Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Assassination Classroom - The Movies
Class 3-E at Kunugigaoka Junior High is filled with the students the principal sees as the bottom of the barrel, the potential (and probable) failures. Because of the attitude of their school, the kids have come to see themselves as lost causes as well, but that all changes on the day when Koro-sensei, a mysterious octopus-like creature, shows up in their classroom. He's their new teacher, and they've been specially chosen to kill him by graduation day. Can this class of proclaimed losers learn to kill their teacher – especially when he becomes the one person who believes in them?
As far as manga easily adapted to live-action film goes, Assassination Classroom is easily towards the bottom of the list. Not only does it star a giant yellow octopus monster, but it also relies on his incredible feats of superhuman speed and strength, to say nothing of a large and varied cast of fifteen-year-olds, each with their own important backstories and details that make them relevant to the overall plot. The first is perhaps easily solved (at least relatively) with CG and good special effects; the latter, as it turns out, is largely rewritten or ignored in order to make two two-hour films covering the entirety of the original manga series.
What suffers the most in the transition is Nagisa's past. In Yusei Matsui's original, Nagisa has feminine looks that originate in his tortured relationship with his mother, giving him a two-fold hurdle to surmount with Kuro-sensei's help. While it is difficult to fault the films for simply making Nagisa pretty rather than overtly feminine, the removal of his homelife feels lacking when it comes to understanding his character. (Instead a girl he was apparently close to pre-Class E is brought in a couple of times; it doesn't quite work to develop his past.) While Nagisa's growth is still both important and decently strong, the removal of his mother undercuts it in a way that makes him stand out less than he ought to as the primary protagonist of the story. None of this, it should be noted, is the fault of the actor portraying him – Ryōsuke Yamada does an excellent job attempting to shrink into his sweater (a move that will be familiar to all former shy kids) and slowly learning that he doesn't need to always be in the background, even if he's clearly not comfortable with the idea yet.
Also feeling like a poor choice of omission is the principal of Kunugigaoka Junior High. Again, things absolutely did need to be cut to make this a feasible project, but the lack of information beyond a few comments from the concealing shadows of his office leaves questions about why E Class exists in the first place and why it's relegated to the dilapidated old mountain schoolroom. It also makes Ms. Yukimura's request to Koro-sensei and her devotion to this particular group of students lack a bit of oomph, as we don't get all of the pertinent details about their situation. Karma's backstory – which is largely left intact – does help with this, but it isn't quite enough.
That said, and despite other changes which keep the action at the school for the most part, which makes sense, these two movies do manage to keep the heart of the story intact. Koro-sensei remains a powerful influence for good on the kids of E Class, who we can see grow in knowledge and confidence over the course of the movies, and there is still a satisfyingly emotional finale to the second film. The events of the original manga have been reordered somewhat, but they still make sense as presented, making this perhaps more engaging for someone who has no knowledge of the anime or manga versions, as they will have nothing to compare it to.
Interestingly enough, Kazunari Ninomiya, who plays Koro-sensei, sounds more like he's channeling Sonny Strait's version of the character than Jun Fukuyama's, as you might have expected. Mostly this is in the little chortle the character indulges in; it is strikingly similar to the English dub's rendition. The cast is largely quite good, with Kang Ji-Young's Irina and Masanobu Takashima positively chewing the scenery as Akira Takaoka, Mr. Karasuma's would-be rival in assassination instruction. The main issue some viewers may have is that most of the “kids” look far older than the fifteen they're supposed to be. While this is hardly an issue found only in these movies (very few TV shows or films show “teens” who look like teens), there are a few younger-looking students thrown in – namely Itona, whose actor actually was middle school age during filming – it stands out more than it otherwise might have and becomes a bit distracting.
That aside, the visuals work well. While Koro-sensei does look a bit plasticky, the school building itself will be instantly recognizable to franchise fans, and Itona's tentacles look as if they're actually made from his hair, which is a nice distinction. Perhaps more importantly, the scene in the second film between the Reaper and Ms. Yukimura when he is just learning to manipulate his body is beautifully done, underlining the tragic romance of their situation. Also interesting to note is that all of the girls of Class E have bike shorts underneath their uniform skirts, making their uniforms much more practical than just about any others in anime or manga. This can, of course, be seen as part of the necessary toning down of some of the fanservice or difficult elements of the story for a live action show; viewers will notice that a few other plot pieces have been brought down to a more PG level as well.
The live action Assassination Classroom movies are decent viewing on their own merits, and may actually work better for those new to the franchise, who are less likely to be distracted by the changes. Even if you are already caught up in either the anime or manga (or both), they're still enjoyable, albeit not quite as much. But the heart of the series is present, and the ending retains its impact in the changes that Koro-sensei is able to make in his students' lives. Since that's the ostensible reason for the story to exist, that may be the most important thing of all, and the films do manage to do it justice.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B-
Music : B-
+ Keeps the core message intact, actors do a good job
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