Tag Archives: Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei

Beginner Anime

Two major categories have sprung up in anime discourse. There are referential anime such as Yakitate Japan and Lucky Star, and there are anime which are designed to be watched with no prior knowledge of anime, such as Bleach and Naruto. In keeping with the concept that otaku culture is like a language to be learned, I will refer to the former as “advanced” anime and the latter as “beginner” anime.

Obviously this is a simplification. These categories are not pure and exclusive. Many essentially non-referential shows, such as Full Metal Panic, still have the occasional reference. Heavily referential shows such as Genshiken or Dai Mahou Touge can still be watched without getting all the references. Overall, however, there is an increasing creep of metatextual issues into the actual body of anime that air each season.

Is this good or bad?

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Aversion and hikikomori

Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei makes the argument that the hikikomori complex is an elaborate form of aversion. In fact, all the people portrayed in the show are slightly dysfunctional and avoid facing reality in certain ways, and it is this backdrop which forms an excellent basis for equating the two. The title character continually reacts to life by fantasizing about suicide, relentlessly genki girl Kakufa Fuura reacts to everything negative by reimagining it as something bizarrely and improbably “positive,” the counselor hates helping people and does not willingly give of herself despite her job as school counselor, and so on.

The show deals directly with hikikomori in episode two, wherein they visit the house of Komori Kiri, the shut-in. Like all names in Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei, this is a play on words: Hikikomori is the Japanese term used to designate people who shut themselves in their rooms and avoid social contact. True to form, Komori is shown in her room watching anime, with tankobon and DVDs piled up all around her.

If you think about it, hikikomori are kind of like old men:

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