School can be stressful, we know this. Between the tests, memorisation and compressed social experiment that comprises the in-between, the youth of the world are understandably reluctant about the experience. And that’s talking about a normal school, imagine what it’d be like if your teacher was an alien…and you had to kill them…for the sake of the world…and money. Okay, so it’s a pretty bizarre premise, but not one you have to develop yourself, because it already exists, in manga, anime and now, live action form.
Society, whether we like to admit it or not, is often divided into segments. Now, whilst the aim of the righteous minded is to lessen and eventually erase this disparity, there are those who seek to deepen that particular line in the sand. It is from this twisted mantra that Class 3-E was born, and it is in this class that we find our story. Comprised of the lowest scoring children, this class is shunned by student and faculty alike, a living example of what not to become. It’s pretty messed up. That being said, it is far from the most prevalent plot point of this film. See, Class 3-E had a new teacher, a quirky, happy, childish, overconfident bundle of tentacles who comes to be known as Korosensei (a named coined by the children themselves). With speed capping at Mach 20 and an unparalleled healing factor, this mysterious creature has evaded and mocked the military forces of the world since his appearance. Unfortunately, Korosensei has promised to destroy a sizeable chunk of Earth in a year’s time (with any doubt of his ability to do so quelled by his destruction of much of the moon). Luckily-ish, this complex being has struck a deal which allows his students to make constant attempts on his life, hence the Assassination Classroom title the film bears.
Okay, synopsis over. You might be wondering why I ran such a by the books retelling of the core plot, well my friends, that’s because it’s nice to have a solid plot anchor when watching a film. The brief rundown found so handily in the paragraph above is by far the most cohesively detailed segment of the film, comprising the opening narration. Though plot does exist throughout the rest of the film, it is, for the most part, drowned out by the shifting visual style and the film’s incessant need to reference everything it can from the source material. Now, films are often criticised when they diverge from the book or story upon which they are based, generally by the die hard fan base. However, Assassination Classroom proved, in earnest, the the exact inverse can also be just as much of a hindrance.
Now I have watched the anime series of Assassination Classroom, so I do have knowledge regarding the path the story takes. Unfortunately, I feel as if that knowledge is necessary to truly draw the maximum amount of enjoyment from this film, whatever facsimile that may be. Now, talking positively for a moment, the film did a wonderful job of recreating key moments from the series, down to some pretty impressively small details. For fans of the series, it was nice to see, nostalgic even, depending on how long ago you read/watched the previous iterations I guess. However, in doing so, the film loses any true sense of flow and cohesion. In expending so much effort to recreate its roots, the film speeds through a ridiculous amount of stories, covering the anime’s 24 episode run in 2 hours or so. Now, whilst this may sound impressive, the time disparity prevents the film from showcasing the dialogue that occurs between these moments. thus, at the end of the day, we are left with a large cast of unexplored characters who fail to leave any true impact on the audience.
Whilst it may seem unfair to consistently compare this film to its source material, I do not believe it is without reason. The film itself seems to wish for an existence as a fan letter to the manga/anime. The setting alone is testament to this. By and large the strongest portion of the film, the locales recreated are fantastically detailed and damn near perfect recreations of those from the series. That being said, I am specifically talking about Classroom 3-E, which is essentially the only location in the film, along with the surrounding area. Though certain moments were shifted to occur in said school building, the scope of the location and interesting set pieces prevented the film from feeling like a bottle story. However, these set pieces were often overpowered by the far more mobile CGI of Korosensei…which may not have been for the best. Look, I understand that people worked tirelessly on these films, which makes me feel pretty darn horrible when I dislike the final product. I think you can see where this is going, Korosensei did not look amazing. I’ll admit, the overly cartoonish style presented itself better than I thought it would, and I’m glad they avoided a more realistic style, it was still pretty far from solid. With the exception of his mach speed endeavours, Korosensei felt pretty slow in his movements, or at least slower than he should’ve been. The interaction between the CGI teacher and his students was also far from perfect, with sequences clearly presenting the vibe that the tentacle teacher wasn’t actually there during filming. Which does not do well for suspension of disbelief.
Ultimately, Assassination Classroom is a series that already existed in the forms it was meant to. With the freedom animation and illustration provides, the series can truly shine as an anime/manga combo. By introducing a live action element, a fair deal of the story’s charm was lost, as the film tried to play catch up with a story started well before it. Sure it was cool seeing scenes re-imagined, but without the context provided by slow burning character development, I fear the characters will only be remembered for a single trait; like that science girl, or that jerk guy, or that one guy who I think was the main character? Instead of Manami, Karma and Nagisa. So watch the film if you are a fan of the series or are newcomer and feel like catching the highlight reel. If you’re looking for a more complete and cohesive plot however, I recommend putting the time into reading the manga, or watching the anime. They tell a better version of the same story.