Assassination Classroom Volume 6: Swim Time, collecting chapters 44-52.
Story and art by Yusei Matsui.
Last time, another new teacher joined Class 3-E. His name was Akira Takaoka and he was the freaking worst. Thankfully, when the fate of Class 3-E came to rest solely on the shoulders of young Nagisa, he STEPPED UP, and saved the day. Awww yeah. Class 3-E teacher Koro Sensei celebrated by building the class a new pool. Which they immediately decided to use in their assassination attempts. Koro Sensei was totally fine with this. Let's see if their plans pay off!
Chapter one, "Time to Drown," introduces us to Female Class Rep Meg Kataoka, also known as 'Motivated Meg'. She's a smart, friendly girl, who is also a fantastic swimmer, and helps to tutor other students... So how the hell did she end up in Class 3-E?
Chapter two, "Swim Time," sees Koro Sensei's plan go into motion, to teach the conniving Kokona how to swim, and get her to leave Kataoka alone! But can a fish change its stripes? Or a similar analogy that makes sense, but also references marine life.
Chapter three, "Time for Terasaka," introduces us to Class 3-E's resident delinquent, Terasaka. He doesn't like Koro Sensei, and hates that 3-E has become something other than a place for him to relax and kill time until he leaves school and gets a boring job. But he's not the only person that wants to see Koro Sensei gone...
Chapter four, "Time for a vision," finds Shiro Sensei and Itoma's plan go into action. But, when Terasaka realises that he's been duped, Class 3-E's betrayed switches sides once more...
Chapter five, "Time to do the deed," featuring Koro Sensei vs Itoma, round 2! but with so many students in danger, Koro Sensei is unable to focus on the fight. When things are looking bad for everyone's favourite octopus, can the students come together, and save themselves?
Chapter six, "Time for the front line," the big fight concludes, the students utilise all their strengths to enact a cunning strategy, and once more try to save the day... but is there more going on here than they realise?
Chapter seven, "Final exam time." The end of the first semester is rapidly approaching, and that means it's exam time! Learning from his mistakes at Mid-term, Koro Sensei decides on far more accurate goals, for his students. And with it, a reward they WON'T want to pass up! Only one thing stands in their way: Class A, and its fabled "Top 5", lead by the Principal's son, Gakusho Asano!
Chapter eight, "Time to let the son shine," in addition to being some pretty clever wordplay, tells us more about our new least favourite character Gakusho and his seemingly strained relationship with his father. Also, the students of Class 3-E make a dangerous bet, on the outcome of the exams!
Chapter nine, "Time for the ace," sees the stakes raised even higher, as Gakusho gets wind of the bet, and drafts a particularly evil contract, that outlines the rules of the bet. Can Class 3-E win out, even with so much stacked against them? You'll have to come back next time to find out!
Now, that's how you do a cliffhanger!
Volume six was probably the strongest so far, for me. All three arcs were interesting, and we're starting to see something akin to an ongoing story show up, can't fault it! Plus, we had a whole volume go by without any new teachers or students joining the class, that was nice!
This volume, we got backstory on two students, that we'd not really met before.
Firstly, there was a swimming-based story, which sort of wrapped up last week's final arc. We're introduced to class rep Meg, who is just SUPER nice to everyone, and really smart and funny and kind and good at sports... so, of course, she's being blackmailed, because bad things always happen to good people.
Thankfully, when that happens to a member of Class 3-E, Koro Sensei is there to do something borderline illegal to make it better.
This arc was... hilariously insane. In many ways, it was the perfect example of what Assassination Classroom is about. One of the students is in trouble, so Koro Sensei steps in to help, but at the same time, the class are all trying to kill him, using information that they've gained from helping him teach one of their classmates about their own value, and how to improve their life. Meanwhile, Koro Sensei bumbles about like a cephalopod Inspector Clouseau, somehow always managing to counter their plans, seemingly without even trying.
It's a delicate balance to maintain, but so far Matsui's managing it, making each successive attempt improve on the last, showing growth from the students, but allowing Koro Sensei to find some unpredictably stupid way to foil their plans. All the while without seeming too... schticky, and always putting in just enough "Serious Koro is serious" breadcrumbs, to make sure the reader is aware that while he may play the fool, he's a lot smarter than he likes to pretend.
The second new student is Terasaka, the archetypal Manga delinquent. A typical middle management, salary man type, he was quite happy to just flunk his way through school and be done with it all... but, of course, Koro Sensei is having none of that!
This arc could have been a fairly standard "And the Koro Sensei helped the student learn, and now they're nice!" story. We've seen it a bunch of times now and it's usually fairly decent. However, Terasaka wasn't content just to mess about, he wanted to REALLY screw stuff up.
Enter, Itoma! Yup, Koro Sensei's freaky cyborg brother is back! Along with his mysterious mentor Shiro Sensei (a play on words, based on the figure's habit of always wearing a white robe. Shiro is Japanese for 'White'). It seems they've been spending their time wisely, since we saw them a few volumes back: Itoma is now stronger, faster, and SO much creepier. Also, they've used their man on the inside, Terasaka, to tilt the playing field even further in their favor.
But there's one thing they hadn't counted on: The magical power of FrIeNdShIp!
