Comic Books Magazine

Assassination Classroom Review

Posted on the 27 February 2015 by Kaminomi @OrganizationASG

assclass1Title: Assassination Classroom
Genre: Comedy
Publisher: Shonen Jump (JP), Viz Media (US)
Story/Artist: Yusei Matsui
Serialized in: Weekly Shonen Jump (volume one reviewed)
Translation: Tetsuichiro Miyaki
Original Release Date: December 2, 2014
Review copy provided by Viz Media

Sometime in the past few years, the hosts of the American Weekly Shonen Jump stated on their podcast that Assassination Classroom was never going to be licensed in the US. Since the story is about middle school students trying to kill their teacher and the US has a disturbing number of school shootings every year this made some sense but suddenly, only six months or so later, they announced the license after all. As a mere reader I have no idea what made them change their mind and can only speculate that the series’ popularity in Japan and upcoming anime had something to do with it. And in the few months it’s been out in the US its done fine, there haven’t been any out cries in the media over someone stumbling across the title in a Barnes and Noble and it’s also on various e-readers so clearly they didn’t object to the content either. Having watched some of the anime recently, I wanted to revisit the manga and see if the manga had a slow start like the anime or if the manga truly is the superior version at this point.

As I expected, while the pacing in the anime feels a bit off as it adapts only one, twenty to thirty page chapter in each episode, the manga feels much more assured about it’s pacing. It seems to have just the right amount of time in each chapter to introduce a new character or idea and then zip off, showing why this character or idea will ultimately contribute to Class 3-E’s assassination of its teacher. The premise for this series is a tad bizarre but it’s described without the excessive detailing that would make a reader’s eyes glaze over; one day humanity realized that there was a huge chunk missing from the moon and a creature that looks like a cross between an octopus and a squishy smiley face popped up to claim credit for it. He gleefully proclaims that he will do the same thing to the Earth in a year unless they can kill him (and of course they can’t kill him, did you see how he gave even their best fighter jets a tune-up while they were pursuing him with missiles?)

He is giving them one, humongous chance however: he will become the teacher of Class 3-E at the prestigious Japanese Kunugigaoka Junior High School and, since he won’t harm his students, they’re the best shot the world has at survival. He’s well aware that the Japanese Ministry of Defense is sending the kids special weapons and training to assassinate him, it’s hard to hide anything from a creature that goes Mach 20, but even with that the kids already have an additional barrier to get past. At their school, the best students are guaranteed spots in the high school and are practically set for life, the worst students however are dropped down into the “E for End” class where they have practically no facilities and no other teachers. Barred from clubs and shunned by other students, the ten billion yen reward for killing their teacher (whom they name Koro-sensei as a pun on “unkillable”) might be the best motivation they’ve had in years but they have a lot of work to do to catch up first.

Surprisingly there hasn't been any outcry over the many uses of tentacles in this series either.

Despite some unorthodox methods, Koro-sensei is also the best teacher the kids have ever had (outside of PE anyway). The kids are determined to kill him regardless and our central, point of view character Nagisa is trying to keep notes of Koro-sensei’s various weaknesses to help but so far that can only help them so much. The kids are creative with their assassinations from the start however, the screw-ball comedy of the series is only improved when you have students trying to kill Koro-sensei with baseballs laced with bullets or by stabbing him piñata style. As a reader it was clear to me that this is not Matsui’s first work, the way he balances the “dark” and “comedy” parts of the series, and does so without pushing the boundaries of what you can put in Weekly Shonen Jump, shows an understanding of not only how to tell a story but also of how to make the readers react the way you want them to.

For anime viewers who are wondering if they are missing out on any story aspects, it’s pretty much a straight adaptation. It was interesting to read Viz’s adaption so soon after seeing the Funimation one however since surprisingly it’s Viz who has the more liberal translation. Normally I don’t mind if a series has a more liberal or more literal translation but it did stick out here for me: in the very first scene the students stand to do the usual “greet the teacher and bow” start of the day but Viz has decided to change it to having them rise for a pledge (does Japan even have a pledge of allegiance?) and it felt very odd since the series never tries to disguise the fact that it’s set in Japan. I am very glad that they stuck with the “Koro-sensei” name but, having seen reviews for volume two, am not looking forward to some of the actual name changes made in that volume.

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