Review: Assassination Classroom, Vol. 1

1421576074Assassination Classroom, Vol. 1
By Yusei Matsui
Rated T+, for Older Teens
VIZ Media, $9.99

Here in the United States, we steadfastly believe that all students need to succeed are a few good teachers–think of how many movies you’ve seen about an unorthodox educator who helps a group of misfits, losers, or underachievers realize their full potential against all odds. Perhaps that’s why American publishers hesitated before licensing Assassination Classroom, a subversive comedy that outwardly conforms to the tenets of the genre while poking fun at its hoariest cliches.

Assassination Classroom‘s star teacher is Koro-sensei, a super-powered alien who can wipe out an army with a swish of a tentacle. His students are the troublemakers and flunkies of Kunugigaoka Junior High School, otherwise known as class 3-E. Instead of studying math, however, Koro-sensei’s charges are learning how to kill him and save Earth in the process–in other words, it’s To Sir With Lethal Force.

If the script isn’t quite as edgy as my summary suggests, Assassination Classroom scores points for the sheer ridiculousness of the premise. Koro-sensei’s relentless enthusiasm and high standards match those of other fictional educators–Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Minds, Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society–but are applied to such activities as shooting and stabbing. He gives the same kind of inspirational speeches that you’d find in those movies, too, reminding his charges that he specifically requested the gig of teaching this unique curriculum because he knows the students’ true potential.

In one scene, for example, timid student Okuda presents Koro-sensei with three deadly potions, imploring him to sample them. “I’m not good at surprise attacks!” she tells him. “But I love chemistry! And I really put my heart and soul into this!” Koro-sensei cheerfully obliges, offering to help Okuda “research a poison that can kill me.” When Okuda proves more skillful at mixing chemicals than persuading her target to drink them, Koro-sensei reminds her that “in order to kill someone, you need to understand how they feel,” skills that she can cultivate through–what else?–reading and writing.

The exchange between Okuda and Koro-sensei is complemented by some of the best visual gags in volume one. One of the poisons, for example, neutralizes Koro-sensei’s Cheshire grin into a flat line, prompting a student to exclaim, “You look like an emoticon!” Although Koro-sensei’s face is the essence of simplicity–a circle with pin-dot eyes and a toothy grin–this subtle tweak of his appearance yields a big pay-off.

At the same time, however, the poison episode illustrates Assassination Classroom‘s biggest flaw: Yusei Matsui wants to have his cake and eat it, too, soft-pedaling the humor with an uplifting, awwww-worthy moment in almost every chapter. Students unironically vow to do their best after Koro-sensei points out the flaws in their technique, saves them from harm, or gives them a pep talk. None of the students harbor a grudge against him–at least not for very long–or question the value of Koro-sensei’s lessons. (Makes you wonder: is Koro-sensei guilty of grade inflation?)

Still, I enjoyed volume one enough to continue with the series, even if Matsui’s efforts to express the Shonen Jump dictum of “friendship, effort, victory” sometimes blunt the edge of his satire.

Takeshi Obata Returns to Shonen Jump

Shonen Jump adds a new series to its lineup, and the artist is Takeshi Obata! The series is Gakkyu Hotei: School Judgment and the writer is Nobuaki Enoki. It’s about a school that has its own court; if that sounds familiar, it’s because the manga ran for a while as a smartphone-only series and just relaunched on December 1.

Kodansha has expanded into China with a local magazine, Jinmanhua, and homegrown manga by Chinese artists; the creative duo who go by Navar have seen their manhua Carrier: Xiedaizhe, go the other way—it is now running in Kodansha’s Bessatsu Shonen Magazine in Japan and has been published as collected editions there as well.

Got some last-minute shopping to do? Erica Friedman posts the Okazu Gift Guide, and she also has a fresh serving of Yuri Network News for us.

Laura reveals her favorite shoujo series at Heart of Manga, and she also looks at the series currently running in the magazine Be Love.

Reviews: The Manga Bookshelf team takes a quick look at recent releases in their newest Bookshelf Briefs post.

Rebecca Silverman on vol. 1 of Ajin (ANN)
Ash Brown on vol. 2 of Attack on Titan: No Regrets (Experiments in Manga)
Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 6 of Attack on Titan (Lesley’s Musings on Manga)
Lori Henderson on vols. 11-13 of Attack on Titan (Manga Xanadu)
Alice Vernon on Bloody Cross (Girls Like Comics)
Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 24 of Fullmetal Alchemist (Lesley’s Musings on Manga)
Kristin on The Garden of Words (Comic Attack)
Sarah on vol. 16 of Kamisama Kiss (nagareboshi reviews0
Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 25 of Naruto (Lesley’s Musings on Manga)
Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 10 of Ooku: The Inner Chambers (Comics Worth Reading)
A Library Girl on vols. 1-3 of Pandora Hearts (A Library Girl’s Familiar Diversions)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 4 of Phantom Thief Jeanne (The Comic Book Bin)
Erica Friedman on Philosophia (Okazu)
Lesley Aeschliman on the December 15 issue of Shonen Jump (Lesley’s Musings on Manga)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 4 of Soul Eater Not! (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 3 of Terra Formars (The Comic Book Bin)
AstroNerdBoy on vol. 2 of UQ Holder (AstroNerdBoy’s Anime and Manga Blog)

Quick Friday Manga Links

Once again, the fifth volume of Monster Musume tops the New York Times’ Manga Bestseller list, followed by the latest installments of Fairy Tail, Attack on Titan, and xxxHolic Rei, CLAMP’s sort-of sequel to xxxHolic.

