[Synopsis]: The appearance of a mysterious tentacled creature endangers the world after he demolishes 70% of the moon and threatens to destroy Earth before the end of the year. Moving at speeds as high as mach 20, Koro-sensei (Fukuyama, Jun) proved to be effectively invincible and so the Japanese Ministry of Defense was left with no choice but to comply with his one request when he offered them a means to avert their annihilation – to become a homeroom teacher in Class 3-E at Kunugigaoka Junior High until the coming March when he will destroy the world. Given that the students of Class 3-E have the greatest number of opportunities to kill Koro-sensei the government places a ¥10 billion bounty on his head to motivate the them. This task grows more complicated when they find that not only are they unable to kill him but that he is the best teacher they have ever had.
From the opening sequence of the first episode it becomes quite evident that Ansatsu Kyoushitsu has a large cast of characters. From the students of Class 3-E to their teachers to the faculty and students in the main school building the cast is quite extensive. This proves somewhat of a problem for the show as its inability to present compelling characters while simultaneously attempting to feature a large number of them hamstrings the show markedly in several aspects. Without spending enough time defining any one character the show suffers as its cast members rival each other for relevance and screen time.
Koro-sensei is both the most iconic character of the series and possibly the only character worth discussing on an individual level. Due to his nigh-invincibility and outright disposition his role in the show is relatively humorous with some dramatic exceptions. He fits this role well and the vast majority of the show’s genuinely funny material stems from his antics and interactions. He is intelligent, compassionate about his job and his students, and possesses a large number of quirks that the class takes note of as they may lead to his ultimate demise. Koro-sensei is by far the most interesting character in the show and the most detailed given his exchanges with his students and the occasional hints concerning his backstory and origin story.
The problem with Ansatsu Kyoushitsu‘s cast originates with the members of Class 3-E and the way in which they are presented. Because their class is comprised entirely of academic delinquents and is ostracized by the main school almost every one of the students suffers from self-esteem issues at some level and so this trait makes up a good deal of their knowable characterization. Beyond this hardly any of the students stick out as individuals and the show begins introducing new characters before it is done even half-detailing its original cast. You don’t learn a great deal about any of their personalities beyond their general attitude towards the teacher, their interests in school, and what areas of class they excel at.
The early episodes emphasize Koro-sensei’s aptitude in working with the students as individuals and going beyond just teaching them but attempting to grow them as people however the viewer walks away knowing very little. A few of the more primary characters are at least recognizable such as Nagisa, Karma, and the two faculty that join Koro-sensei however most of the students exist in perpetual obscurity, only rising to the surface when their singular gimmick or interest is called into use. The real damage transpires when Ansatsu Kyoushitsu moves beyond its comedy and requires the viewer to be invested in its woefully undeveloped characters in order for the drama and action to pay off.
Moving past the lack of insight into the main cast, a few other problems arise as the show progresses. Because Class 3-E serves as a social pariah in order to motivate the other students in the school the insults aimed at them by other students and the general attitude towards the class contextually makes sense. When this spiteful behavior reaches beyond the student body however the general atmosphere surrounding Class 3-E becomes remarkably binary. When teachers start scheming to make quizzes harder for Class 3-E specifically and exhibit similar behavior to the deplorable students they instruct the tone of the show becomes a needlessly stark ‘Us versus Them’ scenario. Characters outside of Koro-sensei’s class are practically pure evil given their one-dimensional and malicious depiction and the show attempts to make the viewer empathize with the unrealistically awful plight of Class 3-E rather than characterizing the students themselves.
Ansatsu Kyoushitsu has a colorful design and very vibrant character designs which fit well enough with its central character – a strange, yellow, tentacled creature wearing an academic dress and cap. The exaggerated visuals work well for the show’s comedy sequences and interactions but lend themselves well enough to its more action-oriented, dramatic moments when the general atmosphere and color of the show is less saturated to accentuate the severity of the situation. The show doesn’t feature much in the way of flashy animation however the quality of its visuals is consistent. The students of Class 3-E all have fairly different, stylized designs and while they don’t necessarily stand out much from one another in terms of personality or characterization they at least do so visually and fit into the aesthetic of the show.
