By Koji Kumeta
Del Rey, 176 pp.
Rating: OT (16+)
In this volume, eternally despairing schoolteacher Nozomu Itoshiki and his students address gross-out contests, the power of storytelling, amakudari, school cultural festivals, omikoshi (portable shrines used during festivals), mistakes, class trips, hibernation, and yaminabe, each, of course, with a satirical eye. The yaminabe (dark hot pot), for instance, becomes a “yaminabe of the heart,” made up of all the students’ darkest secrets; the trip Itoshiki’s class takes is only a preview of the trip; and the class’s participation in the school’s cultural festival is crafted to adhere to the Japanese constitution’s guaranteed “minimum standards” of cultural living.
Though this volume perhaps exceeds its predecessors in terms of obscure cultural references and inside jokes, it is a credit both to the mangaka and to English adapter Joyce Aurino that it is able to remain both smart and wonderfully funny, regardless of the difficulty in translation. The chapters regarding amakudari (the Japanese practice of senior bureaucrats retiring to cushy, taxpayer-supported positions) and “mistakes” are prime examples of this, with their long lists of references likely to be lost on western readers. For the most part, however, each chapter contains a pleasant balance of humor both universal and obscure, providing a satisfying reading experience along with a real sense of place.
Koji Kumeta’s artwork continues to be utterly charming, matching the crisp humor of the narrative with its clean lines and minimal use of screen tone. Though this title is not for everyone, fans of the series will find that this volume is guaranteed to please.
Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at PopCultureShock.