Manga Review: Assassination Classroom Volume One

Assassination Classroom Volume One is a manga written and illustrated by Yusei Matsui. This volume was published in North America by VIZ Media’s Shonen Jump Advanced imprint in 2014. The series is rated “T+” for older teens. After reading this volume, I would agree with this rating.

Assassination Classroom Volume One
Written by: Yusei Matsui
Publisher: Shueisha
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: December 2, 2014

At the beginning of the volume, we see a group of students trying to kill their teacher, who is a powerful alien octopus creature that destroyed 70% of the moon. The creature claims that within a year, he will destroy Earth, but he offers a chance for mankind to avoid this fate. He declares that he wants to be the teacher for Class 3-E at Kunugigaoka Junior High School, and the Japanese government offers the class a 10 billion yen reward to the student who can kill the teacher before the year is up. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it sounds, since the alien can move at Mach 20. Also, as part of the agreement, the teacher is unable to harm the students in any way.

We learn that Class 3-E is known for containing the students with the lowest grades, and that this class is shunned from the rest of the school. In fact, their classroom is located in an old rundown building that’s nowhere near the actual school building itself. You can imagine how much incentive that 10 billion yen reward is to these students who are viewed as losers.

Among the students, the main focus is placed on Nagisa Shiota, who is viewed as one of the weakest students in the class due to his small stature. Nagisa is the one who tries to observe their new teacher and takes notes on his various weaknesses that he displays. While Nagisa is involved in some of the assassination attempts that take place in this volume, no one’s attempts are successful.

After spending some time with their teacher, he is given the name Koro-sensei, since he doesn’t have a name. And as the volume continues, Koro-sensei is shown trying to give help and advice to the students. In some cases, this appears to be attempts to thwart a student from attempting an assassination. However, many more of these instances appear to be Koro-sensei genuinely wanting to help his students. With these actions, I started getting the impression that Nagisa may be starting to warm up to Koro-sensei, and this could cause potential problems for Nagisa down the line if he becomes too attached to him and finds that he can’t kill him.

Near the end of the volume, a new student arrives in the classroom after being out on suspension: Karma Akabane. As is shown, he’s the one who has a true desire to kill a teacher and is the only one of the students to actually succeed at injuring Koro-sensei. But Koro-sensei’s regeneration powers make that victory short-lived. A government official named Tadaomi Karasuma also becomes important to the story when he becomes Class 3-E’s P.E. instructor.

When I read what the basic premise of this series was, I have to admit that I thought it sounded a little strange. But then I had remind myself that I had watched the Riddle Story of Devil simulcast last year, which was a story where students in a classroom were trying to assassinate one particular classmate, so the assassination in a classroom idea didn’t seem so strange. And after reading the first volume of Assassination Classroom, I can already say that the way this story is set up is already working better for me than Riddle Story of Devil did.

I appreciate seeing that Koro-sensei isn’t necessarily the monster that he was portrayed to be at the outset of the story and appears to be a more complicated character. Even though he knows all of his students are determined to assassinate him, he’s still trying to help the students to improve. So far, we’ve only seen a quick flashback for why Koro-sensei wanted to become a teacher, and I’m hoping that future volumes of the series will flesh that backstory out more.

Nagisa may not be an impressive protagonist at this point, but I suspect he may have more to offer in that role over the course of the series. And Karma ended up being a nice addition to the cast just as it seemed like the story had established itself. And it’s hinted at the end of this volume that another character may be coming in as another teacher to help out with the assassination attempts on Koro-sensei.

When it comes to the art, I have to say that Koro-sensei has a very distinct look, and I like how he stands out in comparison to the human characters that he interacts with. But I have to admit that early on in this volume, I wasn’t entirely sure if Nagisa was supposed to be male or female. With the design of his hair, it almost looked like he had a couple of weird pigtails at first. Also, the short stature didn’t help. But I believe I finally figured Nagisa’s gender when a pronoun was used to identify him. I also appreciated the unique designs for the various members of the class, because there was no way for me to potentially confuse characters.

While I wouldn’t say that Assassination Classroom is necessarily a great series, it works for the type of story that it’s trying to tell. It should appeal to manga readers who enjoy reading stories that include the element of assassination as a major part of its plot. While Assassination Classroom isn’t the type of manga series I normally read, I wouldn’t be adverse to reading future volumes.

The reviewer received a review copy from VIZ Media

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One comment

  1. Jd Banks · January 6, 2015

    I felt the same way about Nagisa! Even his personality screamed, “Girl!” I totally agree with your verdict. You should hear why on the next episode of the Manga Corner on Anime3000.

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