Things are heating up in Assassination Classroom as Class E and Class A are about to go head to head once again. After all of their experiences, can our underdogs pull out a big win?
Assassination Classroom Vol. 14 (Viz Media)
Written and drawn by: Yusei Matsui
Translated and adapted by: Tetsuichiro Miyaki and Bryant Turnage
Lettering by: Stephen Dutro
The school festival is on and Class A is looking to completely shut down Class E for good by putting together the best combo of food and entertainment ever seen. However, our heroes are not out yet as old friends and foes start showing up. Also, finals are just around the corner and Principal Gakuho Asano wants Class E done so his teaching philosophy isn’t ruined. Things are about to get chaotic.
Reading this volume, several words echoed in my mind: climax, finality, and closure. Not in the sense the series was about to end (still plenty of volumes to go), but in the way that we are reaching the end for several things in the series: the final showdowns with Class A, getting hints about the principal’s past, seeing old friends and rivals from throughout the series, and the students reaching finals. Almost everything about this volume feels like we are closing a door on several storylines and characters, but in a really exciting way.
You admit their teacher is a monster and you still want to get payback? This is why your clearly adult students are still stuck in high school.
The first part of the volume deals with the School Festival, and while it is a showdown between Class A and E, we don’t really focus too much on the conflict between them. We reference that they’re going against each other and we see how Class A is pulling things off, but this arc is more about how far Class E has come as a group and seeing the impact they have made. We meet old characters from previous arcs and we see everyone working together to make their outdoor restaurant a success. We also get more with Nagisa as well, seeing him interact with his mother and one other, rather surprising character one last time and showing how he has developed as well. While I wish we got more with his mom over the course of the series to make their scene stronger, everything feels satisfying here.
The rest of the book is about the final exams, which focuses on how far Class E has come as students. It harkens back to one of their earliest story arcs and the first time we met Gakuho, with Koro-Sensei issuing the same challenge to his class as he did in the past and the principal essentially pulling the same scheme again (though even more crazy). It’s not so much Class E Vs. Class A, but rather Class E vs. Gakuho and his teaching methods instilled on Class A. The conflict and “fight” feel more personal and intense than ever, especially with the visuals showing how Gakuho “teaches” his students, and seeing all this build up to this climax that we’ve been waiting for almost since the beginning. It’s both exciting and entertaining, especially with how Matsui’s art depicts the actual test taking. It’s hard to truly discuss without spoiling the details, but other than the pace of the arc being almost too quick for its own good, this was a great experience and thoroughly enjoyable conclusion to this storyline.
Characterization in this volume feels a bit lighter than past editions in some respects. We don’t have a lot of overt development and growth other than reflecting on how far the characters have come, like with Nagisa and even Gakuho’s son (though his character development seemed to happen off-panel). It doesn’t come across as a big problem or anything, because, like stated, this volume is about the class as a whole and showing how they’ve developed. We see how stronger they are as a team and how much they learned on an educational level within these mini-stories, shaping the views of Class A and the rest of the student body. The only person with a complete level of development that comes to a head here is with Karma Akabane. He’s gone from this lazy, yet brilliant troublemaker who did most things by himself and didn’t really care much school to someone who is just a brilliant and incredibly smart individual and values his classmates a lot. He’s still a troublemaker, but his own character arc feels like it came to a satisfying conclusion.
And then we turn to the artwork, which still looks as good as ever. The characters remain expressive and capable of showing a wide range of emotion and energy in their faces. The humor is pretty well timed and executed, providing some absolutely great laughs throughout the issue. The layouts were handled well and there are a few amusing easter eggs laying in the artwork that big manga fans may recognize. The true star of the artwork goes to the visuals in depicting the study sessions with Class A and the actual final exams. Matsui always did a decent job when it came to that angle, showing an epic fantasy style fight sequence when presenting the actual test taking. It makes what would otherwise be boring scenes a lot more exciting to watch and the actual problems and solutions are rather creative to look at. The true highlight of it goes to the final math question and how it is shown and solved. This is really one of the best looking volumes in the series to date on just pure creativity alone.
Assassination Classroom Vol. 14 is another hit for the series, bringing to a close several story and character arcs in satisfying and fulfilling ways. While there is something to be said about the pacing being a bit too quick, the writing, story, and artwork were all just wonderful here. The series maintains its unstoppable momentum in great volume after great volume, and Vol. 14 is no exception. Looking to the future, things are about to get really interesting, so here’s hoping things this high-quality trend continues.