Zetsubou-sensei GN v1 review

by dm00

 

Cover of Del Rey's translation of <i>Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei</i>

Cover of Del Rey's translation of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei

 

The first volume of Sayonara Zetsubou-sensei from Del Rey has been on the bookshelves of American bookstores for several weeks now.

I’d pre-ordered it as soon as it was available for pre-order, and I’m generally happy with my (discounted) purchase.  When I first heard about this series, it struck me as one that would be nearly untranslatable.  Joyce Aurino, the translator, has taken on a thankless job and done perhaps as well as anyone could.

The first thing you notice, opening this book, is the art (and how well SHAFT adapted it to anime form).

 

This scan does not do Koji Kumeta's work justice --- but Del Rey does an excellent job presenting the art.

This scan does not do Koji Kumeta's work justice --- but Del Rey does an excellent job presenting the art. The delicate lines are crisp and clear, the high-contrast artwork comes through.

 

Kumeta’s busy pages, and SHAFT’s busy, text-filled imagery on the screen were made for one another.

 

Kumeta's pages are busier than I am used to in most manga --- a rich, dense, almost textural marriage of image and type.

Kumeta's pages are busier than I am used to in most manga --- a rich, dense, almost textural marriage of image and type. Once again, this scan does not do justice to the care Del Rey has taken with Kumeta's art.

 

 

The frontispiece to each chapter is a stylized evocation of tradition.

The frontispiece to each chapter is a stylized evocation of tradition.

 

But the series is nearly untranslatable, and this volume shows that.

The notes pile up at the end, but the translator has either missed a number of references, or despaired at being forced to translate them. Meru, Kafuka, Nami’s and Kiri’s names are explained, but none of the others. The joke about Chiri asking to be entered into Itoshiki-sensei’s family register is missed (perhaps deliberately — they may not want to suggest marriage between a middle-school girl and her teacher, even after they’ve “slept together”).

I don’t envy the translator her job.  The book is full of puns (and stretching the text to create English-language puns would annoy as many people as it amuses).  Update: Having made this criticism, I should point out that she succeeds wonderfully from time to time.  The treatment of Kafuka’s nickname for Itoshiki-sensei, is brilliant.

With yet more extensive notes, this book would be an ideal companion volume to the anime, but I suspect that sales of volume two aren’t going to be anywhere near as good as sales of volume one, because I don’t think the humor comes through.  Having said that, I’m buying volume two.  These books are so pretty, so much fun to look at, and it helps to know what’s being said.

1 Response to “Zetsubou-sensei GN v1 review”


  1. 1 roast-beefy March 28, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    I had heard your initial comments on this but decided to give it a look in the store nonetheless. As an avid fan of the anime, I still enjoyed what I read, but I definitely noticed a lot of missed jokes that I remembered seeing on screen.

    I’ll probably buy it, but I’ve got 5+ volumes of unread manga in my apartment at the moment, and I can’t justify buying anything else until I get through it all.

    I’m still surprised they decided to bring it over in the first place.


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