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Assassination Classroom - Season 1 Part 1 (Blu-ray Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000174308
Added by: Jitendar Canth
Added on: 3/6/2016 16:23
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    Review for Assassination Classroom - Season 1 Part 1

    8 / 10


    Until quite recently, Funimation locked its legal streams away from UK audiences. It’s only now with Funimation Now that they’ve started streaming here, while for the last couple of years, they’ve redoubled their efforts when it comes to simulcasts in the US, licensing and broadcasting Japanese anime close to, or at the same time as the Japanese television broadcasts. With their broadcast dub initiative, they’ve carved a fair chunk of titles from what at one time looked like a Crunchyroll monopoly. That means that now that these Funimation titles are making their debut on home media, I’m quite often in the position with a new anime show, where I was ten or so years ago when I first started reviewing this stuff. I’m getting review discs for shows that I never watched streamed, and I know nothing about them. I’ve forgotten how much fun it is going into a show cold; discovering its delights for the first time as the disc plays. Assassination Classroom is one such title, a show whose name put me in mind of movies like Battle Royale, anime like Danganronpa. It’s nothing like Battle Royale or Danganronpa...

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    The moon has been destroyed! Most of it has been blown away, leaving a permanent crescent in the sky and a field of debris. And the one who has destroyed it, an enigmatic figure with a large round yellow head, and tentacles (but definitely not an alien, he claims) has threatened to destroy the Earth the following year, unless he is killed first. But killing him isn’t easy when he can move at Mach 20. And for the year before he destroys the world, he wants to be a teacher. He’s been installed at Kunagigaoka High School, teaching class 3-E. So the government come up with a proposition for this class, kill Koro-Sensei, and get 10 billion Yen in reward money. Education has never been so lethal. But it’s not easy to kill Koro-Sensei, not easy at all when you consider that this is just the first part of the first season of Assassination Classroom, and its second season is currently being aired.

    The first eleven episodes of Assassination Classroom Season 1 are presented across two discs from All the Anime.

    Disc 1
    1. Assassination Time
    2. Baseball Time
    3. Karma Time
    4. Grown-up Time
    5. Assembly Time
    6. Test Time
    7. School Trip Time/1st Period
    8. School Trip Time/2nd Period

    Disc 2
    9. Transfer Student Time
    10. L & R Time
    11. Transfer Student Time/2nd Period

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    It’s getting harder and harder to comment on the video quality of Blu-ray anime, as they all seem to approach the same level of consistency. You get wonderful HD transfers, offering great detail, colours and animation, and there’s usually the consistent niggle of digital banding across colour gradation. Assassination Classroom’s 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer is just like that, and like every other Funimation and Sentai Blu-ray that gets released these days. All the Anime are pretty much using Funimation’s discs as is, and the only times that the digital banding will annoy here is when there are close-ups of Koro-sensei’s head.

    Assassination Classroom is a noitaminA show, but don’t expect the usual adult sensibilities, the more complex world designs and adult character designs. Assassination Classroom might as well be any mainstream show, and it looks just like the Shonen Jump adaptation that it actually is. It has the look of many a high school comedy, with likeable character designs, a simpler world design, but with strong animation. There’s a hint of the Baka and Test to the show, not least because of the low rent campus that Class 3-E get, but also a little Nagisa/Hideyoshi crossover in design and voice actor choice. The real creativity comes in the form of Koro-Sensei, a moon-faced tentacle creature in a teacher’s gown, and the object of the many assassination attempts in this show.

    The images in this review were kindly supplied by All the Anime.

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    I could say the same thing about commenting on Blu-ray audio. With anime hardly challenging the boundaries of home cinema audio in the same way as the latest summer blockbuster, you’re going to get good quality sound each time, and Funimation has this sussed out by now. You get the usual Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround English, 2.0 Stereo Japanese, and as is so often the case these days, translated English subtitles and a signs only track locked to the appropriate audio stream. I sampled the English dub to ensure that it existed, but I stuck with the Japanese throughout this time. The audio was clear with no glitches or dropouts, the characters voiced appropriately, the action coming across well, and the show’s rather quirky music suiting its irreverent tone. The subtitles were timed accurately and free of typos, although I would have liked the name text over the students in the opening credits translated, maybe as a bonus feature offering a student register of some sort. 30-odd characters are hard to keep track of.

