by Paul Jensen,
One of the things that irked me about the first few episodes of Assassination Classroom was the notion that the world's governments would leave a group of middle school kids in charge of killing Koro Sensei. With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, surely someone would try to sneak an actual assassin into the classroom. A new character helps to address that issue, even if her introduction isn't without its flaws.
Irina is a professional assassin, brought into class E as a foreign language teacher. She's a pretty typical femme fatale character with a very straightforward plan: seduce Koro Sensei and lure him into an ambush. It nearly works, but of course Koro Sensei escapes unharmed. After all, the series can't kill off its main character four episodes into the season.
I have a few gripes about this episode, mostly regarding Irina. For someone who's supposedly a pro at infiltration and assassination, she's pretty terrible at her job. She makes no attempt to maintain her cover, flaunting her disinterest in the class whenever Koro Sensei isn't around. I get that she's not actually there to be a teacher, but it seems idiotic that she'd go out of her way to antagonize the students. It's a sloppy attempt at characterization that flies in the face of every piece of spy fiction ever written. If the point is to show Irina's singular focus on her assassination plot, it would've been just as easy to have her spend the entirety of class time grilling the kids for information about Koro Sensei. It would make her a more believable character without altering the episode's storyline. I'm not asking for elaborate spycraft, just a little common sense.
On a similar note, I refuse to believe that Irina would be stupid enough to have her minions attack Koro Sensei with normal weapons. The people who hired her must have briefed her on his unique range of abilities, so surely she wouldn't be so overconfident as to completely disregard the show's special ammo. Once again, it's a decision that lessens the show's believability for no good reason. If Koro Sensei spotted the hitmen before they attacked, why not just have them use the special BBs and let him dodge the ambush like he usually does? It's almost as though the series isn't sure what kind of character Irina is supposed to be. She's a bit too serious to be a bumbling idiot and far too incompetent to be a genuine threat.
Aside from a few instances of boneheaded writing, this is still an acceptable episode. Assassination Classroom's comedic strength lies in the details, like having the kids play a version of badminton that involves stabbing a tiny replica of Koro Sensei's head. These little moments of absurdity add an extra layer of depth to the show's broader humor and help keep any one joke from growing overused.
This episode's final minutes also suggest that Irina will become a more interesting character over the course of the series. Now that she's putting some effort into her job as a teacher, it's possible that she'll make a decent foil for Koro Sensei. There's potential for some interesting dramatic tension as the kids find themselves caught between a good teacher who wants to destroy the world and an OK teacher who's trying to save it. If Irina's behavior in this episode isn't indicative of her role in the long term, I'm more inclined to forgive those moments of sloppy characterization.
Now that it's taken the time to bolster its supporting cast, Assassination Classroom needs to start moving the plot along. Koro Sensei's backstory and motivations remain a tantalizing mystery, and I'd also like to see how he deals with the school's administration. There are plenty of directions for the series to pursue, and it's about time to pick one and go with it.
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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