Welcome to The Avocado’s classic reviews of Assassination Classroom. Note I have minimal familiarity with the manga on which it is based; I can only speak for the show itself, specifically its dubbed version. At the end of each episode I’ll have two spoiler tags to cover material specific to Seasons One and Two; I also ask you be sensitive when discussing spoilers in the comments. Now, with that out of the way, let’s stop dead a high spin round by a tiny piece of a local ooey-gooey goodness!
Thanks to Lily “Lovely” Bones for edits.
Assassination Classroom 1.07 – “School Trip Time / 1st Period”
First aired February 28, 2015
“Isn’t it awesome when you travel together you see a whole other side to people?” – Kaede
It’s a bit sudden, but after six increasingly intense episodes that felt as much like setup as they did progression, we’re off to a two part vacation special. There’s a lot of potential value in it; the trip to Kyoto offers a respite from the more emotionally charged past few episodes, it theoretically allows the class to try their skills in a new area, and most importantly, we see and feel them outside of their element, of the school setting. We get a bit of that – mostly from class idol Yukiko Kanzaki (Leah Clark) – but to a certain extent, “School Trip Time,” while fun, does feel a bit of a wasted opportunity.
For one thing, we don’t get as much of the cast, at least in “1st Period.” It makes sense to focus this episode on Nagisa, Karma, Kaede, Sugino, and Okuda – all viewpoint characters of the show thus far – along with Kanzaki, but it does mean we don’t get to really learn as much about the class. This is partially the consequence of a feature the show has always had, which is that Koro-sensei is simply too “extra” to not hog the spotlight. It’s fun to see him get motion sickness, reveal he can’t sleep without his blanket, beat up violent jerks, and generally zip around everywhere, but he still does end up taking a bit of the kids’ time (or at least, their time in the spotlight). In general, it’d have been nice if the show took a page from Kurasuma’s book in the second half and spent more time with just them.
In addition, the show isn’t quite able to handle the imagery of thugs from a much poorer high school kidnapping and threatening Kaede and Kanzaki. It’s not nearly as bad as the show’s treatment of Irina in her debut (not that vaulting over that is hard), and it does try to be more even-handed by focusing on the two girls’ interactions over just the boys saving them, but it’s still way closer to something like Death Wish than a show of this premise and tone should probably be. It also skirts some gross moral judgments with the thugs using Kanzaki’s edgy teen phase as justification; while I really don’t think the episode is promoting that, it’s also not really condemning it, either. Honestly, it comes across akin to a Very Special Episode, though its attempts to keep Kanzaki and her insecurities as the most important part of the plot does put it far above, say, the Diff’rent Strokes kids being menaced by a child molester. And it’s a genuine relief when the group finally escapes, but it’s partially a relief from a story that wasn’t exactly additive.
The final issue is that this episode is, well, the first half of a two parter, and it does struggle to work on its own. A lot of the fun things you want to see out of a class trip episode are held off for the second episode, and while this one coheres a bit more as a single story, we do lose out on that (I also think the “2nd Period” is animated a bit nicer, so there’s that). In a lot of ways, the structure is the most ideal for presenting the trip – we get a more “normal” plot at the front and the fun side stories for narrative dessert – but it still holds off on the fun of being in Kyoto far too much.
At the same time, there’s still fun to be had in this jaunt. Escaping Kunugigaoka and getting to see Kyoto’s districts and animated historic sites is enjoyable, and visually the rustic buildings do a lot of work making it feel like a getaway from the lonely mountain or oppressive main campus. I really love Koro-sensei’s ridiculous, grossly oversized guide books on how to track down kidnappers, avoid overpriced goods ostensibly from Kyoto sold elsewhere, and deal with loneliness when seeing lovers by the Kamo River. It’s this perfect encapsulation of how overzealous and righteously over the top he is as a teacher, to the point where Nagisa, Karma, and Sugino using them as blunt objects is a literalization of how strong they’ve become through his knowledge. And there are some nice small bits for characterization; even the class’s resident artist (and arguably the least prominent classmate in the entire show by far) Sousuke Sugaya (Kyle Phillips), who fashions Koro-sensei a much better nose disguise, gets in on the action.
