Assassination Classroom, Vol. 1

By Yusei Matsui. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump. Released in North America by Viz.

A few years back, when Weekly Shonen Jump was just getting started in North America, there was a rumor that one of the series brought over would be the quirky, somewhat popular Majin Tantei Nōgami Neuro. Unfortunately, what it ended up being was one of the first examples of those “mid-range” Jump titles that get to 15-25 volumes in Japan but never quite garner enough success to come over here. After a break of a couple of years, however, the author came back with an even larger hit: Assassination Classroom, the story of an alien teacher and the misfit kids who have to kill him to save the Earth. Initially thought unlicensable due to the basic premise, it’s now reached double digit volumes and an anime is on the way, so Viz is releasing it as a Shonen Jump Advanced title.

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There’s another good reason why Viz decided to license this title after all: it’s fantastic. Technically the story is about the kids trying to find ways of murdering their teacher – attempts are made every single chapter, after all – but what this *really* is is another in the genre of ‘oddball teacher comes into class full of misfits and shows them they are all better than they think they are’. Think GTO, Gokusen, or Hell Teacher Nube. The background regarding Koro-sensei’s decision to blow up the Earth at the end of the school year unless he is killed is kept deliberately vague, though various hints suggest he may have been human once. It’s more a plot widget to allow for the killings, which range from deadly serious to hilarious.

Technically the other protagonist of this series is Nagisa, a bishonen-looking young man who’s good at research and analysis but apparently bad enough at school to be in class 3-E. So far he’s mostly there to be the narrative voice, but I sense that there’s more coming in the next few volumes. The series clearly has something to say about bullying and the Japanese educational system, even if it’s filtered through a SF-comedy vein. The regulations against 3-E are designed deliberately so that the children are scapegoats for the rest of the school, and that once there it’s very difficult to climb back out. Indeed, the only person on their side seems to be the alien they have to kill.

Matsui got his start as an assistant on Bobobobo-bobobo, and the influence can sometimes be seen in the sheer loopy surrealism of Koro-sensei’s remarks and attitudes. This isn’t a gag manga, though, and the kids have very real problems – a bully hunter who was betrayed by a teacher has lost all faith in the profession; a baseball pitcher who imitates his favorite player finds he can’t move forward; and a girl who’s good at chemistry but poor at speaking finds you can’t simply kill someone by asking them to die nicely. These are good lessons Koro-sensei is teaching, and the kids are beginning to realize what a great teacher he really is. Shame he plans to destroy the Earth.

Speaking of which, not *everything* is left to these kids (who I suspect are meant to be scapegoats to the entire world if their mission fails). A Ministry of Defense employee becomes their gym teacher, and teaches the kids genuine assassination techniques. And there seems to be another assassin being sent to kill Koro-sensei at the cliffhanger to this volume, and she gives quite a first impression. It’s going to be another two months til the next volume, but this is a terrific debut from Jump, and I cannot wait to see what happens next.

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Comments

  1. The artwork could be a bit less clean and more styled, but that’s just me.


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