Will the Kickstarter campaign for Ludwig B. reach its goal of $21,000? Johanna Draper Carlson investigates.

The Manga Bookshelf gang discuss next week’s big releases, from Master Keaton to Mobile Suit Gundham.

Look out, Wallace and Grommit–Moyocco Anno has launched an Indie GoGo campaign to adapt her manga Diary of O’Chibi into a stop-motion film.

Kodansha recently posted a brief video “trailer” for Noriko Ootani’s josei series Sukkute Goran, and it’s lovely.

Reviews: Ash Brown discusses Frederick Schodt’s landmark 1983 book Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics. Over at Anime News Network, Shaenon Garrity devotes the latest House of 1000 Manga column to Taiyo Matsumoto’s GoGo Monster.

Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 20 of Arata: The Legend (The Comic Book Bin)
Jordan Richards on vol. 1 of Assassination Classroom (Adventures in Poor Taste)
Rachel Tougas on vol. 1 of Assassination Classroom (Rachel Loves Comics)
Noel Thorne on vol. 1 of Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga (Comic Ally)
Rebecca Silverman on vols. 1-2 of False Memories (Anime News Network)
Marissa Lieberman on vol. 1 of Food Wars! (No Flying No Tights)
Eric Gaudette on Hellsing (Emertainment Monthly)
Megan R. on In Clothes Called Fat (The Manga Test Drive)
Nick Smith on vol.1 of Kiss of the Rose Princess (ICv2)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 9 of Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic (The Comic Book Bin)
Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 2 of My Love Story!! (Manga Worth Reading)
Johanna Draper Carlos on vol. 2 of Spell of Desire (Manga Worth Reading)
Kate O’Neil on vol. 3 of Sweet Rein (The Fandom Post)
Matthew Warner on vol. 19 of Vampire Knight (The Fandom Post)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 8 of Voice Over! Seiyu Academy (The Comic Book Bin)
Rebecca Silverman on vol. 1 of Witchcraft Works (Anime News Network)
Matthew Alexander on vol. 5 of Wolfsmund (The Fandom Post)
Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 1 of Yukarism (Manga Worth Reading)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 1 of Yukarism (A Case Suitable for Treatment)

Kodansha Comics Licenses ‘Your Lie in April’

yourlieinapril1
Kodansha Comics announced a new license out of the blue on Wednesday: Naoshi Arakawa’s music-romance story Your Lie in April. Here’s the blurb:

Kosei Arima was a piano prodigy until his cruel taskmaster of a mother died suddenly, changing his life forever. Driven by his pain to abandon piano, Kosei now lives in a monotonous, colorless world. Having resigned himself to a bland life, he is surprised when he meets Kaori Miyazono, a violinist with an unorthodox style. Can she teach Kosei not just how to play, but how to start living again?

The anime is already running on Crunchyroll, Aniplex Channel, and Hulu, and apparently it’s quite popular; Kodansha may be banking on the same anime/manga synergy that made Attack on Titan such a hit. There’s more at the anime website, including trailers for an upcoming movie.

More on Digital’s Kickstarters; New Naruto Novels

At Publishers Weekly, I talked to Digital Manga Publishing CEO Hikaru Sasahara about their ambitious Kickstarter, which would have raised over half a million dollars to publish 31 volumes of manga by Osamu Tezuka. I also talked a bit about their new Kickstarter, which is closer to the older model. At Eeepers Choice, Phillip questions the wisdom of their plans to hold another Kickstarter to fund a new printing of Unico, Swallowing the Earth, and Barbara.

The Manga Bookshelf team discusses this week’s new releases.

Volume 72 of Naruto will be the final volume; it will be out in February in Japan and sometime in 2016 in the U.S. Also, Shueisha has announced the full list of post-manga Naruto novels, which will continue the story and feature art by manga-ka Masashi Kishimoto.

One Piece is taking a one-week hiatus from Shonen Jump (in Japan, so presumably from Viz’s Shonen Jump as well) so author Eiichiro Oda can do some research.

Erica Friedman brings us up to date with a new Yuri Network News post at Okazu.

Lori Henderson posts the weekly top ten lists from Viz’s digital site and the New York Times, plus a list of the manga that appeared in BookScan’s top 20 list for November.

