GOODBYE, MR. DESPAIR
Nozomu Itoshiki is depressed. Very depressed. He’s certifiably suicidal, but he’s also the beloved schoolteacher of a class of unique students, each charming in her own way: The stalker. The shut-in. The obsessive-compulsive. The girl who comes to class every day with strange bruises. And Kafuka, the most optimistic girl in the world, who knows that every cloud has a silver lining. For all of them, it’s a special time, when the right teacher can have a lasting positive effect on their lives. But is that teacher Itoshiki, a.k.a. Zetsubou-sensei, who just wants to find the perfect place to die?
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Grade 10 Up—This award-winning series makes its first appearance in English. Kumeta utilizes satire and dark humor to bring to life Zetsubou, whose name, when written horizontally, means "despair." He is a high school teacher intent on killing himself. Each of his attempts is thwarted by Kafuka, the most optimistic girl in the world. Each of the saves, however, nearly kills Zetsubou, and he shouts, "I could have died," leading Kafuka to believe that he truly wants to live. Zetsubou is assigned to investigate odd situations with his students, which include a girl who refuses to leave her house and another who appears to be getting abused at home (but turns out to be fighting animals in her spare time). Kafuka accompanies him and tries to find the positive in every situation. Over-the-top characters, including a student returning from study abroad, whose sole role is stated to be showing her panties, and subtle satire make this title best suited to older high school students, who are most likely to understand some of the humor. The story is told in a student-by-student/case-by-case basis, but the suicide attempts and other continuing subplots do work their way through the individual chapters. The artwork is simple with few details and leaves something to be desired, but it does its job in this quick read. Sayonara is a suitable purchase for libraries with generous graphic novel budgets.—Sarah Krygier, Fairfield Civic Center Library, CA
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