Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
BD+DVD - Season 1 Part 2
Class E is no longer content to wallow in school-sanctioned bullying and self-deprecation, and Koro-sensei is here to help. When they're set up to fail at a school-wide baseball game, Koro-sensei and class baseball player Sugino come up with a way to beat the baseball team and win from behind. Similar tactics help the class earn a fabulous vacation (and opportunity to kill their teacher), but that goes south fast when a dangerous individual decides to take out Koro-sensei by taking Class E along with him. Have the kids been prepped enough in both assassination techniques and self-confidence to win the day?
I hope that I can be as effective a teacher as Koro-sensei someday. Despite the fact that he's a giant tentacular octopus who destroyed the moon and threatens to do the same to the Earth, he also truly cares about his students and manages not only to make them learn (and want to learn), but also to care about themselves and have confidence in their abilities. When the series began, Class E was depressed and despondent, believing the bile spewed by the school about their own lack of worth. What Koro-sensei and Karasuma and Irina have done for them is turn that around, so that when disaster strikes in the latter half of this set, they don't just think they can win the day, they know they can.
Of course, that confidence has also been gained by learning how to scale a sheer cliff face, stab and shoot people, and otherwise neutralize just about any threat. That's a little iffy when you take the humor out of the story, and it certainly seems to move toward a question of what is the more monstrous behavior when you compare the kids of Class E (and their teachers) with the school principal and the ultimate villain of the final four episodes. Ultimately, what our heroes are fighting isn't a tentacle monster who plans to destroy the world, but systemic unfairness and the entitlement of the self-proclaimed “elites.” This underlying theme has framed all of the school's interactions, and it also comes to a different climax in the final two episodes of the season. The age-old question of who is the monster and who is the man, with a little bit of what makes a good teacher thrown in for good measure, is explored in these episodes very well, opening up serious character development potential as an added bonus.
That development belongs to Nagisa first and foremost this time around. Earlier on in the set, he comments that Karasuma is kinder to him than his own family, and we see in flashbacks for Chiba and Hayami that parental neglect and lack of understanding is a factor in other students' lives as well. For these kids, Koro-sensei and Karasuma have become parental figures, offering love and guidance that they do not receive at home. This directly parallels the brief appearance of Takaoka, another government agent sent in to help train Class E who proclaims himself a “dad” to the kids but proves to be much more like their actual parents, which we know is not what they need or want. All of this helps to inform Nagisa's darkest moment at the end of the season, while also forcing another Class E student, Karma Akabane, to really think about where his life is headed. Karma is the class bad boy in a different way from class thug Terasaka, who is more self-confident in all the wrong ways and never looking at the big picture. An academic screw-up forces Karma to confront himself, but what really drives home the need for change is a confrontation with a professional assassin who tells him that they'll fight again when someone inevitably takes out a hit on Karma. You can see that statement shakes Karma up, although whether he really takes it to heart remains to be seen.
Of course, the series isn't all serious – Koro-sensei is an inherently funny character, and both Jun Fukuyama and Sonny Strait continue to enhance that with excellent vocal work. His porn addiction takes a very entertaining turn when a student lays a trap for him in the woods, and there's an overall sense of fun to the show that balances out the more serious aspects in general. (Class E's impression of "entitled people" during a subterfuge mission is particularly funny.) There are also references to older titles sprinkled throughout, including the inevitable Naruto joke, a Rurouni Kenshin shout-out, and Ritsu wearing Ai's outfit from Cat's Eye for much of the final arc. Ai's costume is the most covering of the three Kisagari sisters' outfits, which is pretty indicative of the level of fanservice in the show – it's pretty much reserved for the one adult female character, Irina. The voluptuous teacher herself is more toned down than in the first half of the show, proving her worth in episode 19 and getting called “bitch” much less often. She also stars in three tiny shorts placed before the start of the island story arc, which are pretty funny.
While the usual extras are present on this set - trailers, previews, clean songs, and a couple of episode commentaries - there's also a top ten scenes featurette, where six cast members count down what they feel are the best scenes of this second half of season one. It's a fun watch, as well as a chance to see the faces behind the voices if that interests you.
The first season of Assassination Classroom ends with the knowledge that season two is coming, but it also manages to complete the storyline so that the wait will be bearable. Its greatest strength comes from showing how the characters have grown over the course of the semester and how much of a difference Koro-sensei has made in their lives. When Nagisa passes Koro's advice along to a kid he meets or when Sugino is able to interact with former teammates comfortably, we can see how far they've come. Will they ultimately be able to kill the octopus who has done so much for them? Will we want them to? It will be a testament to the strength of the show if the answer to those questions are murky when season two hits the shelves.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A-
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : B+
+ Ending theme is still beautiful, good character development for several students, less calling Irina a bitch, story moves well and doesn't leave us on a cliffhanger
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