by Paul Jensen,
No matter how good you are at taking them, tests are hardly the most enjoyable part of going to school. Sitting silently in a classroom and regurgitating knowledge onto a piece of paper is a dull experience at best and a miserable one at worst. Perhaps that's why Assassination Classroom elected to depict class E's final exam as a cross between a gladiator movie and a monster-hunting RPG.
With all of the groundwork already laid, this episode is free to dive straight into the heart of the story. The narrative sprints through the exams, sparing just enough time to depict the clash between the A and E classes. When the results come back, the class E kids have good reason to celebrate; they've won their bets with both Koro Sensei and class A. As summer vacation kicks off, it's clear that the plucky misfits won't get much of a break. After all, they've still got an assassination plot to carry out.
Even though the exam scene feels a little rushed, it's probably for the best. The monster-slaying imagery from earlier in the season returns, and it's still too overzealous in its attempts to spice up the visuals. The good news is that the series has improved on the way it uses this gimmick. Instead of trying to talk the audience into taking the scene seriously, it cuts loose and focuses on making the scene fun to watch. The taming of the science monster is especially amusing, and there are some clever design choices on display when it comes to the “weapons” the students use to take on each subject. As impossible as it is to take the whole affair seriously, the show at least scores points for being entertaining.
The test results bring a few welcome surprises. This was always going to be a story about underdogs working hard to beat the established favorites, but that theme is carried further than I expected. When the scores come in, it's the minor characters that carry class E to victory. Their trio of wins over class A come from Nakamura, Isogai, and Okuda, who've starred in a grand total of half an episode between the three of them. Nagisa's name barely comes up at all, and Karma gets disappointing marks across the board after deciding he didn't need to take the tests seriously. Even Terasaka and his posse of slackers make a bigger contribution by acing the home economics test. In a situation where most shows would have had the main characters snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, this series was bold enough to try something different. It's a satisfying outcome that plays directly into Koro Sensei's tendency to see potential in each of his students.
The one disappointment here is the reaction from Asano and the rest of class A. After such a compelling introduction last week, I was hoping for a less predictable reaction to his defeat at the hands of the school's designated losers. There's no manipulative speech to rally his lackeys, no last-minute trump card, not even an ominous declaration of rivalry. Instead, Asano just gets taunted by the principal and acts cranky for the remainder of the episode. I'm hoping that he'll bounce back quickly. It would be a shame to have the show's most promising villain go out with a whimper instead of a bang.
Despite a few imperfections, Assassination Classroom has done a fine job with this story arc. These last two episodes have made for compelling viewing and have already set up another intriguing challenge for class E to take on. While Koro Sensei remains a fun and likable character, it's nice to see that the series isn't content to use him as a crutch. He's still the best part of the show, but the rest of the cast is finally able to carry the majority of the narrative weight.
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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