Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei (Goodbye, Mr. Despair) is known for being deeply tied to Japanese culture and current Japanese events. Which makes Del Rey’s end-notes very helpful when reading the manga but sometimes these notes do not answer the question I have. In this case, the central idea to Chapter 32 (in Volume 4) of the manga is that Christmas is ruined for Mr. Despair because it appears he was conceived on that day and thinking about that event makes it impossible to have fun on that day (and the teasing he receives after everyone else worked out the math didn’t help either).
It was a great joke and reminded me of the time – when I was much, much, much younger – that I asked why two of my cousins had birthdays that were only 2 days apart (even though there was several years of age difference between them). It seemed like an odd coincidence to me but it was pointed out to me that their parent’s anniversary was 9 months before their birthdays. Putting myself in their shoes, I can understand why this would distress Mr. Despair but what bothered me about the joke was that the length of time between conception (December 25th) and birth (November 4th) seemed way too long to be right. It bugged me enough that I wanted to get the correct day that Mr. Despair should have born on to make the joke actually work, even if this dissection killed the humor of it. And since I found the answers interesting, I figured that I’d share my enlightenment.
In the United States it’s customary to say a pregnancy lasts 9 months but in Japan the custom is that a pregnancy lasts 10 months and 10 days (which was alluded to in the manga). I thought it was odd to see such a difference in time; so, I looked to see how long a pregnancy actually lasts and if there’s a difference between Japan and America, on the off-chance there is some big difference in length that I’m unaware of. I wasn’t surprised to find that according to a recent study, an average Caucasian pregnancy lasts 269 days from conception to birth and an average Asian (and other minorities) pregnancy lasts 266 days. So, no, a pregnancy anywhere takes about the same amount of time.
To get November 4 as the date of birth, the manga author used 10 calendar months and 10 days but the reading I did stated that the Japanese custom is for the length of pregnancy to be 10 lunar months and 10 days. Don’t ask me why it appears that the manga author doesn’t know this himself but, even with using lunar months, it’s still too long of a time. (1 lunar month = 28 days for a total length of 290 days, or so I thought.)
I wanted to double check the math so I put 10 lunar months and 10 days into Google’s calculator and it told me the length was ~305 days long. Turns out that I’ve been wrong all my life (and everyone else that I’ve ever heard stating that a lunar month is 28 days long), a lunar month is actually 29.5 days long. This leaves more then a month’s discrepancy between the length of pregnancy based on the saying and the actual length. Surely, in the primordial time that predated the formation of the saying “10 months and 10 days”, people could count more accurately.
Or maybe not; either way, this was distracting me from my purpose.
If Nozomu Itoshiki, aka Mr. Despair, was conceived on Christmas then he’d have been born on September 17th, assuming an average pregnancy length, that he’s Asian, and that it’s not a leap year. If he was Caucasian then the date would be September 20th and if it was a leap year then the date would be September 16th. A peek at wiki to see who was born around here was, at this point, irresistible.
- Born September 16th – Nick Jonas, Orel Hershiser, Ed Begley, Jr., Mickey Rourke
- Born September 17th – Hank Williams, Sr., Phil Jackson, David H. Souter, Rasheed Wallace
- Born September 18th – Greta Garbo, Lance Armstrong, James Gandolfini, Jada Pinkett Smith
- Born September 19th – Jimmy Fallon, Adam West, Twiggy, Trisha Yearwood
- Born September 20th – Kristen Johnston
- Born September 21st – Chuck Jones, Stephen King, Bill Murray, Faith Hill, Ricki Lake, Nicole Richie
As many people know, in Japan, New Years is considered the family holiday and Christmas is the holiday for the young, party people. Which is reversed from how it’s in the West so for fun, I calculated the dates if he had been conceived on New Years Eve. If this was the holiday then he’d have been born on September 23rd, or September 26th if he was Caucasian, or September 22nd if it was a leap year. Born around here include:
- Born September 22nd – Scott Baio, Bonnie Hunt, Joan Jett
- Born September 23rd – Ray Charles, Marty Schottenheimer, Bruce Springsteen
- Born September 24th – Jim Henson, Kevin Sorbo, Rafael Corrales Palmeiro
- Born September 25th – Kikuko Inoue, Michael Douglas, Mark Hamill, Heather Locklear, Scottie Pippen, Will Smith, Barbara Walters, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Robert Gates, Jamie Hyneman
- Born September 26th – Johnny Appleseed, Linda Hamilton, Olivia Newton-John, Serena Williams, T.S. Eliot, Pope Paul VI
- Born September 27th – Meat Loaf, Mike Schmidt, Samuel Adams
In both cultures we celebrate St. Valentine’s Day and chocolate is not the only thing exchanged on that day (for many); so, for my final calculation I thought I’d figure out the birth days from February 14th. If this had been day of conception, Mr. Despair would have been born on November 7th, or November 10th if he was Caucasian, or November 6th if it was a leap year. Born around here include:
- Born November 6th – Rebecca Romijn, Arne Duncan, Sally Field
- Born November 7th – Marie Curie, Rio Ferdinand, Billy Graham
- Born November 8th – Gordon Ramsay, Tara Reid, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Bonnie Raitt
- Born November 9th – Spiro Agnew, Adam Dunn, Sherrod Brown, Lou Ferrigno
- Born November 10th – Roland Emmerich, Neil Gaiman, Brittany Murphy, Sinbad, Tracy Morgan
- Born November 11th – Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoyevsky, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Barbara Boxer, Leonardo DiCaprio, Calista Flockhart, Demi Moore
I hope, in presenting these dates that I haven’t caused anyone to fall into despair.