School sucks! It gets better once you reach college and the freedom of making your own schedule around your time, but it can still be dreadful most times. Just know it could worse, as in you’re part of the worst class in school and are then tasked with killing your new teacher who just said he would destroy the planet in one year. That’s basic idea of Assassination Classroom, and as grossly silly as that might sound, it actually has presented one of the most emotionally-driven anime I’ve ever seen, and quickly became one of my all-time favorites.
The students of Class E of Kunugigaoka Junior High are the worst of the worst in terms of grades, expectations, and social status. The entire student body ostracizes them and they’re relegated to the most derelict building of the school to be taught by a tentacled, smiling emoji-alien that’s threatened their existence. The students dub him Koro-sensei after being tasked to save the world and eliminate him before the year is out. They’re hardly reluctant to their newfound task and quickly weaponized to defeat their new teacher. Naturally, a being that has the capability to destroy the planet isn’t going to go down so easily, so the children often must be sneaky and deviously cunning in their attempts. Koro-sensei is easily able to subdue and disarm any traps the students devise, but his true aim is to do what no one else is willing to do: help these learn, grow, and unlock their full potential that he sense in every one of them.
Assassination Classroom, at its roots, is a comedic manga/anime that squeezes in action and drama sporadically. Most episodes after the introductory ones are typically centered on a particular character and Koro-sensei diminishing their weakness while showcasing their strengths. The cast is large, but it never overwhelming because the show tends to ultimately focus on the three “main” students: Nagisa, Karma, and Kayano. I may go as far to say that Nagisa is the penultimate protagonist of Assassination Classroom as he’s often the focus of most situations or plots of the series. While the other students have at last mild interesting something like drawing, horror, studies; Nagisa is still trying to understand his role in the world. Thanks to the task at hand though, Nagisa does learn he has quite the penchant for assassination given his relatively overlooked existence. Next to Koro-sensei, he’s the only other character with a ton of depth and growth. That’s not to say the others aren’t dealt their own problems, Nagisa is just one of the few students to be prominently featured.
Koro-sensei is without a doubt the star of the show and will certainly be the standout character for a number of reasons. His appearance is too obvious as a characteristic though, so we’ll forgo that attribute. His charm, wit, perseverance, and abilities to do what no other teacher could or wanted to are really his best features. What starts as a battle of survival against him starts to slowly unravel to show that Koro-sensei’s goal was beyond that premise. He sees something in every one of the students in his class, along with everyone he encounters, and is determined to leave the planet in a better place before he destroys it. The truly major touch that helped me appreciate the character even more was the casting choice by Funimation in choosing Sonny Strait as the voice actor. It’s essentially hearing DBZ’s Krillin teaching these kids, but his calmness and positive tones and encouragement make the character. He can be wacky, wild, and over-the-top when needed, but he always comes back to the core of the character and delivers a memorable performance.
So yes, I did watch Assassination Classroom dubbed, and I may have discussed this before, but my choice to do this lies in the fact of in most Japanese comedic shows, the key to their timing lies in often specific linguistic wordplay and delivery; something US comedy has, but is different. I don’t think you could go wrong with either subbed or dubbed it was just my personal preference. Now, as much as I did enjoy the overall premise and characters, there were a few times wherein Assassination Classroom had me raising an eyebrow at its absurdity. The most egregious example that stands out happens a tad later in the series wherein Nagisa and Karma must LITERALLY HIJACK A SPACE SHUTTLE AND HACK THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION TO RETRIEVE SOME DATA. Yes, these middle-school students must launch themselves in space with scant planning and training and the return without dying. “Now Curtis, you ARE watching a show about an alien threati—” Whoops, I hear you, I realize that the premise is already silly, but this simply is too much. It doesn’t break the story, it doesn’t ruin the show either, and it simply was so goddamn farfetched that I felt almost insulted. This small, individual standalone episode left such a bad taste in my mouth, but thankfully didn’t soil the entire series; it was just so beyond reasoning and logic for me personally. It’s a minor hang-up though, and against the whole experience it’s a drop in the bucket, so I’ll move on.
Assassination Classroom has quickly become one of my most beloved series from the last 10 years, and think you can’t wrong in either form for the manga or anime. I actually picked up the manga when the series initially started airing, and ended up ingesting a bulk of the series on a trip to New York a couple of years back and immediately caught up with as much as the anime as possible. It was a mostly 1:1 adaptation with each episode containing about 2-3 chapters on average to pad the episodes out. Mangaka Yūsei Matsui presented a very open-close story with Assassination Classroom, and despite spin-offs and side-stories, the main story stands strongest and present a terrific story for younger kids, and adults who may still be finding their lot in life. It’s surprisingly more deep and heartwarming than one might expect from the cover art and premise, but I think almost anyone can find something in here to appreciate. Streaming sites Hulu and Crunchyroll offer Assassination Classroom subbed, whereas Funimation carries the exclusive dubbing. If you’re looking for a series that can really go beyond traditional comedic bits and cliché ideas a lot of shonen series like to hit on, I think Assassination Classroom can be that series. It helped this cynical monster get a bit misty-eyed by the end, and I think it might do the same for many others.
Like most people here, I’ve been watching anime for many, many years. I owe blocks like Toonami for getting me into the medium. Shows like Dragonball Z and Ronin Warriors shaped my beginning years, while shows like Neon Genesis Evangleion and Cowboy Bebop showed me that there’s some true artistic ability and expression found within anime (moreso than big burly dudes punching and screaming for hours on end). I now try to watch anime showcasing many genres and storytelling. Anime is just another great, creative medium for telling stories, and I’m happy to share my thoughts on the series I enjoy with you!