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December 29, 2014

Bento Bako Weekly: Assassination Classroom volume 1

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Written by: Kristin
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assassinationclassroom1Title: Assassination Classroom
Author: Yusei Matsui
Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen  Jump Advanced)
Volume: Volume 1, $9.99
Vintage: 2012 by Shueisha, December 2014 by Viz Media
Genre: Action, comedy

Class 3-E is filled with misfits, troublemakers, and failures. Once you’re in, it’s almost impossible to get out. It’s this classroom, situated away from the rest of the school up along a mountain path, that a strange creature demands entry. The tentacled Koro has destroyed about 70% of the moon, and claims he will do the same to the Earth in one year. For some odd reason, Koro insists on becoming the teacher for 3-E, so the government, sensing an opportunity, decides 3-E will become a class of assassins and do their best to kill their teacher. Fortunately, normal weapons can’t hurt Koro, but rubber weapons can, so the weapons are harmless to the amateur would-be killers (also Koro has promised not to harm them). Unfortunately, Koro can move at speeds up to mach 20, making him impossible to hit. The kids certainly try their best regardless; Koro even encourages them. He also takes his teaching job very seriously, with proper academic lessons, along with some life lessons. For example, Koro becomes furious when a group of students enlists Nagisa’s help to attack him, but at a complete disregard for the boy’s safety (he even protects Nagisa). As their teacher, he will not allow them to be so careless with their lives. Later, when Sugino attempts to kill him with a modified baseball, Koro attends a baseball game so he can help Sugino become a better pitcher. When Okuda presents him with poison she made herself, he readily drinks it to test its effectiveness. None of them work, so he offers to help her research a poison that will. Their research turns into a lesson about communication skills, which Okuda is lacking because she struggles with writing and expressing herself. His biggest test is Karma, a violent but intelligent young man who would like nothing more than to kill a teacher. Karma comes the closest out of anyone to harming Koro. The creature falls for Karma’s tricks twice, but he’s doubly on his guard after that. Karma’s attacks become more desperate, until he finally devises what he believes will be the ultimate attack – he jumps off a cliff, forcing Koro to rescue him, hoping the creature will slow down enough that he can shoot him. Koro commends the effort, but insists that as a teacher, he won’t allow harm to befall his students on his watch.

The premise for this didn’t pull my interest at all. The summary on the back cover does little to help, asking readers if they’ve ever thought about killing a teacher, and what it would take to justify such an act (a failing grade or a mispronounced name are offered as suggestions, as well as blowing up the moon, of course). I can’t put too much blame on that approach, because Karma is that person. He hates teachers, and he wants to kill one with his own hands; Koro is his perfect chance. That doesn’t mean I have to like that approach, however. Yusei Matsui is the mangaka behind Majin Tantei Nōgami Neuro, which was a fun anime series. Pretty off the wall, but fun. Assassination Classroom, however, is just entirely too nonsensical to appeal to me. Especially as an ongoing series (it’s up to twelve volumes now). A one-shot, or at most maybe two volumes, would be plenty to explore this series’s premise. The one thing it’s got going for it is the weird way Koro tries to teach his students to become better people. Class 3-E is filled with outcasts and looked down on by the entire school, including the other teachers. He has some sort of bizarre streak of honor, as he made a promise to someone to become their teacher, and fully intends to follow through. At least for the next year. He also takes joy in his students’ assassination attempts; joy that is apparently contagious, because the students are having fun coming up with new ideas to kill him. It’s a bit (humorously) morbid in that respect. The art’s alright; it’s not bad, but nothing special (except Nagisa’s hair, which is a bit baffling and distracting). I really wonder what Viz Media is doing some times with some of their choices, but this one was popular enough to garner an anime series (it begins in January, and is already licensed, at least for streaming, by Funimation), and has consistently been a top seller in Japan. Hopefully that will transfer to a large American audience, but my interest is already over.


Review copy provided by Viz Media.



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