Assassination Classroom is an anime about an octopus creature deciding to teach a group of Japanese middle schoolers precious lessons across various subjects like math, history and as the title suggests, assassination.
They are being taught to kill because they have a daunting task: in one year they must assassinate their teacher, a being capable of reaching Mach 20 (15,224 miles per hour) instantly, or the Earth will be destroyed just like the Moon.
The show masterfully combines the totally absurd with deep sensibility and decent character development. Despite the serious subject matter, the show bubbles with laugh out loud comedy. There are too many examples to even begin naming, from the teacher’s obsession with raunchy material to his frequent travels to other countries and, most simply, how he presents himself to his students.
The teacher, nicknamed Koro Sensei, with his superspeed, is capable of amazing and otherwise impossible feats, like when he made several dozen afterimage clones of himself in order to help the students study for midterms.
The academics of the school is an ongoing subplot for most of the show, revolving around Koro Sensei’s class, the E-Class (also known as “the end class”) being oppressed by the rest of the school and Koro Sensei’s teaching destroying the system the school is built upon.
This is no more evident than when the students take tests. In other shows, tests are glanced over because of how boring they are to watch. In Assassination Classroom, they are depicted as gladiatorial battles with extremely creative character designs for the test questions.
Koro Sensei’s teaching also goes beyond classroom learning, as he also teaches the students about life lessons. During one of the tests, he thinks to himself how the students would almost certainly forget everything they crammed about leading up to the test. However, they would remember the feeling of preparing for battle against other students in a fight with set rules and equal opportunity to win.
The overall plot of the show is the kind of insanity that one would expect from most anime, but is written in such a way it ends up being much more heartwarming and endearing than one would normally expect.
Despite the show being heartwarming and funny to watch, the science it employs is questionable at best. Even for a non-science student, it is incredibly glaring. The Moon is blown up at the beginning of the show, yet there are never any repercussions from this.
Character development is also consistently a weak point. Many characters have a single episode devoted to them, but little development outside of it. Sugino, for example, had his baseball dreams crushed in one early episode. While he was depressed for part of the episode, some encouragement from Koro Sensei was enough to get him back to normal.
Despite simple character development throughout the show, there are so many characters (over 40) with a wide variety of personality and skills that even with fast and often lacking development, they complement each other in memorable and often entertaining ways.
By the end, you care about each of the characters. No one is truly just in the background. Everyone gets a moment, from Mimura’s development of a video being pivotal in an assassination to Fuwa’s manga-based detective skills. On a second or third watch, characters that initially seemed to be part of the backdrop can truly shine.
Even the comic relief characters, such as the students’ English teacher, a world class seductress they refer to as “Professor Bitch,” are given serious moments and are legitimately useful to the plot. While “Professor Bitch” can indeed count as fan service, what with her large chest and attitude, she nonetheless proves to be an important character.
That being said, the show seems more focused on the boys. Rather than follow the girls’ basketball game for even a moment, the show focuses solely on the guys’ baseball game. Despite this, they are essential in the overall plot of the show.
In their own ways, each student improves throughout the show. Physically, all of them become noticeably more fit over time. While in the first few episodes a few seconds of running and stabbing winded them, in the second season they can parkour throughout the town and barely be winded.
Mentally, the students go from having the worst grades in the school to matching the best students. This also furthers the school academics subplot, since the Principal had designed the school to make sure that fear of ending up falling into the E-Class drove other classes to succeed. While sometimes presented as extreme, such as when students are chanting they must kill the E-Class, this falls in line with the show’s overall insanity. It showcases the corrupting power animosity can have.
This constant conflict, a rivalry between Principal Asano’s ruthless teaching philosophy emphasizing strength against Koro Sensei’s empathetic approach tapping into people’s inherent talents, is subtle but incredibly well done.
The E-Class plan also shows one of the show’s core themes. The principal’s plan hinged on the rest of the school dehumanizing the E-Class. However, due to Koro Sensei’s teaching, the E-Class begins to fight back. Likewise, almost every villain in the show is dealt with by restoring some of their humanity.
In all, Assassination Classroom is a strange show. It has an absurd premise that it wholeheartedly embraces and runs with, resulting in a genuinely funny show. It does not get lost in the humor though, as the audience is still constantly reminded that it is a show about junior high school students attempting to kill one of the biggest positive influences in their lives.
It is a difficult premise to pull off well, but when written as well as Assassination Classroom is, it becomes a powerful story that leaves an impact.