Assassination Classroom
Episodes 1-2

by Paul Jensen,

Koro Sensei is a pretty unusual guy, even for a middle school teacher. He draws silly doodles while grading tests and cracks jokes in the middle of his own lectures. He's also a yellow tentacle monster who moves twenty times faster than the speed of sound and runs rings around anyone who tries to attack him. That last part is a bit of a problem, as he's threatened to destroy the world if his students can't kill him by the end of the school year. Hey, at least that saves them the trouble of studying for finals.

So yes, Assassination Classroom has the sort of premise that requires major suspension of disbelief. You're better off not asking why Koro Sensei doesn't damage the school building with his rapid acceleration or why nobody's thought to just nuke the whole place in the middle of math class. If you can step back and accept the rules of the show's world, then there's plenty of fun to be had here.

Thankfully, Koro Sensei himself does a fine job of keeping the audience too entertained to ask questions. The first episode starts off with him calmly taking attendance while his students unload on him with an arsenal of BB guns. Completely unfazed by the attack, he simply points out that the kids will have to speak up so he can hear them over all the gunfire. It's a very funny scene that sets the tone for the rest of the series. Its premise may be apocalyptic, but Assassination Classroom is a goofball comedy at heart.

There are signs that the story may be deeper than it appears, though that potential has yet to be explored. Underneath his cartoonish exterior, it's obvious that Koro Sensei is taking his teaching responsibilities seriously. The students of class E are supposedly the school's misfits and underachievers, but Koro Sensei seems determined to help them rise above those expectations. A brief flashback suggests that his decision to become a teacher has roots in a major personal tragedy. This could all descend into sappy classroom drama, but it could also end up saying something profound about the difference a good teacher can make.

The one thing that has me worried about Assassination Classroom is its supporting cast. I haven't said much about the students in class E thus far because there's surprisingly little to say. The kids appear to be a collection of teenage misfit stereotypes: punks, airheads, slackers, and so on. Their troubles are simple, predictable, and easily solved after a few minutes of encouragement from a big yellow mutant. Koro Sensei's abilities as a teacher haven't really been challenged yet, which holds the series back from making good on its dramatic potential. If this show's going to remain compelling over the course of the season, the kids need to start pulling more of the weight.

On the whole, Assassination Classroom is off to a good start. It's nicely animated, it has a unique and charismatic main character, and the first two episodes provide plenty of lighthearted fun. With a new student set to transfer into the class next week, my complaints about the supporting cast will hopefully be short-lived. Given a little more time to find its voice, this series could be a real winner.

Rating: B

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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