This is my review for the live action movie adaptation of Assassination Classroom (Japanese title: 暗殺教室 [ansatsu kyoshitsu]). There are no spoilers in this review.
The premise of Ansatsu Kyoshitsu (English translation: Assassination Classroom) is undeniably absurd: a bright yellow tentacle monster destroys half the moon and promises to do the same to Earth in a year unless a group of middle school students can assassinate him. Oh, and he becomes their teacher in order to instruct them on how to properly do the deed.
That’s it. That’s the whole story. Crazy, right? It might sound like something that wouldn’t translate to a live-action film, but it works. Surprisingly well even. At the core, Ansatsu Kyoshitsu is really the story of a ragtag group of kids who finally find confidence once someone believes in them. That someone just happens to be the bright yellow tentacle monster called Korosensei.
As someone who hadn’t read the original manga series (and hadn’t seen the anime series either), I went into this movie blind, knowing nothing but the vague details of the premise. What this movie does well is provide explanations so people like me know what’s going on. Nagisa, probably the closest thing we have to a “main” character, provides quiet and patient voiceovers throughout, cluing us in on what’s happening or what happened in the past. Sometimes voiceover narrations can easily slip into annoying territory, but Nagisa is the perfect choice for this. He’s always the calm observer, even within the film as he notes down all of Korosensei’s weaknesses. Imagine if the more volatile character, Karma, had acted as narrator instead. It wouldn’t have been as effective or made as much sense.
There are challenges, of course, to adapting a long-running series, particularly one in a classroom setting spanning a whole year. As such, the movie feels at first to almost be a series of vignettes, largely unconnected. It’s a series of mini-arcs, such as when the military sends in their own assassins to join the class, or when the class has a weekend training session, or when they get a new teacher. Characters pop into a story arc and then pop out again, with Nagisa and Karma and Korosensei being the only real constants. But by the end of the movie, these stories are all tied together in a way that makes perfect sense and provides a satisfying payoff. The plot is entertaining from start to finish, and by the end of the movie you feel exactly what the students are feeling.
I’d say the only major weakness is that none of the characters are given enough time to be fleshed out or developed. We get to see a flashback for Karma and there is also a recurring one for Korosensei, but that’s about it. Nagisa doesn’t get much focus on himself, instead just acting as a voice for the rest of the students. Later in the movie, he gets to play a more active part in the plot, but we aren’t given much reason for him to be the one in that role. Actor Yamada Ryosuke makes the most of what he’s given though and brings the character to life through his facial expressions and nonverbal actions when he’s not speaking. Other students get moments to shine throughout the film but the impact is lost without a firm introduction to them from the beginning.
But overall, the movie is an entertaining two hours. Korosensei is a fun character, providing lots of laughs and lessons, and the students of Class E, being the bottom of the barrel so to speak, give the audience a group of underdogs to cheer for. The plot keeps moving forward as the students learn more, but also leaves some unanswered questions open for the sequel.
The movie stars Yamada Ryosuke as Nagisa, Suda Masaki as Karma, Ninomiya Kazunari as the voice of Korosensei, Yamamoto Maika as Kayano, Kato Seishiro as Itona, Shiina Kippei as Karasuma-sensei, and Kang Jiyong as Bitch-sensei. It was released in Japanese theaters in March 2015. The sequel was released in March 2016.