Fantastic Fest: “Assassination Classroom: Graduation” ramps up absurdity and emotion

Charles Liu

Against all odds, a Japanese movie about a grinning octopus training teenage rejects to become assassins is a poignant ride. Yes, “Assassination Classroom: Graduation” is the absurd second part of a live-action manga adaptation, but it’s also a fable about honoring one’s teachers.

The film revisits the students of Class 3-E during their discussions about their futures with Koro-sensei (Kazunari Ninomiya), the octopus assassin extraordinaire. One student in particular, the earnest Nagisa (Ryosuke Yamada), is at a loss for what he wants to be when he grows up. 

Unfortunately, Nagisa won’t have a future if he and his classmates don’t kill Koro-sensei before March, when he is set to destroy the world. With the end rapidly approaching, Koro-sensei implores his students to hone their skills and defeat him in time. This is, after all, what Koro-sensei actually wants — he will have truly succeeded in training his students if they manage to assassinate him. 

But as the students learn more about Koro-sensei’s tragic past, and as the government launches their own plan to kill him, the students begin to disagree about whether they should follow through with the assassination. Perhaps their teacher doesn’t deserve to die.

“Assassination Classroom: Graduation” isn’t terribly deep with its characterizations simply because the cast is so large, resorting to archetypes such as the jock and the nerd to help us easily identify the players. The character that gets the most development is Koro-sensei, whose lengthy flashback to his origin gives the film a surprisingly strong emotional bottom from which everything else in the story builds.

The last act of the movie is as strange as it gets, with schoolgirls defeating government agents and tentacle monsters duking it out. “Assassination Classroom: Graduation” rarely bats an eye at how preposterous it gets, but the events play out in fun and exciting ways. This isn’t the kind of movie you can watch if you think yourself above the cheesy material — you have to accept it for what it is. Doing so might help you feel the emotions the movie so deeply wants you to.

In the end, when you get past the fact that Koro-sensei and his apprentices spend a lot of time trying to kill each other, you’ll realize they share an intimate bond that all mentors should strive to forge with their students. “Assassination Classroom: Graduation” isn’t just some overblown action comedy; it is a reminder that good teachers inspire their students to grow and flourish. Koro-sensei does that with a smile. 

“Assassination Classroom: Graduation"
Running Time: 118 minutes
Rating: NR
Score: 4/5 stars