Everybody is calling it Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, but I think the translated "So Long, Mr. Despair" has quite a ring to it. This is the new show from Akiyuki Shinbo, a fellow better known as the Pani Poni Dash guy, and like Pani Poni, this show is a hyperactive comedy laced wtih otaku in-jokes. Just going by that, I would have passed it over, but the show has a dumb enough premise that I had to check it out.
Nozomu Itoshiki is suicidal. Really. It's his sole personality trait. He does nothing but monologue to anyone who will listen about stupid bullshit: the joke is when he comically stretches out absolutely anything into a reason he needs to die right now. Episodes open with failed suicide attempts, and usually he puts in another suicide attempt around the middle of an ep. Being that the man is so pathetic, it goes without saying that as the show progresses, his female students each run into him during a suicide attempt, fall in love, and form a harem around him. The gag is that each girl, like their teacher, has a different severe personality defect: one's OCD, one's a stalker, one's a hikikomori, one's an Eastern-Western multiple personality, and so on. Even the relatively normal heroine-- pictured-- is an endlessly optimistic nutjob who aspires to be God.
Thus far, the show is busy establishing its characters, and I'm looking forward to see these idiots bounce off each other more. The animation style makes frequent jumps into the eccentric, even dipping into live-action. The otaku gags thus far have appeared, between shots, on Itoshiki's blackboard, with no time for the guy to have written them. If you want to see those jokes, you are going to have to freeze-frame this show a lot, and I couldn't even guess the origin of half of the blackboard jokes. It'll be fun playing trivia with this.
One of the quirkier aspects of a show that's already pretty damn quirky is its parody of the recent wave of self-censorship in TV anime series (a trend designed to get horny otaku to buy the DVDs): where there should be naughty bits, there is only this dude. I've read that he's the director, and I've read that he's an assistant of the original manga's author, but all I know about him is that he's goddamn everywhere in this show. His face is actually inside of the school's clock. This isn't exactly a fanservice show-- I've shown you the only truly revealing frame thus far-- so parodying this convention to its completely obnoxious extreme is a very funny move. I'm hoping the show keeps up the pace, and that it doesn't manage to degenerate into the boring and typical . That's gonna be tough-- this genre is boring and typical-- but these guys have got spunk. I think they can do it.