A moon-destroying alien squid teaches a bunch of students how to kill itself. Guess what country this hails from?

An alien has destroyed the moon, leaving a permanent crescent hanging in the sky. This wannabe Galactus doesn’t have the look of a world eater, though- this creature looks like someone smashed the Wal-Mart smiley face onto the body of a nine-foot tall yellow octopus, and this painfully-obvious CGI creation is now on Earth and pledging to destroy it, as well. It’s just his thing.

But thanks to a little pledge he makes with the government of Japan, he decides to sit in as a homeroom teacher for one of their newly redesigned schools. These new assassination classrooms are full of students who are being taught how to kill the newly dubbed “Korosensei”, and our favorite alien takes up the loser-filled Classroom E and pledges to turn them around into good students. Hopefully he gets a chance to do so before he destroys the world, of course.

This leads to a very strange (and uniquely Japanese) situation where the students of Class E have a teacher who they generally admit is really excellent at his job and teaches them a lot, but in order to pass they need to kill him. Korosensei has pledged not to hurt any of his students, but they soon learn that his promise doesn’t extend to their friends, family, or the rest of the people of Earth, so they have to tread carefully.

But along with his lessons on history, math, and other normal classes, Korosensei also teaches them how to kill himself. The alien has insane speed and can dodge bullets with ease, and he can even shed his skin to evade explosions and stronger attacks. Every day they attempt some new way of killing him and he evades it while explaining what they did wrong (one lesson is taught while he dodges constant gunfire from the kids). Why explain all his weaknesses? Well, he has a reason for it.

This could make for a really dark film - it does have kids wielding weapons in classrooms, after all - but the head of the school makes sure to state that their weapons can only hurt Korosensei, and not even the bullets are lethal to humans. This is further demonstrated in an attempted suicide bombing of sorts, one that stuns the student but doesn’t hurt him. Battle Royale, this is not.

Assassination Classroom is based on a manga, and even though I wasn’t aware of that fact going into the movie, it certainly feels like one. It’s got a very goofy and lighthearted feel, dealing with saving the world while also focusing on the usual tropes of a high school comedy, like a scene where the boys try to sneak into the girl’s room to see them taking a bath. It’s also very, very Japanese, if I didn’t mention that before. You’ve got the badass transfer student with impeccable hair, another transfer student that’s actually a robot with a screen displaying a schoolgirl that is equipped with all kinds of weaponry. There's also a kid who fights with tentacles for hair.

None of the students are terribly fleshed out but Korosensei is clearly the big draw here. He’s been getting all over the place lately, with his own anime series, and most recently starring in the fighting game J-Stars Victory VS (he’s even on the box art.) He’s a funny, ridiculous thing, and the movie is too, but it really can’t keep up its pace for all of its two-hour long running time. A half hour into the film you’ll understand everything it has to offer, but it just refuses to end, beating you over the head with melodrama like you’re getting pummeled with tentacles.

Fans of the manga will probably find a lot to like here, and enjoy it more than someone new to the series, but even they will have to admit that Assassination Classroom is missing something that makes it pop, much like a half-eaten moon.