Assassination Classroom Volume 14: Time for a teacher exam, collecting chapters 116-124. Story and art by Yusei Matsui.
Last volume saw the fabled Grim Reaper find out just why so many assassins have tried and failed to take down Koro Sensei. And, as one of the longest and coolest arcs in the series so far wound to its conclusion, the students of Class 3-E decided to relax a little, by opening a stall selling noodles at their school Festival. Which, of course, has now turned into a big thing. Mostly because the Principal of Kunugigaoka is a freakin tool. Let's see how he ruins everything, this week.
Chapter one, "Time for guests," sees a gaggle of familiar faces turn up, to try out Class 3-E's acorn dipping noodles. Everyone's here! From those delinquents that kidnapped some of the female students, to Yuri, the guy with a crush on Nagisa, because he think's Nagisa's a girl, to the young girl that Nagisa is mentoring. It's a pretty fun bunch.
Chapter two, "Time for an unexpected guest," sees Nagisa's "date" with Yuji take an odd turn... as all the previous master assassins that have tried and failed to kill Koro Sensei turn up, to instead enjoy his noodles! And an embarrassing truth leads to an unexpected surge in popularity, for the stall!
Chapter three, "Time for fate," finds Class 3-E's stall come to its natural end. However, their mission was accomplished, and that has REALLY upset Principal Asano. Because he's a dick. And as expected, this causes the rift between him and Asano Jr to grow ever wider.
Chapter four, "Time for final exams - 2nd period." Principal Asano takes a direct hand in preparing Class 3-A for the exams, which feels like cheating. He also forces the wedge between him and his son even deeper, leading to fairly predictable results.
Chapter five, "Time for bloodlust," sees battle lines drawn and the troops assembled. The final exam is here and with it, the final showdown between these fierce rivals. Koro Sensei vs Principal Asano. Karma vs Asano Jr. Terasaka vs Himself. Who will win, and will anyone be left standing?
Chapter six, "Time for a solution." The exams are well underway, and they're more brutal than anyone could have foreseen. But, with the best students in each class so perfectly matched. . . it all comes down to the lower ends of the scale, to see who can lift themselves the highest.
Chapter seven, "Time to think outside the box," with most of the students burnt out, only two remain to answer the final question: Karma vs Asano Jr. Two wildly different schools of thought... and only one can be victorious! Who will take the final question, and the top spot in the exams!
Chapter eight, "Time for a malfunction." The class rankings are revealed! Class 3-E sweeps the board, with every member ranking in the top 50, and Karma taking the #1 spot! Needless to say, Principal Asano is less than pleased, and his revenge is as swift as it is brutal.
Chapter nine, "Time for a teacher's Exam," as we all silently give thanks that the volume didn't end with that last chapter, Principal Asano offers Koro Sensei a seemingly one-sided deal, that Koro Sensei has absolutely no chance of winning. Because apparently, he's not been paying attention to anything that has happened in this series so far.
Well, that was certainly something, wasn't it? The volume starts off with a soft and fluffy trip down memory lane, with a bunch of faces, including a few we thought we'd seen the last of, returning to say hi, and everyone ends up happy, thanks to the power of acceptance and noodles. And then with no warning at all it's a life or death struggle for the future of Class 3-E, and grenades are exploding in people's faces. Welcome to Assassination Classroom, where exams are literally a matter of life and death!
This volume is split into two main arcs, "Noodles Save The World," and "Exams Are Hell," so I'll cover them in order, because the first one was mostly fluff and there's very little to say about it.
So, once again this volume picks up right where the previous one left off, with the school festival in full swing! Those burnouts that kidnapped everyone before have shown up, fully intent on trashing the place online, to get revenge for before. . . but they hadn't counted on the food being amazing! Shocker. Other than some low key shade being thrown at rival manga Shokugeki no Souma, there's actually very little to say. This is basically the Manga equivalent of a sitcom running a clip show. There's very little plot advancement and most of the arc is about bringing back old characters we've not seen in a while and seeing how they've been getting along.
But, this IS still Assassination Classroom, so of course there was a wholesome sting in the tail. As Yuji, AKA that guy that thought Nagisa was a girl, returns to see his special lady. After conning him out of a bunch of money on their date, Nagisa confesses and Yuji leaves, despondent. Aww, so sad, right?
Well, not really. It turns out that this revelation was exactly what Yuji needed to hear. The next day, the queue for 3-E's stall runs right down the mountain. It turns out, Yuji is now one of the most popular food bloggers in Japan, using his vast wealth and free time to fly around the world, trying food and letting us all know how it is. His latest blog entry? Telling the world how amazing the food is, at 3-E's stall. Yay!
I mean, it's not exactly an amazing moral. There are far better things that a spoiled rich guy could do with his money than tell people about amazing restaurants that they have neither the time nor money to visit... but I guess it's the best we can hope for from him, and was a decent way to end the arc with Class 3-E doing well for themselves, ending the festival in third place. Of course, speaking of privilege, Class 3-A lead by the pampered Asano Jr., rank first
But, apparently, that's not good enough for Principal Asano. Because even though they only came third, that's high enough that once more people are starting to admire The End Class, and that's bad for his evil plan...
Which leads nicely into the second and by far more interesting of the two arcs this volume: The final exam is here!
There are only three months left, until Koro Sensei's deadline, and it's time for the final exams. There's only one problem: After months of losing out and being embarrassed by 3-E, Principal Asano is PISSED. So, he's taking a direct hand in both the setting of the exams, and the teaching beforehand. Which seems a little questionable to me, but it seems that's the one way Asano DOESN'T like to cheat, so we're fine.
But, funny enough, even stacking everything in his favour, Asano finds himself falling short. As Class 3-E does the unthinkable and aces the exam. Every single student places in the top 50 and Karma takes the top spot! Who'd have guessed?