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    The discs present their content with rather nifty animated menus.

    Disc 1 autoplays with a trailer for Funimation Now, while in the extras, you’ll find two audio commentaries.

    Episode 1 has an audio commentary from co-directors Joel McDonald and Apphia Yu. As I’ve been noticing in the Funimation commentaries of late in shows like Space Dandy, Psycho Pass, and now Assassination Classroom, they all talk about the novelty of the broadcast dubs, dubbing to a weekly schedule alongside the Japanese broadcasts, instead of dubbing in one go as they normally do when they have the series in its entirety to work with. This is also a good commentary to listen to as there’s some background on Assassination Classroom, and how it ties into Japanese history and old stories, such as that of 47 Ronin.

    Episode 7’s commentary features voice actors Clifford Chapin (Sugino), Leah Clark (Kanzaki), and Monica Rial (Kaeda). Despite the usual grating Monica cackle, I actually fell asleep five minutes into this.

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    Disc 2 autoplays a trailer for the Funimation Eden of the East Collector’s Edition, the one with the movies.

    Episode 0 “Meeting Time” lasts 10:12, and serves as a prequel to the show of sorts, detailing Karasuma and Koro-Sensei’s first encounter.

    There is an Interview with the Cast that lasts 20:22, great for English dub fans.

    You get the Textless credits, rendered less than textless by player forced subtitles.

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    The Previews to the episodes are here, all 11 of them running to 2:50, but in Japanese only. The fact that they aren’t dubbed probably explains why they aren’t at the end of the episodes where they should be.

    You get the US trailer for the show, and further Funimation trailers for Black Butler: Book of Murder, Tokyo Ghoul √A, The Boy and the Beast, Psycho Pass the Movie, Yona of the Dawn, Rage of Bahamut: Genesis, and Ghost in the Shell – The New Movie.

    I haven’t seen the packaging, the art-cards, or the handbook/student diary to comment on the physical extras with this release.

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    If you’ve ever read the Bakuman manga and its fictional depiction of the workings of Shonen Jump magazine, you might have an idea of just how difficult it is to create a manga for its pages. Each story has to be unique and original, while at the same time conforming to certain Jump fan expectations when it comes to storytelling and structure. Being the same, and different at the same time could wind up twisting a mangaka into knots, but once in a while, a Shonen Jump property shows up that really does feel fresh, new, original and exciting. I haven’t seen anything quite like Assassination Classroom before, and I have to say that I was glued to the screen for its runtime.

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    That isn’t to say that it is wholly original, rather Assassination Classroom surprises by turning many of the usual conventions on their heads, while there are similarities to other properties too. This is most certainly not the first school anime ever made, and indeed with the focus on the worst class in school, class 3-E has more than a touch of Baka and Test to it. The Kunagigaoka Junior High School is an elite preparatory school, and it churns out its roster of elite students, using the stick, rather than the carrot. The 90% success rate comes from creating the 10% dross that is class 3-E, the guaranteed dropouts and failures as a warning of what will happen if you don’t live up. Fail an exam and you’re in 3-E, your future prospects ruined. The rest of the school actively derides and belittles them, and they are isolated in the old campus, where other than school assemblies, they can’t contaminate the rest of the student body. Only it turns out that these students aren’t actually all idiots or low achievers; it’s just blips on their school records that sees them segregated.

    As the name might suggest, Assassination Classroom is also another death game anime in a long line of such shows, only once again the concept is turned on its head. Unlike the usual situation of the students having to fight each other to stay alive, the target this time is their teacher, and there’s no death in this death game either, given Koro-Sensei’s abilities in avoiding peril. Even the odd dismemberment is rapidly repaired thanks to his regenerative abilities. There’s not much of a body count in Assassination Classroom.

