Assassination Classroom Volume 1 'Time for Assassination'. Collecting Chapters 1-7. Story and Art by Yusei Matsui.
Okay folks! It's time for my Comics Retrospective series to get a little... weird! I've covered a couple of the legendary series from Western comics companies, so now I'm casting my eyes East, and this time, just for fun, I'll be going on the journey for the first time, with all of you!
Yup, with my previous retrospectives, I've guided you through some of my all time favourite comic runs. But, as my favourite manga series all run to 700+ chapters, we figured we try something a little shorter... and thus, I'll be reading this beloved series from 2012-2016 for the first time, now, with you. And letting you know how I find it all, along the way.
Yes, we're all students here, and there's only one teacher: Koro Sensei!
Yup, that's "Koro Sensei," a bizarre yellow octopus-like creature, capable of traveling at speeds up to Mach 20, regenerating from extreme damage, and disintegrating the freakin' MOON. And now, he's teaching a class, at Kunugigaoka Junior High. This should be fun... So, shall we join the class?
Chapter one, "Killing time in homeroom," begins with a classful of students, armed with automatic weaponry, firing on their teacher, with the full and honest intent of killing him. Somehow, it gets stranger from there on in. We're introduced to Class 3-E and the stakes are set: The children have until the end of term to kill their teacher, or he'll destroy the world... So, no pressure or anything.
Chapter two, "No time to strike out," follows one of the students of Class 3-E, Sugino, a baseball superfan, as he attempts to use his baseball skills, and a large supply of the special "Anti Koro-Sensei" bullets to kill his teacher. It doesn't work out the way he's planned... but along the way, he learns to better appreciate his own talents, and what makes him special.
Chapter three, "The perfect time to help out," sees a new appointment at Kunugigaoka Junior High, their new P.E. Teacher Mr Karasuma. Who is totally not at all a government agent, sent to assist the children in their assassination attempts. Not even a little. In other news, a well known troublemaker returns from suspension, and is assigned to class 3-E!
Chapter four, "Time to get down to work," sees bad boy Karma join the class. Naturally, he wastes no time in trying to kill off Koro Sensei, and collect the bounty. And, to the shock of the class, he comes closer than they could have possibly imagined!
Chapter five, "Making time for Karma," finds Koro Sensei seemingly rather annoyed at his near miss, last chapter. But no matter what it might cost him, he will find a way to break through that tough shell, and reach Karma.
In chapter 6, "It's time to make a choice," the battle between Koro Sensei and Karma continues! But after his early successes, Karma finds he's unable to make any progress. So, with nothing to lose, he hatches one desperate final plan, to win it all!
Chapter seven, "Time for a refreshing drink," brings the volume to an end with a nice light chapter. As Okuda, a particularly brilliant chemistry student whose communications skills need a little work, finds her attempts to poison Koro Sensei don't QUITE work out the way she planned. And then, the government seems unimpressed by the students' progress, so they're sending in a professional.
And volume 1 is a wrap! I had little to no preconceptions, going into this series. I knew the basic outline "Scary teachers says they'll destroy the world, if kids can't kill him first." But other than that, I knew nothing about this series.
And I have to say, while Assassination Classroom isn't the best opening volume I've ever read in a Manga, it's a pretty solid start. You're introduced to the core concept of the series right away, they clearly illustrate right off the bat just how formidable the oddly adorable Koro Sensei is, and they do well in filling out a bit of the world, all within the super-sized first chapter.
The basic concept for the series is simple: One day, this crazy yellow squid monster decided to melt 70% of the moon. As you do.
The army tried to stop him, but proved hilariously incapable.
But for seemingly unknown reasons (So far, anyway...) this super-being decided NOT to continue his rampage. Instead, he took a job teaching at a school for assassins, and made the worst class there a deal. He'll disintegrate the Earth... unless they can kill him, before graduation! And, to sweeten the deal, the government have taken out a 10bil yen contract on his head. So, needless to say, the students of class 3-E are quite excited for their new year!
Pretty crazy concept, right? I figured I was in for some gore, some laughs, and more than a few surprises...
But what surprised me most, is how freakin; WHOLESOME this story is. You'd expect a series about an assassin's school, where the aim of the series is to murder the teacher before he can destroy the world would be a fairly grim outing, but it just isn't.
I figured this series would be a blood and gore splattered disaster zone, akin to the more brutal manga like Elfen Lied or Berserk. I was NOT expecting to find storylines more akin to an episode of Saved by the Bell. The opening chapters find Koro Sensei teaching the kids about finding their own self worth, not trying to measure themselves against others, and generally doing all he can to improve their self-esteem... all this, while they're trying and failing to murder him.
Koro Sensei's mission is a little trickier than you'd first think, as it seems that Class 3-E are known as the "End Class." A dumping ground for the failures and rejects who flunk out of the other classes. Woven throughout the volume are various references to the general disdain that the other students, and even most of the teachers, feel towards the kids of the End Class. We're informed that they have to work under extremely strict rules, banning them from sports and other extracurricular activities, in addition to students in the End Class being unable to graduate, even after their years are over.
So, it's safe to say that most of the students of 3-E aren't exactly paragons of confidence and self-worth. Which makes it all the more heartwarming, as we see Koro Sensei slowly teach them to appreciate their talents, and overcome their weaknesses. And then they try to kill him. Because at the end of the day, that's still what this series is about!
Then, the wholesome air of the series takes a bit of a downturn, as troublemaker Karma joins the class.
The main "arc" of this volume, after the initial introductions are done, centers around Karma and his repeated attempts to cash in on the 10bil yen bounty. However, as we slowly get to know him, we find that his motives are actually far less mercenary than we were lead to believe.
Of course, that doesn't help me like him, any more. I've never really been a fan of the "cocky rebel" archetype. Especially when you throw in a sad backstory and casual brilliance. This reaction is in no way sparked by jealousy. At all.
I wasn't a huge fan of Karma's arc, and while it WAS fun watching Koro Sensei repeatedly foil his attempts, it started to get a little dull after 3 chapters.
However, the ending was good enough that the whole volume wasn't a bust. As Koro Sensei helped Karma work through his past a bit, and move on. He's still trying to claim the bounty, obviously, but it feels like there's far less malice in it than there was before.
But what is an ending without a little cliffhanger? As it seems that the government trust Class 3-E about as much as everyone else does, and have sent in a ringer to assist in their plans...a mysterious "Professional" with a number of confirmed kills already. How will this change the balance of power in the class? Should Koro Sensei be worried? Is this 21 volume manga going to end in Volume 2?! Lets read on, and find out!
Overall, while this wasn't the strongest opening to a series I've ever read, it was good enough that I'm excited to read on and find out more about these characters, and this world. Matsui's world-building is good, and you quickly understand exactly where everything lies, add in his very strong character development and designs, and within the first volume, these characters already feel real, and familiar. Not an easy task, in just 7 chapters!
So, if you're excited to go on this adventure with me, join me next week for Assassination Classroom Volume 2: "Time for grown-ups," collecting chapters 8-16. A sexy new teacher comes to Class 3-E to do the students’ job for them. When the 3-E students begin exhibiting signs of self-esteem, Principal Asano demands that Koro Sensei crush their spirits, so they continue to set a bad example for the rest of the school to rise above. Then a class field trip goes terribly wrong when two 3-E girls are abducted. Who will come to their rescue?
If you want to read along with me, you can find every issue on Comixology, collected volumes on Amazon, or read the whole series on the Weekly Shonen Jump App.