Last year’s live-action film adaptation of Assassination Classroom had been a delightful surprise. It’s pretty difficult for live-action adaptations of anime properties to capture the aesthetics and essence of their source material since many of the things that make them work are inherent in the anime format. It’s quite rare for live-action adaptations of anime properties to come out solid (e.g. Detective Conan), much more excellent (e.g. Himura Kenshin, Gokusen), but Assassination Classroom managed to be one of those rare instances of being a solid adaptation.
Assassination Classroom: Graduation is the sequel to Assassination Classroom, and covers the second half of the anime series. It’s a fun adaptation, I guess. But it’s definitely not quite as good as the first one. It’s probably because, being the second movie, it relies on many plot elements of the first movie to push its narrative – which is messy on its own – while the first movie, being the first, had the freedom to construct its own plot points and tell a much smoother overarching story. In other words, Assassination Classroom: Graduation suffers as a stand-alone movie, and should be watched immediately after Assassination Classroom in order to work.
Aside from having the problem of being a dependent sequel, it also fails to capture the impact, even in a general sense, of the second half of the anime. It handles the storytelling in a manner that seems episodic. But since it has to cram the important events of the anime’s second half into one movie, it isn’t able to make these arcs and developments gel well and deliver the emotional emphasis required from them, for it only shows each of these things with the most minimal time possible before rushing to the next.
For example, instead of conducting a “civil war” between the E-class on whether they should continue with the assassination of Korosensei or start looking for ways to save him, the entire conflict is immediately handed to Nagisa and Karma to resolve in a duel. The purpose, of course, is to show the division of the class and its eventual reunification in pursuing a common goal in the most minimum time possible. But by not making everyone in the class participate in a “civil war”, by instead making Nagisa and Karma the proxies of the two sides. the impact of reunification is negated since the class wasn’t given the opportunity to individually have a “say” on the matter.
In the end, Assassination Classroom: Graduation isn’t an atrocious adaptation. It’s a decent one, especially when you compare it to the average live-action adaptation of an anime property. It has moments of hilarity and amusement. Korosensei is a delight to watch, due to no small part on the terrific CGi work and Kazunari Ninomiya’s endearing voice acting. The shots are beautiful. It is definitely entertaining.
However, Assassination Classroom should be something deeper than that. Graduation’s narrative approach is unable to keep the poignancy and potency of the anime’s drama. So while the anime effectively made me well up, Graduation didn’t convince me that Koresensei is a great teacher, and that his death was worth my tears. Thus, fun it may be, it’s still a disappointment for me.