25 June 2015

V Reviews: Assassination Classroom: A feel-good anime in disguise

Last weekend the last episode of Assassination Classroom aired. Therefore it's a good reason for me to pick this anime for my first review. Because who doesn't want to see a yellow octopus-humanoid creature with a creepy smile destroy the world?

The face of doom... sorta... I think?

As you might've realized. That face doesn't look harmful nor threatening. I mean, there's no way anybody could make this face creepy, right?

Oh, right... I forgot this is a thing since the latest E3.

V reviews: Assassination Classroom Season 1

A: Backstory of the series

Assassination Classroom (or Ansatsu kyoushitsu in Japanese) is a manga created by Yusei Matsui from 2012 which is still running today.

Yuusei started out as assistent for the manga Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, which may explain his sense of humor and fascination for weird humanoid creatures.

In 2005 he got his own first success with Neuro: Supernatural detective, which ran for over 4 years and spawned a 25-episode anime in the fall of 2007. However, fans of the manga were kind of let-down with the "not-so-great" adaptation of the manga. And after the anime ended, interest in the manga slowly started to decline, which caused it to eventually end in 2009.

After Neuro ended, it took a few years before Yuusei landed another series that stuck. But in 2012, he struck gold with Assassination Classroom.

And gold is the correct term for this series. In the few years it's been running, there's a 22-episode anime with a second season already announced, a 3DS game and a Live Action movie with a sequel already in the making.

That's a lot for a manga series that's hardly 3 years old!

B: The Story itself

The story starts with the announcement that a "monstrous alien" creature has destroyed 70% of the moon, turning it into the shape of a crescent moon forever (which I know is technically impossible, but just roll with it).

This creature has declared that it wants to destroy the entire world in one year. But he gives humanity a "chance" to destroy him. And that's said with quite a sarcastic undertone, because this creature has superhuman abilities, can fly at mach 20 and has superior reflexes. And all that while he has the shape of a yellow octopus.

But for some weird reason, he decides to become a homeroom teacher in the Japanese class 3-E at Kunugigaoka Junior High School. Why exactly is still a mystery in the anime, but the flashback from episode 1 says it has something to do with a woman.

The government sees the opportunities in this and offered a 10 billion yen reward (about 100 million dollars) for the person who is able to kill this creature. And with this E-class having the most opportunities to perform this assassination, the Japanese department of Defense sends one of their most capable workers to the class in order to teach them combat and assassination techniques.

And if you think this creature would oppose this, you would be wrong. The creature gratefully accepts this opportunity, as long as he can teach this class and he even gives hints on how to kill him as well.

Since the creature doesn't have a name, it doesn't take long for the students to give him one. This being: "Korosensei", which is a combination of the Japanese words korosenai ("cannot be killed") and sensei ("teacher"). In short: "The unkillable teacher".

But I hear you ask: How can this series about assassinations with weapons be a regular Shonen series?

Actually, the Yusei evaded that touchy subject quite easily. Korosensei can't be killed by regular means. Guns, knives, grenades and even poisons don't work on him. But Korosensei has admitted he's weak to a certain "Anti-Teacher" substance, which is otherwise harmless to normal humans. The substance has been converted by the government to pellets and knives (which are sorta rubbery). The pellets are mostly used for pellet gun variations and grenades, but the manga is quite creative with the use of these pellets.

And aside from all assassination attempts, Korosensei does his best to teach his class as best as he possibly can. And he does a swell good job. He helps the students out with their school subjects and sometimes even their personal misery.

He also wants to help them get better in this school, because the 3E-Class is in fact the outcast class of this Junior High school. The head of the school is a twisted SOB who's trying to raise the amount of "superior" students, by turning the people with the lowest grades into outcasts (which in turn should motivate the rest to study harder). This in such a way that the E-class has to reside in a different building on a different campus site, in the mountains. This is all done in such a way that the E-class has almost 0% chance of ever upgrading to the regular classes.

And this is where this show truly shines. While the assassination attempts are quite funny and sometimes even ingenious in their making, it's the fights of these underdog students to be accepted by their peers and the rest of the school that makes this series truly interesting to see.

Going into further detail would spoil the show, but it's definitely worth a watch!

