Assassination Classroom is an experience all on its own.
Despite my usual dislike for anime that are completely absurd and have a heavy comedy focus, Assassination Classroom is one of those odd anime that is both absurd and heavy on comedy and yet for whatever reason I still ended up really enjoying it.
Some spoilers below – you’ve been warned.
Season 1 isn’t without it’s issues as the basic formula of focus on a student with a problem, have something really weird happen usually during an attempt to assassinate the teacher, and then have the teacher sit down and help the student learn something ends up getting a little bit repetitive. That said, there’s a vibrant energy and enthusiasm here that kind of takes this basic model and makes it engaging.
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The basic set-up is pretty ordinary with the students of class E are the lowest in their school and essentially banished to an off-campus building for their lessons as an example to the rest of the students. Enter the new teacher who has decided not to give up on these students who have all but given up on themselves.
Where Assassination Classroom gets less ordinary is who the teacher is. The soon to be named Kuro-Sensei is a yellow octopus looking thing who is also responsible for blowing up the moon. That and the government have also offered the students a lot of money if they succeed at killing him. With the teacher having promised not to hurt the students and the students out for blood, zaniness kind of ensures.
And it works. It works so incredibly well.
The plot never becomes overly complicated. We learn more about the teacher and why the moon blew up and why he needs to be assassinated, but there are no random twists or cluttering up of the core plot. The students need to assassinate the essentially unkillable teacher. It almost never feels the need to bite off more than it can chew and keep the premise and plot really that simple.
Okay, there’s couple of moments where an antagonist appears seemingly just so the kids can be saved by their target and Assassination Classroom can dole out a few more life lessons for them all. However these moments don’t seem to break the overall momentum as this story caries us through two seasons to a final conclusion.
If the first season of Assassination Classroom is a little formulaic in the teacher heals students approach, the second season looks more at the motivation and reasons and gives us the necessary back story for this plot to make sense, but by then we are ready for it and even though the pace slows down a bit during this part, it ultimately feel very rewarding.
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Okay, I will admit the going into space sequence for some of the students was a little bit of a reach, but this plot was always larger than life in how it approached things so while it might seem ridiculous, it just kind of fits with the rest of the story at that point.
Ultimately though the plot isn’t the focus of Assassination Classroom. This is a story about the characters.
Yes, the cast is huge with the entirety of class E at various points getting a focus, but the core cast are incredibly strong and enjoyable (I’m not going to say actually likeable because some of them are not supposed to be liked). They also grow in real and believable ways through the two seasons in response to what they have experienced. It makes watching what might feel like a fairly repetitive series of events actually feel purposeful as each time the students learn more about themselves and get closer to success.
Of course, one of the highlights of the cast for me was Karma.
If I could change anything about Assassination Classroom it would be more Karma (and yes I know that would stuff up their pacing and the characterisation of the other class members but I would deal with that for more Karma). I’m totally standing by this even now. More Karma. He makes everything better.
However, such a cold and calculating character on his own wouldn’t have had such an impact. It is through his deliberate contrast with Nagisa that both of these characters are able to shine and their strengths and weaknesses become apparent.
While the second season of Assassination Classroom brings their dual approaches to a head with the class split on who’s plan to follow, ultimately both of these characters are essential to the success of this story.
And while Nagisa takes on a more ‘nice guy’ role he’s a bit deeper than just wanting to be nice to people. He as an inferiority complex and early in the series we see he has little concern for his own well being. I love how Assassination Classroom takes the time to really flesh out a character that could have just been another bland lead character.
I still love Karma though.
But I would be remiss not to discuss the
elephant octopus in the room, Kuro-Sensei. While season one leaves him a bit of an enigma his personality drives so much of the story. Whether he’s taunting and mocking, challenging the students to rise above their weaknesses or providing solid guidance and care he’s an impressive manipulator as well as a genuinely fun character to watch in action.
I love that Assassination Classroom allows him some retaliation against assassination attempts given he isn’t allowed to ‘harm’ the children. Some of his retaliations are pretty childish but they have a humanising effect on this character who seems so inhumanly superior in so many ways.
Assassination Classroom also just transitions from laugh out loud humour to incredible action sequences to decent dramatic tension and it does it fairly effortlessly (or at least it looks that way). What might have ended up a bit of a mess of opposing ideas and tones ends up integrating into a whole that is just a unique and fun experience.
This show gave me some of the best laughs I’ve ever had (which given I’m not normally into comedy is surprising and yet even on rewatches this show still makes me laugh out loud).
Ritsu showering the class with flowers, Professor Bitch’s first attempt at killing Kuro Sensei and then getting dressed in a sports uniform, Nagisa getting dressed up like a girl to be the girl’s protection (even though they didn’t need it and even he knows that it was entirely pointless), the pudding assassination attempt, and toward the end the Valentine confessions.
Plus there are some great one-liners in Assassination Classroom between the students or teachers that just make you laugh.
Oh, and I almost forgot Nagisa’s notebook of Kuro Sensei’s flaws. Some of these weak points are hilarious and seeing these weaknesses being exploited during the students’ assassination attempts is hilarious.
Okay, the show also reduced me to tears with one of the most powerful and emotional endings I’ve seen in anime and while it was a deliberate attempt to tug at my heart strings it absolutely worked.
Basically the story hits most of its emotional notes.
Assassination Classroom isn’t just making you laugh. When the characters get injured I found myself leaning forward and waiting for them to get back up. When Kuro Sensei was preaching I wanted to whack him one. When they nearly succeeded at the assassination at the end of season 1 I was just as devastated as they were that they failed. And when the second last episode aired I was completely blown away.
Very few anime hit me like that.
That isn’t to say that Assassination Classroom isn’t without it’s flaws.
The number of characters means that only a few are developed and that is a little disappointing. The first season falls into a bit of a teacher helps student of the week pattern, however this is kind of needed for us to develop an understanding of the class, but it is a little repetitive until they move on to planning their assassination.
The government allowing this set up to occur is questionable but we can suspend disbelief on that one. And the weapons don’t hurt people? Seriously. Anything can hurt someone if you hit them hard enough with it.
However, ultimately what set this anime as one of my all time favourites is that it didn’t blink at the end. The plot is resolved in the way it needs to be and while it might be heart breaking and slow and incredibly melodramatic it is exactly what this show needed to finish off with.
I give it a million points for commitment to concept with that ending (and right there is great evidence that I should not use numerical scoring systems).
And I completely missed the fact that the music is fantastic. The OP’s for Assassination Classroom set the tone perfectly getting you fired up for the episode. They also really help in the early episodes with learning the students’ names. Definitely not to be skipped.
Not to mention visually this one is a bright and colourful affair with some solid character designs and decent animation despite the large cast.
If you haven’t watched Assassination Classroom, I fully recommend giving it a try. It might not work for you, but it is certainly a bit whacky, a bit different, and at least you know it does definitely end.
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