You might make the mistake of thinking that the E in class 3E just means it’s the 5th 3rd year class, or that it stands for “elite” and contains some of the top students in the school. You’d be wrong though: “E” stands for “end” because these are the no-hoper kids that everyone’s already written off as having no future. However, it’s precisely these kids that a mysterious extraterrestrial being insists on becoming the teacher of in return for not destroying the Earth (just yet). Nicknamed UT (unkillable teacher), the giant yellow octopus-like creature has already destroyed 30% of the moon just for kicks and has now set the challenge that if the boys and girls of class 3E fail to assassinate him before graduation he’ll destroy the Earth too.
The ironic thing is, UT is the best teacher they’ve ever had, but to pass the course (and save the world) they have to kill him. The high schoolers are also under the tutelage of a self-defence force officer for their military training and a sexy assassin who randomly ends up becoming their English teacher (and giving them one of the least appropriate English lessons ever recorded on film). Every morning they bow and then pull out their various firearms as UT takes the register whilst flitting about dodging bullets. Despite wanting to destroy the Earth, UT is 100% committed to training his students both in the arts of assassination and in more regular subjects. Because of his super speed and ability to be in several places at once he has time for everybody and is quick to work out each of his charge's specific weaknesses, helping them work on those to become better people as well as ace students.
Still, the students are supposed to kill their teacher and there’s a little bit of sadness creeping in as they inevitably grow closer to UT and his quirky antics. Until this point everyone has given up on them, and now they’re supposed to kill the one person who’s actually trying to help. Of course, even while this surreal situation is going on these are just regular high school kids undergoing regular high school stuff like wanting to sneak into the girls' changing rooms or having a crush on someone who hasn’t even noticed you. Despite the impending end of the world, the kids of Class 3E are just enjoying their time trying to work out ever more complex ways of trying assassinate their seemingly invincible teacher.
UT himself is strangely adorable, with his giant yellow smiley face-style head and bizarre little laugh. He also changes color according to his mood and has a tendency to go off on tangents, with one notable example turning into a long form ‘80s style melodrama about abandoned single mothers before being politely shut down by the bored students. Assassination Classroom is undoubtedly bizarre, surreal and full of absurd humour but it's all the better for it. It’s very silly but has an undeniably clever and very witty script that proves near impossible to resist.
To put it mildly, Assassination Classroom is just heaps of zany, crazy fun. It also manages to be genuinely heartfelt as we come to care for this rag-tag bunch of no hopers, yet also for UT himself as we start to hope the kids will somehow fail and succeed at the same time so we can save both the world and UT. The film drops us a few hints about UT’s backstory but stops short of offering a full explanation for the crazy goings on. Thankfully a sequel, Assassination Classroom: Graduation Day is already in production and even if it doesn’t offer any answers, Assassination Classroom is already one of the most enjoyably absurd offerings to come out of Japan this year.
Assassination Classroom receives its UK Premiere at the Leeds International Film Festival on Sunday 15th November 2015.