As cliche as it is to say this, there’s a lot more to this anime than is able to be grasped at the first look…
Assassination Classroom is, essentially, all about growth. That is the primary theme throughout the anime. The growth comes slowly, but shows more and more progress and yields more and more results the farther you go into the series – with the epitome of this shown in the final few episodes of the second season.
This growth comes primarily in the form of the maturation of the characters. The story seems to mature as the characters do, helping to illustrate this theme beautifully. The slow start of the story (despite being full of fast paced action) helps represent the slow, dull and somewhat depressing lives of the majority of the class members before events really get going.
This was what surprised me… I watched season 1 and liked it. I thought it was decent: some good growth, funny characters, and a few interesting plot points. Later on, the second season aired, and this was when the show displayed what it had all been working towards, a story about growth.
Season 1 is extremely necessary to get the most out of season 2. I would almost call it imperative that you see it before watching the second season. The events, pacing and tone of season 1 on its own seems to drag the show down. But, when you watch seasons 1-2 as a whole, it’s amazing that the slow build of season 1 becomes obviously deliberate – done to establish the tone mimicking natural growth under guidance at the beginning of any mentorship. The second season shows and establishes a tone and story-beat mimicking the gradual ramp-up, and then explosion in ability, that comes with trust in the instructor and sufficient practice in the material.
This is the brilliance of the show. Yes, the action is great and the show is quite funny. But those are merely the icing and decorations on a solid cake of character growth and pacing (when both seasons are watched back-to-back). Assassination Classroom was a nice surprise, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It works nicely on a superficial action/comedy series level, but excels as a piece about maturation.