Friday, July 22, 2016

Ansatsu Kyoshitsu, vol. 1 comments

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Ansatsu Kyoshitsu vol. 1, by Yusei Matsui, Grade B+

I'm not really sure how well-known this manga/anime is in the U.S. It's relatively popular in Japan, but a few of my students have never heard of it, so it's not as ubiquitous as something as, say, Dragonball, Naruto or One Piece. I do know that Viz has the rights for the manga in the U.S. so I'm not going to bother doing full summaries or character guides this time. I do want to make a few observations as I go along, so this is more of a commentary than a review.

(The inside covers have a brief description of Koro-sensei's color schemes as a form of mood ring. This time: "His regular expression is to have a yellow face.
But, the colors of his face tend to change often.")

The artist, Yusei Matsui, first came to my attention with his series, Neuro: Supernatural Detective (English title), back 7 years ago (when I was still in Tokyo) and that was a bit disturbing. The artwork on Neuro was ok, although kind of on the primitive side, and the story could be funny and educational in turns. Unfortunately, the entire premise was "who's the most sadistic creature in the demonic plane, and on Earth?," and yes, there was a strong S&M theme running through each of the stories. It was handled in a childish, cartoony way, so it was hard to take seriously, but, still...

(The inside back cover has commentary or a short poem by Koro-sensei.
"I don't know what weapons will be used to fight World War 3,
but WW4 will probably be fought by tentacle.
- Koro-sensei")

According to the wiki entry, Matsui worked as an assistant for Yoshio Sawai, on Bobobo bo, Bobobo. He also shows up in volume 6 of the Jump Ryu DVD magazine series on how to become a manga artist.

(Nagisa tries to assassinate Koro-sensei.)

The premise for Ansatsu Kyoshitsu (Assassination Classroom) if you're not familiar with it - A yellow alien with a smiley face and an octopus-like body, destroys 70% of the moon, and announces he will wipe out Earth at the end of a year if no one can stop him. He becomes the homeroom teacher for class 3-E at Kunugigaoka Junior High School, and these students are tasked to become assassins and kill the alien. He is soon nicknamed Koro-Sensei (korosu = kill), and the story follows a fixed pattern. People try to kill him, and he uses his ability to travel at mach 20 to avoid the attacks. The $100 million bounty on his head attracts a lot of outside killers.

(There are few things that make Koro-sensei mad. Putting other students at risk of injury is one of them.)

There's a lot of physical humor and tongue-in-cheek gags in the early chapters. One student (previously kicked out of the school for being too violent) buys an octopus and sticks a knife through it as a way of insulting Koro-sensei. The teacher, rather than getting upset, races out to grab a missile the Japanese Navy launches at him, a knife and carving board, and uses the missile's exhaust to cook tako-yaki (battered octopus dumplings) that he pops in the boy's mouth. In another chapter, a girl who is a poor cook, but a decent chemist, mixes up a set of poisons that she asks Koro to drink. He does so, and then advises her on how to make them more effective (the first poison makes horns grow on his head, and the second gives him wings. The third makes him look like a text emoji.) I found the reactions to the poisons to be pretty funny. Every time he races to Hawai'i or Italy to buy food (Koro loves food, but can't buy much on a teacher's salary) he brings back a surface-to-air missile as souvenir.

The character artwork is better than on Neuro, but is still kind of old-school. The backgrounds and school buildings are good, and the action scenes are fun. Personally, I think the gags are funny. And, even in volume 1, there are hints to the backstory, with a creature kind of looking like Koro holding a female teacher following what looks like a fatal classroom explosion, and she says that she loves him. Koro takes care of the main protagonist - the overly feminine-looking male student Nagisa Shiota. And we also meet Karuma (Karma) Akabane, a very strong, unhappy boy. Karuma had been one of the best students in class 3-E, but when he went overboard in beating up one of the school's most popular 3rd year students (who had been bullying a weaker, younger boy), Karuma's teacher, rather than praising him for standing up to a bully, attacked him for humiliating the school by hospitalizing their "sports hero." Karuma lost his faith in teachers at that point and turned into a delinquent. Koro tells him that he shows promise as an assassin. This interaction between Koro and his students is part of the charm of this manga.

Overall, recommended.

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