One of my favourite male characters in anime is Zetsubou Sensei from Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei. The fact that the guy tries to kill himself pretty much every episode shouldn’t deter you from liking this character though; it’s a very interesting character flaw.
He isn’t just a depressed lunatic though, and he has many interesting aspects to his character, making the comedic scenes that he happens to be in seriously funny. A lot of people dislike him due to his lack of relatability or his depressed and massively pessimistic nature but I believe that these traits benefit him as a whole.
For a start his reasons for suicide are understandable. Being a teacher is a stressful job on its own, but dealing with his class of whack job nutters could easily drive a man insane. Not to mention that a lot of them unexplainably love him, even go to an extent to stalk him for no reason in some circumstances. Well that might not be true, but I can empathise.
So why are his students so awful? Well let me explain it like this: In cute girls anime there tends to be typical/trope characters that frequently appear. Theirs the air head, otaku, posh girl, sporty girl, class president and e.c.t. The difference between one of these typical shows and Zetsubo sensei is that it feels like a parody of these tropes. Instead of having a cool/endearing trait, all the characters have a terrible and awful character flaw or weakness.
Who couldn’t blame Zetusbo sensei for being suicidal when he’s surrounded by a stalker, hikkikomori (somehow), illegal immigrant who committed identity theft of one of his normal students and a girl that constantly messages terrible things about him online? And this isn’t even everyone! To make a person suicidal it almost never takes a big event, it’s a progressive culmination of bad things. And Zetsubo Sensei has certainly had a progressive culmination of bad things in his life.
This has in fact led to him thinking of suicide as more of an art form than an act. He follows his dreams with a passion which is actually kind of sad…
But Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei is actually a massively funny anime! In the midst of a hilarious comedy show theirs a massively sad and depressed character and it’s still funny. His interactions and lines are brilliant and without making the viewer feel sorry for the teacher or offended we are able to see dark jokes presented in an interesting way due to the nature of his character.
So far, I’ve just been talking about why a depressed suicidal maniac makes a great anime protagonist but I’m going to say why I like him so much outside of the comedy moments.
This seems very weird to say but I find the topics of suicide and depression interesting to think about and listen too, not because I can relate massively (though some might disagree) but because it’s a topic talked about quite often on podcasts that I listen too.
From knowing a friend who had to talk his girlfriend out of suicide and listening to depressed people’s stories I can say that the issue of mental illness and suicide is extremely important. I can however say that the way the show tackles the big issue is done in a non-offensive way (provided you don’t have massively strong views) and isn’t even the main focus of the series. The show in its self isn’t serious enough to be offended by which makes the dark comedy shine brilliantly through the half dead black heart of Zetsubo Sensei.
He is more entertaining than the average male harem protagonist because he’s not actually a walking stereotype! But this only makes him better than I don’t know 5% of characters. It takes much more than being original to be my favourite anime character and his quality comes from the cast of characters surrounding him.
In most shows I’m sure that Zetsubo Sensei would be an interesting character on his own but with the support of his students he is elevated to be a great character. With the help of his students he’s one of my favourite characters, but let’s face it, his students are more than just students, they’re his friends. His horrible, dark and terrible twisted friends. So in a very clichéd and lame way, I guess Zetsubo Sensei is great through the power of friendship, and mostly with terrible characters that don’t deserve it, which makes me respect the character even more.
I don’t want to leave you with a power of friendship thing. I want to leave you with a joke I came up with because of this character: I once hanged myself – It was breathtaking.