by Paul Jensen,
After a week off, Assassination Classroom is back with a peppy new opening theme song. More importantly, it's back with a fresh supply of the goofy yet clever comedy that makes it such a fun series to watch. With baseball season just getting started in the real world, I suppose it's as good a time as any for the show to take a shot at putting together a sports episode.
Any plans to kill Koro Sensei are put on the back burner this week, allowing the series to focus on the rivalry between class E and the rest of the school. This latest clash takes the form of an exhibition game between everyone's favorite misfits and the school baseball team. The school's plan is to entertain the rest of the students by letting the class E kids get slaughtered, but Koro Sensei intends to give the opposing team a run for their money.
As you might expect from Assassination Classroom, the game quickly devolves into a mess of clever tricks and underhanded strategies, and the end result becomes baseball in name only. Koro Sensei disguises himself as a ball and uses his color-changing ability to give some silly signals to the class E batters. The principal responds to their unorthodox strategies with some very questionable defensive shifts, and on it goes. The absurdity escalates at a well-measured pace, and it's immensely entertaining to watch class E throw the overconfident baseball team off of their game. As usual, Assassination Classroom manages to take an old story premise and breathe a surprising amount of life into it.
The underdog story is made more compelling thanks to an increased amount of initiative for the class E students. It's not Koro Sensei who first suggests that they try to beat the baseball team, but ex-pitcher Sugino. After a brief appearance early on in the series, Sugino was firmly on my list of bland supporting characters who needed Koro Sensei to make their stories interesting. It's nice to see that he's become a strong enough character to initiate a storyline through his own decisions. That change is evident in a number of other characters as well, and it helps reinforce the idea that Koro Sensei is making a tangible difference as a teacher. The show's writing is getting better at dealing with characters who aren't goofy yellow mutants with apocalyptic intentions.
As much fun as this episode is, it still suffers from a few problems. The principal remains a fairly bland villain, and his methods are too vaguely defined to be truly despicable. He's just a sinister face to put behind every group of jerks that class E runs into, and it feels like the series isn't sure what to do with him. It's also disappointing to see the girls' basketball game written off so casually. Trying to juggle two games at once would have been a tricky proposition, but the show's handling of the problem is pretty weak. It seems out of character for Koro Sensei to help one group of his students and leave another group to fend for themselves, especially given his ability to handle so many tasks at once. I can't help but think that it would've been better to scrap the basketball game entirely and have the whole class play against the baseball team.
It still needs some work before it can become a true A-list title, but it's hard to stay angry at Assassination Classroom when it's this much fun. The show has its comedic routines down to a science, but still manages to keep things fresh and interesting. With many of last season's best shows wrapped up, it's nice to know that at least one strong title will be carrying over into the spring.
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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