I really loved this arc, because it highlights something that I've mentioned a few times before: Namely, the stark similarities between Principal Asano and Koro Sensei. Both are brilliant teachers, able to lift their classes to heights that no one could have expected.
But there is one fundamental difference, and it's the one that allows Koro Sensei to win out, in the end!
Principal Asano has a very set, very strict idea of what he thinks Teaching is, and should be. He has a rigid set of rules and will batter and browbeat any student, until they fit that mold. This is a brutal, but efficient way to get a large group ready for set exams. It's basically the model that schools currently use, but taken to an extreme end. It's a method which forces everyone to think the same way, but can lead to extreme burnout, when students that aren't suited to that way of thinking are forced into it.
Then, you have Koro Sensei. Koro Sensei does not teach in any manner, that can be considered formal or strict. In fact, a lot of what he teaches can't really be considered a lesson of any kind. What he DOES do, though, and what has proven to be so effective, is to find methods to relate each subject to the students, allowing the knowledge to grow naturally in their minds.
I studied history all the way up to A-level. Ended up dropping it, because while I enjoyed the subject, the particular course material at college just didn't interest me. There was no connection there, and none of the information was able to stick in my mind.
Meanwhile, at that very same time, I was OBSESSED with the "Samurai Warriors" video game franchise (I still am, honestly). Ask me about any detail of the eras I studied in college, and it'll be a real struggle for me to bring anything to mind.
Then, follow up with a question about the history of the Feudal era of Japanese history, or the life of Miyamoto Musashi, and I hope you brought snacks, because I'll be talking for a WHILE.
This is the secret to teaching, that Koro Sensei understands, and Principal Asano will never be able to grasp. It's not about changing the student, to fit the material, it's about finding a way to make the material fit for the student. It's a much harder way to teach, because it requires a huge amount of micro-managing, but the end results are vastly superior AND leave the student feeling better about themselves. Which, I think we can all agree, is the best possible outcome!
Except, of course, if your name is Principal Asano, and your whole plan for the future rests on taking your twisted teaching methods across the country...
So, naturally, he does what he does best, and abuses his power to get his own way. Setting up a twisted game, worthy of Jigsaw himself, that sees Koro Sensei needing to solve problems at lightning speed, or risk an Anti-Koro Sensei grenade to the face! Things look pretty grim, until you remember that this is Koro Sensei, so of course he finds a way out of it...
Which leaves Asano free to open the last book and answer the question contained therein, all before a grenade goes off in his face. Gulp.
But that leads me somewhere interesting.
As you can see above, we got another brief glimpse into what I'm assuming is Koro Sensei's past. And as always it raises more questions than it answers. who is the lady in the lab coat? Why does Koro Sensei look so... traditionally proportioned in that image? When are we going to get some ACTUAL answers? (please be soon...)
Then, as he stares at a live grenade, less than a second before it goes off, we see an image of Asano looking, believe it or not, HAPPY. Surrounded by smiling kids, that seem to actually LIKE him!
Which raises the question: What happened to Asano; or more likely, those smiling children, to turn him from the smiling nice teacher Asano into the borderline monster Principal Asano?
I have a feeling that next volume we'll get a bit of backstory, definitely for Asano and hopefully for Koro Sensei, as well.
You see, I have a theory. The similarities between the two teachers are too huge for it to simply be a case of "Differing teaching styles at war!"
I have a feeling that we're going to find out that both Asano and Koro Sensei used to be fairly similar people. Then, both were struck with tragedy. For Koro Sensei, it will be whatever turned him into the super-squid we know and love today, and for Asano it will be something horrible happening to his students.
This will set up the arc of "How different people react to tragedy." We'll see how losing everything taught Koro Sensei to be kinder and to embrace the differences that make people fun and unique. Then, we'll see how a similar tragedy turned Asano into the cold bastard we see today, who doesn't care for the individual cogs, as long as the machine continues to grind forwards.
I only have one problem with that... I'm getting REALLY bored of 'redeemed' villains, and tragic backstories that explain why horrible people do bad things. I want a villain who is an asshole because they love being as asshole and it suits their agenda. I don't want to find out that Asano is only mean now because he lost someone and that turned him bitter. I want to find out that he's an ass now and always has been, because his only goal in life is to be a winner and nothing else matters to him. It's just starting to feel like people give villains tragic backstories, because it's an easy way to make us feel for them, and make them seem "more real."
Spoiler warning: Some people are just assholes. They just ARE. There's no reason for it. No greater motive behind it all. They're just... assholes. Celebrate that. Find a way to make THAT relatable and interesting. Don't fall back on "He's mean now, but really he's just sad. Awwwww."
You can't see it, but I'm playing a tiny violin.
Overall, Volume 14 was fun. The Noodle arc was basically filler, but it was nice to see some old faces again and there was some solid character development. The final exam arc was excellent and really highlighted the warring schools of thought between Asano and Koro Sensei. I hope they build on this soon, and give us some backstory for both. But no tragic nonsense. Be better.
If you want to see how wrong all my theories are, come back next time for Assassination Classroom Volume 15: Time for a storm, collecting chapters 125-133. Several secret pasts are finally revealed this volume: The tragedy that led Principal Asano to develop his harsh—some would say brutal, sadistic and inhumane—pedagogical methods (FFS, what did I JUST SAY?), the relationship that gives one 3-E student a personal motivation to assassinate her teacher, and even Koro Sensei’s origin story! Will the students be more or less motivated to assassinate their teacher after they know his former secret identity? And what lengths will shy Nagisa go to in order to rein in the student who wants to get revenge on Koro Sensei? Also, it’s time for lunch theater! Which member of 3-E will be the star?
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.