by Paul Jensen,
When an anime series features a supposedly invincible character, it's only a matter of time before someone tries sending in a killer robot. Will giving an artificial intelligence a bunch of guns and calling it a student be enough to rid the world of Koro Sensei? Of course not, but that doesn't mean Assassination Classroom won't have fun along the way.
Class E gets a new transfer student this week, and she's got a rather unusual name: Autonomous Intelligence Fixed Artillery. Essentially a refrigerator-sized gun factory with a face, the new girl spends the entirety of the school day bombarding Koro Sensei with BBs and gradually adapting to his ability to dodge her attacks. The rest of the students aren't thrilled with the constant disruptions, but Koro Sensei eventually makes some “upgrades” to help her fit in. With a sunnier personality and a cuter avatar, Autonomous Intelligence Fixed Artillery begins to learn the values of cooperation and friendship. She also earns the nickname Ritsu, which is much easier for me to type.
As in the past, Assassination Classroom does a nice job of adding humorous twists to a familiar scenario. Ritsu's appearance makes for a refreshing departure from the almost-human android girls we usually see; she really is just a big computer with a video screen that projects a dead-eyed, pink-haired anime girl's face whenever she talks. It's so plain, so utterly functional that it stands out in a show full of bright colors and eccentric characters. That contrast makes for some very funny visuals and sets a useful baseline for Ritsu's eventual upgrade.
Assassination Classroom also wisely avoids the temptation to let the entire episode lean on the new character. While much of the humor comes from Ritsu's quirks, the rest of the cast's reactions to the situation also play a significant role. Whether they're taping her gun ports shut to keep her from interrupting class or yelling at one another for making a killer robot cry, the minor characters really come into their own here. Between this week's episode and the previous storyline, it looks like Assassination Classroom is finally figuring how to put its ensemble cast to good use.
Of course, Koro Sensei still remains the beating heart of this series. It's obvious far in advance that he's going to treat Ritsu like any other student, but that predictability doesn't stop their after-school conversation from being a nice moment. It reinforces his dedication to teaching class E and helps to humanize a pair of characters who are very obviously not human. On top of that, the series elects to have Ritsu save her new personality from being erased by her creators rather than having Koro Sensei conveniently appear to save the day. Letting the students solve their own problems says much more about Koro Sensei's ability as a teacher than any timely rescue would.
Assassination Classroom has its episodic storytelling down to a science, which makes me wonder how well it will handle the challenge of bringing the season to a close. The series has had trouble finding a villain as interesting as its protagonist, so putting together a satisfying final showdown may prove difficult. The strongest conflict may ultimately be between Koro Sensei the teacher and Koro Sensei the monster, so I can only hope that division will be put to good use.
Funimation's ongoing dub of the series has been humming along for several weeks now, and some new character introductions merit a brief update. Austin Tindle puts in a solid performance as Karma, but the real highlight has been Martha Harms's take on Irina. She sharpens the distinction between the character's professional persona and the more unguarded side that comes out after her initial assassination attempt. It gives Irina a bit more depth and improves on what was a much shakier introduction in the Japanese version. The dub script still tries too hard to spice up Assassination Classroom's frequent inner monologues, but it's gotten better at crafting more distinct speech patterns for each character. Thus far, Funimation has managed to maintain and even improve upon its strong effort in the first episode.
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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