Anime Review: Assassination Classroom

Still image from episode 1 of Assassination Classroom. Used under Fair Use.

Comedy in anime usually takes on one of two different forms. The one you will see the most is raunchy, tasteless humor that plays off the over-sexualization of characters. The other prominent form is very physical, slapstick comedy that generally couples well with action anime like One Piece and Angel Beats. Assassination Classroom separates itself from the pack in this regard. Everything about its premise indicates that it would be a comedy, yet it still consistently goes above and beyond in its execution.

Assassination Classroom is about a mysterious being who destroys the moon and leaves it in a permanent crescent, then announces to the government that in one calendar year, it will do the same to Earth. The one caveat is that he wishes to teach class 3-E of Kunugigaoka Middle School for the year. The students are notified by the government of this and the students are given a goal: assassinate this being by the end of the year and earn 10 billion yen, because the fate of the world depends on it. The catch is that the creature, dubbed “Koro-sensei” by the students, is supremely intelligent and can move up to Mach 20 speeds.

As you might expect, the students cannot touch him. It’s up to the class to observe his tendencies and try to note any weaknesses, as done by narrator Nagisa Shiota, and eventually plan the perfect assassination. The United Nations also sends several professionally trained assassins to contribute in one way or another, including two teachers, Tadaomi Karasuma and Irina Jelavić. Of course, Koro-sensei is aware of all this and even assists various students in their attempts, such as teaching Manami Okuda how to properly make and assist in distributing an effective poison. Despite the blatantness of the ridiculous premise, the funniest parts of the show take place within normal, relatable human interactions. A comeback here, a playful insult there, jokes you could see yourself making within a group of friends. Even within a plot that is saturated with the same style of humor, Assassination Classroom will find ways to make you laugh.

Of course, as with other anime that regularly implement realistic scenarios between characters, the growing subplot ventures in that direction as well. Class 3-E is notably far away from the main middle school campus, but why? Simply put, they are known as the “End Class.” The students there are those with the worst grades in the school, for one reason or another. There are a couple exceptions, most notably Karma Akabane, who landed there due to his violent tendencies. These students are scorned by both students and teachers alike and they have outdated facilities as if the school wants them to fail. It even goes a step beyond that, as the End Class serves as a point of terror for the other students, that if they falter, they might also be sent there.

With nothing really to lose, the assassination premise gives way to this idea of the characters being deemed useless. Koro-sensei inherits the teacher role to the point where you almost want him to survive. He goes beyond academics and teaches the students how to be the best version of themselves that they can be. Around 30 characters all find a way to share a spotlight of 22 episodes in the first season, highlighting their strengths as well as what makes them unique or misunderstood. Assassination Classroom does not let the class blend together in order to support a select few main characters. They are all given identities, like Hinano Kurahashi the biology expert, Tomohito Sugino the baseball player or Hinata Okano the gymnast.

Assassination Classroom is a coming-of-age story disguised as a comedic deconstruction of assassination. It is not afraid to lean into its ridiculous nature, but is also not afraid to raise the stakes and give the characters a challenge to overcome. It sets itself apart among both fun feel-good stories and gritty underdog stories. It is a genuinely enjoyable watch that will leave you satisfied and is available on Hulu.