September 24, 2007
A great many moons ago (I can't even find the post now) Kim du Toit described himself as an "Angry Man." He didn't mean he just flew off the rails at any little thing. He was talking about a deep-seated anger and frustration at what he saw going on around him. (again, I'm paraphrasing from memory here, but if anybody can find the original essay/post, you'll receive a free web-cookie).
What angered him was the slow and seemingly unstoppable assault on and decay of Western Civilization from forces both foreign and domestic. Individual rights and rational thought giving way to collectivism and emotional thinking. While Bill Whittle represents the Western Optimist, Kim can come across as the Western Pessimist. They're both right in some ways, and both points of view are valuable additions to on-going public debate.
Zetsubou Sensei is a caricature of a home-grown Japanese "Angry Man." His over-the-top rants on the decay of society around him are always followed up by, "I'm in Despair!" and a melodramatic suicide attempt. He's an old fashioned man in a world changing so rapidly that nothing ever gets a foothold into the culture long enough to become anything like permanent.
It's hard not to wonder what message the manga author was trying to send with this character. Does he agree philosophically with Zetsubou? Minus the despair and suicidal tendencies of course. Or is he satirizing those in Japan who may think like Zetsubou?
The rest of the characters could be looked at as critiques on other developments/aspects in Japanese society: hikikomori, xenophobia, etc. There's meat here for a lot of heavy analysis, but the show's mission to deliver laughs means playing up the stereotypes and amping up the ridulousness.
It's an intriguing show, whether it's meant to be taken seriously or not.
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