The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 155 – Assassination Classroom

Assassination Classroom 1

We continue to look at the anime on Funimation, the long-running streaming service that has only been made available in the UK this month. While this series is also on the older Animax streaming service, they only released the second series which seems pointless, but now we can watch this anime from the beginning.

Assassination Classroom started as a manga in the most popular manga magazine, Weekly Shonen Jump, beginning in 2012 and finishing just last month. Having first began as a one-off Original Video Anime (OVA) straight-to-video episode, the first anime series proper aired in 2015 and the second is currently on air (although the latest episode has been postponed due to the recent earthquakes that hit Japan). It has also been adapted as two live action films. The series is a mixture of science-fiction, action, comedy, and what I referred to as the “non-school” genre, of anime set in schools that would never exist in real-life. As you might have gathered from the title, it is set in a class where the students are all assassins, and the picture illustrates that their teacher is certainly unusual.

The story starts of big: 70% of the Moon is destroyed, forever leaving it crescent shaped. While the public are not informed to the reason why, the governments of the world know that the thing that destroyed it was some kind of monster of unknown origin. The creature is a tentacled monster, with a gigantic spherical head and permanent toothy grin on his face. He can change the colour of his skin, can quickly regenerate parts of his body, can travel at speeds of up to Mach 20, meaning he can easily dodge bullets and outpace jet fighters.

The creature has said that in one year’s time, he will destroy the Earth, just like he did with the Moon, but he offers them a chance to avoid this fate. The creature will give humanity one year to save themselves, in which time they have to try their best to kill him. In exchange, the creature wants a job as a teacher, which the governments of the world agree to as they can keep an eye on him. As part of the deal, the monster cannot harm any of his students.

The class the monster teachers is Class 3-E of Kunugigaoka Junior High School. The class itself was created by the school’s chairman, Gakuho Asano, as a way of motivating everyone else in the school. Class 3-E is the class for underachievers and designed to be as horrible as possible, with no hope of a decent future for anyone who ends up in it. Not only is it terrible, but everyone is encouraged to openly discriminate and humiliate them, and the class is taught in a remote building far away from the main campus. In order to motivate the students in the class, a member of Japan’s Ministry of Defence, Tadaomi Karasuma, offers an award of ¥10 billion ($100 million) to any student who manages to kill the monster, who the students name Koro-Sensei, meaning “Unkillable Teacher”. The students are all given weapons designed to only harm Koro-Sensei, and are all taught the ways of assassination by Karasuma, who becomes their P.E. teacher, by their Slavic buxom English teacher and assassin Irina “Prof. Bitch” Jelavich, and even by Koro-Sensei himself.

The story is narrated by one of the students of the class, Nagisa Shiota, a character so androgynous, it is not until half-way through the first series it is confirmed that he is a boy. Is main strategy is making a detailed list of all of Koro-Sensei’s weaknesses, ranging from his inability to swim and the fact he panics easily, right down to minor points such as his fondness for big-breasted women or loving gossip. Despite his appearance however, Nagisa is probably the strongest of all the students in terms of assassination skills, but like all the students in Class 3-E, they have a problem: Koro-Sensei is so good at teaching that they kind of become fond of him. All the students want to kill him, but Koro-Sensei is also so good at improving their grades that they are able to fight back against Chairman Asano’s prejudiced policies.

As you can see, it takes a while to set up the entire plot, but once you get into the series it starts to become more enjoyable. The best thing about the show for me it the ensemble cast. In terms of anime previously covered in this column, the closest series to this one is Baka and Test (No. 78), which also focuses on the worst class in a school which adopts a stupidly strict streaming policy. However, while Baka and Test tends to focus on a few particular students, Assassination Classroom is one of the few anime where the entire class get involved.

There are nearly 30 students altogether in the class so it would be too time-consuming to list them all, but apart from Nagisa other students particular of note include Kaede Kayano, a female student who is one of Nagisa’s closest friends and has a hatred of women with big boobs; rebellious Karma Akabane, another close friend of Nagisa’s who is probably the cleverest student in the class and who really wants to kill a teacher after being betrayed by one; Manami Okuda, who uses her knowledge of chemistry to try and poison Koro-Sensei; Yukiko Kanzaki, the class idol who has a secret passion for playing arcade games; Nagisa’s best friend Tomohito Sugino, who before being in Class 3-E was in the school’s baseball team; Yuma Isogai, the perpetually poor class president; Ryoma Terasaka, the class rebel who originally hates Koro-Sensei and does not want to be taught by him; and later on in the series Ritsu, originally named the Autonomous Intelligence Fixed Artillery, an artificial intelligence from Norway who at first just tries to shoot at Koro-Sensei indiscriminately, but later develops a conscience and becomes friends with the rest of the class.

This leads to another positive to the series: its diversity. While it does not look like that on the surface, mainly because nearly all the students are Japanese except for Norwegian Ritsu, this is a show which has a fair balance between male and female characters, rich and poor characters, brainy and brawny characters, and Irina is one of the few anime characters of Slavic origin. Some sources even claim that she is even first anime character to come from Serbia.

But perhaps the best thing about the series is Koro-Sensei, primarily because the character is so fully rounded (not just the head). The thing that really appeals is that Koro-Sensei wants to wipe out the planet, he doesn’t come across as the central antagonist in the story because he cares so much for his students. Other characters come across as even worse, normally other assassins who don’t just want to kill Koro-Sensei but the students too. The character who really comes across as vile is Gakuho Asano, with his believe that the strong students must always defeat the weak, leading to him treat his own son cruelly, to brainwash other students into hating Class 3-E, and a seemingly fascistic mind-set.

Assassination Classroom is full of action, plenty of comedy, and lots of entertaining characters that people can relate to – or as close as you can relate when their teacher is intend on destroying the world.

Assassination Classroom is available on Funimation in its entirety, while just the second series is available on Animax.