Shelf Life Koro Sensei Quest!
by Paul Jensen,
I got myself a Nintendo Switch last week, and my first impression of the thing was pretty darn positive. I plugged it in, turned it on, put in a game, and started playing. No insanely huge updates to download or anything. It was a refreshing reminder that game consoles should always be simple and painless to use, and that any frustration or profanity should only come from getting slaughtered in Mario Kart. Welcome to Shelf Life.
Jump to this week's review:
Koro Sensei Quest!
On Shelves This Week
Synopsis: Rinne and Sakura's adventures continue as they take on new exorcism jobs and deal with more mundane troubles along the way.
Extra: Our episode reviews for this show only cover season one, but user ratings for this season are pretty positive with an average of 7.2 out of 10. The first two seasons are available streaming on Crunchyroll, while HIDIVE and Hulu have all three.
Synopsis: When he's attacked by an evil spirit, high school student Kazuya Kagami is saved by the spirit that inhabits his late mother's kimono sash.
Extra: Our reviewers weren't overly impressed with this show's first episode in the Preview Guide, but user ratings for the full series seem decent enough with an average of 6.8 out of 10. You can stream it on Crunchyroll and Funimation.
Shelf Life Reviews
I wrote our streaming reviews for Assassination Classroom once upon a time, and now I get to revisit the series (sort of) thanks to its spinoff series, Koro Sensei Quest. Let's see how well this short-form parody holds up.
Koro Sensei Quest reimagines the original story as an old-fashioned fantasy RPG. Koro Sensei is the game world's final boss, with his official title translated as either the Demon King or the “Big Bad.” He becomes the teacher of Class 3-E, which in this world is the bottom-rung class at a magic school for aspiring heroes. All the usual suspects are present, with each character's personality and backstory reimagined as an in-game bug that grants them special abilities of dubious value. Much like the original, Koro Sensei's end goal is to train the 3-E kids up to a point where they can challenge and defeat him, which in this case means beating the game.
The new setting is a pretty good fit for the basic structure of Assassination Classroom, since the original premise of training the main characters to become assassins isn't terribly far off from the idea of leveling up a video game party. Koro Sensei Quest gets some decent mileage out of the switch by twisting some key plot points into a fantasy comedy context. Late additions to the class like Ritsu and Itona are depicted as legendary heroes who must be recruited by the 3-E kids, the members of 3-A become corrupt paladins in service of the pope/principal, and so on. It's all relatively simple stuff, but it works well enough to generate a few laughs here and there. The humor doesn't come so much from the tired old jokes about grinding levels as it does from using that familiar setup to poke light fun at major moments from the original story.
Frankly, Koro Sensei Quest does far better work when it's lampooning the characters themselves. This is one of the few cases where it does something notably fresh with the RPG premise, with all of the 3-E kids being rewritten as glitched game characters. Karma's smug attitude and occasional big failures become a perpetually changing luck stat; every time he looks down on his opponents, he falls through a trap door or gets hit on the head with an enormous pan. Ritsu goes from being an artificial intelligence to being a magic-user who happens to live inside of a giant stone tablet, which the series deliberately calls out as being a pretty silly interpretation of her backstory. My favorite of the bunch might be class delinquent Terasaka: after being replaced by an imposter early in the series, he returns at the end as a max-level warrior resembling the main character from Berserk, with a lengthy explanation of where he's been the whole time. While he's gone, no one bothers to look for him because the impostor is easier to get along with. As long as you don't take it too seriously, these character-specific jokes are the strongest part of Koro Sensei Quest.
Unfortunately, that brings me to the inevitable problem with this series: aside from the surplus of Assassination Classroom in-jokes, there's not much to it. The video game elements do a fine job of setting up that referential humor, but I wouldn't really consider Koro Sensei Quest a fantasy RPG spoof in its own right. On a similar note, it doesn't do much to expand upon the original story or change the way we look at the characters. Instead, it just amplifies what's already there until it jumps from action-comedy to dedicated self-parody. You'd get next to nothing out of it if you went in without having already seen or read Assassination Classroom. Even if you are familiar with the main series, some of the jokes are obscure enough to miss if the plot and characters aren't fresh in you mind. Its dedicated role as a comedic epilogue ultimately serves to narrow its appeal.
On the visual front, the simplified character designs are a good fit for the comedic tone, and they retain just enough detail to preserve the look and feel of the cast. Of course, since Koro Sensei was kind of a cartoonish monster to begin with, he doesn't look all that different here. The background art has been similarly simplified to the point where it looks more like a Saturday morning cartoon than a late-night anime series, but key locations like 3-E's run-down classroom are still recognizable. The animation is just solid enough to make the jokes work, which is really the only thing it needs to do. Funimation's English dub cast carries over from Assassination Classroom, and it definitely feels like both the English and Japanese casts had fun lampooning their roles. This set also includes commentary tracks for two episodes, which amounts to about one normal episode's worth of commentary when you factor in Koro Sensei Quest's shorter format (each episode clocks in at around ten minutes).
Koro Sensei Quest has enough going for it to justify a single viewing, provided you're already familiar with the original story. The fantasy RPG setting is an amusing twist, and the writing finds some clever ways to draw humor out of the characters. At only twelve short-format episodes, it also wraps up before running out of good material. Unfortunately, it's too shallow and specialized to merit anything higher than a Rental rating. If you're looking for a charmingly goofy palate cleanser after finishing Assassination Classroom, it'll give you exactly what you want. Otherwise, I'd recommend sticking with the main series.
That wraps up the review section for this week. Thanks for reading!
This week's shelves are from Simon:
"Hi, Simon here.
I started collecting figures after watching Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. My 1st pair of figures are the the Haruhi and Nagato figures behind Jibril. That was 7 years ago. The collection's growth started to speed up right after University once I landed my full-time job 3 years ago and branched off to LN's, manga and some blu-rays. Went to japan twice in the last year and managed to step foot in the holy land (Akihabara]) and took the pilgrimage to every Otaku's Bi-annual festival, the Comiket where I started buying art books. I'm a KyoAni fanboy and I love Hibike Euphonium!.
Thanks for viewing my collection, and hope you guys enjoy."
That's quite the impressive lineup of figures there. I know several people (possibly including myself) who would be filled with envy if they saw those Girls und Panzer tanks. Thanks for sharing!
Hey, Shelf Obsessed is finally back! Let's keep the train rolling with some more entries. Send me photos of your anime collections at [email protected]!
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