As media the world over remind us, school is a time of growth and learning, a place where children come to understand themselves a little better and discover where their interests lie. Reality of course tones it down a little and the overall number of revelatory experiences and life defining moments are slightly less pronounced. But, if people wanted reality, they wouldn’t watch fiction. So come and witness a particular world wherein school is the be all and end all…literally. Like there was some kind of specific reason that one particular class of focus held the fate of the planet in their hands. That’d certainly speed up the whole growth concept now, wouldn’t it?
With the introductory period behind them and more than half a year before them, the Assassination Classroom is finding their stride when it comes to attempting to murder their teacher. With origin stories wrapped up as they were, the faces that populate the background of this series are a little less bland and a little more important…a little. Despite the series’ attempts, this is still very much the Nagisa, Karma and Korosensei show, with special appearance by whatever student happens to want the limelight that week. Such is the way of a series that focuses on an entire class. Still, there stereotypical students that comprise the background are endearing in their own way and receive development when the story calls for it. It’s not exactly balanced, but it’s certainly a solid attempt by the series and does not exist as a glaring flaw in the series, merely a slight oversight. That being said, particular characters are not the types who would willingly step into the view of others, so their vagueness is their own form of character development. Which may sound a little weird, but it works, especially when it allows the quiet diligent types to shine when the moment calls for it. And boy does the moment call for it.
Continuing from the buildup of the first half of the season, Assassination Classroom really ramps up the tension and drama. Take, for example, the short lived new PE teacher Takaoka. Appearing as a cheerful, friendly sort, this new addition contrasts Karasuma’s more calculated approach to teaching. Something that is outwardly noted by the students…briefly. Shifting his point of contrast almost immediately to that of Korosensei, we find ourselves with a teacher that the students (and by extension the audience) actually want “removed” from Class 3-E. Utilising a twisted familial teaching style, Takaoka places himself as the infallible father figure to his students and assaults any who oppose him, regardless of gender. A real equal opportunity bastard, who only continues to contrast the smiley faced tentacle monster we all know and love. Both act as more than a simple teacher, building a rapport with their students and gaining their trust. However, whereas Korosensei uses this connection to inspire joy and an interest in learning, Takaoka uses it to break his students down and cling to his own tentative grip on authority. So, though the focus lies simply on how evil a teacher he is, Takaoka exists on the same field as Korosensei, Karasuma, Professor Bitch and Principal Asano, adult figures whose own beliefs seep into their teaching methods and greatly affect those who are taught by them. Of course, owing to the nature of the series, Team Class 3-E are shown as the positive side of this coin, whilst Takaoka and Asano are just so very evil. The visuals are not shy about this either, given that Takaoka willingly beats his students and that Asano’s teaching style is represented by a horrifying swarm of centipedes…that sometimes writhe into peoples throats. Hard to unsee something like that.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, the finale of the series decides to ramp things up yet again and pit Class 3-E against an outside threat, a surprisingly undone concept. Until this point, each foe that Class 3-E has faced has been somehow connected to them directly. Korosensei, Takaoka, Asano, the main campus, even the high schoolers on the Kyoto trip were students akin to those from Kunugigaoka. However this latest threat was one from a world they had only thought they knew; the world of assassins. Legitimate killers for hire whose apparent targets are Class 3-E, the ones who aren’t poisoned that is. Look it makes sense in context, but that is not a context that I am going to painstakingly detail. Instead, I am simply going to mention how this is both a natural and unnatural acceleration of this series. On the scale of increasing conflict, it makes sense that the students would find themselves facing tougher and tougher opponents, that’s just how these types of series work. It also makes sense in that Korosensei is a high paying target and that assassins have been in the series before. Of course with Korosensei’s existence being a state secret, the mystery of how these foes possess the knowledge to contact Class 3-E is one that elicits fear in a number of characters and raises interest in the audience. Where this all gets a little cloudy however is how rapidly these threats are dealt with, as it comes to me as a rather divisive moment. Having trained for half a year to kill an unkillable target, Class 3-E is a unit of highly trained characters with a unique talent for combat. That being said, the speed with which they disarm a bevy of actual assassins is a little unbelievable…which is a weird thing to say when you remember what this series is, but whatever. Even leaning into the fact that the manner in which each assassin is handled was well thought out (less so with Karma’s fist fight with a man whose grip strength can shatter a pane of glass), Karasuma mentions that these particular assassins were ones he was planning to hire as instructors for Class 3-E. Thus we are given the notion that either these three are rather inept or that Class 3-E have crossed a boundary and are now able to challenge those who teach them…except for Korosensei. Regardless, the series wraps up this entire endeavour with a revelation that completely negates any form of tension. Were we able to enjoy the ride? Yes. However the immediate conclusion that occurs after an admittedly epic fight leaves a bitter aftertaste. Like any story where it all turns out to have been a dream, though the experience was full of ups and downs, you simply remember that your were tricked for a cheap thrill. And that’s not fun for anybody.
As a series that is, for the most part, centered around actual schoolwork, Assassination Classroom is more than fond of metaphorical imagery. For example; how do you make a test interesting to watch? You represent it as the students in a gladitorial ring fighting demonic question beasts. Not only does this prevent dullness from seeping in, much like that of a real test, it serves to showcase the students assassin mindsets and a more active conflict with the main campus students than would normally be possible. The magic of these sequences also remains wholly intact due to their succinctness, maintaining them as a representation and preventing them from overtaking the series proper. Although, tests are not the only moments that are given this treatment, with Nagisa being notoriously represented by a snake, appearing out of nowhere and causing even characters such as Karasuma to react in surprise.
Though admittedly a bit more plot focused than my look into Part One, my opinions of Assassination Classroom remain markedly the same. For a series that revolves around a class of students killing a tentacle monster, this series is one of grounded character development and genuine moments of self-reflection. The students come to learn more about who they are and, more importantly, come to terms with personal limitations and the motivation required to utilise and overcome them. Even the teachers prove that age is no determination of development and learn their own lessons regarding how they see the world and how their decisions have placed them where they are. Thus, whilst it initially seems to be a tale of insanity and government approved murder, Assassination Classroom is primarily a story of personal growth. In the course of a single season characters transform entirely and move beyond what they thought they could ever be. The changes are such that you may not even realise them unless you binge watch every episode. If you want proof, simply compare the relationship of Nagisa and Terasaka in the first episode with theirs in the final episode. Light years apart and yet, despite the hyperbole, it is a distance that was earned and one that leaves the promise o a second season all the more alluring. Even if the final arc ended on a slightly cheap note. But hey, mistakes are all a part of the learning process. A big yellow octopus taught me that.
It would take a Madman to not be driven mad by this situation…talk about irony