Reviews

Jul 7, 2015
BanjoTheBear (All reviews)
(This has been adapted from my blog/reddit thread. Spoilers ahead!)

As I made my way through my early education, I always considered myself a pretty good student. I read my books, did my homework, and played nicely during recess. There was a big flaw that took a while for me to shake off, though: talking way too much. I would talk while the teachers were speaking, I would talk over my friends, and I would talk during assemblies when I wasn’t supposed to. No matter how many reprimands or punishments I got, I couldn’t seem to get it into my noggin that there are times when you get to speak your mind and times when you just have to shut up. I eventually learned this lesson – it took a little too long by my family’s account – but my teachers never gave up on me. They stuck through my incessant ramblings, allowing me to realize the error of my ways, making me into a better person because of their hard work. Assassination Classroom performs similarly, offering an anime that still has lessons to be learned.

STORY

Assassination Classroom follows the “End Class,” a group of students relegated to the bottom-of-the-barrel in their school system due to their poor grades, abysmal behavior, or any combination thereof. One day, a new “teacher” arrives, tasking the class with a seemingly simple objective: assassinate him before the time limit is reached or the Earth is doomed. Picking up knives and weapons instead of pens and utensils, the kids train themselves to eliminate this otherworldly creature.

The premise is wacky, without a doubt. Having a bunch of junior high delinquents kill their artificially composed “sensei” is pretty imaginative, but simultaneously seems as if there isn’t much to work with. To an extent, this mentality isn’t too far off. Assassination Classroom leans heavily on repetition for much of the season. Specifically, the children invent an elaborate way to go about taking out their teacher that ultimately fails. This is pretty much expected given the format of the anime; killing the teacher off early doesn’t make any sense because the show would end. So no matter what the kids do, the audience already knows that the outcome will never succeed. It therefore falls on the actual events to make up for the constant lack of return on the investment already given.

Sadly, the show falls short here as well. The comedy is pretty simplistic because, like the assassination attempts, it devolves into repetition quite quickly. For example, “Professor Bitch” never fails to get mad at her students, the kids always overreact to Koro-sensei despite being around him for so long, and their individual quirks aren’t pronounced enough to be used as laughing points. Besides the comedy, the show has the tendency to reiterate the same ideas ad nauseam. “The E-Class is super dumb” and “Koro-sensei is incredibly fast” comprise a lot of the dialogue, often said once or twice (each) per episode. These facts are understood and established rather early, but the anime makes sure to shove in these ideas at every turn. It’s ironic, because such a tactic makes it seem as if the show – which is all about “getting” to these kids – doesn’t trust its viewers enough to also “get” what it has to say. There also exists an apparent tonal issue that the anime chooses to embrace. Assassination Classroom is meant to be a fun show. The weird teacher, the dichotomy of teenagers wielding combat weapons, and interactions of the students are normally meant to be lighthearted. So when the show diverts from this formula and goes dark or dramatic, it doesn’t work. While it tries to present itself as such, it instead feels forced. This is wholly apparent when, for example, the anime goes right back to its comedic roots after experiencing a life-threatening trek through a guerilla-infested hotel.

There are other problems the show maintains – unnecessary narration since it rehashes whatever has already been discussed, one-time villains, an unclear antagonist – but the anime does manage to stick with its own theme: becoming a better person. However, it’s a bit stronger than this, because the kids of the “End-Class” aren’t ordinary children. They’re the ones who need the most help, who require the greatest amount of guidance to get them back on the right track. Thus, the theme changes slightly to: anyone can become a better person. We witness this idea unfold nearly every episode. One student learns about how important it is to always take proper safety precautions, another comes to understand the value of free will, and another still realizes the benefits of friendships. They get better physically and mentally, sure, but it’s these small but hugely important life lessons that leave the biggest impact, and subsequently make them better people. The theme itself also comes naturally – a teacher essentially does just this, teaching his or her students the proper ways of life. So watching these worse-off children improve their persons isn’t only rewarding for them and the audience, but it’s completely normal, too.

