Season 2 of Assassination Classroom just came to an end, so it’s now time to take a look at the series as a whole and how it evolved throughout the last year and a half. Assassination Classroom told a beautiful story with a bizarre concept, and that deserves a lot credit.
SPOILERS for the whole series!
Assassination Classroom is quite the special case. Both the manga and the anime are very popular in Japan (the franchise’ got a DS game, a live-action movie, more anime movies coming out soon…), and it’s also doing quite well in the US. However, it was never among the most talked about shows in anime forums and online communities in the West. Sure, there were a lot of talks on it when the first episode came out due to its strange premise and the fact that it starred a giant yellow octopus, but the hype died pretty soon. Personally, I sort of felt the same way. Even if there were some twists here and there, for the most part I always knew what to expect from Assassination Classroom. It was never among the series I looked forward to the most each week, but I never missed an episode, nor did I ever feel bored while watching any of them. It’s funny how I didn’t quite realize how much I enjoyed this series until I watch the last episode. They say you never know what you have until it’s gone, right?
“Assassination” is a delicate topic in shounen anime and it’s rarely openly discussed. It’s strange, really. There are many shounen protagonist that have killed people, be it fighting villains or random collateral damage. And, sometimes, the villains will still survive unsurvivable situations because it would be unethical to have the main character of a “kid show” commit such an immoral act. That’s why Asassination Classrom, was so surprising and why it even became involved in controversy. Furthermore, first-time viewers didn’t know whether they should take the anime seriously or not. All the signs pointed towards it being just a comedy because… well, it’s about kids killing an octopus. How could it “get real”?
In fact, I have read some reviews that criticized the show for taking itself too seriously despite having such a ridiculous premise. I disagree. I would have agreed if the show executed the serious aspects poorly, but after seeing the second season, I cannot agree with that statement. While it’s true that the scientific explanation of the tentacles left much to be desired, the series accomplished to convey whatever it wanted to convey. It was funny when it tried to be comedic, it was sad when it tried to be dramatic, and it was mad hype when it wanted to get serious. Assassination Classroom is a series with constrats. Constrasting comedy and drama is one of the hardest things to do (and something this season’s Bungou Stray Dogs failed at), but it was never really a problem here. I won’t deny that it bothered me a bit in the first season, which is understandable since the story wasn’t quite finished yet. It was easier to get frustrated when no one seemed to be alarmed at the fact that their teacher was an alien who had destroyed the Moon and wanted to do the same thing with the Earth. However, everything took a turn when we found out about Koro-sensei’s past as “The Grim Reaper” and his relationship with Kayano’s sister. Learning the truth behind the crescent moon and the events surrounding March 13th helped get some perspective on things and made Season 2 a much better season overall.
One of the biggest fears I had when I started watching the series is that the cast was too big: an entire classroom (and some more). Thankfully, it didn’t end up being an issue. While the first season felt more overwhelming in that regard, by the time Season 2 came out we were already familiarized with many of the characters, especially the main three: Nagisa, Karma and Kayano (also know as “the RGB trio” for their hair colors). Many other characters like Itona, Asano, Bitch-sensei and even Nagisa got full backstories in the second season, and every character got a lot more fleshed out. Not all the students got the same amount of development and I would be lying if I said I knew all their names at this point, but this was actually a good choice and it didn’t take away from the enjoyment of the series at all. Developing all the students in the same way simply wouldn’t have worked. The only character I dind’t quite get was Ritsu, or as I called her, “virtual girl”. She failed to grab my attention when she was introduced in the beginning of the series, and I never quite got the point of her being there. She lacked in personality and she barely ever interacted with the other characters. It seemed like she only appeared to be used for plot convenient when something tech-related was needed.
Going back to the assassination themes, this anime brings some interesting topics to the table. Asano-sensei thinks he was a bad teacher for treating his students gently after one of his students ended up getting killed, making all his time in school pointless. This leads Asano to believe that treating people nicely means making them weak. This sadly results in him treating his son very badly because ‘tough love’. Asano’s story was one of the most interesting ones and it raised some relevant questions like “what should we teach students?” or “how should we raise our kids?”. Nagisa and his relationship with Koro-sensei are a good contraposition to this. Nagisa is the type of main character who believes in always doing good, and doing everything he can to save others. In fact, he leads the “save Koro-sensei” faction against Karma’s “kill Koro-sensei” in Assassination Classroom‘s own Civil War. Ironically, Nagisa is also the most talented killer in the class. Even if all these kids were trained to become assassins to kill Koro-sensei, they use their training as literally physical and mental training. They know how to defend themselves and how to attack someone if it comes down to it, but non of them wishes to use their skills for power. Koro-sensei, next to Karasuma-sensei and Bitch-sensei, are proof of how to raise mentally and physically strong children with love and emotional support.
Studio LERCHE did a great job with this series, keeping the art and animation consistent through all 50 episodes. It’s remarkable how they always manage to keep the colors so vivid and bright for the happy, light, classroom scenes, while playing with contrasts and lightning for more dramatic scenes (this scene with Nagisa from the end of the last season is a highlight). Even if they already did that with Danganronpa, Assassination Classroom has to be my favorite work from this studio. The soundtrack by Naoki Sato is phenomenal and very diverse, including both cheerful songs for the comedic songs and more serious ones for drama and action scenes. “Odayaka na Asa” os a personal favorite of mine. There were also some new tracks added with the second season that I’m really looking forward to for when the OST gets released.
Assassination Classroom came as a quite peculiar anime with a weird premise and a bizarre main character, but it ended up being funny, entertaining and more emotional than anyone ever expected it to be. The series managed to keep viewers watching by creating a constant struggle in the audience making them wonder if Koro-sensei is actually good or bad. This evil-looking alien took a group of outcasts and turned them into some of the best students in the academy, and that is truly inspiring. Koro-sensei remaining dead works as a metaphor for leaving your teachers and mentors behind after you graduate. Nagisa and the others have moved on, but they will always remember the time they all shared in Classroom E and the lessons they learned from Koro-sensei. It’s not really about assassination, but about self-improvement through studying, exercising and creating bonds with others.