Manga Review: Assassination Classroom by Yusei Matsui
Things are tough for the students of Class 3-E at Kunugigaoka Junior High School. 3-E’s where the elite school sticks all the losers and freaks, the bottom 5% of the student body. Their classes are held in a decrepit outbuilding, they aren’t allowed any extracurricular activities, and the testing regimen is rigged to keep them from getting out. Oh, and their teacher is an unstoppable tentacled monster who plans to destroy the Earth after the graduation ceremony.
Except that he’s not quite so unstoppable after all; the students are issued BB guns and rubber knives made of the one substance that is his Kryptonite. And the government will pay ten billion yen to the student or students who kills Koro-sensei. Naturally, it’s not going to be easy. Koro-sensei destroyed 70% of the Moon’s mass just to say “hi” in the first place, flies at Mach 20 and is constantly pulling new powers out of whatever it is that’s under his robe. So every day the students try to come up with new plans to assassinate their teacher–who is also the best teacher they’ve ever had!
Despite his avowed intention to destroy the Earth, and his antagonistic relationship with his students, Koro-sensei really cares about being a good teacher, and gives the class valuable lessons about life between and even during murder attempts.
This comedy-action manga runs in Shounen Jump in Japan, but due to concerns about school shootings was initially not considered for the American edition. Only its hit status in Japan has convinced Viz to take a chance on it, and even now it’s rated for older teens rather than the junior high students it was originally aimed at. Let’s face it, it has the kind of premise that younger teens really love, but gives their parents the vapors.
The students tend to be pretty non-descript until their focus chapters, at which point they develop personalities. In this first volume, we’re introduced to calm and analytical Nagisa (who’s way too calm about killing someone for a junior high student); Sugino, a baseball enthusiast who let his grades slip after being cut from the school team; Okuda. who’s a whiz at math and science (especially chemistry) but whose lack of facility with words betrays her; and Karma, who’s actually brilliant and an excellent fighter, but attacked the wrong bully.
It should be noted that while most of these kids are in the bottom 5% of the school, it’s a very competitive one, so they’re not stupid. Most of them.
There’s some decent art, and some clever plot twists. Experienced manga fans will note a resemblance to Great Teacher Onizuka, another series about an unorthodox educator that turns out to be just what his students need. Except this series has less creepy fetishization of high school girls and more assassinations.
By all means, check this one out, but don’t bring it to school.