ANIMATION

There isn’t too much to say about the art style for Assassination Classroom. Interestingly, it does employ this strange tactic when it comes to its foreground characters. They all seem to “pop,” mostly due to the black outlines they each hold as well as the varied colors the show uses. The backgrounds aren’t too involved, mostly consisting of the same locations – the classroom, the surrounding field, and the main complex are visited the most. While they aren’t impressive, they do at least capture the school feel needed to make the actual events remain relevant.

The character designs are nice for a simple reason: they aren’t extremely unique. There are students like Nagisa who have the uncommon hair color, but for the most part, the characters look like regular junior high kids. Obviously, this isn’t true for people like Koro-sensei and Irina, but they’re designs also fit well with who they are as people. Koro-sensei’s never-ending smile, tentacles, and pattern-changing skin coincide perfectly with his craziness whereas Irina’s blonde hair, blue eyes, and large bust make her the sexy woman she is. The rest of the cast is a mix of the two – normalcy combined with uniqueness – that never feels out of place.

Actual animation is roughly average in execution. Koro Sensei takes up a lot of it, with his Mach speed and other physically impossible movements, but the students as well are given opportunities to strut their stuff. In fact, the premise makes this an easy matter; the gun fighting, martial arts, and other ridiculous situations give the show more than enough chances to work with. While it’s never stunning to see, the animation at least keeps up throughout the entirety of the season.

CHARACTERS

There are a lot of characters within Assassination Classroom, and for good reason. It’s an entire class of students, faculty members, and other people who don’t fit into those descriptions. Now, it’s nigh impossible for the show to give an adequate amount of screen-time or development for every single person, so many of them are as one-dimensional as they come. One girl is known for her chubbiness, one dude is sort of a pervert, one girl likes detective-oriented manga, etc. At the minimum, the anime, despite the cast size it boasts, does try to give everyone at least some time in the spotlight.

This widespread dividing of resources, though, introduces another problem of its own: not enough focus. Many of the bigger names within the show don’t receive nearly enough attention as they should, diminishing who they are as characters. For starters, Gakuhou, the president of the academy, is painted as evil but still a formidable educator. Yet, outside of making a few snarls or spewing some condescending words, he doesn’t do much of anything in regards to the plot. Itona, the “brother” of Koro-sensei, follows suit. He appears twice throughout the series, but besides having such strong connections and similarities to the teacher, nothing else is learned about him. Even Nagisa, technically the main student and contender to take down their target, doesn’t see much in the way of development. He sort of floats along with everyone else, gaining a ton of experience by observing Koro-sensei and participating in the daily training regimens. That’s the extent of who he is. He doesn’t seem too troubled by the events surrounding him, there doesn’t appear to be anything extravagant about who he is, and he doesn’t really grow beyond his current state. The final confrontation actually regressed his character for a time; while brief, he forgot almost everything he had learned up to the last fight.

The worst offender is, surprisingly, Koro-sensei. Maybe three times at best, the show provides the audience with a miniscule glimpse into the alien’s background, but nothing more. His origin remains unknown and his ultimate motivations are unclear. Furthermore, his complete infallibility prevents him from being affected by the kids he advises so much. It sounds counterintuitive, but a teacher learns just as much from his or her students as they do from their mentor, but Koro-sensei cannot personally develop because there’s apparently nothing left for him to learn. “Apparently” is used here because, again, there is no knowledge about Koro-sensei’s actual person, so while there may be some kind of problems or issues Koro-sensei has or needs to face, these aren’t explored.

