I kind of lost my mind and decided to try to find something in MangaPanda’s list of “most popular” manga that I might like to read. I’ve been seeing Assassination Classroom all over, so I thought, eh, ‘why not?’
It’s complete at 184 chapters, which you can read here: http://www.mangapanda.com/assassination-classroom. I didn’t get that far, and I don’t think I’m going to finish it.
There wasn’t anything wrong with Assassination Classroom per se. I read quite a bit of it very easily and enjoyably, but I finally hit a point where I feel the schtick had worn out, for me. I’ll explain more about my reaction in a bit. First, let me introduce you to Koro-sensei and the folks of Assassination Classroom.
So, right, okay, here’s the deal.
A mysterious creature attacked us and hollowed out much of the moon, and is now threatening to destroy the Earth in… eleven months. For reasons of plot, this octopus-like creature really, really wants to be a teacher first. So, he’s set up in Japan at a private school with class “E” for end, because they’re the losers of the losers, with zero future. The government has promised these middle schoolers a chance at a billion yen, if one of them can find a way to assassinate their sensei before graduation.
The premise is so silly, I’m surprised that I got over 50 chapters in.
But, I’m a sucker for stories where delinquents band together and rise up against their oppressors. Like, that’s a type of story that I will pretty much read over and over. Which is good, because Assassination Classroom is basically that story told in different ways over and over and over… and over (with boob jokes).
I guess I finally got tired of it.
Actually, I suspect that if I were reading Assassination Classroom as it came out in JUMP+, I would have followed it to the end. The humor and neat little story arcs work perfectly for something consumed in small, weekly bites. I think I ran out of steam with Assassination Classroom because I was powering through it. After a while I lost my ability to suspend my disbelief and repetition of the same emotional payoff grew stale.
Because, there were characters I really liked.
Nagisa, the main character, actually, was one of my favorites. He’s not at all my usual type. Tiny, girlish, and whip-smart, he’s often overlooked because he’s just this nice, little guy, you know? But, he’s the one who keeps a running list of any bit of information about Kuro-sensei that he can gather–from a weakness for big boobs to that effect water has on Kuro-sensei. You know from the start that there’s going to be a reason this little squirt is the main character, but I was figuring the answer was going to be his notes. Then, we hit the mini-arc that starts with chapter 38: ‘Training Time’ and Nagisa begins to show his true colors. No spoilers in case you decide to pick this one up, but it’s after that that I was sold on Nagisa completely and he cemented his spot as ‘most intriguing’ for me.
I also really enjoyed that particular mini-arc because I also developed this weird little crush on the ‘gym’ teacher, Karasuma Tadaomi:
To be fair, I think that one of the charms of Assassination Classroom is its wide cast of characters, each of whom get their own ‘Very Special Episode’/mini-arc in which they confront something that has been holding them back and overcome it–usually through Koro-sensei’s gentle guidance.
I mean, that’s the other part of this whole thing. Koro-sensei is actually an amazing teacher. He really cares about his students and takes his work very seriously. It’s confusing behavior for a creature who seems to want to destroy the world ‘just because.’ I suspect we’re going to find out at the end that this has all been a test and we will have passed it when we refuse to actually kill sensei.
But I’ll never know.
There do seems to be continuation spin-off out there, so I’m guessing everyone survives, including sensei.
Ultimately, however, one of the reasons I stopped reading this manga is because the tension collapsed for me somewhere around chapter 47.
Previously, I’d been willing to believe that the students, even though they’d obviously grown attached to sensei, were still willing to kill him to save the Earth from destruction. In fact, after my favorite little mini-arc that I talked about above, I felt things were actually getting thrilling because it seemed like the tension increased once Nagisa revealed his abilities. Like, we had a chance. Like, the question was really going to come down to the necessity of taking out someone we’ve learned to care for. I never thought we’d do it, but I expected that tension to remain heavily in the background.
But it completely evaporated in the very next mini-arc, which revolved around the idea that Kuro-sensei was weak to water. The class finally discovered an actual advantage. They even seemed to be formulating a real plan, but then everything, including any remaining tension, is derailed by Terasaka-kun’s ‘Very Special Episode.’
Terasaka is a bully. He’s never really gotten into all the team-building of Class E under Kuro-sensei’s tutelage. So, he allows himself to be taken in by the mysterious Shiro, the minder of “transfer student” Itona, who is actually an artificial human created with the specific purpose of defeating Kuro-sensei. Itona is referred to Kuro-sensei’s “brother,” because Itona was splice-cloned with some of Kuro-sensei’s DNA which the military procured somehow–so they have the same abilities… and weaknesses.
So, Shiro, Itona, and Terasaka conspire to really f*ck Kuro-sensei up. They use an aerosol spray, disguised as one of Terasaka’s pranks, to mess up Kuro-sensei’s superpowers. Then they devise a clever plan that puts the students in danger (Kuro-sensei has, for reasons of plot, agreed to never harm any of his charges) and water-logs Kuro-sensei in a way that makes it impossible for him to use his super-sonic abilities.
And…. here’s where everything falls apart for me.
Kuro-sensei is down. All that Class E has to do, to end this whole thing, is let him die. No one who loves him would even have to strike the killing blow.
Instead, they save him. The excuse for this behavior is one that they’ve used before, though to better effect, which is basically: why would we let some outsider take our prize? If anyone is going to kill Kuro-sensei, it will be one of us.
Like I said, the first time that excuse for not pressing an advantage came out, I totally rolled with it. This time… I thought: No. No, this time they could have used their clever plan in a different way–to save their classmate themselves and also send someone in to deliver the killing blow.
And it bothered me that they didn’t even try. I could have bought the idea that it failed in some way. But they all teamed-up and saved sensei when they had him on his knees in a way they will never have again.
I just… it didn’t work for me.
Part of what I’d been enjoying was how twisted Class E was. They were a bunch of little assassins, legit. There was something wonderful about the way they continued to try to kill sensei even after he helped them win a baseball game which had part of an unfairly rigged field-and-track day event.
I kept reading a bit after the moment Class E chose to save sensei, assuming that I would just get swept away in whatever new problem everyone faced. But, the next mini-arc literally recycled the exam crisis from midterms, and, even though it had a slight new twist, I completely lost interest.
Like, I say, if I were reading this weekly, I doubt I would have hit this point. The time in-between chapters would have given me time to forget how quickly some of these same emotional notes were being repeated in almost identical ways. I probably would have, like I said, just gotten swept along into the next challenge and not been so bothered by this sudden deflation of tension after the swimming mini-arc.
I get why people enjoyed this manga, though. It’s sweet and heartwarming and very shounen in the way the delinquents come together to face a common enemy. I loved those parts of Assassination Classroom as much as the next guy. Humor, which this manga depends on, is always hard to translate, but, if you read the MangaPanda version they’ve also reprinted the translator’s notes attempting to explain various puns, cultural notes, etc.–all of which I found very fascinating.
Would I recommend it? Absolutely.
But, I also don’t feel compelled to force my way through to the end of it, either.