though if you read Japanese, google for the Kumetan Wiki to find all the references you’re missing).

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  1. Generally agree with you here on the translation. I my most significant quibble was the translation of “ore, ore” as “olé, olé” when it’s supposed to be a reference to furikome sagi (telephone remittance scams where someone pretends to be a relative). Looking forward to v10 here!

  2. I also immediately noticed the scant translation notes… but yeah, having Despair back trumps that. (I haven’t actually read most of the volume yet, but I did check for the translation notes!)

  3. “I think I’m fighting a losing battle caring about this, so will try to shut up from now on.”

    I feel your pain. I love translation notes, and SZS really needs them. I’d pay double for SZS if it explained absolutely everything that Kumeta referenced. I did notice that this volume translates many of the signs, even when they’re not particularly relevant.

  4. I have also noticed the lack of footnotes. I guess I am one of the few that actually really enjoyed absorbing every aspect of this title, every little detail, every juicy morsel. I destroyed those footnotes in the past. I feel that the books are poorer with their lack.

    Alas, I am but one man. And I’ll still buy the damn things, regardless.

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