22 episodes later and we’re saying goodbye to this year’s most tentacled teacher.
Euri’s Final Thoughts
I don’t think there were that many people who had high expectations for Assassination Classroom before it began airing, but based on the few chapters of the manga I’d read beforehand, I was at least cautiously optimistic. The need for another great shounen show after the terrific Hunter x Hunter has never been more apparent than in the nine months since it ended.
AssClass certainly has an interesting premise; Koro-sensei, the ‘final boss’ if you like, is literally teaching assassination techniques to the students who are tasked with killing him. While Nagisa can be seen as the lead protagonist, each of the students and teachers get their fair share in the limelight. This isn’t one person’s quest to kill an alien that threatens the planet, it’s a team effort. Koro-sensei is also a genuinely nice person, which raises questions about his continuing threat to destroy Earth if he isn’t assassinated within a year. A threat which only seems to be backed up by the fact that he blasted a hole in the moon shortly before issuing it.
Koro-sensei is by far the most interesting character in the show, which kind of goes without saying given that he’s an alien octopus with odd abilities and the power of mach-20 flight. His backstory is constantly hinted at, and it seems like he was once human and was caught up in a strange experiment. This is just speculation on my part, but if true, it opens up a lot of questions about his motivations and insistence that he teaches the 3-E class at Kunugigaoka Junior High School, which is famously neglected in favour of scaring the other students into performing well in their studies.
So all things considered, I don’t have any problems whatsoever with the premise, but early on into the season it became apparent that the episodes were following a distinct pattern. We’d see AssClass rotating through students, focusing half of an episode on what problem they have (they always have a problem) and how Koro-sensei helps them to overcome it. This is fine at surface level, but it meant we were seeing a lot of the same old school-anime tropes while the mach-20 alien teacher gets pushed to the wayside. Admittedly it would be tough to balance the two; the show needed to show Koro-sensei was more of a human than any of the teachers at the school, but also make that interesting to watch. The result is… fine. Nothing special, nothing offensively bad. Boring may be a little harsh, but it was teetering on a fine line, that’s for sure.
AssClass did do a number of things to spice episodes up, and these came mostly in the form of ‘new hires’. We had assassins show up as full time teachers, more in an attempt to kill Koro-sensei than to teach the kids, but they each have their own quirks that make them somewhat capable of teaching the students. Each introduction also followed a formula, too, where we get an episode of failing to kill Koro-sensei, followed by multiple episode of ‘just being around’. Bitch-sensei (yes, that’s what they call her) is a femme-fatale with an intriguing back story that is relegated to ridicule and pervy jokes from the rest of the class, and there’s a lot more we could be seeing from her. Karasuma is an interesting teacher, but the alarm bells have been ringing since they made an episode about how he actually doesn’t do anything human around the kids. The most interesting addition was in the form of a new student. Ritsu is a Norwegian death-computer with the sole purpose of learning how to kill Koro-sensei, and fully embraces the absurdity that this show should have been flaunting from the get go.
The latter half of the series is where it truly picks up, and the final arc was incredibly exciting to watch. Seeing the goofy teacher reduced to an observer while the equally-goofy kids are put in a life-or-death situation with actual assassins and actual weapons turned out to be a fantastic way of yanking the rug from under our feet. It threw expectations out of the window and showed us that yes, this is still a completely absurd situation, but it’s also capable of introducing danger. These kids don’t have super powers, can’t be revived from the dead and are facing up against actual killers who couldn’t care less that they are children, and the super-powered alien teacher can’t do a thing to intervene. I feel like the ending of the arc was a little disappointing based on a few revelations made at the end, but even so, it didn’t stop the final episodes being highly anticipated and incredibly fun.
A second season has already been confirmed, and if you’d asked me mid-way through this show whether I’d be watching it, I’d have definitely said no. Honestly, this show turned it around right at the end, so I’m eager to discover whether or not we see similar dire situations in and amongst Koro-sensei’s fooling around. The problem with having a near-indestructible alien as the target of an assassination is that you already know full well that there’s no way it will succeed, making it extremely difficult to build any kind of tension. The last arc of AssClass has convinced me that there are things that can be done to avoid this, so I look forward to seeing whether or not they pull it off in the second season.