Viz Media’s Assassination Classroom Vol. 21 concludes the long-running comedy series by Yusei Matsui. It collects the manga’s final three standard chapters, a four-chapter bonus story, and a short unrelated piece that Matsui created prior to Assassination Classroom. This is definitely a disjointed collection, but does it pull the disparate parts together effectively? Does the main plot receive a satisfying ending? Most importantly, is this volume good?
As far as the ending of the series proper goes, I have mixed feelings. Overall, I enjoyed it. A lot of this portion is poignant and makes it very evident just how close Koro Sensei was to his pupils. Nagisa has a particularly touching end to his character arc. Perhaps the most impressive thing about these chapters is that they make me want to read the rest of the series. I have little prior knowledge of Assassination Classroom, but now I’m interested to read more even though I know how it ends. My main misgiving with the ending is just that it feels, understandably, a bit recap-y. There are a lot of characters to touch base with in a short period of time, and there’s one point where all of Kuro Sensei’s students have their futures rattled off one-by-one. It’s not terrible, but it feels like Matsui goes down a checklist rather than integrating all that information organically into the story.
I’m less fond of this volume’s bonus story. It takes up more page-time than the main story, which feels inappropriate, especially for a final volume. Besides that, it’s just not very interesting. Koro Sensei is amusing as usual and the artwork is solid, but the plot doesn’t feel significant. I would be more forgiving of the story if it at least introduced a new side to Koro Sensei besides what we’ve already seen, but it doesn’t. The story feels even lamer coming right after the emotionally satisfying conclusion to the series proper.
The unrelated story at the end is much more enjoyable than the volume’s middle portion. It’s titled “Tokyo Department Store War Journal,” and its plot is unlike anything else I’ve ever read. The main characters go “shopping” in a wild shopping mall, where the mannequins have transformed into monsters that grow products out of their body parts. This provides ample room for uniquely disturbing monster designs, which Matsui renders expertly. On the downside, this story’s human characters aren’t terribly interesting. It it weren’t for its unique premise, “Tokyo Department Store War Journal” would likely fall as flat as the bonus story before it.
Overall, Assassination Classroom Vol. 21 is a solid but extremely disjointed final volume for the series. The main story ends on a poignant note and “Tokyo Department Store War Journal” is charmingly imaginative, but the side-story in the middle falls flat. This is especially disappointing given that it’s the longest section of the volume and it counteracts the satisfying sense of closure created by the series proper’s ending. Assassination Classroom Vol. 21 is still an enjoyable read overall, but the decision to break the series’ final installment into three largely unrelated parts was a poor one.