The premise is, basically, that a significant portion of the moon seems to have been destroyed by a super-powerful being who promises the destruction of the Earth on a specific date, but in the meantime he wants to teach a class of outcasts at an illustrious school, whom he permits to attempt to assassinate him with the special tools provided them by the government.
I wasn’t sure what to make of this idea when I first heard of it. It seemed way too far-fetched, even ludicrous. Then I saw the sample OVA (note to everyone in marketing: “the first hit is free” is a sound business practice), and it left me laughing and wanting more, even if I didn’t much understand the context of it at the time. Thus, I was more than willing to see how the full-length anime was.
And I have to say, it’s pretty fun!
At the obvious forefront of the story is the mysterious creature which is credited with destroying the moon: Koro-sensei. He is a large creature that has a large, round head and a lot of tentacles. He is very skilled at whatever he does, a surprisingly good teacher, and he is very fast, smart, and tenacious. In normal circumstances, as a human, he’d probably pass for a wildly eccentric genius. But there is more to him than is immediately obvious, and the mysteries of his past actually explain a great deal about him, including his many skills and his passion as a teacher.
Surrounding Koro-sensei are the students of Class E, comprised of the misfits and rejects of the most illustrious and influential academy in Japan. They’re a remarkable, lovable group of kids, all distinct and important characters in their own right, and they soak up everything Koro-sensei teaches them. But despite how amazing they are, they are the outcasts, the lowest level and the lowest caste of their school, which is entirely structured around the hierarchy of winners and losers, with Class E being the losers that everyone else is authorized to bully because they’re supposedly worth less than their superiors.
So, in addition to a story about trying to prevent the end of the world, we have a story of people, and their relationships, and especially a commentary on systems of education. Japan is a strong country partially because their culture demands a great deal more of everyone within it, including kids in school, but there are flaws and perils to any system. Assassination Classroom exaggerates some of these (or at least I hope this is just exaggeration) in order to discuss them.
On which note, one thing that was a bit unbelievable to me was just how committed the school principal is to his profane approach to education. The world, all of it, is in danger, and he not only bothers, but focuses the whole of his will, to crush the fledgling improvement and confidence of Class E? His behavior was eventually explained, but it’s still pretty unreasonable, if not outright insane.
For the most part, however, the story is about how all of these kids grow and develop. There’s no single defining moment of this, but it is obvious that they are very different, more capable people at the end of the story than they were at the beginning. This year they have under Koro-sensei’s tutelage changes their lives and their outlooks. They grow so much, and it’s fantastic, and adorable, and hilarious to see.
The thrust of this, however, rests on the effort to kill Koro-sensei. That is what the kids, and the government, and loads of assassins and bounty hunters, are trying to do. It is made clear early on that, however lovable he may be, his very existence threatens the planet, and everyone on it, with imminent destruction. That is something which cannot be overlooked.
When the kids do it, it’s fairly remarkable, even morbidly hilarious (when they’re trying to stab him while he’s tutoring them). They get to know Koro-sensei inside and out, and so their efforts tend to be the most effective of them. There are other, more nefarious people involved in this, however, and they pose a danger to not only Koro-sensei, but to everyone around him, especially his beloved students. Thus, we get drama fueled by suspense and action as much as the pressures of life and school.
And when the truth is out, about Koro-sensei and the true villains of the show, the action is absolutely riveting, because now the audience knows the whole story behind it. Which, that story is surprisingly intricate, and it crescendos in one of the most breathtaking conclusions ever, both happy and sad at the same time.
That is some quality storytelling, with quality plot, themes, and characters, brought to beautiful, animated life, with a great soundtrack.
In short: Assassination Classroom is pretty awesome, and far forward in the ranks of my personal favorites.
Rating: 9 stars out of 10.