BINGE-READ MANGA: Assassination Classroom

Welcome to BINGE-READ MANGA! On the first Tuesday of every month, Geek of Oz reviews a manga with a back catalogue and tells you why it's worth binging, Netflix-style.

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Ever had a teacher you really disliked, and wanted to get rid of? These guys do. Quite a bit.

 

THE STORY AND CHARACTERS


Assassination Classroom is crazy. Seriously crazy. But also heartwarming. It's weird that way.

After blowing up part of the moon, a sentient octopus-monster (who is later named Koro-sensei) arrives on Earth and demands to teach a class at a high school, or else he'll destroy the world in a year. The students of Koro-sensei's Class 3-E, tempted by a hefty bounty from the government, set about spending every day trying to kill him. Given that he can move at Mach 20 and is impervious to most guns, poisons and explosives, trying is the operative word there.

AC has a premise that is, as shown above, quite mental, but it also has a real core of heart and charm to it. Like Food Wars the story exists mostly as a surreal comedy, as the plethora of means the 3-E students utilise to try and kill Koro-sensei can get pretty ridiculou. But even as they attempt teachercide on a daily basis, Koro-sensei schools them in how to do better; his concern is not that they're trying to kill him, it's that they're trying to kill him the wrong way. So even with a cabal of gun-toting students out for blood, Koro-sensei still finds time to teach. Isn't he considerate, as well as terrifying?

While there is an emotional core to the story, part of my problem with AC is it feels relatively fluffy in comparison to other surreal coming-of-age stories like Food Wars. Both narratives obviously exist for fun rather than pathos, but that doesn't mean you can't have a bit of deep seriousness every now and then in a story with a killer octopus-teacher (ok, maybe it does mean that). The jokes and absurdity of the situation take centre stage in AC, meaning it can sometimes be a little hard to take in the story as anything other than a long joke about teacher-student relationships. That's not a bad thing, but when AC does try to be serious it feels a little inconsistent with what's come before. Maybe that's something that clears up after a few more volumes, and it's certainly not a huge black mark against a series where Koro-sensei's lunch break consists of flying to Italy and back just for a gelato.

THE ART AND VISUALS


The illustrations are pretty fantastic. Koro-sensei in particular inhabits a unique part of the uncanny valley with that constant smile, and even in black-and-white the manga does a good job at showing the colour of his skin (or, at least, the shade) changing with his mood.Yusei Matsui really does outstanding work here, making sure student characters are visually delineated while ensuring Koro-sensei never stops looking creepy.



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DOES IT HAVE AN ANIME?


Yup. A 22-episode first season came out earlier this year, and a second is planned for 2016. Watch the first season at AnimeLab here.




HOW MANY VOLUMES ARE OUT?


In English, the 5th volume just hit shelves and the 6th is out soon. In Japan, they're about to hit 16 volumes.

WHY IT'S BINGEWORTHY


Ironically, its bingeworthiness comes from the very thing I griped about above - it's pretty light and fluffy. Like I said, there are serious moments here and there, but it's ultimately a story in service of detached humour rather than embedded drama. It's the kind of thing you can breeze through lightly in-between sessions of Evangelion and Tokyo Ghoul, a nice little ray of terrifying sunshine in-between bleaker works.

Whether you like or dislike how laissez-faire the whole thing is, Assassination Classroom is still awesome. It's the kind of story that makes me wish my schooling had had the same kind of absurdity; if nothing else, it would've given me a much greater fear of octopuses than I have now.

- Chris



 Assassination Classroom Volumes 1-5 are available in English now wherever manga is sold.
Volume 6 is available November 2015.

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