Assassination Classroom Volume 19: Time to go to school, collecting chapters 161-169. Story and art by Yusei Matsui.
Last Volume, we delved deep into how Japan celebrates Valentine's Day, by obsessing over chocolates, and Karasuma pulled off the slickest line in the series' history, to ask out Ms Vitch. Then, when we were all distracted by the candy and the humour, they hit us with a couple of incredibly important chapters, the ol' Bait and Switch strikes again! Let's see what horrors await us, in this week's lessons...
Chapter one, "Time for pride", finds Karma learning a valuable lesson about NOT flipping out and kicking the stuffing out of people, when he attempts to rescue a schoolmate from yet another roving band of delinquents, harassing women in the street.
Chapter two, "Time for memories", sees the super relaxed Koro Sensei come up with another idea to waste a bunch of time... a yearbook! No, not the official one, he wasn't in that... a special one, just for The End Class, filled with lots of pictures Koro Sensei has taken. Because he's a creeper.
Chapter three, "Time for decisions", begins with everyone exhausted after a trip around the world, to take lots more pictures for the yearbook. And then, after we've all been lulled into a false sense of security, everything goes SO wrong, SO FREAKIN' FAST.
Chapter four, "Time for chaos", sees the government's plan go into effect. Locking Koro Sensei in the classroom, turning the public against him, and keeping the students as far away from him as possible. Things aren't looking too good, for our favourite octo-boss.
Chapter five, "Time for convincing arguments", finds Karasuma and the students of The End Class desperately trying to get in to see Koro Sensei. But between the government, the press, and some familiar faces, it seems that the world is against them.
Chapter six, "Time for confusion", sees Class 3-E locked up and seemingly contained. It also introduces us to the world's Greatest Mercenary.... Craig. Nope. Sorry. Can't take him seriously. Dude's name is CRAIG.
Chapter seven, "Time for trust," shows off the best of Class 3-E, and their teachers! As the overlooked Ms Vitch puts her best asset to work, breaking the students out. But, that was only the first barrier, and now the REAL challenge begins.
Chapter eight, "Time to blossom", free of their prison, Class 3-E must get to Koro Sensei. The only problem is the forest full of angry, well armed mercenaries, and their evil leader, the "terrifying" Craig.
Chapter nine, "Time to go to school", wraps the volume up with a bang. As the students of the End Class go mano a mano with the fierce warrior Craig. Can they overcome his overwhelming Craigness and get to Koro Sensei, before it's too late?
And, with one last punch to the gut, the volume ends, and we're all left on the edge of our seats, and maybe with a few tears beginning to gather, because we're approaching the end and WHAT THE FUCK...
Wow... be careful what you wish for, I guess? I've been saying for the last couple of volumes that Matsui needs to can the filler and start building toward some kind of endgame. Yeah, turns out he agrees with me. Because this volume starts off semi filler once more; we get a chapter about Karma learning that not all confrontations HAVE to be ended with someone getting punched in the face, and it seems like a fairly standard "Lesson of the Week" type chapter, one we've seen many times before in the series. Except, that the particular gang of thugs that Karma decides NOT to fight also happen to be lead by the fairly scary Mr Hojo that we met last volume... and based on the conversation they have as they're leaving, this was more than a simple case of street harassment. Worrying.
We then proceed to a second seemingly filler chapter, with Koro Sensei deciding that he wants to make a new yearbook for the class, because he wants one that he can actually BE in, since as a genetically enhanced killer octopus, he's not really allowed to appear in the official literature.
So, they spend a couple of chapters zapping about, having some laughs and taking some pictures, it's all kinda sweet but doesn't really matter...
Until the Government decides to blow everything up with their state of the art anti Koro Sensei ion cannon. Because if something's worth doing, it's worth doing with a frickin satellite-mounted ion cannon.
This is the point, where suddenly everything gets a little TOO real. The filler is burned away by a laser from space, an anti-Koro Sensei bubble pops up around everything, and we all just freak out, because holy hell IT'S HAPPENING.
Man, this got interesting in a really scary way. Somehow, the series went from light fluffy chapters about making a yearbook to "Sorry Tony, we're in the endgame now" in two panels. And I've got to say... I'm LOVING it. This is what I've been waiting for for three volumes now. Finally, things are getting SERIOUS and some continuity has arrived!
Of course, that's not to say it's ALL serious. The ongoing joke of no one really caring what the random G-man's name was, and how every time he tries to introduce himself, someone would talk over him and made me laugh every single time... but it hides within it a point that no one seems to want to address:
Look, we all love Koro Sensei. It's impossible to read this far into the series and NOT love him. He's adorable, he's hilarious, and he seems like a genuinely good guy. And it's SUPER awesome that there's next to no chance that he'll actually explode and blow up the world.
