The Kaitai Shinsho

While my summer job was something as draining and strenuous as watching over children, there were moments when the kids were all being good and I could just relax. Seeing as I was around technology, I took these chances to amuse myself on the internet in very SFW ways while my kids were diligently working on websites about Golgo 13. On one of these occasions I found myself on Wikipedia reading their Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei article. Specifically, I was reading their section on the second series.

Zetsubou Sensei references a number of obscure items that most of us silly America-jin are unaware of (and most Japanese, I wager) so I was hoping the collective wisdom of Wikipedia could help shed light on some of these mysteries. Of those mysteries, the one that bugged me the most was the source for the somewhat gruesome imagery present in the opening of Zoku. Not expecting to find anything useful, I was surprised when Wikipedia actually pointed me in the right direction.

Turns out the illustrations came from an 18th century Japanese medical text called the Kaitai Shinsho. The Kaitai Shinsho is notable because it is widely regarded as the first translation of a western text into Japanese. The original document is a German piece called Anatomischen Tabellen. The Kaitai Shinsho is based off of its Dutch translation, titled Ontleedkundige Tafelen.

Of course, I could care less about the text. I was interested in the illustrations! Ever since I saw them I was drawn in by their detailed line work and slightly grotesque nature. Not grotesque in the guro way, mind you. I wouldn’t be able to stomach that.

A little while ago my interest in this document was sparked again, and I decided to go searching for some scans. After a quick search I came upon this webpage filled with scans from the book. I was absolutely delighted when found these, and went to making some Zetsubou Sensei inspired collages at light speed. Here are some quick designs I’ve done over the past week.

I really need to do some proper Zetsubou fanart so I can use these better.

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