After the experimental wonders put forth by Zoku and Goku, and now fresh off the heels of the non-stop, laugh-a-minute hilarity that is Zan, going back to watch the original Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei is quite strange. The first Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, in comparison to the rest, clearly has not found itself. It’s not yet “Zetsubou Sensei”–it’s another SHAFT comedy. Which isn’t a bad thing, mind you, it’s just that pacing, flow and episode structure bears more resemblance to Pani Poni Dash than it does to the show’s subsequent sequels.
The pacing is chill. The frenetic energy that defines the later series is gone, and the show actually takes up a tone similar to any other school comedy. The visual style is still being worked out. Episode structure is still being established. Things are still in their infant-stages. The big contributing factor to the show’s slower pace is the fact that instead of packing three stories into one episode, they only do two. This is fine for the character introductions early on in the show, but I think this slower pacing doesn’t work too much in the favour of the later parts of the show, but it certainly doesn’t hurt anything.
Another thing I noticed upon this re-watch is just how cheap as hell the show is. I always knew it was cheap–unfortunately, all SHAFT anime is cheap (no one wants to support their great artistic visions!)–but I didn’t realize, or just plain forgot, that there are times when backgrounds are simply made from photos run through Photoshop’s Cut Out filter. Sometimes they’re not even Photoshopped at all beyond the show’s trademark intense lighting effects. But you know, it’s ok. It works well with the visual style established by the show, and at times enhances it. I just never noticed that they were photos before.
But overall, Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei is just a good comedy with great moments. It differentiates itself from the rest with its bold visual style and Shinbo’s unique brand of direction, but it’s not until the later installments when the show really displays its true comedic chops.