In Assassination Classroom Volume 16, Koro-Sensei tells all, shows all, and reveals all. Serious spoilers follow in this review, so if you want to read this volume spoiler-free, bookmark this review for later.
Who is Koro-Sensei?
The big hook in Assassination Classroom Volume 16 is Koro Sensei’s long-awaited origin. With fifteen volumes of rope behind him, series creator Yusei Matsui took an ongoing risk that his antiprotagonist’s origin story may not have the required pathos in it upon which to hang the whole tale. The payoff was that Koro Sensei’s backstory was a heart-wrecking medley of mad science and love conquering all, not only the hermetically sealed glass lab that incubated the assassin named God of Death into the space oddity we now know as Koro Sensei and divided him from Aguri, the teacher he could not recognize as his true love until death parted them, but also Koro Sensei himself, whose exterior transformation into a Mach 20 octopi was upstaged by the interior morphing which altered the heartless assassin into the sentimental guardian of Aguri‘s junior high students.
Koro Sensei’s Mad Science Surrogates: Aguri Yukimura and the Real Monster, Yanagisawa
Not only is Koro Sensei hatched from the flesh of the assassin named the God of Death, but he has two surrogate parents in this mad science backstory: Yanagisawa, the head scientist on the project that mutates The God of Death into a tentacled monster, and Aguri, his fiance, a junior high school teacher with questionable fashion taste and a dangerous maternal desire to redeem the irredeemable.
Aguri is an awesome exemplar of the anime girlfriend, that somehow manages to rise above the cliches of the perfect girlfriend while still having the soul of a kitten and eyes that hug you, whether you’re trapped behind glass like The God of Death, or whether you’re a reader separated from her by the panel that demarcates the boundary between fiction and reality. However, Aguri is much deeper than this manga stereotype, as she turns out to be as much social scientist as teacher, seeing not only her students but The God of Death as projects to doctor with understanding and affection. While her love for The God of Death proves to be her undoing, in the end she does not regret it, and her committment to her students transcends the grave as she begs The God of Death to watch over them. And so, we find that while Yanagisawa’s experiments mutated his body, what transformed The God of Death into Koro Sensei was Aguri’s last words, and his honoring a promise that he makes to her.
Despite being the perfect girlfriend, Aguri’s fiance Yanagisawa despises her. Aside from having a cruel streak of scenery-chewing black hat villainy in his DNA, he doesn’t really have a reason for his hatred, although among the many things that set him off, one of them is the idea that his antiquated parents arranged his marriage to Aguri. If his head was on straight, he would see his arranged marriage to a perfect girlfriend as boundless luck, but as it is, he does so many horrible things to Aguri in Volume 16 that the reader no doubt wants to watch him die in dozens of different ways. If Yusei Matsui gave us a bonus manga of the many deaths of Yanagisawa, I’m betting it would be pretty popular with readers. He is by far the most detestable villain in the entire series of Assassination Classroom at this point, all the more so for being immune to the charms of Aguri’s redemptive personality.
Just as Yanigasawa is the cruellest villain of Assassination Classroom, so is Aguri the most important supporting character of the series. In hindsight, we can see how her maternal influence, through a transformed God of Death, has watched over the students of Class E from the opening chapters; moreover, Koro Sensei’s promise to her is the moral that gave him, and Assassination Classroom itself, their direction.
Assassination Classroom’s many delightful digressions may have frustrated those readers that have expected Koro Sensei’s origin long before this, but the excellent payoff in Volume 16 enriches these sidebars with the knowledge that Class E’s teacher has been simply honoring his promise to Aguri. While readers have been looking for clues to Koro Sensei’s origin, Koro Sensei has been looking for teachable moments for Class E.
Assassination Classroom Volume 16 arrives on shelves on June 6th, 2017, and if you find it sold out, you can buy a print or digital edition through this link to Viz Media. Additionally, you can find a twenty page preview through this link. For more Assassination Classroom coverage and reviews, follow me through here.
Viz Media sent the review copy.