The students of class 3E found themselves in quite a bind at the end of volume 7 of Assassination Classroom. While they had successfully cornered Koro-sensei, executing one of their closest assassination attempts yet, Koro revealed yet another form and dashed their hopes. Still, his most recent form puts him in a handicapped position for approximately 24 hours while he regains strength and energy within an impervious crystal bubble. Shortly after Koro-sensei has reverted to this handicapped form,however, numerous classmates are suddenly stricken by a mysterious virus. The culprit is unknown, a shadowy and scarred figure who challenges the students to come and retrieve the vaccine, or watch their friends die slow and painful deaths.
Volume 8 of Assassination Classroom hits the ground running, literally. Each of the students gets their time in the spotlight in this volume, starting with Ritsu as she utilizes her cutting-edge technology to provide her classmates with precious data of the enemies that await them in the complex. Ms. Vitch gets the opportunity to shine once again, though the recurring trope of her primary skill-set in assassination being in seduction and fine arts tends to put a damper on her contributions. Meanwhile, Karasuma does his best to be the reliable chaperone, but is incapacitated when he intercepts a surprise gas attack meant for the students.
With Karasuma indisposed, the students are left to their own devices to fight against two highly trained assassins: “Grip”, who boasts tremendous hand strength capable of crushing skulls and bones with ease, and “Gastro”, who has a strange habit of dipping his loaded gun in soups and broths and sucking them. Yeah…
The battle with Grip is entertaining, as Karma reveals some telltale signs of development; but for nearing the climax of a major story-arc, the battle seemed almost too easy. Even the students’ confrontation with Gastro is anti-climactic, as Koro effortlessly directs them even in his sorry state.
When it came time to reveal the shadowy culprit, I had all but confirmed it in my head at that point. For the sake of spoilers I won’t reveal it here, but most could remove any shroud of doubt simply by studying the character design. While the identity and motivation of the final boss of this arc are fairly easy to guess, the story makes up for it with its excellent setup for the final confrontation between Nagisa and our antagonist. The final panels will likely leave you with chills as you run to your bookshelf, collapse to your knees and shake your fist to the heavens that volume 9 is nowhere to be found.
The anti-climactic confrontations between the ambitious and deadly students of class 3E and the professional assassins waiting for them in the hilltop castle combined with uninspired twists in the plot did their best to trip up Assassination Classroom. However, with decent character development, good pacing, and a powerful final chapter, volume 8 righted the course just in time, and certainly has me eager for more.