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    It’s a fascinating set-up for a story though. The moon is destroyed, and the being responsible, a yellow, round-headed (Charlie Brown without a nose) tentacle creature literally carved a chunk out of the moon, and for his next trick, he threatens to destroy the Earth. He’s patient about it though, and he wants to offer a fair chance to the human race. He’ll destroy the world next March, unless he’s killed first. And during that year he chooses to teach the worst class at Kunagigaoka Academy. That would make him a tempting target, you might think, only he can move at Mach 20, has regenerative abilities, and is adept at avoiding danger. So it falls to the students of class 3-E to rapidly become skilled assassins, and take care of this global threat, and to add an incentive, there’s a 10 billion yen reward as well. Because of Koro-sensei’s (as his class dub him) unique constitution, the only weapons that are effective against him are safe for people, rubber knives and airgun pellets of unique composition.

    The first episode gives something of a false first impression, that the show will revolve around the students constantly trying to kill Koro-sensei, and the impression that they’re probably the delinquents, the violent obnoxious kids best suited for such activities. That’s especially the case when after the teacher dodges a hail of bullets, the tough kids in class grab the mild-mannered androgynous kid, Nagisa, one of the show’s main characters, and turn him into a suicide bomb to take out the teacher. When another of their teachers, Karasuma is actually from the defence ministry, and most of his lessons are assassination techniques, you do get the feeling this might be a single note story.

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    That couldn’t be further from the truth, as for one thing, despite his obvious threat, Koro-sensei is very much a comical figure, especially with the weaknesses that Nagisa manages to ferret out. The other thing is that class 3-E have been essentially forgotten by the school; they are there to be examples to the others, and actually educating them would defeat the purpose of their existence in school, to be derided and ignored by the rest of the student and faculty. Koro-sensei actively takes an interest in his class, he’s the only teacher that will look his students in the eyes, engage with them on a personal level, and on top of that, he’s actually the best teacher that they’ve ever had. Of course when he starts getting results with class 3-E, improving their grades and their confidence, that upsets the school plan.

    So Assassination Classroom turns out to be a blend of school drama and comedy, along with the regular attempts at killing teacher. It does suffer somewhat from character overload; the discs really could use a character guide as an extra feature given the number of students in class. Some episodes actually have two stories, more gag set-ups and punchlines, while other episodes have stories that last the full runtime. You get the trauma of school assemblies, mid-term exams, the traditional school trip to Kyoto, and the show regularly has new characters arriving to add to the mayhem.

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    First the most disruptive student in class returns, Karma, who has a chip on his shoulder regarding the education system at Kunagigaoka, and is the first of the students to actually cause some damage to Koro-sensei. Then there is a new language teacher, Irina Jelavich, who is actually an elite assassin, skilled in using her feminine wiles to ensnare her targets. One of Koro-sensei’s weaknesses is boobs, and Irina is the fan-service quotient for the show. Only her wiles don’t work on the students, as her real personality comes out all too easily when she isn’t seducing. They quickly dub her Miss Bitch, although once she does earn their respect (she is skilled at languages) they start calling her Bitch-sensei. Towards the end of this collection, there are also a couple of transfer students, with Ritsu an AI, a terminator of sorts whose single-minded approach to assassination gets tempered once Koro-sensei gives her an upgrade, and then there is Itona Horibe who claims that he’s Koro-sensei’s brother.

    Assassination Classroom is a whole lot of light and engaging fun in these first eleven episodes. It quickly gets past the set-up and character introduction stage and starts having fun with its premise, and while a couple of the episodes do feel a little flat and formulaic to me (the Terminator and the first class trip episodes), the rest feel original, and genuinely pleasantly surprising. There’s certainly a lot of scope for development here, in terms of action, in terms of character, and in terms of emotion, as while this first part has been played mostly for laughs, there have been hints and flashbacks of Koro-sensei’s past that inject just the slightest dark tone to the story. It’ll be fascinating to find out what happens next.

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