What They Say:
At Kunugigaoka Junior High School, Assassination Classroom class 3-E is the lowest of the low. With abysmal test scores and no future prospects, they’ve been given up on and hidden away from the main campus at the top of a deserted mountain. But when a super-powered tentacled creature with a thirst for destruction becomes their new teacher, they’ve got a brand new assignment to get them inspired about school: take him out.
In addition to reading, writing, and arithmetic, the murderous monster behind the lectern will teach his students everything he knows about the assassination game. Should some eager beaver prove to be a Grade-A assassin, he or she will save Earth from extinction – and collect a hefty reward. But they’d better study up, because their saboteur sensei has already taken out most of the moon, and our planet is next on his list!
Contains episodes 1-11.
The audio presentation for this series is done with the original Japanese language track in stereo and the English language adaptation in 5.1, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series is a fairly active one with the size of the cast involved and the antics of the teacher which involves a lot of motion and the opportunity to go outlandish with things. The baseline mix is a solid one that works the forward soundstage in an engaging way when given the opportunity since a lot of the quieter scenes are very basic and minimal. That lets the larger moments with the cast talking across the classroom or the assassination attempts stand out all the more. The wacky moments certainly ramp up well and the 5.1 mix gives it a bit of an extra boost in a pretty good way that makes it even more fun to listen to and engage with. Both mixes are solid with clean and clear presentations throughout as we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2015, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The eleven episodes with this set are spread across two discs with eight on the first and three on the second. Animated by studio Lerche, the show has a great look about it with some very vibrant colors and pop with both character designs and the various action components – including the anti-Koro bullets that are pink. The series works a solid character design that gives it a flavor of distinctive without going too far and the result is something that has really good fluidity in the high action sequences but also look great when standing around talking. The colors are solid throughout and the look of Koro is great with the way he dominates. Backgrounds hold a good bit of detail to them whether it’s the classroom, outdoors, or off-campus material, resulting in a very appealing looking show throughout.
The packaging for the regular edition comes with a standard sized Blu-ray case that has an o-card the replicates the case artwork, albeit with a bit more pop and color to it due to the difference in material. The front cover goes with a good piece that puts Koro in the center with his usual attire while arraying the classroom cast all around him – but avoiding bringing any of the other adults into it which is rather nice. It’s a busy cover but it at least shows that the class as a whole is represented as opposed to just a few key players. The back cover goes for an all-yellow background that’s certainly cute and it gies it some great pop with the blue of the Blu-ray banner and the like. The premise is easily covered and very easy to read with the black on yellow while the shots from the show add a little more variety to it all. The discs extras are clearly listed and the technical grid breaks everything down very cleanly in an easy to read way so you know what you’re getting. The reverse side of the case itself is done as a blackboard with some cute doodles from Koro on the left and more detailed but unintelligible pieces on the right. No show related inserts are included with the release.
The menu design for this release certainly delights as it works the playful aspect of the series by going with a full yellow background while working all sorts of CG designed weapons floating around in different configurations. It leans towards the weapon side in a way that’s definitely appealing and a welcome change from just the usual in-show clips that we get that may be a little disjointed. The smoothness of it makes it fun to leave running for a bit and it has a different kind of polished feeling about it. The logo is kept through the center while the navigation strip along the bottom, done in the same yellow so that it blends, has the headshot of Koro on the left that’s cute when used as a pop-up menu during playback .The navigation itself is simple and straightforward with black on the yellow making it easy to read and move about with.
There are a good number of extras included in this release that are definitely welcome to have. The episode Zero OVA is included, which is a ten-minute piece that shows the first encounter between Koro and Karasuma that sets a pretty dark tone. A couple of English language commentaries are included with the production team and there’s also a ten-minute video interview with the ADR director and some of the English cast talking about the show. The episode previews are included as well as the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Based on the manga by Yusei Matsui, Assassination Classroom is a twenty-two episode series that aired in the winter and spring season of 2015. The original manga began in 2012 and completed this past March with a total of twenty volumes. Animated by studio Lerche, the show is one that works to draw your attention from its name, which can be somewhat controversial depending on your point of view, and then dig into some pretty interesting things. In a lot of ways I kept drawing similar comparisons to Great Teacher Onizuka in a twisted way as we essentially get a complete fish out of water teacher that comes in and rescues a dead end class of kids by setting them on the right path. While in that series he was trying to get into the girl’s panties, this one has the students trying to kill the teacher and quite encouraged to do so.