Lori also posts a Manga Gift Guide at Manga Xanadu, and she gives her take on the past week’s new manga.

News from Japan: Da Vinci magazine revealed its list of the top manga of the year, based on votes by over 4,000 readers, retailers, and reviewers, and Attack on Titan was number one for the second year in a row. Inio Asano is taking a break from his current series, Dead Dead Demon’s Dededededestruction; it will return to Big Comic Spirits in the spring.

Reviews

Erica Friedman on Ashita no Kimi ni Hanabata wo (Okazu)
Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 5 of Attack on Titan (Lesley’s Musings on Manga)
Dan Greenfield on vol. 1 of Batmanga (13th Dimension)
A Library Girl on vols. 1-4 of Durarara!!! (A Library Girl’s Familiar Diversions)
Drew McCabe on E-Robot (Comic Attack)
Erica Friedman on Himitsu no Kakera (Okazu)
Laura on vol. 1 of Kiss of the Rose Princess (Heart of Manga)
Ash Brown on vol. 7 of Mobile Suit Gundam (Experiments in Manga)
A Library Girl on vols. 1, 2, and 5-18 of Monster (A Library Girl’s Familiar Diversions)
Lori Henderson on vols. 15-21 of Pokemon Adventures: Ruby and Sapphire (Good Comics for Kids)
Anna N on vol. 3 of Seraph of the End (Manga Report)
Matthew Alexander on vol. 5 of Sherlock Bones (The Fandom Post)
Sean Gaffney on Showa 1944-1953: A History of Japan (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Kristin on vol. 2 of Spell of Desire (Comic Attack)
TSOTE on vol. 2 of Swallowing the Earth (Three Steps Over Japan)
Josh Begley on vol. 4 of Vinland Saga (The Fandom Post)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 1 of Yukarism (I Reads You)

VIZ Nabs New Junji Ito Manga

fragments_of-Horror-itoExciting news: VIZ will publish Junji Ito’s latest manga, Fragments of Horror, in 2015. VIZ promises that Fragments has something for everyone, “from the terrifying to the comedic, from the erotic to the loathsome.” Look for a hardcover edition next summer.

The latest volume of Monster Musume edges out Attack on Titan for the top spot on this week’s New York Times Manga Bestseller list.

Toshi Nakamura thinks the new Parasyte movie doesn’t stack up against the manga.

But wait–there’s more! Masashi Kishimoto sits down for another interview about Naruto, this time with Mezamashi TV.

Deb Aoki files a report from the 2014 International Manga Festival in Tokyo, while Khursten Santos posts an in-depth look at the Manga Futures conference, which was held at the University of Wollongong last month.

Organization Anti-Social Geniuses is looking for a Manga Features Writer.

To help shojo fans get into the Christmas spirit, Anna N. is giving away volumes 1-3 of Sweet Rein.

Which new Seven Seas titles are you eagerly anticipating? Lori Henderson offers her two cents on the company’s latest acquisitions.

Librarian Mikhail Koulikhov discusses the pros and cons of using Google Scholar to research anime and manga topics.

News from Japan: Mayumi Azuma (Elemental Gelade) and Tatsuro Nakanishi (Crown) have teamed up for Amadeus Code, a new series for Monthly Comic Garden.

Reviews: Anime News Network officially retires its Right Turn Only!! column this week with mini-reviews of Afterschool Charisma, From the New World, and Whispered Words. Elsewhere at ANN, Jason Thompson looks at Japan Sinks, a natural disaster story from the 1970s.

Alice Vernon on Are You Alice? (Girls Like Comics)
Sakura Eries on vol. 3 of Aron’s Absurd Armada (The Fandom Post)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 1 of Assassination Classroom (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Matt Wilson on Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga (Comics Alliance)
Sarah on vol. 62 of Bleach (nagareboshi reviews)
Kate O’Neil on vol. 52 of Case Closed (The Fandom Post)
Megan R. on Hatsune Miku: Unofficial Hatsune Mix (The Manga Test Drive)
Allen Kesinger on vols. 1-4 of Judge (No Flying No Tights)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 4 of Millennium Snow (Comic Book Bin)
Lori Henderson on vols. 15-21 of Pokemon Adventures: Ruby & Sapphire (Good Comics for Kids)
Matthew Warner on vol. 3 of Puella Magica Madoka Magi: The Different Story (The Fandom Post)
Scott Cederlund on vol. 13 of Real (Panel Patter)
Mad Manga on chapters 1-26 of Salty Studio (Cartoon Geek Corner)
Ken H. on vols. 3-4 of Say I Love You (Sequential Ink)
Megan R. on The Seven Deadly Sins (The Manga Test Drive)
Mad Manga on chapters 2-3 of Takujo no Ageta (Cartoon Geek Corner)
Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 8 of Voice Over! Seiyu Academy (Lesley’s Musings on Anime & Manga)