The Assassination Classroom Japanese manga series by Yusei Matsui is quirkily endearing and only somewhat misogynistic. The setting is a rigidly hierarchical, private Japanese junior (?) high school with Classroom E at the bottom of the pyramid. Classroom E, the class for students with low grades and/or disciplinary problems, is physically segregated from the rest of the school and has its own teachers. The head teacher (sensei), a mostly benevolent, brilliant instructor, is also an octopus-like alien of tremendous powers who has devoured most of the moon and has threatened to do likewise to earth – unless the students manage to assassinate him first. The kids are older than American 7th and 8th graders but much thinner, less physically developed, and more prudish. Unlike in the US, in Japan high stakes tests, starting in the earliest years, sort kids into various tracks with only the elite students continuing on to the top academic high schools and then universities. Other students don’t necessarily continue on to an academic high school, instead opting for a trade school or, as in Hikaru No Go, going straight to work.
Vol 1 “The Red Frog” by Kensaku Shimaki. Found the introduction of the new sexy teacher / assassin to be very distasteful – in a baby doll in a position implying that she was riding the (naked) stooge that she’d just offed with a bullet through the forehead, followed by a lick of end of her pistol.
Vol 2 Honnoji Temple is an assassination magnet in Kyoto. The point about class distinctions was undermined by making the high schoolers from the vocational high school into real boorish goons, “lowlifes”.
Vol 3 The hired assassin ‘Red Eye’ gives up with the comment “I need to look at all the colors… …instead of getting hung up on just one.” And then he goes out sightseeing having changed from a solid colored, high-necked coat into a flowered shirt open at the collar. Pickled turnip. “Ms. Vitch sure has a pervy mind…” “She still Frenches you in front of everyone even if you get the question right!” “Yeah… Cougar on the loose!”
Vol 5 Class E student Kayano (female) explains why their team lost the basketball game with: “I got so distracted by the basketball team captain’s shake and wiggle… it made me so mad!!” Her (male) classmate replies “What’s with the big-boob bigotry, Kayano?” Odd end-of-chapter insert shows a guy with a round head like sensei on a guy’s body who’s naked except a sumo wrestler thong brandishing a bouquet of roses in one hand while riding a scooter in pursuit of a schoolgirl. The creepy new PE / assassination technique instructor uses a methodology of love and fear instilled with himself as a father figure. “The ideal percentage is 90 percent stick and 10 percent carrot. Soldiers who’ve been beaten continuously with a stick… …will cry for joy over a tiny shred of carrot.” Fortunately he’s booted out and we’re left with sensei waxing philosophical on the positive motives for the good teachers.
Vol 6 – The end-of-chapter insert profiling Meg Kataoka lists her dream as “to be carried over the threshold” and her future goal as “flight attendant”. At least it wasn’t “stewardess” but, not to put down that profession, that seems pretty diminishing for a class leader, strong student, and top athlete.
Vol 10 – This was another good volume – excepting the juvenile sexist references. It’s one thing for young teenaged boys to be drawn to (soft) porn, but it’s another for the teacher (even if he is an alien octopus) to be a porn addict with a “boobie” fixation. This volume does have Koro Sensei temporarily lose his students’ respect over a rash of bra thefts (“only bras larger than Double-D stolen”) but it unfortunately just winks at the base crime. Matsui also obviously doesn’t understand the hassle and expense of finding and buying a good bra – especially if you’re well endowed; haven’t your favorite bra stolen would be very upsetting. An end of chapter sketch of a curvy coed in a mini-skirted police uniform looking very disheveled (and literally manhandled) was in very questionable taste. The story also pokes fun at some of the fairly (typically Japanese) flat-chested students by referencing 0-cup and A-cup bra sizes. ‘grinding sesame seeds’ is the Japanese equivalent of apple polishing or brown-nosing. “A Moment of Tentacle Zen” “Yesterday… All those tentacles seemed so far away. But now I know they’re here to stay. – Paul McKoroney”
Vol 11 – Most of this volume was devoted to class warfare: Class E (Assassination Classroom) has to do battle with Class A in a King of the Hill type contest schedule just prior to the schoolwide, very competitive midterm exams. The serious messages were, as usual, undermined by sexist inserts such as the bio of Toka Yada: “Her big boobs aren’t her only attraction. She excels at the piano, tea ceremony, tennis and other activities. On top of that, she is currently perfecting her ‘womanly charms’ under Miss Vitch’s tutelage.” And there’s the bio of Sumire Hara in which her future goal was “Professional Homemaker” – not to mention the insert of Koro Sensei making himself a t-shirt with the slogan “I [heart] Big Boobs”. That said, I look forward to the next volume in the series.