The premise behind the show is a lot of fun as we’re introduced to the familiar world in a difficult position as the moon has just been destroyed, leaving it as a permanent crescent. That was caused by Koro, a creature with a big yellow head that has made his demands of the world’s government to take over a dead end class of kids at Kunugigaoka Junior High School. While he intends to teach them as a proper teacher, if the kids aren’t able to assassinate him within a year’s time he’ll destroy the Earth just like he did the moon. Never mind that the destruction of the moon would radically reshape our world, of course. Koro’s reasons for this aren’t made clear as one would expect, but he supplies the students and school with the special weapons that are needed to actually kill him because conventional weapons just won’t do it. Bullets, knives, bazookas, fighter jets, the works. None of it has an impact on him, partially because he can move up to mach 20 and what does get blown off can regenerate. Only the special weapons he’s given the students can do real damage to him.
Not that they’re able to do a whole lot within this set of episodes as they’re hopelessly outclassed by this jovial and fun new teacher that’s encouraging them to take him down. The kids are your typical third years in that they’re not killers and are a bit hesitant about it all, even if it’s all being done secret from the rest of the world to avoid a panic. The kids are just that, kids, and throughout much of it we see them attempting to grow into being assassins because they’re not jaded by experience. Some of the adult assassins that come into play show why they’re not able to do anything, combined with the problem of weapons, but it’s a useful experience to showcase just what Koro is capable of. And it reinforces that the lack of experience and lack of being jaded offers the kids new ways of thinking about how to deal with him that a seasoned and cautious adult would not. The whole thing is obviously closely monitored and two of the adult assassins end up becoming instructors themselves to keep a close eye on things. Koro is true to his word, however, in that he will not harm any of the kids in any way. He really just wants them to win and is teasing and taunting them in playful ways to get them to grow.
The series in this opening half of the first season does a lot of fun stuff. The assassination attempts are simplistic but they focus on showing the way the kids are learning his weaknesses of sorts and the quirks of his personality to try and figure it all out. They aren’t showing signs of real pressure by what they have to do, but part of that comes from Koro as he tries to make everything fun. What the show wants to dig into here is the way that Koro completely gets each of the students and uses his abilities to help make them something even more than they are beyond just the assassination aspects. Custom tests to push their areas of focus and interest while expanding upon them, getting them to gain confidence in themselves, and delving into how the academy that they’re in has dead-ended them like it has for the administrator’s own agenda of having the bulk of the student body being motivated to do the best. It wants to cover a lot of these things and it does it well, though with a touch of superficiality.
But it’s the aspect of helping the kids gain their confidence that it reminds me of the previously mentioned GTO. We spend varying amounts of time with the cast of the class, some that get more lines than others – and some who don’t get their first lines (and are given a meta moment about it) until almost the end of this set. Some just rub me the wrong way, mostly with the virtual girl that’s brought into it, but it focuses mostly on Nagisa, who you could mistake as a girl far too easily. He’s the one who takes to studying Koro the most and trying to figure out the puzzle but without it becoming a weird obsession that’s distracting. Similarly, a transfer student comes in named Karma later on who is thrilled at the idea of killing a teacher and has the violent background that gives him a boost. But even he becomes more interested in the concept of what they’re doing than the reality, solving it as a puzzle as opposed to brute force once they learn that it won’t work. So even as things get more intense with the attempts it still ends up feeling more laid back the more it goes on because of that, making for a weird but really enjoyable dynamic.
With another thirty-three episodes to come after this, Assassination Classroom is all about the setup here. We don’t dig into the various kids in the class with their backgrounds but we do get their baseline personalities. It may be weird to not focus on the stress of what they’re facing, but that isn’t the point of the show (though I think you could see this property fleshed out a lot richer by a different writer). What it does do is simply delight with the way the kids go at it and the wacky and weird things that Koro does all while trying to figure out what the trick or gimmick is behind it. As an opening salvo, this being the first quarter of the series as a whole, there’s a lot to like here and I can see it being very much worth investing in as it expands its scope and gets to the truth of the matter all while having some real heart and fun along the way.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode Commentaries, Interview with the Cast, Episode 0 ”Meeting Time”, Textless Songs, Episode Previews, U.S. Trailer
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: May 17th, 2016
Running Time: 275 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.