Looking at these paragraphs here, there doesn’t seem to be anyone worth mentioning, but there are a few. Irina is investigated nicely enough, as is Yukiko, but the best character of the anime is Karma. Karma is a difficult kid to work with. He’s abrasive towards authority, he refuses to try hard, and has trouble making friends with others because of his constant bullying. Early on, Koro-sensei does manage to connect with Karma, to get him to understand the worth he has as a person. He calms down and opens up a bit to others, working with instead of against them, but still going about his own business. Later, when he loses grade-wise, he comes to learn that challenging yourself, not complacency, allows you to excel beyond what you were normally capable of. The culmination of his character development is seen near the end when, presented with a tough opponent, he not only chooses to fight him for the sake of his friends but also takes it seriously, more so than he ever had in the past. He began down and out, without people to guide him, but through Koro-sensei’s words of wisdom and friends who accepted him as one of their own, he slowly but surely turned out for the better. Still a little mean, but better nonetheless.

SOUND

The opening themes for the show, goofy dances aside, are crafted to be fun. The lyrics are mostly filled with references to their teacher, killing, and assassinations, but the beat and instruments are very lighthearted to go along with the comedic nature of the show itself. The repetition here also doesn’t work in its favor; instead of being catchy, it’s annoying. However the male and female vocalists sing in harmony – for both OPs – matching the show’s sense of togetherness that it portrays.

There is only one ending theme for Assassination Classroom. It wasn’t switched out for another because it’s too fantastic to forego. Contrasting with the OPs, it’s slow and gentle both on the ears and the heart. The lyrics and the singing give it a sense of longing; “I was waiting for,” “Hello, shooting star again,” and the “ah, ah” provide that grateful feeling when something finally returns. The instruments don’t overpower the singer, the pausing in the middle is advantageous to the ED’s theme, and the single guitar lead in at the beginning invites the listener to hear even more. It’s a phenomenal piece, and is definitely the highlight of the entire series.

The rest of the soundtrack actually has a wide range of beats and tracks to fit many separate and varying occasions. “Yukai na Anatsu Keikaku” is very upbeat with the jazzy brass, plethora of drums, and simple beat. “Haritsume ta Kuuki” is both ominous and mysterious, and eventually picks up to increase tension in a positive manner. “Tadashi” is quite ambient, almost techno in its presentation, and rather fitting for the “alien” scenario the students find themselves in. And “Niramiai” continues with the stealthy and covert-operation vibe that many of the events follow. It’s all appropriate and fits the overall moods of the anime nicely, but nothing is overtly astonishing or memorable.

Voice acting for the show is somewhere around average. A special shout-out is deserved for Jun Fukuyama as Koro-sensei for his zany mannerisms and way of speaking.

ENJOYMENT

As I made my way through this one, I could not get over how kiddy it all was. No amount of guns, bodacious babes, or crazy bad guys could stop me from thinking that this one was designed for a way younger crowd than it was intended for. I never really laughed when I was supposed to, the bad guys were silly rather than scary, and the drama present didn’t move me like it should.

There weren’t even any characters I really liked, save for two. Irina was there as eye-candy for me and Ritsu (who isn’t even “real”) was adorable after her upgrades. Besides these two girls, I found the rest of the known cast to be boring or lame. Koro-sensei, too, was not entertaining; he’s really fast and crazy, I get that. But his love of big boobs and constant chuckling was never fun to watch.

Assassination Classroom has an amazing ending theme, but the praise halts there. The narrative holds way too many problems to be purposeful, the characters lack the focus necessary to make them meaningful, and the show is way too childish for its own good. Hopefully this one goes to cram school before its second season, because all its doing right now is failing.

SUMMARY

Story: Bad, constant lack of return, too much pointless repetition, tonal issues, but learning life lessons is both rewarding and natural

Animation: Fine, okay art style, nice character designs, average actual animation

Characters: Bad, many students are glanced at, important members like Gakuhou, Nagisa, and especially Koro-sensei aren’t explored enough, but some like Irina, Yukiko, and Karma are

Sound: Fine, okay first OP, okay second OP, great ED, okay soundtrack, average VA work

Enjoyment: Bad, too kiddy, not funny, Koro-sensei is not entertaining, and only Irina and Ritsu out of the entire cast were tolerable

Final Score: 3/10