C: Characters

The main character of the show. He's the "evil creature" that has blown up 70% of the moon and is the sole target for these assassinations. Next to that, he's a devoted teacher, but also quite silly. And while everybody should do their best to kill him, he makes it very hard to hate him, because he's basically "the best teacher ever". Also, he can't lie, because his face is almost literally an open book and changes color depending on his mood/feelings.
Shiota Nagisa
The only student that can be seen as the "main character", since most of the episodes are from his point of view. Often seen as a weak student (both in studies as physically) and is often mistaken for a girl. He keeps notes on the weaknesses of Korosensei and is on friendly terms with (almost) everybody in the class.
Akabane Karma
Karma's a bitch and this guy's seriously tries to gain similar status. He's the smartest guy in the E-class, but got expelled a few times due to bad behavior and violent behavior. He may seem lazy, but don't underestimate him, because he's about as mischievous as Marvel's Loki. Also, he's possibly the most assertive character of the show, saying things that the characters with a more Japanese attitude wouldn't dare to say.
Karasuma Tadaomi
The loyal government worker who trains the students to improve their physical condition and assassination skills. Probably the strongest human on the show, but even he can't handle Korosensei. He's also the "straight guy" in this comedy, but can sometimes be a bit dense.
Irina Jelavic
A Russian assassin/spy who tries to reap the bounty on Korosensei. But due to failure, she ends up teaching English at the E-Class. Her biggest asset is her "charming" personality...
No, I'm not talking about her boobs! Shame on you!
I was literally talking about her personality, which earned her the nickname "Bitch-sensei".
Asano Gakuhou
The board chairman of the school. Is a "shadow figure" in the first episodes, but quickly reveals himself to be one of the primary antagonists of the series. Sinister SOB.

Since this is a class/school, there are tons of other characters, but they're mostly supporting roles. Though, they all have an episode (or half episode) where each of them gets the focus.

D: Adaptation from source material

The manga is adapted quite faithfully, with no filler added (hurrah!). A few chapters have been cut out from the manga sadly enough, but who knows? We might still see them in season 2. So if you're wondering on whether you should read the manga or watch the anime, you can go and watch the anime, because not that much is left out.

What I find positive is that the anime doesn't attempt to stretch out the individual chapters either. 1 chapter is 1 half of the episode (safe the pilot chapter obviously), even if it is a stand-alone chapter. This causes several episodes to have 2 stories. But honestly, I like that more than needlessly filling up the episode with nonsense.

Also, I find it positive that they work in seasons, rather than adapting all existing material in 1 show like Naruto or Bleach. It gives sufficient opportunity to faithfully adapt the series, rather than improvising to fill the needed timeslots each week.

E: Animation

The show is very well animated with no hiccups or signs of lazy animation anywhere. It's also bright and colorful, but the colors can quickly go darker when the story needs it to be darker.

F: Sound

Quite good, but nothing outstanding. The Opening songs are song by the student voice actors. And while they're not bad, they're not that outstandingly great either.

Conclusion and Personal Opinion

I personally liked this show a lot. After watching some dark animes lately (like Mushishi and Welcome to the NHK) and the long running animes having "darker" moments atm, I was in the mood for something light. This anime delivered that and then some!

I was often laughing my ass off during the comedy moments and often ended the episode with a big smile on my face. Truly, this anime generally made me feel better about myself. So I can say that I'm looking forward to the next season of this show.

Were there any negative things about this show? A few minor things, but it's more nitpicking than anything else:

  • This is a typical shonen humor/action series. Don't look for ingenious storytelling or amazing new things here, because it's not here. On the other end, it doesn't fall into many of the cliché anime tropes either. There's no romantic subplots anywhere to be seen, which is VERY rare in these kinds of shows. Heck, even the typical anime "fanservice" that needs to be in every shonen series is very limited and limited to very specific characters (Trust me, this could be a lot worse!).
  • The anime is great in terms of story, but can be very predictable at moments. Though it's the execution that's enjoyable, rather than the lack of inventive storytelling.
  • A few chapters surrounding the swimming pool were strangely enough not adapted. And due to the very specific setting, will probably not see an adaption in season 2 either. This means that at least 1 supporting character will not get her own episode. Sad panda.
  • Korosensei has a few Deus-ex-machina abilities to escape his assassinations. Let's hope there aren't more of these, because these will get real annoying real fast.

Overall, I give this series an 8,7/10.

It's very much enjoyable and a must-watch for everyone that wants to see something light and funny.

Looking forward to season 2, Nurufufufu~

Until next time, V out.

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