Yup. They went there...
There's a long-running joke, that all any anime hero needs to beat their opponent, no matter how strong they may seem, is the power of friendship. Hiro Mashima's long-running Shonen series Fairy Tale was particularly bad for this.
Thankfully, Matsui doesn't lean TOO heavily on this. But, once Itoma's evil plan to blow up the swimming pool and put his classmates in danger is revealed, and Terasaka starts to realise that he MIGHT just be on the wrong side, he swaps sides again and lends fellow deadbeat-turned-model-student Karma a hand, to save the day.
This arc was far better than it should have been. Everything about it is so painfully cliche, it SHOULD have been a frakkin disaster. Thankfully, the fight between Koro Sensei and Itoma was great, and Terasaka's slow realisation that he's actually NOT a scumbag wasn't too cheesy. Then, seeing the students all rally together, using Karma's brains, Terasaka's brawn, and what appears to be a collection of water containers scavenged from a rubbish dump, Class 3-E are successful, and the evil Itoma is banished... for now.
BUT, just when we think everything is happily concluded, Matsui hits us with a stinger. Just what is it, that everyone has overlooked? Something more important that Koro Sensei's huge weakness to water? is it something to do with the mysterious liquid that Itoma had added to the lake? Or the bug bomb that Terasaka used? I'll be honest, this part is really bugging me, because I'm usually great at spotting these little clues, but I totally missed this one.
It's these little hints towards The Greater Mystery that make this volume so strong. Itoma and Shiro Sensei's return, combined with the way this arc ends, leads me to believe that there's something big coming, and I just can't see what it is. I both love and hate being in the dark like this...
I'm not sure why, but I have a feeling Itoma will soon swap sides too, and find common ground with his "brother" Koro Sensei. Shiro Sensei, however, is clearly a bad bad man, and part of something far larger and far scarier... and I can't wait to find out what!
The volume concludes with the prep for the semester's final exam! and the introduction of second generation creepy bastard Gakusho Asano.
Yup, the end of year exams are coming, and Koro Sensei has a plan to make them far more fun:
For every student that comes top of the ranks in their favourite subject, and for the student that achieves the highest overall score... Koro Sensei will let them shoot off one of his tentacles!
Given how each tentacle that is removed slows Koro Sensei down by around 20%, if Class 3-E are able to achieve the best marks in Science, Maths, English, and Japanese, plus the highest overall score, they can remove SIX tentacles at once, and massively reduce Koro Sensei's speed. Which will make their end of year assassination attempt SO much easier. Not bad, at all.
There's only one thing that stands in the way, and it's the same thing as always. The Principal, AKA the Douchebag-in-Chief.
Due to his whole "Class E has to be terrible, because it makes everyone else work better" system, he'll do whatever it takes, to keep the class down. Including having his worryingly sociopathic son tutor all of Class A, to make sure they push class E far, far down the rankings.
But here is where things get interesting: Because Gakusho doesn't seem to really care for any of that, he has his own agenda!
He realises that the Principal is up to something, and that Class 3-E aren't exactly what you'd call a NORMAL class. And he HAS to know what's up...
So, when a few members of Class 3-E are naive enough to make a bet on them coming top of the charts in the exam, Gakusho uses this as a chance to find out more...
I have a feeling, I know where this arc is going to end. Gakusho doesn't seem to have the best relationship with his father. Probably because his father is a humongous tool. So, not only does Gakusho make a bet with his father, for more information, but he also hedges his bets by making a similar deal with Class 3-E.
I get the feeling that Asano is going to pull his usual nonsense, and stop Class 3-E from doing well in the exams. He won't go far enough to cause any real damage, but he'll keep them to the middle ground in all but maybe one or two subjects.
Then, when Gakusho finds out the truth about Class 3-E, Koro Sensei, and the whole "Kill me or I'll destroy the Earth" plot, he's going to be so intrigued, he's going to find a way to get himself busted down into class 3-E so that he can try his hand against a monster like Koro Sensei.
I can't say for sure why I think this, but it's just a feeling that I get. It's clear that while Gakusho is a bit of a tool, and definitely a sociopath, he's still not as bad as his father, and their relationship seems troubled, to put it mildly.
So, the idea of him intentionally getting himself put into the End Class seems fitting. It'll annoy Asano to no end, and will either make him double down in his attempts to crush Class 3-E, or possibly will make him leave them alone... for a while. Although, judging by what we've seen so far, the first option seems far more likely...
Overall, Volume six was a VERY strong entry into the series. two very satisfying arcs, that told strong self-contained stories, while also furthering what passes for an overarching plot in this series. Then, the volume wrapped up with a solid set-up arc, that has the potential to have real repercussions for potentially the rest of the series. Can't hate that!
If you want to see how Principal Asano manages to screw over Class 3-E, join me next time for Assassination Classroom Volume 7: On Island Time, collecting chapters 53-61. The 3-E students hope to kill on their final exams to win not only respect, but a special reward. Over summer break, Nagisa, Sugino, and Maehara play amateur entomologist with... a girl? After rigorous training with the greatest assassin of all, the class launches their best assassination plan yet! Now who will save our would-be assassins from a mysterious biological weapon?
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.