by Paul Jensen,
Near the end of this episode, Koro Sensei declares that he's a comic relief character at heart and complains about how embarrassing it is to be involved in serious events. It's an amusing example of Assassination Classroom having fun at its own expense, but it's also a more accurate statement than it was probably intended to be. This series is at its best when it has the freedom to be witty and lighthearted, and the wheels always seem to come off a bit when things get serious. That's why this episode is such a risk: by introducing a character who can fight Koro Sensei on equal terms, the show forces itself to stop fooling around.
The new face in question is Itona, the boy with creepy eyes who made an appearance at the end of last week's episode. He's described as Koro Sensei's brother, at least to the extent that they were created by the same organization. Instead of trying to blend in with the rest of the class, Itona comes right out and challenges Koro Sensei to a fight. Once the tentacles start flying, the show's trademark humor is sidelined in favor of a much darker tone that we've only seen for a few moments at a time until now.
It should hardly come as a surprise that the duel isn't as much fun to watch as some of Assassination Classroom's sillier antics. The series isn't used to telling this kind of story, and it can't quite deliver the kind of thrills one would expect from a more action-oriented title. While it's not exceptional by any means, the scene does contribute something important to the overall plot of the series. When Koro Sensei notices the similarities between himself and Itona, he gets angrier than he's ever been before. Something about seeing someone else put through whatever process he endured makes him absolutely furious with Itona's masked guardian. That moment of fury marks the first time that the show has given us a credible reason to take Koro Sensei's apocalyptic threat seriously. It's an important development that fills in a big hole in the show's backstory.
For all that it reveals about Koro Sensei's emotions, this episode still leaves an awful lot of questions unanswered. We're left with the impression that he wants revenge for being made into a monster, but the details of his escape and his motivations for teaching class E remain a blank. All the show offers is the same few images of Koro Sensei surrounded by the debris and making a promise to an unnamed woman. It's all well and good to leave some mysteries unsolved, but this detour down angry street would've been easier to justify if it came with just a bit of concrete information. The show even rushes Itona and his guardian back off the stage at the end of the episode, effectively slamming the door on any further revelations for the time being.
While it may be frustratingly cryptic, this episode does at least bookend the big faceoff with some strong comedy. There's not enough screen time to do anything elaborate, but the cast has been developed to the extent that they can entertain simply by firing off a few witty lines and delivering a sight gag or two. Koro Sensei's mortification at having gotten so angry is particularly welcome, as it helps ease the transition from drama back into comedy. It shows that the series recognizes its own biggest weakness: when humor is your selling point, it's tough to make a satisfying turn for the dramatic.
Where Assassination Classroom will go from here is anyone's guess. Time is running out this season, and the simplest course of action may be to set things up for the next block of episodes. Given the pace of the story thus far, it may be quite some time before we get anything close to a real conclusion.
Assassination Classroom is currently streaming on Funimation.
Paul Jensen is a freelance writer and editor. You can follow more of his anime-related ramblings on Twitter.
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