Certainly one of the more intriguing ‘school’ shows I have seen, “Assassination Classroom” (“Ansatsu Kyōshitsu”) is an odd duck of an offering in anyone’s book.
One day, the world wakes up to find that 70% of the moon is gone, completely vaporized and now is in a permanent crescent shape. The alien who did it states to the Japanese government (good, YOU losers deal with it!) that within a school year, Earth will also be destroyed by him, but he offers mankind a chance to avert this fate. In the 3-E Class at Kunugigaoka Junior High School (where all the slackers, dummies and other losers end up), he starts working as a homeroom teacher, where he instructs his students not only in regular subjects, but also in the ways of assassination. The Japanese government promises a reward of ¥10 billion ($100 million) to whomever among the students succeeds in killing the teacher, whom they have named “Koro-sensei”, as for some reason, he (we assume it’s a he; it’s the tie) doesn’t have a name. However, offing him has proven to be an almost impossible task, as not only does he have several superpowers at his disposal, including the capacity of moving at Mach 20, but he is also the best teacher they’ve ever had.
There are about 30 students in the class, leading with (around the clock, starting at upper left) Nagisa Shiota. Now, this person is a guy (a joke later played out in the show). Not particularly strong, he is blessed with keen insight, as he tries to figure out the best way to exploit Koro’s weaknesses (and he has a load of them).
Next is Karma Akabane, a slacker in every sense of the word, he is also thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis close to being a homicidal maniac. Class is now interesting enough for him to attend; otherwise, he’s probably downtown, mugging folks and causing numerous degrees of mayhem.
We then have our two ‘teachers’. He is Tadaomi Karasuma. Associated with the Ministry of Defense, he acts as the PE teacher, honing their assassination skills and is also a caliber of liaison between Koro and everyone else. Did I mention this is really hush-hush? Not even the other people in the school proper know of this. The lady is Irina Jelavić, a Serbian assassin, who was brought in as a language instructor, but is a flop as a teacher. Still, she is eventually liked by the students (though she is referred to as “Professor Bitch”).
Lastly, we have Kaede Kayano, a good friend of Nagisa. She comes off as shy and uncertain, but there’s more going on with her. The series details the efforts these 30 folks have to go through to kill the unkillable, as well as learning to be better students, better people and better assassins.
This is a hoot of a series. Seldom do you start an episode with all 30 students pulling out weaponry and unleashing a hail of pellets or trying to stab him with their knives. Don’t worry. These are made of a caliber of rubber that is harmless to people but can cause damage to Koro. You also see, for some bizarre reason that was never honestly explained, he seriously cares for these students, to give them a leg up in the world…..just before he destroys it. The problem is that being in 3-E is the end of the end. The other students at this elite academy sneer and laugh at them, for they are going places that are up and beyond, while ‘those’ people probably couldn’t get a job sweeping the streets.
The show works best when we focus of the efforts of the students to kill their teacher. It goes a little astray when ‘guest killers’ (for wont of a better term) come in with zero understanding as to what is honestly going on here, for those special episodes. And there is a strong challenge from Ilona, a very mysterious student, who could be the one that can successfully kill Koro. The students do not fool themselves. The only reason they ‘protect’ Koro is that they feel a share of that money is theirs, not to any interloper. This is never more seen with the closing arc story, when the students are given a real chance to complete the deed, but one of those snatch and grab types come along to try and steal it away all.
The ending arc is actually very exciting. Too bad the head honcho they meet at the end is everything you do NOT want in a killer: he’s hopelessly psychotic, he has a nervous affectation, he has the bug-out jiggly eyes, he drools when he speaks and he is comically amoralistic. This really undercuts what was, up to that point, a well-crafted cat-and-mouse game of stealth, subterfuge, deception and use of specialized talents and abilities in overcoming odds and your own fears to achieve the goal. And then, the ending pulls a totally wimp-out, so we now are at the end of the first term, and are guaranteed a second season in this tale.
OK, fan service. It’s all Irina, but she is really packing some heat and isn’t afraid to let those puppies run free. This is a great puzzler of a show, as it’s not just enough to be willing and able to kill him, you also have to figure out how to do so. Moving at Mach 20 with incredible reflexes means that the ‘standard’ approach isn’t going to work. How will they do the deed? Can they do the deed, as the only person to take a genuine interest in their personal growth has to die for them to succeed with their life? Truly, it’s a mind-bender.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 8 (Nice artwork, but weird hair, even for anime)
Plot 8 (One of the better that I have seen)
Pacing 7 (Loses effort on ‘guest’ shows)
Effectiveness 8 (Strong effort with the characters)
Conclusion 2 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service 5 (A similar show would be “Maburaho”)
Overall 7 (Fell apart with a weak end)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. It is time for you to die.