Assassination Classroom Volume 16: Time for the past, collecting chapters 133-142. Story and art by Yusei Matsui.
Last time, the hidden danger lurking with Class 3-E finally struck! as Kayano revealed her true history and her burning desire to take vengeance on Koro Sensei. But, of course, with the power of being a murderous cinnamon roll, and some slightly questionable actions by Nagisa, they were able to calm Kayano down and save the day once more. But the class has had enough! They want answers, and they want them now. So, this volume we travel back... and finally get some answers about Koro Sensei, or as he was known back, then 'The Grim Reaper'!
Chapter one, "Time for the past," begins our trip down Memory Lane, with a backstory for the man now known as "The Grim Reaper." A tragic tale of blood, death, and the betrayal that left him strapped to a chair in a secret research station. Makes Asano's stuff last volume look like WEAK SAUCE.
In chapter two, "Time for the past - 2nd Period," the crazy science begins. As does a tale of star-crossed lovers, lab assistant and subject, which will change both their lives, and so many more, for evermore.
In chapter three, "Time for the past - 3rd Period," the experiments begin to have an effect! and Ms Yukimura begins to lower her guard around the Grim Reaper. Which ordinarily would be an terrible idea...
Chapter four, "Time for the past - 4th Period," In which we remember that whenever something nice happens in this series, tragedy is usually around the corner. Ms Yukimura and The Grim Reaper grow ever closer, but terrible things are approaching.
Chapter five, "Time for the past - 5th Period," The truth revealed! The Lunar destruction is finally explained, and The Grim Reaper finds himself the one about to be reaper. Time to test out his new powers!
Chapter six, "Time for the past - 6th Period," Yanagisawa realises he's made a huge mistake, and tries as hard as he can to stop The Grim Reaper. As always, it's left to the innocent to pay the price.
Chapter seven, "Time for the past - 7th Period", One final gift turns The Grim Reaper into Koro Sensei, and our story reaches it's end, returning us once more to the beginning.
Chapter eight, "Time for Vacation - 2nd Semester", We return to Class 3-E, stood in a field with Koro Sensei. Finally realising the gravity of the task they've been set, the students of The End Class are left unsure of the path ahead.
Chapter nine, "Time for doubts", Winter break over, the students all return to class. But time away has allowed them a chance to think about what they wish to do... and a bold plan has been formulated.
Oooh boy, that was something, wasn't it? I've been waiting since about the second volume to find out Koro Sensei's backstory and now we have it, and I'm sad. I understand so much more now, and kinda wish I didn't because I know it's going to make the inevitable end of this series hurt so much worse. So, yeah. Thanks for that Matsui...
This volume is basically one long backstory, filling in the great mystery of Koro Sensei's past, and answering a HUGE amount of questions. Which is to say, it was freakin awesome and I loved it.
The volume begins by telling us a little of Mini Koro, when he was just a child living in... a real shit-hole. It seems the only lesson young Koro learned in all his years there was that everything dies. From this lesson, he found his path in life: Shepherding people to their ultimate end, as quickly as possible. Thus, he earned the title "The Grim Reaper". Along the way, he found a young protege, who he figured he would teach everything to... that student then betrayed him, because of COURSE he did.
That dickhead student was none other than the faux Grim Reaper that the class encounted a few volumes back. I'm guessing that he didn't know that the "Koro Sensei" he was attempting to kill was in fact the same person he had betrayed so many moons ago. Either that, or he just didn't want to spoil the big reveal for us...
Either way, it was a great insight into the mindset of Koro Sensei, in his early days. His first attempt at teaching was such a colossal failure, because he didn't attempt to actually KNOW his student, and just tried to mold them into a cheap copy of himself, resulting in his angry and upset student betraying him. It very much feels like this failure, once it was brought to his attention by Ms Yukimura, is the core of Koro Sensei's new teaching philosophy. Ms Yukimura showed him that you can't be a teacher if you just try to make everyone follow your rules, and ignore what makes THEM special. Koro Sensei, looking back on his past failings through this lens, knew exactly what to do, to improve himself when he became the teacher for 3-E. He wouldn't make the same mistakes again!
This arc comes in STARK contrast to Asano's rather tepid backstory last volume, where on realising that he'd made a mistake in how he taught his first students, decided that the best path was just to be an asshole to everyone and teach generations of children to be just as bad as the people that took his first students from him.
This, once again, illustrates the fundamental difference between the otherwise very similar Koro Sensei and Principal Asano. Koro Sensei sees that he made a mistake, and tries to be a better, more accepting person so he doesn't fail the world again. Asano makes a very similar mistake and hardens his heart, so that he can beat the world into a shape that works for him.
One of these paths leads to creating well rounded students, who grow to be productive adults and improve the world. The other creates serial killers. Ironically, it's the Assassination Classroom, that creates the nicer students.
Speaking of teaching people not to be assholes... In this volume we're introduced to the walking stereotype Ms Yukimura. Who is so sweet, I'm pretty sure reading her chapters gave me diabetes. We've seen little glimpses of her in flashbacks up to this point, and we saw a good amount of her last volume when he found out that she was Kayano's older sister, but now we stop seeing her through other people's eyes, and get to meet the person behind the impact.
