by Paul Jensen,
Assassination Classroom is a bit unusual in its approach to comedy. On the one hand, it uses its eccentric characters to make big jokes that, while funny, are the sort of thing that just about any decent comedy could pull off. At the same time, it also displays a level of subtlety and an eye for detail that often eludes other shows in its genre. It doesn't seem like the two should be able to coexist, but the series somehow makes it all work.
A school trip to Kyoto is the focus of this episode, though class E naturally has more than sightseeing on their itinerary. They've been asked to follow tour routes that will offer prime opportunities to kill Koro Sensei, even if it means walking down the occasional dark alley. Not only does the plan fail, it leads to several of the girls getting kidnapped by a group of high school baddies. Luckily, all that assassination training has made the class E kids a rescue party to be reckoned with.
We've seen this to a lesser extent in previous episodes, but Assassination Classroom really puts one its biggest strengths to use here. While its premise is amusingly bonkers to begin with, its more absurd elements really stand out when placed in a familiar school comedy situation. The series loves to remind us that class E's circumstances are unusual, but that only really works when we have a more normal baseline to compare them to. Field trip stories are common enough that the audience has an idea of what to expect, so Koro Sensei and his students can show off how odd they are by defying those expectations. This contrast between what we're used to and what actually happens becomes the driving force behind the show's humor.
We see it in big moments, like Koro Sensei latching onto the side of the train, but it's the little details that really sell this kind of comedy. Koro Sensei getting motion sickness is funny, but three students taking turns trying to stab him while he recuperates on a couch is hilarious, especially since no one pays the assassination attempts any mind. The conversation just carries on while the kids try to shank his comically deflated head. We see the same thing with the obnoxiously thorough travel guides that Koro Sensei makes for everyone. The hardcover tomes are amusing in and of themselves, but the joke gets revisited later on when we find that there's an entire section on how to rescue a kidnapped classmate. To cap it off, everyone from Nagisa to Karma naturally comes up with the idea of using these heavy books to clock the bad guys over the head. A lesser comedy would make a bigger deal of these follow-ups, probably by having another character flip out over all the odd things that class E does. Instead, Assassination Classroom has the good sense to let them pass with little more than a quick comment. When no one bats an eye at these details, it drives home how odd class E has become and how accustomed the characters have grown to their situation. As a bonus, it also makes us laugh.
There are still a few weak points in this episode, though they're mostly minor problems. A sequence of trying to lure Koro Sensei into a sniper's crosshairs is never put to enough use to justify its inclusion in the story. If the episode works fine without it, why bother to bring it up? The character development for Kanzaki is also half-hearted; her past is brought up out of the blue and she appears to make peace with it just as abruptly. Koro Sensei's timely intervention in the kidnapping frustrated me as well, especially since this would've been a good chance to show the students' ability to solve their own problems. As much as I like Assassination Classroom, it often feels like the story could use an extra round of script revisions.
If you're here for the mix of silly and subtle humor, this episode is among the show's best. Its more thoughtful side could still use another coat of polish, but anything this funny earns itself a healthy amount of leeway. In terms of being fun to watch, Assassination Classroom remains one of this season's strongest titles.
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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