by Paul Jensen,
For better or for worse, Assassination Classroom has always been eager to try out new story ideas. Some experiments have worked out well, adding exciting new elements to the series. Others have been duds, typically abandoned after a single mediocre episode. This showdown between class E and a group of professional assassins falls more into the latter category, but it looks like we'll be stuck with it for a while.
Class E sneaks into the hotel this week, dodging bad guys in search of a cure for their infected classmates. Getting past the ground floor guards proves to be a piece of cake, but things get tougher as they move further up the building. They figure out how the virus was spread after taking out a poison expert, but a cloud of paralyzing gas leaves Karasuma on the sidelines for the rest of the mission. With all of their teachers out of commission, the kids will have to face the next henchman on their own. The baddie appears to have a killer kung-fu grip worthy of a 90's action figure, but Karma quickly steps up to challenge him one on one.
This story arc marks a shift in tone for Assassination Classroom. It's trying to trade in the usual silly action-comedy for a much cooler vibe. The hotel's odd layout lets them take on one major opponent at a time, and each enemy's particular talent presents a different challenge for the class to overcome. The bad guys are all a little eccentric, but their quirks are chiefly meant to help them stand out. Making the audience laugh is a secondary priority at best. The trouble with this new approach is that it doesn't quite work. Something about the attempt rings false, like the class clown suddenly donning a pair of sunglasses and trying to play the rebel without a cause.
The show's comedic instincts are sharp as ever, and they help to carry the episode whenever the action slows down. Karasuma instructs the students to act like spoiled rich kids in order to blend in, and the resulting gallery of facial expressions is priceless. Having Koro Sensei trapped in his little defensive ball also turns out to be useful from time to time; the other characters can inflict all sorts of misery on him whenever he gets too smug. There's a moment of self-referential humor that feels a bit forced, but even that's more entertaining than the series of hallway faceoffs.
It wouldn't take much to liven up this storyline, but the script needs to get off the fence and commit to a single direction. If the show wants to play secret agent, then the stakes aren't high enough at the moment. The current set of opponents have been too easy for class E to dispatch, and it doesn't feel like the kids have to push the limits of their abilities. On the other hand, the show needs to really cut loose if it wants to stick with its usual over-the-top style. Last week's attack on Koro Sensei was a good example of how to add a sense of fun to an action scene, but the rest of this story arc hasn't kept up that blend of style and humor. When it comes right down to it, this action comedy needs either more action or more comedy.
Assassination Classroom is still more entertaining than the average action series, but it's starting to wander too far away from its strengths. The best hope for improvement may be the faceless mastermind behind the assassins, who could easily prove to be more interesting than his henchmen. Until class E makes it to the top floor of the hotel, however, we may be in for a long and uneventful ride.
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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