by Koji Kumeta; adapted by Joyce Aurino
published by Del Rey Manga; $10.99 US
The suicidal schoolteacher is back. While more students are introduced, as in book 1, this volume also takes the class through various manga conventions, skewed alternately through the demented vision of the depressed Sensei or the extremely Pollyannaish optimism of student Kafuka.
As the book opens, the group has gone to a festival where wishes are hung on bamboo branches. While the teacher is yelling about how stupid the belief are, the students make wishes, each of which match their personality quirks shown in the previous book. (I’m glad I read it fairly recently, so it was still fresh in my mind.) The ending is perfectly suited to the characters in this situation. Although I never saw it coming, it tied everything together in such a way that I thought, “of course, I should have guessed”.
The time to give out report cards becomes, in the teacher’s world, a reason to promote willful ignorance (as an antidote to an information-rich society). Strangely, in the next chapter’s summer vacation, he whines about accomplished people who have been overlooked. (Consistency is not his strong suit, as you know from his introduction in book 1.) Either way, he’s weirdly funny. Other chapters feature a wacky stranger, a yaoi dojinshi artist at a comic convention, an arranged marriage meeting, and my favorite, criticism training, in which the class is berated in order to toughen them up.
I was struck by the way the patterns on the girls’ kimonos (in the first chapter and the later trip home) reflected the artist’s extremely developed sense of graphic design. The pages were full of variety and texture, even though black and white. The occasional two-page spread is astounding.
With all the cultural references, there are a lot of corresponding translation notes, which I love. But some of them are confusing — such as when they explain something located on page “iv” but that page is blank. (More page numbers would be good too.) Even without getting (or even noticing) the background jokes on signs, I find the stories very amusing in their skewed view of modern life.