Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei (さよなら絶望先生) is a manga series by Kumeta Kouji (久米田 康治). It spawned 3 anime seasons with a number of OVA’s.
Today’s post is not a topic that I’m enthusiastic in discussing. But as a fan of SZS, I feel the need to at least defend it from those “critics”—more like ignorant weasels who haven’t even watched the anime, but just saw pictures of Nozomu hanging himself under a tree—who think that it promotes suicide.
I can understand why some may think this way. After all, the main protagonist, Itoshiki Nozomu, is always attempting to kill himself but ends up failing every single time (Well, he died in an episode but that was like a side-story in an alternate universe). This happens so often that it is one of the series’ iconic running gags, and of course one of its main themes, as well.
Understand that it’s Satire
Because of this, you may think that the series is belittling such a serious and sensitive issue as suicide. I think, however, that people shouldn’t be too quick to criticize it. You should know beforehand that this is a satirical series. Like any good satire, it shines light upon a lot of issues plaguing our society by ridiculing and parodying them. It just so happens that one of the issues they’re tackling in this series is “suicide”.
Suicide in Japanese Culture
If you’ve studied Japanese Culture before, you know that suicide is a critical social issue on a national level. Additionally, the country has a long history with seppuku or the honourable suicide among the Samurai. In modern Japan, depression is the top culprit, which is personified in this show by the character of Itoshiki Nozomu. Nozomu is an extremely depressed, paranoid, negative high school teacher.
I’m in despair!!!
For Mature Audience ONLY
Don’t get me wrong, though. As much as I like this series, I certainly don’t recommend it to children or to anyone who isn’t mature enough (and goodness knows that there’s a lot of immature adults out there). With its plethora of panty shots and bouncy boobs, it’s not a show that you would want your own child to watch (unless your parents are like mine who veer towards a more liberal parenting style). And because it’s satire, it tackles and makes fun of a lot of issues that only those with mature minds will understand. If you’re not mature enough on the emotional & mental level, then this series is NOT for you.
So what’s my position to the question: Does Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei Promote Suicide?
NO, it doesn’t promote suicide.
Of course I may be wrong, but I think that the fact that Nozomu being constantly foiled in his suicide attempts is already an indication that the show does not promote suicide. On the contrary, I think that it’s actually seeking to prevent it. Also note that Nozomu’s suicide attempts have become fewer in the second and third seasons of the anime, as he bonds with his
harem of female students. I think that the series is encouraging us to stop for a moment, take a breath, and really look at the reasons why some of us are contemplating suicide. Depression is the main reason that the show suggests.
Another very interesting trait that the show parodies is extreme optimism, personified in the character of Kafuka, the overly positive student of Nozomu. She is the complete opposite of her negative teacher. Unlike Nozomu who only focuses on what might go wrong, Kafka only sees the bright side of everything. The two of them are like the Yin & Yang of the universe; they balance each other out.
Balancing the Negatives and the Positives
I think that SZS doesn’t promote suicide but aims to discourage it. With Kafuka’s overly optimistic character, it seems to me that the series is encouraging us to look for “what’s going right” in our lives instead of just focusing on “what’s going wrong”. I also like to think that the Negative Nozomu & the Positive Kafuka can be interpreted as allegories to the evil and good influences in our lives. If we know how to balance these two forces without tipping too much on either side, then we would experience fruitful lives without feeling miserable or idiotically carefree—two dangerous states to be in.
Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei Is Not For Everyone, But It’s a Damn Good Show
Not everyone will be able to stomach a satirical anime show like SZS. I personally find it entertaining. Beyond its ability to make me laugh out loud lies its harsh interpretations not only of modern Japan but also of our own respective societies; not to make us feel hopeless, but to drive us into improvement.
What about you? Have you watched Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei yet? If so, what did you think about it? Do you think that it promotes suicide? Would you recommend it to others? If you haven’t watched it yet, are you considering watching it?
Official Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei First Season Anime Website at Star Child (Japanese)
Official Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei Second Season Anime Website at Star Child (Japanese)
Official Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei Third Season Anime Website at Star Child (Japanese)
Support Fujinsei by using the following affiliate links whenever you shop online with these websites:
Fujinsei is also a WordAds member, so if you would be so kind as to turn off your ad blocker when using this site, that would be greatly appreciated.
Read Disclosure Policy for more information about how this site uses affiliate links and ads. Thank you very much for your support!