As a Tokyo-based writer, I will introduce you to various aspects of pop culture such as manga, anime, movies and music. I want to spread the joy of Japanese pop culture around the world.
Hi everyone. It’s Mokugyo, an otaku writer with a passion for manga and anime. Recently, there’s been a surge of released live-action films that are based on manga or anime in Japan. It’s quite difficult to adapt animation or drawings into live-action movies while preserving their original image. No matter the adaptation, people will always debate on their pros and cons. I personally support adaptations, whenever they are possible. However, I understand those who object against them, because the original works may be transformed into something different if they are altered to a large extent.
In this article, I’m going to talk about the live-action movie Assassination Classroom, which has gained a good reputation.
Assassination Classroom (Ansatsu Kyoshitsu) is a manga which was serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump between 2012 and 2016. It sold 24 million volumes, which is a successful number for a modern Weekly Shonen Jump manga. The famous manga magazine is well known for publishing Dragon Ball in the past, and One Piece, Naruto, and Boruto at the moment. It has a renowned emphasis on the weekly readers’ survey and the higher a manga is ranked, the more likely it will be placed in the earlier pages of the magazine. The fact that Assassination Classroom was always placed in earlier pages in the magazine demonstrates its popularity at the time. The following TV anime series caught on among viewers, and subsequently a two part live-action movie was released in 2015 and 2016.
Despite its dangerous title, it’s a comedy story which begins with the mysterious supernatural creature Koro-sensei appearing in classroom 3-E of a junior high school. Koro-sensei declares that he’ll destroy Earth if the 3-E students can’t assassinate him by graduation. The students begin their challenge to assassinate him with specially developed Anti-Sensei Weapons that have been designed to kill him.
The fact that the live-action adaptation faithfully follows the original manga appeals to readers the most. Although it had to leave out some of its original plot and had some minor differences in the development of the story, most of the storyline was in accordance with its original, therefore the intentions of its creator, Yusei Matsui, were apparent in the movie.
His previous manga, Neuro: Supernatural Detective, was adapted into a TV anime series in 2007 with significant changes in its storyline and direction. That’s because, since the manga contained a lot of black humor, the anime production staff considered the changes necessary in order for the series to be aired. The changes resulted in an unfavorable reception from fans of the manga.
Probably due to that experience, Matsui decided to be involved in the production process of the next adaptation and not leave everything to the production staff. During the production of the live-action movie Assassination Classroom, he indicated the points which he definitely wanted to keep untouched. As a result, the movie satisfied its fans.
I was truly impressed by the fact that he managed to arrange the date of the last issue of its manga and the release of its movie both in March 2016. It would’ve been impossible unless he precisely calculated its story development. Although there are many live-action movies based on manga, it’s quite rare to complete their manga series and movies at the same time. It’s only possible through the strong intention of the creator.
The other thing that fascinates us is the cast of the movie. It was carefully chosen in accordance to the character’s images in the original manga. The main character in class 3-E, Nagisa Shiota, was played by Ryosuke Yamada, who is a member of the idol group Hey! Say! JUMP. There had been concerns about the casting of Nagisa, as he is meant to be feminine and androgynous in his appearance in the original manga, which might be difficult to be fully expressed by a real actor. Yamada managed to play the exact role of Nagisa, who is gentle and affable, despite being a talented assassin.
Karma Akabane, an intelligent and highly skilled fighter, was played by Masaki Suda. He’s a very popular young actor who recently appeared in many movies, TV dramas, and TV commercials, and has acting skills to play both comical and serious roles. Karma in the manga, who is intelligent and able to do anything, was recreated in the movie by Suda’s talent in acting.
Among the other charming cast members, Masanobu Takashima, who played Akira Takaoka in the first movie, caught my eye. Takaoka is sent to class 3-E as a PE teacher and has a violent side hidden within. Takashima played his role well, including the suppressed madness of his character. Takashima used to play mainly likable, earnest young men. His reputation as an actor has changed recently by playing villains.
The set of the 3-E classroom was fantastically recreated in the movie. Kept apart from classes A to D, which consist of academically-able students exclusively and is situated in the main school building, class E consists only of hopeless students and is located in the middle of the mountains. Keeping away the hopeless from the elites symbolizes the academic background-oriented society of Japan, as well as one of the important themes of the plot. The old and tired look of the classroom was better recreated in the movie than the manga and anime because of the realistically visualized texture.
The live-action movie also accurately recreated the Anti-Sensei Weapons. Anti-Sensei bullets and knives looked as if they were children’s toys. The students of class 3-E attempt to assassinate Koro-sensei with these weapons. The toy-like quality of the weapons is visually apparent in the movie. They explain that regular weapons can’t kill Koro-sensei, and the toy weapons enhanced the comedic qualities of the story. Anyway, the possession of swords and firearms is prohibited by the Swords and Firearms Control Law in Japan, therefore they have to look like toys for consistency.
The key person of the story, Koro-sensei, was created with CG technology. Regrettably, the level of CG technology in Japanese movies is still quite far behind the level of Hollywood blockbusters, though this movie demonstrated the improvement in CG technology in Japan. Many people didn’t mind the CG version of Koro-sensei due to his funny character.
The voice of Koro-sensei was provided by Kazunari Ninomiya, who’s a household name as a member of the hugely popular idol group Arashi. The name of who would voice Koro-sensei was kept secret until the movie’s release date and many people hadn’t realized the voice of Koro-sensei in the promotion videos was Ninomiya’s until the secret was revealed. His way of voicing him was very natural.
The music is one of the attractions of the live-action movie. It was created by Maki Sato who was also in charge of music in other movie adaptations from manga, such as Samurai X and Parasyte. The music in Assassination Classroom has a jazzy swing with a lively tempo. The music definitely enhanced the movie’s appeal.
The ending theme song is sung by Sensations, who are actually Hey! Say! JUMP. I especially like the last song of the first movie, Koro Sensations. The lyrics of the song are cheerful and happy, complying with its story. The two movies were released both during the spring holidays. In Japan, spring holidays signify transitions in life, as students graduate schools in March and then go onto their next stage in life. While watching Assassination Classroom, the Japanese must have recalled their own transition experiences of graduations and enrollments. The hilarity of the song signifies the delight of the new start in spring.
The live-action movie has two parts, the first being Assassination Classroom and the second Assassination Classroom: Graduation. Both movies pick up the key plots of the original manga within just the right time length. There have been only a few successful sci-fi fantasy movies in Japan. Assassination Classroom is one of the few live-action movies that has been successful. I am hoping that many more sci-fi fantasy movies will be created and become popular.