Class 3E at Kunigigaoka Junior High is unconventional in a variety of ways. First of all, they’re looked down on by the rest of the school as hopeless cases, shoved out of sight in an older campus in the mountains. Secondly, they all carry weapons and repeatedly try to kill their teacher. Thirdly, their teacher is some kind of tentacled smiley-face monster who blew a giant hole through the moon.
Exactly why this creature – later named Koro-sensei by the students – wanted to teach Class 3E is a mystery, but it came about as an agreement between him and the government. He plans to blow a hole in the earth like he did to the moon within a year, and encourages the students of the class to stop him by killing him..so long as he is allowed to act as their teacher. Koro-sensei’s existence and the strange going-ons of Class 3E are for now a government secret, and they are really only allowing it because he has promised to never harm any of the children in the class, and him being in the same place every day makes him easier to monitor.
However, it seems impossible to even harm Koro-sensei, let alone kill him. He can move at ridiculously high speeds to the extent that even fighter jets are unable to take him down. But the kids of Class 3E are up for the challenge, because along with the chance to save the world, whoever manages to kill Koro-sensei will net themselves ten billion yen.
We’re getting a lot of ridiculous plots this season, aren’t we? AssClass (which I’m abbreviating this as mostly because I’m really immature) is based on the popular Jump manga by Yusei Matsui, who was also the creator of Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro. Neuro had an anime adaptation so terrible (despite being done by the usually competent Madhouse) that I like to pretend it never existed while also using it as a ‘bad adaptation’ yard-stick, so I was initially wary about how an anime version of his next manga would turn out. To tell the truth I’ve only read a small part of the AssClass manga, and I still can’t make up my mind on how I feel about it.
It’s definitely unique, at any rate. It’s the kind of series where you really shouldn’t even consider the sheer amount of belief you have to suspend, but rather just roll with the absurdity. It’s actually pretty enjoyable in its weirdness, and as far as first episodes go it’s off to a reasonably attention-grabbing start. Koro-sensei’s mysterious and weird, but he’s also highly charismatic and a much more interesting character than any of the humans. His motivations for just about everything he’s done so far are not known – but he veers between being strange, gentle, amiable, fatherly and even downright frightening at the blink of an eye. It sounds like it ought to be a mess of contradicting traits, but here it works. The most interesting thing about him, of course, is how nice he is. He’s very obviously the positive influence that the downtrodden students of Class 3E so desperately needed, and there’s something almost charming about the encouraging way he talks about them killing him while doing his best to ensure their own safety – he also frowns heavily on any killing methods that would endanger other students. After all, underneath the wacky plot and science fiction is a story about kids who have been given up on yet have received chance to prove themselves. It has the potential to be touching, yet every now and then it clashes violently with the absurd premise and the general mayhem of the writing. Like I said, this is why I can’t figure out how much I actually like it, but I do appreciate what it’s trying to say. It’s definitely ham-fisted in its approach, however – while this episode doesn’t show too much of it, the manga has the treatment of Class 3E presented as absolutely ridiculous, which teachers publically mocking the students and always letting them know how worthless they are. Yusei Matsui just…really isn’t very good at subtlety in his manga, I feel. ‘Dud’ classes being a subject of scorn, distrust and dislike is something that unfortunately happens in both Japan and the West, so I feel like he didn’t necessarily need to go over the top for us to believe that nobody likes Class 3E.
There’s a huge cast of characters here – I imagine we’re going to meet each of the students in time – although Nagisa, the blue-haired boy with the weird pigtail hair, is the closest to a lead character. Exactly what he did (or what any of the others did, really) to deserve a place in the dud class is not even hinted at here, although I imagine we’ll learn eventually. He does have a certain appeal to him, even if he’s completely overshadowed in presence by Koro-sensei. His voice actually took me off guard because he sounded a good deal more feminine than I was expecting, however I quickly grew used to it. As for Koro-sensei’s voice, I found him to be perfect and his voice actor has done a great job of further increasing his charisma.
While this does seem to be a reasonably strong adaptation so far – the animation is solid enough (despite being Lerche, who brought us that awful Dangan Ronpa anime)and the ending theme featuring drawings on a blackboard is adorable – I have to, once again, remind everyone that this is based on an ongoing Jump manga. Unless this anime becomes popular enough for it to keep running indefinitely (there are 22 episodes scheduled as of now), like the vast majority of Jump anime that start before their manga end, it’s not unlikely that it will have an invented ending. Since one of the main draws of this story for me is wondering how on earth it’s all going to end, I’d really rather it be the original ending that the manga has planned.
Assassination Classroom is difficult for me to review – it’s got a lot of interesting and unique elements, but it’s incredibly bizzarre and often to a fault. However, it’s certainly not dull, and there’s a promise of more interesting things to come. If you enjoyed Neuro or like bizarre anime with somewhat dark humour, I’d recommend watching at least this episode. Hopefully it’s more faithful than the anime of Neuro was, too.