Zoku Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei– Recommended in small doses and maybe a JLPT 1 would help, too

I finished Zoku Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei a good while ago in its most raw of forms, but upon the release of the last episode with subtitles I decided to watch it again, this time with the convenience of a translation. However, this rewatch wasn’t a full marathon. I stopped watching the subs after a.f.k. dropped off the map and decided to continue on when either a) a.f.k. came back or b) anon/volans completed their subs. b) came first, so I downloaded episodes 5-13 and watched them over the course of a few days.

Subtitles certainly did help the experience somewhat. Watching the show raw, I could get the gist of a number of routines, but a lot also left me in the dark. What didn’t help the experience was the speed at which I watched the episodes. This show just does not work marathoned.

After Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei gets done with introducing the characters, it switches to a pretty basic formula. By the time we get to Zoku, all the girls are already introduced and the episode format is changed so that instead of one sketch across 24 minutes, we get three. As one can imagine, watching these episodes back to back does get a tad repetitive. This doesn’t especially hurt the enjoyment I derive from the show, since the episodes are still enjoyable as pieces of Art, but as far as comedy goes it’s hard to laugh at the same thing over and over again. Shinbo & Co. try to mix it up a bit with some bits of animation and voice acting madness, but that only goes so far.

Taking the show in small doses is probably the best way to go about watching it. When I was watching the show weekly, I laughed at it more, even if I didn’t understand a few things. I think Zetsubou really benefited from its weekly airing, but given the rate at which subs surfaced, it was hard for non-Japanese speakers to truly have that experience. As such, people who try to marathon the thing now may grow sick of it due to its shamelessly repetitive nature.

Another thing kind of hurts the experience for us English speakers are the subtitles. I said before that they help, but they also detract from the experience somewhat. Zetsubou is a wordy show. Not just in dialogue, but when it comes to on-screen text as well. Because of this overload of text, slow readers like myself can only half concentrate on the voice actors’ delivery of their lines, which is a shame since this show has some killer acting which really helps push the humour across.

I guess like all Shinbo shows, Zetsubou is best appreciated if you’re pretty well-versed in the Japperknees language as well as culture. This is of course only more of an incentive for me to continue on with my Japanophile efforts and secure a trip or ten over Japan.