Friday, November 23, 2018

REVIEW: Assassination Classroom (manga, vols. 1-2) by Yusei Matsui, translated by Tetsuichiro Miyaki

Another post-vacation review post. When it comes to my manga posts, I'm going to write about each volume but collect them all together in a single post. Be warned, these are going to be particularly filled with spoilers.

Assassination Classroom is a series I've been wanting to try for a while. I think I own the first season of the anime, although I haven't gotten around to watching it yet. Since I was able to get hold of a couple volumes of the manga during my vacation, I figured I'd give it a shot and see what I could expect from the anime.

It's tough to say whether this series will continue to work for me a few more volumes down the line, but I mostly liked these first two, as long as I didn't think too hard about the setup.

Assassination Classroom (manga, vol. 1) by Yusei Matsui, translated by Tetsuichiro Miyaki - An alien later named Koro Sensei has destroyed a huge chunk of the moon and plans to destroy the Earth, but first he's going to be the best teacher Class 3-E has ever seen. If any of his students can kill him prior to graduation, they'll not only have saved the Earth, they'll also be awarded 10 billion yen. Their weapons are special rubber bullets and knives that are relatively harmless to human beings but fatal to Koro Sensei...if they can manage to touch him. All of their efforts fail, but Koro Sensei finds ways to motivate them and, weirdly, lift their spirits. For example, Sugino learns to pitch better, Okuda learns the value of good (and appropriately used) communication skills, and violent Karma finds in Koro Sensei a teacher who will truly stand by him.

This series is like a parody of those heart-warming movies from the '80s and '90s about teachers who find a way to connect with their classrooms of supposedly hopeless delinquents. Even as Koro Sensei evades his students' assassination attempts, he finds ways to help them feel supported, learn their strengths, and realize why academic subjects they dislike are still worth learning.

So far, I like this, although the moon thing bugs me. If that much of the moon were destroyed, the Earth would already be doomed. I had to do my best to just accept it and move on. I enjoyed the humor, I loved serious-looking Karasuma as their PE teacher (concentrating more on assassination techniques rather than traditional PE activities), and Koro Sensei's work with his students was oddly touching. I'm looking forward to eventually finding out Koro Sensei's motivations. Here's hoping it doesn't take too long. At this point, all readers know is that he made a promise to what appeared to be a dying human woman.

Assassination Classroom (manga, vol. 2) by Yusei Matsui, translated by Tetsuichiro Miyaki - This volume begins with the addition of a new English teacher, Irina Jelavich, who is secretly a professional assassin. She tries to kill Koro Sensei but, like an idiot, doesn't follow instructions and uses real bullets. Her efforts fail, and she basically has to beg the students to let her continue on as their teacher. Then we meet the students' next enemy, the diabolical Principal Gakuho Asano, who designed the school's Class 3-E system and who wants to keep them in their place. He sets them up to fail their midterms. Then it's time for a school trip to Kyoto, where the students are supposed to lure Koro Sensei to prime spots for snipers to shoot him. Unfortunately, several girls from the class are kidnapped.

I was not fond, at all, of the addition of Irina, aka Ms. Fan Service. She constantly hung off of and kissed Nagisa, a junior high student, because he had the best info on Koro Sensei and could therefore be useful to her (and yet she didn't listen when she was told that Koro Sensei could only be killed by special bullets and knives?). Also, her "defeat" by Koro Sensei looked like an allusion to tentacle rape.

I liked this volume more when it focused on Koro Sensei again. I loved the detail about Koro Sensei creating customized tests for each student, based on their strengths and weaknesses. It seems like Matsui is already starting to forget the series' original goal, though. When the school trip came up, the only real reference to assassinating Koro Sensei was the thing about picking prime spots for snipers to get him. They probably could have gotten a good assassination attempt in while Koro Sensei was still suffering from car sickness, but they didn't even try.

This volume ended with a 6-page crossover manga that pitted Assassination Classroom's Koro Sensei against the main character of The Mishaps of Kusuo Saiki (The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.). It was okay, I guess, but I haven't read or watched the other series.

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