Assassination Classroom Volume 2 'Time for Grown-ups'.
Collecting Chapters 8-16. Story and Art by Yusei Matsui.
Last time, we began our latest COMICS RETROSPECTIVE adventure with a new series featuring manga, starting with Assassination Classroom (2012-2016). The frankly quite bizarre tale of Koro Sensei, a possible alien who seems to have superpowers, and has promised to destroy the world, if the class he teaches (3-E) can't kill him before they graduate. This volume, we meet our newest teacher, struggle with exams, and go on a slightly dodgy school trip. Should be fun!
Chapter one, "Time for Titillation," sees the introduction of new 'English Language Teacher' Irina Jelavich. But while Koro Sensei may be rather... taken with her, the students of Class 3-E don't find her arrival QUITE as welcome.
Chapter two, "Time for Grown-ups," finds Ms Jelavich making lots of friends amongst the students. She also makes her first attempt on Koro Sensei's life. It... it does not go well. At all.
Chapter three, "Time to send in the pros," finds Ms Irina finally starting to understand the way things work, in Class 3-E. Even if she still doesn't understand its mysterious teacher...
Chapter four, "Assembly Time," illustrates, with perfect clarity, why Kunugigaoka Junior High is the freaking worst. As we find out more about the other students, and faculty, and what they think of The End Class.
Chapter five, "Time to see the Principal," as you would imagine, introduces us to the Principal of Kunugigaoka Junior High, Gakuho Asano. And, as you would imagine, the guy is an absolute toolbag. Shocker!
Chapter six, "Plenty of time to study," finds the students of 3-E preparing for their mid-term exams. But when they inform Koro Sensei that they're not really bothered about passing... he does not take the news well.
Chapter seven "It's time for a test," sees the students of 3-E take their mid-terms. But when they find a surprise addition to the tests, things go wrong, very quickly.
Chapter eight, "Time for a school trip," finds the students taking a well-deserved rest after the horrors of their exams, and taking a trip to Kyoto! Which, of course, makes this the perfect time for Irina and the students to attempt to assassinate Koro Sensei, and claim the bounty!
Chapter nine, "In trouble Big-time," Sees the assassination plan of The End Class students go into effect! Yup, they've planned for everything. Except for some rather nasty high-schoolers...
And that's where Volume 2 ends! Talk about a cliffhanger, eh?
Volume 2 was a definite step up from the first. The basic "getting to know you!" world-building is all handled, meaning we're able to just jump right in and go on some freakin adventures. Always a good thing!
There are three main arcs, this volume, so let's jump right in and start discussing them!
First off: We have another new teacher at Kunugigaoka Junior High! This time round, it's the beautiful but deadly Irina Jelavich... Who the students immediately dub "Mrs Hellabitch." It's explained that this is due to a quirk in the Japanese language, which means that they're not great at pronouncing the letter V... but honestly, that feels like an excuse. Especially when you take into account that Ms Irina IS kind of a bitch, to start off.
And therein lies the crux of this arc: Irina is there to kill Koro Sensei. She doesn't really give a damn about the students, except as a source of information. Koro Sensei, however, is a fantastic teacher, despite being some kind of superpowered squid monster.
But he's not JUST there to teach the students. And over the course of her arc, and fueled by her failed attempt to kill her target, Irina is slowly won over by the students, and gradually becomes something vaguely resembling an actual teacher.
It's yet another example of the strangely wholesome nature of this series. I'm not sure how it continues to surprise me, but it does! And nowhere moreso, than in the second major arc...
Kunugigaoka Junior High is terrible, as is everyone that works there!
It's school assembly time! Which, apparently, means that Class 3-E have to walk down the mountain they study on, get all the way to the main hall and skip lunch... just so that the other students can mock them, and the teachers join in! WTF?
In the same arc, we're introduced to Gakuho Asano, Principal of Kunugigaoka Junior High and utter tool. It seems that the mistreatment of The End Class is his idea. He believes that if the other classes have someone to look down on, someone they NEVER want to become... then that will make them work harder.
While this would ordinarily be moderately harmful nonsense, that sacrifices the future of one class to save them all... it's taken to the next level when you realise that he's not content just to passively let them suffer, but actually ACTIVELY works against them.
