By Yusei Matsui. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialized in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump. Released in North America by Viz. Translated by Tetsuichiro Miyaki. Adapted by Bryant Turnage.
Jump series tend to be highly variable in how they handle romance in the titles (discarding actual romance series such as Nisekoi). Some series are happy to have romance as part of the character’s motivations, such as Naruto or Bleach. Some are proud of the fact that they eschew normal romance in their titles, such as One Piece or Gintama. A lot of series go for the in between, where romance sometimes crops up but it’s never really the focus and you aren’t really gunning for pairings. Toriko, My Hero Academia… and Assassination Classroom, where we’ve previously seen that Kayano is sort of crushing on Nagisa and that Irina has a thing for Karasuma, but that’s about it. Of course, sometimes those series will then take the opportunity to leap into the romance waters head-first… and what better opportunity than Valentine’s Day?
Before that, though, let’s wrap up the “space station” arc, one which if I recall correctly was one suspension of disbelief too many for a lot of readers. The author does try to keep things as ridiculous as the premise (I love Nagisa’s bomb with ‘BOMB’ written on it), but it is a bit anti-climactic that the whole thing is resolved in one chapter, though it’s nice to see Ritsu actually doing something again. That said, this is all a setup for the main thrust of the first half of the book, which is that these are idealistic middle schoolers, assassins or no. They think because Koro-sensei exploding is now a less than 1% chance, that those odds mean they can save him. In the real world, that’s not how things work, and it’s no surprise that the bad guys are working hard on plan B. Even Irina is concerned, thinking that someone killing Koro-sensei in front of them will ruin the kids’ innocence.
But then there’s the Valentine’s chapters. Again, the author blissfully ignores the most popular fan pairing – Nagisa and Karma – but there’s still plenty to draw on here. We see the class playboy screw things up and then try valiantly to fix them, especially as Koro-sensei says his recommendation to a high school depends on it. We see Kayano, who not only has to work up the courage to give Nagisa chocolates, but has to do it without Koro-sensei spying on her and with the “help” of Rio and Karma, who turn into literal devils in some panels as if it weren’t obvious enough. (We also see Rio quietly admitting she likes Nagisa too, but feels Kayano made the better showing here.) If it’s frustrating, that’s because this is one of those ‘middling’ Jump romance series; hence, there won’t be a pairing because Nagisa needs to focus solely on the future. And the adults also get in on this, with Irina’s worries that I mentioned above prompting Karasuma to tell her to stop being an assassin and join the defense agency. Her compassion for the students also prompts him to give in to her affections… though it’s done Karasuma-style, with a subtle, almost non-existent proposal that he refuses to repeat. Irina’s facial reaction is the best reason to buy this book.
In short this novel is a shipper’s paradise, but we’re also told we’re not going to be getting a get Koro-sensei out of jail free card. It’s becoming more and more clear that Koro-sensei being killed is the endgame. As we get to the final volumes, will the kids keep their youthful innocence? I can’t wait to find out.