暗殺教室 第1話 「暗殺の時間」
Ansatsu Kyoushitsu #01. 「Assassination Time」
Source Material: Manga series by Matsui Yuusei (松井優征)
Director(s): Kishi Seiji (岸 誠二)
Chief Animation Director(s): Yamagata Kouji (山形 孝二)
Script: Uezu, Makoto (上江洲 誠)
Character Design: Morita Kazuaki (森田 和明), Kurosawa Keiko (黒澤 桂子)
Music: Sato Naoki (佐藤 直紀)
Ansatsu Kyoushitsu is a manga series written and illustrated by Matsui Yuusei and serialized in Shueisha‘s Weekly Shounen Jump since 2012. As of December 2014, the series has been collected into twelve tankouban volumes, many of which have appeared on the list of best-selling manga in Japan, totaling an estimated circulation of ten million copies. Ansatsu Kyoushitsu ranked as the seventh best-selling manga series in Japan in 2013 with 4.5 million copies sold, as the second best manga recommended by Japanese bookstores in the Zenkoku Shotenin ga Eranda Osusume Comic 2013 selection, as the second best male-oriented comic series in the list of “Book of the Year” by Media Factory and manga news magazine Da Vinci, as best work of the year in Nippon Shuppan Hanbai‘s 2013 “Recommended Comic Books Across the Country Clerk’s Choice”, and as the best manga for male readers in Takarajimasha‘s 2014 Kono Manga ga Sugoi! survey. It was also nominated for the 6th Manga Taishou Award in 2013 amongst ten other series. At Jump Festa 2013, also known as the Jump Super Anime Tour 2013, a special event anime adaptation by animation studio Brains Base was screened throughout a period of seven weeks. Alongside the television anime adaptation, a live-action film was announced for the 2015 year.
One day, the Earth was threatened by a powerful creature that destroyed seventy-percent of the moon, leaving it in a crescent shape forevermore. Subsequently, the alien-like creature told mankind that it would do the exact same thing to the Earth if one condition could not be met. The sense of emergency disappeared from the general public and everyday life became peaceful again as the Japanese government agreed to the creature’s demands and let it begin working as a homeroom teacher at Kunugigaoka Junior High School, class 3-E. As a result, the fate of the entire world was put into the hands of the students of classroom 3-E, who would be rewarded ten billion yen (and the distinction of saving the world) if they could assassinate their homeroom teacher before graduation time. At another “ordinary” day of class, the students of classroom 3-E greet their teacher, who instructs them in both regular school subjects as well as the additional lessons in trained assassination, by simultaneously firing barrages of BB-gun pellets at him. The BB-gun pellets are specially designed by the government to be harmless towards humans but effective enough against the creature that they can slice through its cells, provided they actually hit the creature that can move at Mach 20 speed that is. During the teacher’s absence at lunch break, Shiota Nagisa, representative of classroom 3-E, notices the collective hopelessness of his classmates. Despite acknowledging the creature’s credibility as a good teacher which they have experienced first-hand from things such as the encouraging drawings he leaves on their papers and the effective after-school tutoring, the class’s self-confidence is stifled by its scarring reputation as class 3-E, also known as the “end class” of rejects who were unable to keep up at the famous preparatory school of Kunugigaoka and were sent away to study at an abandoned mountaintop campus. Nagisa is not unsympathetic with his classmates’ sentiments as he remembers being abandoned by his friends after being enrolled in class 3-E and the constant reprimand he received from his own teacher-counselor. Terasaka Ryouma, Yoshida Taisei, and Muramatsu Takuya, three more proactive members of the class, force Nagisa into executing a plan they’ve devised to assassinate the teacher. Even though the plan requires Nagisa to put his own safety at risk, Ryouma insists that as the failures that they are, they’ll never get another opportunity like this to earn ten billion yen. When their teacher arrives back from his 20 minute mapo tofu lunch-trip to-and-from China to greet Nagisa just before the lunch-break ends, Nagisa views the creature as his polar opposite who would never know what it is like to not have your existence acknowledged and is further driven to assassinate him. When class resumes, Nagisa approaches his teacher and goes through with the plan, a suicide bombing, without a single concern for his own life. Fortunately enough, Nagisa is protected by the skin that the creature sheds once-a-month, while the creature easily avoids the explosion by essentially teleporting to the ceiling. While approving of the cunning strategy of the attempted assassination, the teacher is much further enraged by four’s (Nagisa included) completely disregard for Nagisa’s well-being and proceeds to chastise the entire class while earnestly giving them advice on their next execution (of an execution). Nagisa is awestruck by his teacher’s consideration for him, and the creature shortly glances at him during his lecture towards the classroom while remembering his time with a mysterious woman wherein he first decided to come teach the children of classroom 3-E. Awakened to his purpose, Nagisa confidently declares to his teacher that he will kill him before he can destroy the Earth, and Nagisa’s classmate and close friend, Kayano Kaede, finally solves the problem of the students not having a real name to call their teacher by by giving him the nickname “Korosensei”, a pun based off the conception that he cannot be killed.
