Assassination Classroom Volume 21: TIme to say Thank You, collecting chapters 178-184. Story and art by Yusei Matsui.
Last volume, our story reached its amazing, emotional climax. As the students of Kunugigaoka Junior High snuck into the exclusion zone, to have their final showdown with Koro Sensei. Which was rudely interrupted by Shiro and his pet monster, Second Generation. After all of that was wrapped up, it was time to Graduate, as the final blow was struck, and the "threat" of Koro Sensei was disarmed, permanently. Now, all that remains, is to see what comes after. So join me, for one last lesson!
Chapter one, "Time for tears", sees the students get a little time to process their grief, as they read Koro Sensei's final message. The next day, it's their official graduation ceremony... which is a far livelier affair than expected.
Chapter two, "Time passes", begins six years after graduation. Everyone has moved on, and they've all grown into adults that Koro Sensei would be proud of, and everyone gets together, to help clean their old classroom.
Chapter three, "Time to kill", brings our grand tale to its end. This chapter shows us where some of our favourite students have ended up. Including everyone's favourite proto-assassin, Nagisa! Who has taken on a heavy mantle.
Bonus Chapter one, "Time to come home". Set during the winter break, this mini arc tells of a band of ruthless assassins, who meet in a run-down bar, operated by a blind single mother and her very familiar-looking daughter, to plan their hit on Koro Sensei.
Bonus Chapter two, "Time to go to the Izakaya" (An Izakaya is a type of bar in Japan that usually serves small, cheap snacks along with their drinks. Sort of like a Gastro Pub or Tapas Bar, but not shit). A rather drunk and very sad Koro Sensei decides to play drinking games with his would-be assassins. But, after they all leave, the proprietress has an unwelcome visitor.
Bonus Chapter three, "Time to reveal Identities". With Mrs Azusa taken by the evil loansharks, Hotaru hires Koro Sensei and the other assassins to get her back, no matter what it takes!
Bonus Chapter four, "Time to say Thank You". Mrs Azusa's plan proves about as effective as the various other assassination attempts that we've seen, during this series. And, of course, Koro does what he does best, when confronted with an enemy trying to claim the bounty. He polishes them.
And now, the end is here! And so we face the final chapter... with two lives saved and a group of fiendish assassins turned back into helpful members of society, we're officially done. Koro Sensei's last lesson has been taught and it's time to say goodbye. Honestly, there WAS a one-off chapter tacked onto the end, for a series that Matsui pitched that didn't get picked up... but let's just say I can see why it didn't get picked up, and leave it there.
So, this volume, as you probably expected, mostly covers what happened to the students after their graduation, and showed how they all went on to live happily ever after, taking the lessons they gained from Koro Sensei, and applying them to their lives. It's a very sweet ending, to an almost overwhelmingly wholesome series, and is exactly what we needed, after the heartbreak of the last volume.
I have almost no complaints about the way everything wraps up. Everyone's tale goes where you'd expect it to go, and everything is happy in a very "a normal life is the ultimate reward" type of way. But, for me, one of the most emotional moments of the conclusion was the scene pictured above, when Asano Jnr decides NOT to be a dick for once, and he and the other top students shield The End Class from reporters as they leave the ceremony. It's a small act of kindness that shows HUGE growth, from a character that was a bit of a dick for most of the series...and it just highlights how much of a wasted opportunity his character was. I can't help but that after all the build-up, early on in the series, for Asano Snr and Jnr and the other members of the Top Class, that they all just kind of fell by the wayside. I'd really have liked to see a solid conclusion to their arc, a stepping stone between their last class at the exams, and this moment of rare kindness.
It feels like although this was a very strong scene, probably the best of the final volume, it could have been one of the best moments for the entire series, if they'd built to it a little more. Pacing issues strike again, one final time...
That small issue aside, the conclusion of the series was very strong. People have this strange idea that predictability is always a bad thing, which really confuses me. There is nothing wrong, when you've built to it over 20 volumes, to have everything wrap up the way it's been built to, and this ending is a perfect example of that. There are no real shocks, everyone ends up where you expect them to, and the whole thing just feels right. It was Koro Sensei's final victory, that all these students who had seemed so hopeless at the start of the year, had grown into such capable adults, and who all found where they were meant to be. And for the whole tale to reach its end, with Nagisa becoming a teacher and using his skills to whip a class of delinquents into line... Koro Sensei would be proud.
Then, we get a little bonus arc! Set during the winter break, we see Koro Sensei working with some evil assassins to save the life of the blind, but beautiful Mrs Azusa, who runs a shabby little Izakaya. Of course, nothing is ever as simple as it looks... and while we engage in a fairly classic "Koro Sensei brings the best out of people that have given up" type adventure, as the broken down assassins realise that maybe they're not totally worthless, and might just be able to do some good with their lives...
And then the seemingly helpless Mrs Azusa blows herself up, to try and kill Koro Sensei, because OF COURSE she's after the bounty as well.
It's a pretty solid twist, but OF COURSE Koro Sensei survives, because this is a flashback arc. He grabs all the bits and rebuilds the room at mach 20, and no one even notices anything has gone wrong. Everyone lives happily ever after!
Reading this arc, I wasn't really sure why it was there. It was a decent filler arc, don't get me wrong. It had all the hallmarks of a great mini arc, and I didn't really see why it was cut from the main story... Then, as Koro Sensei walked off into the sunset with all his new friends, it hit me.
One of my all time favourite films, is Quentin Tarantino's non-linear masterpiece Pulp Fiction. A tale of Hitmen, Hicks, Boxers, and tasty burgers, one of the standout characters is Vincent Vega, as played by John Travolta.
Over the course of the film, we see him get into various scrapes, and in many ways his journey alongside the ultra cool Jules Winfield (played by the ultra cool Samuel L Jackson) is the core of the movie.
Right up until about half way through, when he's shot while taking a dump.
But here's the thing, we see that happen, we KNOW that Vincent dies. BUT, that doesn't change the fact that the final scene of the film (which is also the first scene, because non-linear woo), is Jules and Vincent having breakfast in some random coffee shop. The last thing we see, in the movie, is Vincent paying his tab and leaving. Happy, healthy, and very much alive.
Do you see my point?
Volume 20 ends with the heartbreaking death of Koro Sensei. We all knew it was coming, and we all saw it.
But now? Now we're in volume 21, and the last thing we see is Koro Sensei, happy and smiling, with some new friends. Not a bad final image, is it?
Overall, Volume 21 is an incredibly satisfying end to the emotional rollercoaster that is Assassination Classroom. I can't say it was a flawless ride, and I'd be lying if I didn't say that the series frustrated me in points... But as the last page is turned and the story reaches its end, I can't help but feel satisfied. It wasn't a perfect journey by any stretch, but hey, whose time at school is ever perfect?
You can find every issue on Comixology, collected volumes on Amazon, or read the whole series on the Weekly Shonen Jump App.