I really enjoyed the first volume of Assassination Classroom. It had a great lead character, lots of funny and interesting moments, solid art, and easily one of the most unique and different takes on a school manga I’ve seen. The title also seems to be picking up more steam with other people as well now that the anime is coming out. So, with the second volume now in sight, let’s see if the series can keep up this quality and live up to growing hype and fandom it’s getting. Is it good?
Assassination Classroom Vol. 2 (Viz Media)
Written & drawn by: Yusei Matsui
Translated by: Tetsuichiro Miyaki
English adaptation by: Bryant Turnage
Things keep on changing and progressing in the school year for Class E. They got a new teacher named Irina Jelavich, who’s really a world class assassin bent on taking Koro-Sensei in her own unique and sensual way. midterms are fast approaching for Kunugigaoka Junior High, but the class doesn’t have the energy or drive to deal with it considering the cruelty and behavior exhibited by the other classes under the command of the school’s principal. There’s also a fun class trip scheduled in the future as well. Despite everything though, the class and students have to keep their eyes on the prize: Killing Koro-Sensei before the end of the school year.
Only in manga and anime can a teacher do this and not get into trouble.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first volume of the series, but I was admittedly a bit worried going into this one. The last volume was a bit repetitive to a certain degree, with each chapter (sometimes two) introducing a new student and focusing on them and their attempt to assassinate Koro-Sensei, before learning a new lesson from him. This volume is different than that thankfully, adding some new dynamics and changes to the status quo, while also beginning to develop the setting and the school’s situation. As such, I would say this volume is actually even better than the last, at least on the story side of things.
Story-wise, the volume can be divided up into three mini-arcs and they are each good (though the last one continues on into the next volume). There’s the introduction to Miss Irina, referred to as Ms. Vitch since the students have trouble pronouncing it (a step up from the original translation where they just refer to her as Bitch Sensei), which is fine. Her mini story is pretty decent to start things off with, adding another teacher to the cast with her own unique personality and attitude, and I do like that the hostility between her and the students is resolved quickly instead of lingering on and on. It’s a bit disappointing that the only major female character so far is basically a fanservice character that kisses and shows off her to her students (which is like a big no-no in reality), but it is what it is.
The next story focuses on the midterms & the class’s attempt to pass them and this is by far the high point of the volume and series up until now. In the first volume, we got hints and nods that Class E was considered a very low class in the school. However, this story reveals opens things up and reveals just how bad it is in reality. Class E is the bottom of the food chain, something that every student strives to avoid ending up in and mercilessly mocks and belittles in order to feel better about themselves (even the other teachers join in on it). It’s a system established by the school’s principal in order to ensure that the school has a 95% passing rate and breeding some of the best and brightest minds in the country. This entire arc really opens up the school setting more, really letting us feel for this group of kids even more by introducing a really fantastic villain with the principal and setting up a pretty strong recurring theme and challenge for this class. I’ll avoid spoilers on what happens in this part, but it’s really great and well-written stuff.
But if we are going to be assassins, can’t we stylize our weapons?
The characterization in this volume is an improvement on the last one, but there are still some problems. By problems, I’m referring to the fact that there isn’t much character growth or development going on with the students. We really don’t see much change with them or anything really all that memorable here. That is at least on an individual level, since it could be said that the class is growing as a whole together. It’s evident in the middle term arc where they start off seemingly resigned to the fact that they’ll never pass their tests and are putting all of their energy and time into killing Koro-Sensei now. However, at the end, they seem to start believing a bit more in themselves and are more determined to study harder. So there could be growth with all of them together, but it would be nice to see some individual development, especially with Nagisa Shiota who is acting as the character through which we see the story.
There are improvements in the form of the introduction of Irina Jelavich and Principal Gakuho Asano and some minor development with Koro-Sensei. Like I said before, Jelavich is a decent addition to the cast and is pretty well defined character so far with what we have seen from her personality. She’s very smart and cunning, but she’s also a bit immature in areas and lacks normal people skills having been in the assassination game for a long time now. With Koro-Sensei, he gains some minor changes during the second story where he officially learns about how harsh the school is on Class E and even gets told by the principal to keep the class in their place so everyone else can feel superior and strive not to become like them. It makes him more serious and focused than usual, even getting mad at Class E when they aren’t taking the midterms seriously. Sure, he retains his usual goofiness, but you can tell the situation did affect him.
However, the real star and stand out with the characters is Principal Asano himself. He only really appears in one chapter and in the shadows in another, but he makes an incredible impression. He’s incredibly cruel and vicious towards Class E and is the creator of the entire system that has turned almost everyone against them, and goes out of his way in order to make sure they stay on the bottom. He does whatever it takes to make sure the kids stay where they are, even doing some very underhanded things. He’s truly a villainous character and I hope to see more from him soon.
It takes a lot of balls to talk inhuman monstrosity like that.
As for the rest of the writing, it’s pretty solid stuff like you would expect. The pacing and story flow are both very good here, never feeling slow or decompressed in any way. There are still some solid character moments in the book, even if the characters don’t all develop much. Karma Akabane, for instance, still gets some great and amusing bits during the class trip arc, while Koro-Sensei usually ends up stealing the show with all of his antics. The dialogue and narration are solid, with some really great interactions and scenes where the characters just talk (like with Koro and Asano). The humor and comedic element are still going pretty strong into this new volume, though personally, I didn’t laugh out loud like I did in the first volume. Finally, the dark tone and ongoing challenge of having to kill their teacher is still there, but it’s not nearly as prevalent as the previous volume. Sure, characters still talk about it and occasionally take a shot at killing him, but it wasn’t really the main focus this time around.
The artwork on the book still remains very good and appealing to look at. The characters are decently drawn (though some have the same face I’ve noticed) and are pretty expressive, with Koro-Sensei still being the best drawn one of them all. The action and imagery are great here, especially during the midterms mini-arc where I love how the kids visualize answering the problems on their tests. The layouts are solid and pretty easy to follow throughout the book, while the art does a great job at selling a lot of the jokes and gags in it. Basically, it is still as good as the previous volume and I don’t foresee the art slipping anytime soon.
Assassination Classroom Vol. 2 continues delivering on a very enjoyable and fun experience, while also really upping the game with more interesting storylines and new dynamics. While some characters could use some more development, the manga is able to overcome this problem with its strong writing and great artwork. For all of those enjoying the anime from what they have seen so far or were sort of on the fence if they read the first volume, definitely give this a shot. It’s only getting better, so why miss out on all of the assassinating fun?
Assassination Classroom is available from Viz Media on Amazon and other outlets. The first & second volume is currently available for purchase, with the third volume set for release in April 2015. An anime adaption of the series is currently ongoing(though the third episode is on hold for the time being due to political reasons) and a live action film will supposedly arrive in the near future. I heard 2016, but who knows.