Assassination Classroom, Vol. 2

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

In this second volume, there’s a bit less focus on the actual assassination attempts as Matsui starts to try to expand the cast and show us more of the horrible world they live in. We meet the principal of the school, who exudes pure cynicism and hatred from every pore, and it’s quite apparent that he will not allow Class 3-E to succeed. Scapegoats who learn to better themselves have no value to him, and so he changes the rules to ensure that they are hated and despised. What it’s doing to the kids themselves doesn’t seem to matter to him – I think if they all killed themselves the day after graduation he wouldn’t spare it a second thought – but in my mind, it’s the values he’s placing in the A-D classes that’s far more chilling.


Of course, this is meant to contrast with Koro-sensei, who may be an alien out to kill us all but is also determined to give these kids self-confidence to be the best they can be, and takes it personally when all his hard work goes wasted during the midterms. This is nicely contrasted with all the moments where Koro-sensei is simply an eccentric idiot – the reasn that we don’t get to bored or irritated with him is that he has so many flaws and bad habits in among his invulnerability – flaws that are dutifully being written down by our narrative voice Nagisa (calling him the protagonist of this series seems oddly wrong), and flaws that are abused, seemingly, by the new teacher and assassin introduced here, Irina Jelavich.

A brief aside. For those who hoped that with the forced addition of ‘Koro-sensei’ we’d see honorifics in this series, sorry, Jump editorial practice will only allow it if it leads to an untranslatable pun. Thus ‘Bitch-neesan’ becoming ‘Bitch-sensei’ is not going to happen, and instead we see ‘Ms. Bitch’ becoming ‘Ms. Vitch’, which also neatly allows Viz to soften things up a bit. Bitch or Vitch, though, Irina certainly makes a horrible first impression, on both the cast and the readers. She’s an omniglot and talented assassin, but it’s clear that she only knows how to assassinate through seduction, and when it comes to actually keeping her cover as a teacher she’s useless. That said, she does seem to be easing up a bit, particularly when she sees how Class 3-E are treated by the rest of the school. I could have done without the tentacle rape joke, though given what Koro-sensei looks like I suppose it was inevitable.

We see the students here as well, but so far they seem to be more of a cast herd rather than having deeply drawn personalities. Nagisa is the strongest, being the keen observer (though he’s weak for busty women, like most teens – and indeed like Koro-sensei). Kaede hasn’t really said much at all (though I did love the ‘my brain is up here’ sign she held up, a wonderful translation choice, as I think the original just had her complaining about Irina’s large breasts). And Karma may be the smartest in the class, but he made far less of an impression here. The end of the volume promises that may change soon, though, and I’m hoping that this is the sort f series where everyone gets some attention paid to them. Though ‘a lot of them are only bit players so I try not to make them too unique’ doesn’t bode well.

Overall, this is still an addictive series, even if I feel it has some issues with character. Irina is an amusing addition to the cast, and I hope we will eventually get jokes about her that don’t involve her being a femme fatale who’s really just a ditz. More to the point, the stakes are raised with the introduction of the principal, as now we really see what Koro-sensei and the class are up against. Go get this.

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.


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.