Having watched the Jump Festa 2013 anime special by Brains Base last year and now this TV anime adaptation by Lerche (yet still having no experience with the actual original manga series), I might just be convinced that the most accessible adaptation of Ansatsu Kyoushitsu will be the upcoming 2015 live-action film adaptation. The show isn’t as bad (at all) as that opening statement may make it out to be though; the premiere episode has its fair share of discernible plot holes, but such shortcomings come somewhat naturally with the intentionally bizarre plot of an Earth-born-and-raised, alien-like creature essentially threatening to destroy the Earth if a classroom of middle school students cannot assassinate him before their graduation ceremony rears around. What this first episode establishes is this outlandishly amusing plot, as well as a decent amount of poetic story-telling, if you can, again, get over not having the story address your very straightforward remarks of “if the government can design bullets that slice his cells apart, why can’t they weaponize that in a better fashion to completely exterminate him” or “it makes no sense that his skin can withstand the bullets specifically designed to slice through his cells after being shed” or “if he was really blasting off in Mach 20, those students would be dead in his dust”. Beyond the additional hurdle of rather melodramatic play at hand (the worst students in a prestigious and competitive preparatory school being exiled to learn in a decrepit and isolated mountaintop campus is a bit much) is pathos for the narrative’s conceptual symmetry’s sake; the psychological exploration of the worst students of the (for all intents and purposes) best and most elite school finding the inclination to forthrightly assassinate this creature who conceptually contradicts them in that he is a threat to mankind that has had his strength and superiority acknowledged world-wide, is sufficiently profound enough of a dynamic to present Ansatsu Kyoushitsu as a show that is simultaneously easy-going and coherent. Ansatsu takes the other expositional approach from the rest of the shows I have watched this season in that its premiere does the right job of introducing the setting, the (most important) characters, and the conflict, but it does so without directly employing a pre-established narrative set-up (magic high school, one-boy-and-all-girls school club, etc.). Ansatsu‘s greatest folly is without a doubt its production values. As callous as it is to say, I have never been a fan of studio Lerche, as their productions always display an art style that seems like it’s meant to make up for their apparent lack in art and animation budget; and while once in a blue moon a show of theirs can (barely) manage to pull it off, an exceeding amount do not (which doesn’t actually amount to that much as a base number because the three-year-old studio has less than ten works to its credit, when disregarding one episode specials and OVAs). As a relatively popular Weekly Shounen Jump title, Ansatsu Kyoushitsu is bound to have an audience throughout its entire run; the concurrent side-promotion with the aforementioned live-action film and the already confirmed twenty-two episode count only bring home the idea that the show is on a determined and solidly prepared path. The impressions from this premiere very much make the series seem like a story told best forthrightly and not drawn-out like many other WSJ series (twenty-two episodes being a perfect ball-park estimation), but with an ongoing source material with currently more than one-hundred chapters, all bets are kind off, seeing as how I doubt the main conflict of kill (teacher) or be killed has been resolved. Of course, if this week hinted at anything monumental plot-wise, then it would be that Korosensei’s ulterior motive of genuinely raising the students of classroom 3-E is the real story here; and as the anime is bound to be truncated before the titular and would-be assassination, we can leave the anxiety of waiting for that plot proceeding to transpire to manga-readers. All in all, Ansatsu is absolutely hindered by its visual performance but droll in its conception and redeemable through its fan-base and the reception that it has already accrued simply by being an adapted work from the celebrated original.