Let me preface this by saying this is less a proper review and more a topical rambling.
I don’t expect to find a thoughtful coming-of-age story from a manga which premise is a class of children being given a secret mission to kill their octopus monster thingy of a homeroom teacher within a year. I really don’t. That’s what I end up getting, however, and it’s just awesome.
For a newcomer, this manga hits all the sweet spot. Assasination Classroom delivers your usual Shonen Jump fare, those explosive battles and quirky humor, but it has a lot of quiet moments and characters development taking place throughout. As a deviation rather than the norm these days, it is actually tasteful enough in fanservice too. I will not hesitate to say this easily the Jump title I enjoy the most in a long while (alongside Bakuman, which I don’t consider an apt comparison given it’s not quite a typical Jump entry).
Unlike Boku no Hero Academia that also has school setting, Assasination Classroom has lesser number of named characters and therefore easier to manage. It’s growing, though, and I will give this point a benefit of the doubt. (Note: I do like and read BnHA, but like other manga with colossal amount of characters, it’s getting hard to keep track who’s who plus their current conditions and locations.)
This manga reminds me of ‘Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu’ a lot, in which they try to prove that those placed in the class of failures might not actually like the society believes, and challenge the notion of academical success as the only parameter of value. It is interesting then, I believe, to make note of what one gets better than the other in their attempts.
First, to state the obvious, Assasination Classroom centers around the relationship between the students and the teachers, primarily Mr. Koro. Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu on the other hand, centers around the relationship between the core characters.
Yusei Matsui does a good job by keeping the progress of class E steady instead of unrealistically meteoric rise to overthrow class A. While it is done beautifully in ‘Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu’, such development would not fit in Assasination Classroom given the difference in the nature of the competitions in both titles. Class E still fails fairly frequently. They improve, of course, but Class A remains as formidable as ever. Things have to be fixed little by little. Touches like Karma failing by getting ahead of himself or Nagisa being jack of all trades, master of none would be familiar to a lot of students. This creates a believable plot and let readers cheer up as the characters overcome the obstacles and grow. Exceptionally good result could be explained by a certain chain of events fueling the character’s motivation or discovery of talent.
Like ‘Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu’ however, they have to do this plot point where they have to find a way to regain a former member ascending the ranks by showing the shunned class is actually better. Considering the real life implication and the message it wishes to convey, I seek a solution in which the former member is actually happy in the new rank without descending to be a jerk, yet have chosen to return to the lower rung by choice for the people. In this case, I like the way ‘Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu’ handles it better. Himeji is treated well in class A, and the environment is more conducive, but she finds her place amongst the ragtag bunch in F so she goes back. Admittedly Akihisa being in there weights a lot, yeah… On the other hand, Assasination Classroom tries to salvage this by saying the quality of teaching and materials in E is higher so there is nothing justifying staying in class A, where the competition is downright ridiculous. Why would this be a problem? It somewhat makes it like wanting to be in a ‘good’ standing is bad. Yes, there might be social pressure and foul play in place, but there should be a reason why society likes them. Because the yearning for an achievement is not inherently bad. Without Mr. Koro, the education in E would be subpar, and there is nothing wrong in someone accepting the offer to get a seat in A when one wants to learn better. However, in context, this part complies with the contrast the author wants to show: Mr. Koro’s personal approach to the school’s ‘survival of the fittest’ principle.
Before I get this into an article on education reformist, I will have to digress. One other thing I like from Assasination Classroom is its moving timeline, which is a breath of fresh air given how the other popular titles from Jump work. I try to keep myself free from spoilers so I wait for my country’s official publication instead of scanlations, so I have no idea whether the time would continue to move or it would be dragged to exhaustion. You get the sense that they have an actual deadline. Too many conflict in a shonen manga dulls when you know they have a lifetime of chapters to solve it (looking at you, Bleach). I sure hope this means Assasination Classroom will end with a bang, when it is ready to end the story, not when the it has no other choice but end.
*’Assasination Classroom’ is ‘Ansatsu Kyoushitsu’ in Japanese, while ‘Boku no Hero Academia’ is ‘My Hero Academia’ and ‘Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu’ is ‘The Idiot, The Test, and Summoned Beasts’ in English. Please don’t ask why the heck I use this but not that.
*I still have hard time accepting Nagisa as a guy.