There are also some real thematic benefits to the trip, even if they’re not as deftly handled as we’d like. It’s nice to see Karma both beat the shit out of the bullies and get himself beaten, ensuring his edgelord persona never stays too unbroken. It might also be worthwhile for the show to remind us that as much as it is a story about class discrimination, it’s one taking place in a powerful school where even they have privileges their national peers do lack – the biggest being their superhuman teacher. And I like the interpretation of Kyoto as a “mecca for professional killers” and an historical trip specifically for their work, as small a part of the episode as it is. This is a show that defies easy attempts to bring a historical context into it, because the situation is so inherently contrived, so reframing history and travel through that context is interesting. But, like “1st Period,” that’s also a tactic that’s a bit underdeveloped. It’s a fun episode, mostly, but absolutely a come down after the midterms.
- This is the first, but far from the last, Koro-sensei guide book. Also the second appearance of the black form.
- The cold open’s one of the few times we see Isogai and Meg actually doing class monitor work. And didn’t Nagisa have that position in Episode 1?
- “Is that the putrid stench of abject poverty filling my nostrils?” Once again, we get clarification that it’s not “academic integrity” keeping E-Class down.
- Best Koro-sensei Line: “As the old saying goes, ‘in clear waters or murky, fortune favors the fish who swim upstream.’”
- Is this the first instance of Kaede’s almost ideological obsession with food?
- After this (not counting Nagisa and Karma’s trip to Hawaii), the next class outing will be their “vacation” in Okinawa. And that’s going to be a fair sight more intense.
- The high school bullies will return as the most belligerent customers of E-Class’s restaurant project.
- Despite her claiming that you learn new things about people on trips, we never learn too much about Kaede here, do we…
- I’ve been talking a bit on these questioning how much of the Koro performance is real and how much not. But given what we know of his time in the experiment, the security blanket can’t be more than an affectation, right?
Assassination Classroom 1.08 – “School Trip Time / 2nd Period”
First aired March 7, 2015
“If I teach you nothing else, you should know that sex appeal is skin deep, and by the time you get it, it fades.” – Irina
So this is an odd duck of an episode both on its own and particularly compared to the last episode, a better example of how taking E-Class to Kyoto can open up more storytelling possibilities. Instead of being a direct sequel, it takes place both during and after the last episode, showing some of the non-kidnapping related E-Class shenanigans. Like some of the prior episodes, it comprises two vignettes: an ostensibly silly story about the kids’ night at their hotel, and before it a single, drawn out assassination attempt not by a student, but the hired gun “Red Eye” (Robert McCollum). The latter is from the outset more interesting, because while the format is not dissimilar from prior stories set around one character, using someone who’s neither a student nor an important, recurring character is.
In a lot of ways, Red Eye – whose name comes from all the blood he spilled in Middle Eastern conflicts – isn’t a particularly compelling character. I mean, he can’t be; he’s a archetype who’s not meant to appear more than once. But as that archetype, he works. We know that at least at this point in the story, no assassin is anywhere near the place where they can take down someone almost “factory made with the express purpose of being un-friggin’-killable,” but his being an assassin allows us to see Koro-sensei’s attitude without the shadow of his students’ presence. He treats the kids on a mostly equal level, but he is still their teacher and their target. In his dinner with the sniper, there’s a calm and a different kind of respect, something older and much less showy. Throughout the show we sometimes have to question how “real” the Koro-sensei persona is, and his conversation suggests there is far more to the octopus than just his style. That sentiment leads into Red Eye’s being “saved” from the oppressiveness of his work, a quieter victory than any we’ve thus far had.
His plot also allows us to get much more of the tourism element we didn’t get in “1st Period,” which is more than wanted. We get more train rides, Edo era stage sword fights (and Koro-sensei in an Edo era stage sword fight, which is wonderful), small shop vendors, tchotchkes, and sights aplenty. I really like the idea that to find ideal sniper’s nests, they had to study geography and Kyoto culture; we don’t really get many opportunities to see them exercise Social Studies as a tool for murder, and this is a great way to do it. Admittedly, we don’t get to see them really preparing that, but it’s still nice that it’s them who organized it, not Kurasuma or Irina. I also just like the whole idea of the entire trip being split the way it is, because it leads to a story about Koro-sensei and E-Class that really couldn’t have come out of a regular episode. Seeing how he darts between groups before pulling out to rescue Kaede and Kanzaki, it shows his speed and energy in a way that’s different from other episodes. And it would have run the risk of compromising both episodes’ tones had his antics here been crosscut with the kidnapping.