But there IS still a chance, that he'll blow up and destroy the whole world. I know 1% does seem like a huge chance, but if I went in for surgery tomorrow and was told there's a 1% chance that I'd die, I'd absolutely need time to consider if I actually needed the procedure.
And this is SO much bigger than that; because it's not just one life we're talking about, it's the whole planet. The simple fact is, while Class 3-E have come a huge way since this year began, and have grown into very intelligent and capable kids... they don't have the authority to make a choice like that, where the whole world could pay the price.
If they're right, sure, great, the world goes on and no one knows how close we came to being UTTERLY FUCKED. But if they're wrong? If that 1% comes up? Yeah. The world is dead. The whole world. Dead. Forever.
I don't know about you, but I've rolled enough Ones on a D100 to know that no matter how small the chance seems, when you need it on your side the most, luck will kick you in the nards and hand you that One.
So, while it does seem harsh, the simple fact is: Koro Sensei HAS to die, and I think the students know that....
Which makes the whole "Lets save Koro Sensei!" arc that we've just had to sit through all the more ridiculous.
So, with the class committed to ending Koro Sensei, and wanting to make sure they're the ones that do it, the next step is clear: Assault the forest, filled with highly trained troops, and try to sneak through. Child's play, really.
Yup, I'm going to rant again, deal with it.
So, it's the big climax. The final infiltration. Class 3-E must sneak through a forest filled with one of the most dangerous mercenary groups in the world. They need to put all their skills to use and attempt to get through, no matter what!
And the whole thing is wrapped up in one chapter.
Giving chocolates? Three chapters.
Playing wargames to make a decision that doesn't really matter? Most of the volume.
Infiltrating a forest filled with super skilled mercenaries, who are trying their absolute hardest to kill or capture you all, in what will probably be the final infiltration sequence of the series? One montage...
This is what I mean, when I say that the pacing in this series needs work. I know we still have a couple of volumes to go, and there are obviously going to be some really great moments coming up. But let's be real here, it'll be Karasuma, Karma, and Nagisa that shine, with Koro Sensei helping for a bit, but then fighting them because we all know that's where this is going to end...
This final sequence would have been the perfect time to highlight how some of the less shown students have evolved. Give them one last chance to show off how great they've become, before the 'main' students get their chance to shine in the big finale.
Sadly, we instead got a criminally short montage of students using fun and inventive ways to utterly ruin the day of some highly trained mercs, before everyone dog-piled onto Craig to take him down and wrap up the arc (I would give bonus points to anyone who can guess who got the final hit on Mr Craig, but we all know who it was...).
Then, as the students confront Koro Sensei, for what may be the final time, we get one last sneaky hit in.
just when we're feeling a little safe, thinking we know what's next, the volume ends with one last sting in the tail:
I'd forgotten about these two. In all the chaos of the Government putting their plan into action, and the students trying to save Koro Sensei, so they can be the ones to kill him, I'd absolutely forgotten about the THIRD party that are committed to Koro Sensei's demise. Freakin Shiro and Second Generation. Things are about to get ugly. Can't wait to see it!
Overall, this was an EXCELLENT volume, delivering just the right levels of humour, drama, and development, just when the series needed it most. It wasn't a perfect volume, but it was damn close. Even though only a couple of volumes were given to the almost martial law lockdown of the city, and the students sudden rise to national fame, it was brilliantly handled and you could REALLY feel the tension and dark energy that had filled the city. Seeing the press go borderline feral, badgering the kids with such obviously loaded questions and all but ignoring or discounting their answers sets the mood so perfectly that you can feel exactly what they're going through.
Even as a reader, totally distanced from the situation, I found myself really getting stressed and angry at the press and the government officials, for the obvious half truths and misinformation they willingly spread. I'm sure this has nothing to do with my reaction towards recent real world events, or any world government mishandling any worldwide crisis or anything. It's just really good writing.
I was a little worried, after the last few volumes, that this great series would end with a whimper, when it deserves to go out with an almighty crash. But with this one volume, Matsui has convinced me that he's saved the best for last, and this series will get the ending it deserves!
If you want to see if i'm right, join me next time for the penultimate volume of Assassination Classroom Volume 20: Time to graduate, collecting chapters 170-177! The battle for Koro Sensei's life against a multinational operation's soldiers and weaponry is difficult enough, but now his creator, mad scientist Yanagisawa, and and his former protégé, Grim Reaper II, join the battle to destroy him – and they've both had major enhancements! But the stakes abruptly change when a 3-E student is fatally caught in the crossfire... If there's one thing that enrages 3-E's teacher, it's harming — let alone killing — his students! Koro Sensei's fury and ingenuity know no bounds, even as fate inexorably catches up to him...
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.
So, trapped in a cage, knowing his death is approaching, Koro Sensei decides to spend the last of his time making the yearbooks for his students.
I'm not crying... It's close, but I'm not.