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Manga Review: Assassination Classroom

Tagged as: Manga.

Written by darkness on February 24, 2015
Picture this: You're a junior high student of the reject class, so rejected and frowned upon by the others that your class is set miles away from the original campus in the mountainside, and the other students use you as a stepping stone to success.

On the other hand, there's a tentacle monster who just destroyed most of the moon. He threatens to do the same with Earth in a year's time; the world governments have placed a ten billion yen bounty on his head. And he's your homeroom teacher.


[Warning: Light spoilers ahead]

It's an unusual premise, for sure, even if the first few chapters expand quite a bit on the details of the scenario. It tries to play off the "normal school" setting ubiquitous with a great number of manga, while artificially creating a source of wackiness and justifying much of it through him. It places children in adult situations, it pits children against adults, and through it all they have to try to kill their teacher.

Consequently, it's rather strange how loaded the manga feels compared to what's actually there.

For instance, the thirty-odd students more or less get either a chapter to shine or an arc to excel at. It's an interesting method of divvying up the story to develop each character. Yet, the story simply cannot handle all of the students at the same time, so often throughout the story some characters fade out of focus while others come into sight. The characters also end up a little stock as a result, save a few exceptions. There's more than a few flashbacks to go around.

The good news to that is that the manga doesn't focus on individuals as much as it focuses on their interactions. It displays the goings-on of the entire reject class, give or take a group here and there. It promotes the usual sense of class camaraderie and unity, but it does so sufficiently elegantly.

When you get a decent way into the manga, it slowly becomes clear that it suffers from the "no one ever dies" syndrome (although postmortem appears periodically, as do rather gruesome attacks, and anonymous figures do bite the dust). Yet, you can't help but feel like someone's gonna die, someone has to die, since this is an assassination classroom after all, and as scenarios intensify that thought in the back of your mind crops up every so often. Plus, there are some rather unsettling moments where villains pantomime grisly hypotheticals, and all of it serves to remind us that there may well be a case where someone doesn't get out alive. But only just.

If you're not into bullshit deus ex machina, I will warn that it does appear every now and again. It's a bit of a given considering the main "antagonist" is a tentacle monster who's done a number on the moon, and for those who have a rather low suspension of disbelief, it can be very jarring and dispelling.

What the manga does well, though, is its plot. The story of the students oscillates between struggling being the trash heap of a school hierarchy and dealing with professional assassins also after the head of the teacher, usually at the student's expense. Most chapters run like a moral-based fairy tale progression of plot, though. Still, the most salient parts of the manga is not why things happen, but how. The why is often explained enough, but it's usually the dry bit that serves to back up how things work. Being part of an assassination classroom means that the students, as well as the pros, can get really creative with how to operate, both in a school setting as well as an assassination setting.

And the plot twists, oh my. True to the title, characters are often thrust into unexpected and often precarious situations, with little to no warning. Except, there is often more than ample warning; you just weren't paying attention. And that is the true beauty of this manga: the alert readers can get a kick out of trying to anticipate future events, while the casual scrubs like me can be pleasantly shocked at sudden developments. The manga has an excellent tendency to recycle and reincorporate past chapters into current ones, using iotas of detail that might have been overlooked to scrape up the current setting. Things in chapter one may be referenced again in chapter one hundred; you might get information from chapters seven, thirty-two and seventy-four and suddenly they're all brought to light again in chapter one hundred and ten (these are BS numbers, but you get the point). It's devilishly clever and adheres well to the theme of the book.

I would definitely recommend giving this manga a whirl. I feel like it's in one of two boats: you're either going to like it for the zany yet slightly believable plot, or you're not for the rather bland characters and somewhat unbelievable explanations. For me, a real left-field shot just appeared in a recent chapter, and I'm going to keep going at it.

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February 24, 2015
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