The episode also gives us a chance to spend more time with the class as a whole. Kurasuma plays ping-pong with the kids, we get to see the rad gaming talents Kanzaki mentioned, and Nakamura tries to take charge of the girl’s dorm after trying to peep on their teacher in the bathroom. That latter sequence is unsurprisingly disgusting, but in a goofy way as we learn more bizarre details about Koro-sensei’s body (peeping somehow becomes less skeevy when the victim is a biologically implausible cephalopod). Nicely, Nagisa and Karma take a bit of a backseat in the proceedings, letting some of the other characters take charge for a little bit of time. As much as the former is effectively the show’s main character, he’s still part of a big class; “2nd Period” is good at spreading the focus around a bit more. It also helps that this is the most time the class has really interacted as a group, and in a much wider number of avenues.
The rest of the episode, with the boys and girls separately talking about their crushes, is supposed to be light but has a lot more on its mind. It starts off with more general teen stories: the boys and girls talk about who they like the most, we see they’re still holding things close to the chest (even class heartthrob Hiroto Maehara (Chris Burnett)), and there are a few pokes at possibly romantic subplots. And of course, the bulk of the back half ends in a comedy chase sequence, with everyone gunning for the octopus after he sneaks in both rooms to learn gossip. It’s stuff taken from far more “normal” or “generic” stories about students on trips, and there’s not really a novel spin on it. Honestly, there doesn’t need to be. It’s less interesting, but it’s relevant to the fact that they’re still students, even with their floppy green knives, and that’s enough.
While the sequence is a bit funny, the biggest takeaway from the back half comes from a thread that starts with Irina. We get almost nothing direct about her past as she tries to regale the girls with her life story, but her comment on the inevitable fade of sex appeal suggests a depth and resignation we’ve not yet gotten from her. It’s a sadness similar to the kind Koro-sensei later projects in the episode’s end, after Kurasuma notes that he must have had normal human limbs, or the kind Nagisa expresses with his fear that the world (or at least the class) will be over soon. All three killers – the hired gun, the prospective mass murderer, and the assassin in training – are each carrying a weight of inevitability, loss, or futility. And I think that’s the secret to “School Trip Time.” As far as you go, as fun as the excursion is, it’s still no more than that. The rest of the world is still waiting – and, it seems, are two incoming transfer students of their own, each with “superhuman” abilities. Eventually you have to get back in the sniper’s nest.
- So these two episodes totally felt like an amazing promotional tour for Kyoto, right? That yatsuhashi alone looked great.
- Okay, it’s more than a bit ridiculous that Red Eye didn’t miss a target once in his career.
- So, uh, any bets on what Koro actually is “all the way down?”
- First indication of Kurahashi’s longterm crush on Kurasuma (a crush that’s apparently held by the entire class).
- For some reason, as I’ve been doing these things I’ve been fantasizing about how a live action American remake of this would even look like (one thing: showrunner’s definitely Michael Schur). What would the counterpart to Kyoto be, then? Maybe Philly or Boston, with Koro cosplaying as a Redcoat?
- Best Koro-sensei Line:
- We’ll talk about this more, but Ritsu’s debut in the next episode is the point in which the show’s science fiction conceits starts to expand extensively. Because of this, “School Trip Time” is kind of the last hurrah of the culture of the show before supernatural elements that aren’t Koro become (relatively) commonplace. Fitting, then, that it’s set in one of Japan’s most historic cities and ends with three of its main characters contemplating their mortality?
- I really don’t know how they could’ve used it, but I do wish Kanzaki’s gamer skillz could’ve been figured into some of the assassination plots. The game uses gaming (and especially JRPG boss fight) imagery, so it would’ve been thematically valuable, I think.
- Red Eye will also be reappearing in the restaurant episode.
- While first-time viewers might have rightly assumed that one of Koro’s various romances would be with Aguri, given his personality before the transformation it’s hard to think he could have had any sizable romance. But, that’s a story of another time…
- Also, if what I hope was not too much foreshadowing on my end, it’s clear in retrospect that Koro and Red Eye’s dinner is tinged entirely on both men being (in one case former) assassins with a long history of bloodshed.
- These aren’t really “spoilers” but they involve stuff in Season 2, so I did find it interesting how Nakamura views the incredibly poor Isogai as “upwardly mobile” for being class monitor, and that she doesn’t mention the implied crush she has on Nagisa by the Valentine’s Day episode.