Despite Ansatsu Kyoushitsu’s premise involving the destruction of the world, an enigmatic, lightning fast, tentacled entity, and students attempting to take the life of their teacher, the show itself is pretty lighthearted. Much of its early content focuses on Koro-sensei’s teaching ability and how he levels with individual students in the form of singular character-centric episodes. There aren’t too many meaningful developments in regards to the show’s premise despite the length of the show and the student’s assassination attempts at times take a backseat to other parts of the show like their training, character introductions, and exams. All throughout hints are given concerning Koro-sensei’s background – why did he choose to teach the class? Who is he and where did he come from? These kinds of questions keep the viewer somewhat engaged however only serve to reinforce Koro-sensei’s character.
Outside of the majority of the cast being uninteresting there is a second major flaw present in Ansatsu Kyoushitsu which damages it significantly. There is a lot of poor writing surrounding the subject matter of the show, namely its themes of education and assassination. It enjoys drawing parallels between the two in order to empower the students in their curricular activities and motivate them however a number of problems arise from how this comparison is executed. Firstly, just because Ansatsu Kyoushitsu is able to draw a correlation between a school subject and some facet of assassination does not mean that the result will be fruitful or even pertinent. For example, though communication and language can be important in assassinating a target that does not validate the student’s learning foreign languages for the express purpose of assassination. The comparisons made are often corny and hardly ever for comedic purposes and so for the most part they fall pretty flat because of their non-relevance.
Secondly, at some point early on, Ansatsu Kyoushitsu blurs the line between ‘Koro-sensei’s assassin’ and assassins in general. At face value this wouldn’t pose much of a problem for the show however the manner in which it manifests undermines a lot of the show’s logic and damages the viewer’s suspense of disbelief. Returning to the above example, though language can at times be critical in infiltrating a target’s defenses this sentiment hardly applies to Koro-sensei. Rather than teaching the students possible methods and techniques to kill Koro-sensei, their instructors treat them as aspirant assassins and instruct them in a good many things that are absolutely useless in respect to their mission to kill their teacher. In short, the show would rather make playful observations than provide more poignant subject matter.
The music is flexible enough for the show to shift between its comedy and action sequences without feeling awkward however it isn’t particularly memorable overall. The soundtrack fits the show well, especially the more lighthearted tracks which match with Ansatsu Kyoushitsu’s visuals but, for the most part, simply does its job.
[Final Thoughts and Rating]:
Perhaps the single biggest problem Ansatsu Kyoushitsu presents is in how it moves beyond its initially comedic setting and attempts to conjure up legitimate drama, especially in its final arc. Through Koro-sensei and several gags among the students, the show sports decent comedy and in this area of the show it’s shortcomings in characterization and general logic aren’t nearly as detrimental because nothing is taken all that seriously. Unfortunately Ansatsu Kyoushitsu isn’t a pure comedy and when it endeavors to drum up real tension that requires the viewer to have some investment in the students the scenes fall flat.
I gave Ansatsu Kyoushitsu a 4 because while it had a decent comedic character in Koro-sensei and a few fun developments, the writing of the show and a great deal of its subject matter just didn’t sit right with the tone of the show or its premise. The large cast of characters fought each other for relevance all throughout resulting in a lot of underdeveloped characters, some with hardly any characterization at all.
I would first and foremost recommend Ansatsu Kyoushitsu to anyone interested by the bizarre premise of the show – while the ultimate presentation falls short the show itself offers exactly what its setup promises and Koro-sensei is pretty entertaining. The action of the show isn’t terrible but doesn’t hold all that much gravity until the story’s final arc. Those looking for a lighthearted comedy wouldn’t be wrong to pick up the show though that genre element fades away briefly at times.