Monday, September 24, 2012

Short Review: Sayonara, Zetsubo Sensei, vol. 30

Last book!
(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Sayonara, Zetsubo Sensei, Vol. 30, by Koji Kumeta, Grade A

While Koji continues his parody of contemporary social and political issues, he also dedicates the last half of the volume to finishing off the series.  As such, we're actually getting a real, continuing story, although it is a bit creepy.  Additionally, there's 4 pages of papercrafts this time, adding a few more mourners and the hearse to the funeral party.

The front inside cover returns to the "don't open this" gag, but this time with Nozomu Itoshiki himself as the focus character. The inside back cover is just Kei doing a surrealist painting on a wall.

("Because it's the last book!!" "Don't open it!")

*Spoilers* *Spoilers* *Spoilers* *Spoilers*

If you don't want to know how the series ends, stop reading now!

You have been warned.

(Top panel reads "After 10".)

The first chapter picks up with the mysterious message left over from the last volume. It seems to be an anagram posted by Kagemusha, and the class spends the chapter making up crude anagram jokes.  At the end, Matoi realizes the puzzle just reads "(the series ends) after 10 more chapters". Note that Kagemusha (meaning "body double") was created as a stand-in for Nozomu in volume 29, and it had stolen the class seating roster. It resurfaces a few times in the next few chapters.

There's a break in the flow of the book after chapter 295. Normally, examples of artwork submitted by the readers are included at the end, along with author comments, but those are placed in the middle of the book this time to indicate that the second half is a departure from what's gone on before.

(Nami's funeral ceremony)

Chapter 296 starts out by stating that everyone dies every year (i.e., while in school, the you from the current year has to make room for the you going into the next year of classes). Since Nami has never held a ceremony for the passing of her previous years, the class stages one big funeral for her to make up for lost time. This is followed by an announcement by Nozomu's older brother, Enishi, that he's changing businesses. Enishi had been a divorce lawyer, but now he's holding wedding ceremonies for the dead (e.g. - otaku wanting to marry their favorite anime character after they die). Nozomu wants to know the meaning of this career change and while arguing with his brother, the armor for Kagemusha falls out of a closet. Turns out that Enishi had been Kagemusha, and had stolen the class roster to make graduation scrolls for Nozomu's class.

*Spoilers* *Spoilers* *Spoilers* *Spoilers

Really, stop reading now!

With chapter 298, the class - now only just the female students - graduates, but Majiru, Nozomu's nephew (who's attending in the audience) notices that none of the names being announced are the correct ones (they're gag names again, reflecting each girl's character, like "Meru" (e-mail) turning into "Sending and Receiving Girl"). Even Kiri Komori is wearing a sailor dress and receiving a diploma. In chapter 299, after the ceremony is over, Majiru goes into the classroom where memorials are left on the desks (Chiri's shovel, Meru's cell phone, Nami's ramen bowls) and sees that their names are different in the class roster, too. One of the teachers sees him and replies that it's natural for someone's name to be changed when they die. Nozomu is reassigned to a new school and he takes a ferry out to a small island where he's greeted by the 3.1 students there (3.1 because one of them, Hiroshi, is dead and is attending in spirit, instead). Majiro rushes to the island, expecting to see the monsters that were his uncle's previous class, and is told by Abiru that the girls were just acting as stand-ins for the spirits of those that had died but weren't ready to move on yet. All of the girls in Nozomu's class had attempted suicide for some reason, and the relatives of the dead girls had asked for closure. The class was created to give the spirits structure, the calendar changed to seem like it was still the Showa era, and fake friends were created for the fake bodies of the fake students being taught by a fake teacher. Over the three years, the spirits came to believe in the arrangement and could finally "graduate" to the next life, leaving the bodies behind to continue living. Majiro is the stand-in for Hiroshi. In the distance, Rin and Enishi watch on as their work is now finished.

Chapters 300 and 301 are the wrap-up, where detectives try to figure who "Fuura Kafuka" is. She's been missing from the entire volume, showing up only as a shadow in the background. Turns out that Kafuka had been hit by a car and had died prior to the start of the manga, but was identified as an organ donor. Every one of the girls in the class had received something from her (such as Abiru getting a new cornea, Chiri a new heart and Kiri Komori a new lung) following their attempted suicides, and what we had all thought was Kafuka throughout the series was actually one of the other girls taking turn channeling her spirit.  "Kafuka" was a "penname" taken from the author of her favorite book ("The Metamorphosis") generated to give her an identity, since the original donor was only known as "a 10-year-old from the Kanto region". So, yeah, they've all been slowly turning into Kafuka. However, the girls (women, now) can't actually enter the afterworld without taking one last step - with all of them marrying Nozomu in a mass "after death marriage" ceremony. Unfortunately for them, the island is devoid of young women, and every eligible male tries to propose to them now. Nozomu escapes to a church, where he sees an image of an adult Kafuka in a wedding dress waiting for him.

The special last chapter is set some years later, with a female reporter going out to the island for a story, and seeing Nozomu claiming that a different woman is his wife every day. Rin explains that Nomozu falls in love with a different part of Kafuka every few hours and the women all go through a chain of divorces and marriages to allow him to remain "married" to just Kafuka. The reporter tries to run away in fear, but her boat crashes on the rocks and she's almost killed. The women all donate blood for a transfusion as the ghost of Kafuka sings about adding one more person to the harem.  The end.  Kind of creepy, but still a unique way to finish off the run.

Summary: Dispair Sensei finally marries Kafuka, in a sense, and everyone lives happily ever after. In a sense. The series does turn serious in the final few chapters, but it's still worth following to the very end. Recommended.

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