This is seen in a variety of little ways, during the volume, but at its most blatant it features him literally changing the questions that will be covered on the exams, and not telling Koro Sensei. So even after working like demons in preparation, the class still do terribly in their exams.
I've got to say... the whole "Teacher/person in power fudges the rules to make the protagonists lose" trope is one of my least favourite. I'm fine with protagonists losing. If they're outmatched, outplanned, or just plain outdone, there's some honor in that. They tried their best, but didn't quite hit the mark. You can't hold that against anyone. Especially if it's used as impetus for character growth and plot progression. But it frustrates me when you see characters lose because it's clear they're meant to. Because the plot requires them to stay where they are, but the writer doesn't want them to just suck at what they're doing.
So, instead, we sit through all the kids studying, Koro Sensei working hard to teach them, they get into the exam, overcome their stress, and use the skills he taught them to do their best! But they still fail, because the deck was SO stacked against them, they might as well have not bothered. Which is exactly how it leaves the reader feeling: Why bother? What was the POINT of the last two chapters, if all the work and growth we saw, was undercut?
But the students of Class 3-E are nothing, if not resilient. So, they move on as if nothing had gone wrong, and we enter the third and final arc of the volume.
Class trips are DANGEROUS.
Time for a relaxing class trip, to Kyoto! YAY. There isn't a huge amount to say about this arc, it mostly feels like set-up for what I'm assuming will be the conclusion in the next volume. The students travel to Kyoto, take in a few sites, and plan to assassinate their teacher, using various well-placed snipers with high-powered rifles. You know, normal school trip stuff.
However, all of these plans are almost instantly shelved, as the students run afoul of some high school deadbeats, who knock out the boys and kidnap the girls, so they can go and do some karaoke.
Not the BEST start to a class trip, really. I'm guessing the point of this arc was to inject a little jeopardy into the story, and show that while they may be fairly skilled assassins in training, there's no match for a steel pipe delivered with crushing accuracy to the back of the head. We also get to learn a little more about a student that we've not really met before now, Yukiko Kanzaki. Who is seems likes to hang out in arcades, which is what drew the attention of our High School harrier. uh oh...
I mean, I know this manga is meant to be for "older teens" but I'm guessing nothing TOO terrible will happen to the kidnapped students, which leads me to wonder what the point of this arc is...
Except, there's a good chance it'll give Koro Sensei an opportunity to show off how freakin brutal he can be, when angered. Which we've not really seen, yet...
Speaking of our adorable murder octopus, we found out a few more hints about him, this volume. Well, really one big one. It seems, he originally set out to be a hero, but failed somehow, and that's what lead him to his current "Kill me, or I'll destroy the world" plan...
This leads me to one obvious conclusion: Koro Sensei wants to save the world. He tried to save the world, he couldn't save the world. But he still WANTS to. So, he's gone to his backup plan:
If you can't save the world, what do you do? Save a small group of people, and make the world a nicer place, going forward.
So, that's exactly what I think he's doing. He knows that he can't affect change on a grand scale, for whatever reason. So, he's picked a small class of students with a lot of potential and huge amounts stacked against them... and he's doing everything in his powers to make their lives better. Hoping that they'll pay it forward, and he'll slowly save the world that way.
It is, in my opinion, quite possibly the most wholesome reason for threatening to blow up the world. Which is quite appropriate, for a series like this...
Overall, Assassination Classroom continues to be a solid series. It's not the best thing I've ever read, but I'm enjoying the story. The characters and character development continues to be fairly strong. I just hope soon we get a plot arc that actually uses those characters to their maximum potential.
So, if you're excited to continue this adventure with me, join me next week for Assassination Classroom Volume 3: "Time for a transfer student." The latest addition to the misfit students of Class 3-E is a Norwegian robot specially designed to assassinate their teacher, but sadly lacking in social skills. Nothing Koro Sensei can't cure with a little super-fast tentacle work! When playboy Maehara gets dissed by a girl for being in Class 3-E, revenge is clearly warranted, and Koro Sensei can help with that too! Then Irina, the English language teacher/sexy assassin, gets a visit from her murder mentor.