It’s been a while since I started reading a new Shonen Jump title, but I’d forgotten about how most of them have a “getting acquainted” period for the first few volumes. As weekly titles, Jump series can take a while to hit their stride as they introduce their cast and flesh out their worlds. The key thing here to remember is that most titles -- like “Slam Dunk” -- tend to get better once they dive into their first extended storyline. “Assassination Classroom” is still setting out its case as this volume continues the trend of introducing us to new members of its cast while still being utterly weird in the process.
How else would you classify the fact that Class 3-E’s latest transfer student is a military-grade A.I. in a monolith-style video monitor with automatic BB-guns and a state-of-the-art 3D printer (because why not). This is only the beginning, as Ritsu’s (yes, it’s a she) actions wind up annoying her classmates more than anything else. Then you have Koro-sensei coming in to save the day by giving her personality and screen an upgrade to make her come off more like a real schoolgirl. Naturally, this leads to tensions with the scientists who created her… Look, even if this “A.I. learns to be more human” scenario isn’t exactly fresh, it still fits smoothly into this world because its tone is already so outlandish.
The rest of the stories in this volume mainly deal with the continuing evolution of the students of Class 3-E as assassins. As the kidnapping plot from the previous volume is wrapped up in short order, the kids get to use their skills to get revenge on some regular students who humiliate a fellow classmate. These are fun enough, though I’m sure the “revenge” plot is funnier to those in the title’s intended age range. I get more of a kick out of seeing the kids employ their specific skillsets in concert to achieve something they couldn’t do individually.
Seeing this kind of plan in action makes me think that the series is heading towards an ending where Koro-sensei lets his students kill him after they execute a brilliant plan. (And let’s be honest here, with all of the abilities the alien has demonstrated so far there’s no way any human is going to be able to kill him if he doesn’t want them to.) Even if that is the case, I’m not too worried about seeing it play out in that fashion as the story’s execution has been satisfying, and satisfyingly weird up to this point.
I am disappointed that we didn’t get to see more of Kunugigaoka’s principal here. Mr. Asano only makes a brief cameo here -- just to be a dick to one of Class 3-E’s students, of course -- and that just left me wanting more of the “Lex Luthor of ‘Assassination Classroom.’” A more dubious pleasure awaits us at the end of the volume, as it looks like mangaka Yusei Matsui is preparing to make Ms. Jelavitch into a worthwhile character. Her assassin skills have been challenged by her boss and now she has to show why she’s the best there is for the job of killing Koro-sensei. I’ll try to be optimistic about the potential for this storyline. It’s just hard after her role as “sexy comedy relief” is further established here.
There’s also something about Ms. Jelavitch I want to amend from my review of the previous volume: She’s not any kind of analogue for Lois Lane. I guess Cat Grant would be a more appropriate one here? No, this title’s Lois is most likely the mysterious woman who died and set Koro-sensei on his path to becoming a teacher. We get just a tiny hint about what the alien was like prior to his current vocation, and that’s likely to be the way things will go until this title is ready to wrap up. Still, I like thinking of this series as a bizarro “Superman” story since Koro-sensei does borrow a lot from the Man of Steel’s skillset while sharing his ability to inspire others to do better. “Better” in this case means slipping a laxative into the drinks of a couple nasty students and then revelling in the schadenfreude that results as they try to scramble to the bathroom.
… Okay, maybe Superman wouldn’t quite approve of that. Still, “Assassination Classroom” manages to channel the inspirational spirit of the character’s best comics pretty well here.