Monday Melodic Musings: Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei – Itoshiki Nozomu

This week’s track was one of many that I’d been considering, but chaostangent’s music post effectively made it go to the top of my mind.

Back when I compiled my list of 20 noteworthy anime titles from the previous decade for Behind the Nihon Review, I had this to say about Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei:

Stretch things far enough and sure enough, they’ll snap! That’s the basic lesson that Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei teaches us through Itoshiki Nozomu’s misadventures. Backing him up is a two-dimensional cast that provides all the perspectives you could possibly need to weigh in on the societal issues that this despairing teacher comes across, to hilarious results. Black comedies are a rare sight in the world of anime and I’m just glad that this one saw the light of day since its irreverent treatment of its subject matter is what makes this show’s brand of comedy so enjoyable.

Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei – Itoshiki Nozomu

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Madness and full-blown despair – that’s basically what you get out of Nozomu Itoshiki, the eponymous Zetsubou Sensei whose modus operandi is to first take societal issues and comment on them after putting said issue through his negativity filter. Step two: take those already-negative sentiments and conjure up an instance in which the issue is taken to an extreme logical conclusion. The results of this thought process? A mixture of horror and amusement as you ponder the extent to which Itoshiki’s depiction of the slippery slope holds true and whether this will truly spell the downfall of modern society.

So with that in mind, I love how Tomoki Hasegawa sets Itoshiki’s persona and thought process to music. The introduction, featuring a trill, creates anxiety and tension and the followup melody is grim, foreshadowing the doom that will befall society brought about by the problem-of-the-week. As the piece builds up towards the middle, it stews in the initial phase of Itoshiki’s despair by letting the societal problem sink in. Once Itoshiki fully realizes the implications of whatever issue he is pondering over, the piano becomes frenetic, echoing the character’s panic in the face of the worst-case scenario that is all too likely to pass. While this is going on, the violin plays a sad air in the background to reinforce the feeling that the world is going to hell in a handbasket and there’s nothing one can do to change course. Such is the nature of the despair Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei brings us week after week, as Hasegawa’s music takes us from the initial pessimism and carries us to the overblown paranoia that Nozomu Itoshiki experiences week after week.

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