And yeah... she's not great. I'm not going to lie, I really loved this whole arc, but the romance between Yukikura and Koro felt... well, are you familiar with Stockholm Syndrome? No, not the song by Welsh whine-rock Impresarios Muse, but the psycological condition where a kidnap victim will eventually come to empathise or even have romantic feelings towards their kidnapper.
That's what happened, here. Except kind of in reverse. Which doesn't make it any better.
I don't know if it's just because we're shown very little of the growth, but the feelings between Yukimura and Koro just feel so... rushed. Honestly, it feels like the only reason Koro even HAS feelings for Yukimura is because she's the first person he's met that he hasn't either had to murder, or has been paying him to murder someone else. And, on the flipside, to me it felt like the only reason Yukimura had feelings for Koro Sensei is because her fiance was professional douche-nozzle Doctor Yanagisawa, who seems to interact with her purely through hitting her in the head. Not exactly the model of a healthy relationship...
I kinda wish we'd been able to see something more of Ms Yukimura. She's such a pivotal figure in this series, it feels like she deserved a little agency that wasn't being Yanagisawa's punching bag, or Koro Sensei's muse. Sadly, while we had a whole volume to work with, there was a lot to fit in and Yukimura took the brunt of that. Basically existing to show Koro Sensei the value of a nice teacher and then get fridged so that he can steal her job.
Speaking of professional crazy eyed lunatic Doctor Yanagisawa... You may not recognise the name, but you'll absolutely recognise his face! Yup, it seems out boy Shiro finally has a backstory and it's somehow even creepier than we ever could have imagined, for a guy that is constantly being a creeper. I guess, now we know why he called himself Kayano's Big Brother last week, and also why he's so pissed at Koro Sensei and seems hellbelt on his destruction. Not going to lie, I already disliked the character and couldn't wait to see Koro Sensei beat him down, but now that we know all about how much of an asshole he is, I'm really excited to see his inevitable defeat. I hope we don't have to wait too long.
So, yeah. Remember last volume when I was all "Hey, Koro Sensei told the class that he's dying, because that will make it easier for them to kill him." yeah, turns out I was SUPER wrong. fun times.
You see, one of the bigger reveals we got this volume was the truth behind the destruction of the moon. Turns out, it actually wasn't Koro Sensei flexing his powers. It was a turbocharged rat who had reached the end of his cell division and due to Shiro's meddling, this caused it to explode... I don't understand the science either, is it even real science? I'm guessing not.
Either way, it means that Koro Sensei is TECHNICALLY innocent of that great act of destruction. However, it also means that when he reaches the end of HIS divisional days, he's going to go boom. Guess what? That happens on Graduation Day! And Buffy thought her graduation ceremony was rough...
But, of course, if Koro Sensei is killed BEFORE that can happen, then there's no boom. And thus, the purpose of the Assassination Classroom is revealed. Koro Sensei wants to die at their hands, before he reaches the point that he explodes and destroys the whole world. Which is oddly sweet, in a mass murdery kind of way.
There's only one problem. Koro Sensei has done too good of a job with his teaching. The End Class are no longer the burned out deliquents that Kunugigaoka once thought they were. In fact they've come to care for their teacher, and their classmates quite a bit. So much so, in fact, that they're willing to risk the world, and give up on that huge bounty that they're being offered, in order to try and save Koro Sensei instead.
It all SEEMS really sweet. And if this were a normal Manga, I'd probably think that there was a good chance they could pull it off. But this is Assassination Classroom, and Matsui has shown us that he is more than comfortable reaching into our heart and pulling it right out, when he chooses to. I have no doubt that with their combined intellect, Class 3-E could probably find a way to save Koro Sensei. Probably. But there are two huge problems with that:
1: If they fail, the world pays the price.
2: I don't think Koro Sensei wants them too.
So, whether they succeed or now. I can see a scene in the sadly all too close future, when they're desperately trying to save Koro Sensei, as the last few seconds of term tick away, and he's trying to convince them to kill him... and they do.
and it's going to hurt us, far more than it hurts him.
Overall, Volume 16 was another incredible strong entry into what is rapidly becoming a favourite series of mine. A few quibbles and some minor psycological disorders aside, Koro Sensei's backstory was very strong, answered a lot of questions and set us up for what promises to be a heartbreaking ending. While I would have liked to see a little more from Ms Yukimura, it doesn't take too much away from a solid, if a little cliche tale or tragedy that fleshes out Koro Sensei as a character, while also showing just how much of a tool Principal Asano is, and how creepy Shiro is. Can't ask for more than that!
If you want to ask for more, join me next time for Assassination Classroom Volume 17: Time for a breakup, collecting chapters 143-151. The class is divided: one half wants to carry on with the plan to assassinate Koro Sensei, while the other half wants to save him. So Koro Sensei splits them into two teams, led by Nagisa and Karma, and has them battle it out. The students of 3-E draw on everything they’ve learned so far to battle for or against Koro Sensei’s life! Then, to uphold their now unified goal, they need to infiltrate the International Space Station…
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.