Disclaimer: Story spoilers for Assassination Classroom ahead!
Nagisa Shiota is one of the main characters of Assassination Classroom, and the character development which he undergoes in the series is truly unmatched. From being the most prominent user of the Nekodamashi (check out my article on that btw) to being the person who ends up sinking his knife in Koro-Sensei’s tie, he is one of the most impactful characters in the show, both in terms of his impact on the story and his impact on our hearts.
But we all know that one of the most defining traits of this blue student is his natural talent for assassination. Keyword – assassination. Nagisa is terrible at violence, hand to hand combat and duels. He excels at killing.
So let’s break it down, shall we? What makes Nagisa so prominent at his craft of killing? What’s with that snake imagery that always stalks him? And how is it that this little runt is able to go toe to toe with behemoths like Takaoka and Karma?
Even before learning the secret killing technique from Lovro, Nagisa had already proved he had unrivalled talent in the art of assassination – even before the show explicitly tells us. There is something that ties it all together, so let’s get to the bottom of this and see what makes this adorable blue assassin so terrifying.
From the very start of the show, it’s evident that Nagisa isn’t your typical student. Sure, he’s often pushed around and looked down upon due to his size, but his ability to kill is a full head and shoulders over everybody else besides the teachers and Karma. This is because of one main trait that he has – a trait that is key in assassination: Stealth.
This trait strikes incredible fear and concern into everybody. Karasuma was one of the first people to pick it up when Nagisa managed to close in before he even realised it, and for the first time, he felt literally endangered. Thus, the snake imagery of Nagisa bares its fangs for the first time.
Why a snake, though?
Because the killing method of a snake is the same as the killing method of Nagisa.
Snakes are not fighters. Not in the slightest. When up against other larger animals like bears or elephants, snakes stand no chance. Physically inept, they’d get stomped on, trampled, clawed, destroyed and violated.
However, snakes do not fight. They kill. Snakes take advantage of the environment, the shadows and only bites when it’s most opportune. Once bitten, the snake’s venom sinks in and the target dies. That imagery mirrors Nagisa’s perfectly.
A common misconception ( in my uninformed opinion, at least ) is that stealth focuses too much on hiding. The primary image of stealth is someone jumping from shadow to shadow, hiding from line of sight and making sure they are undetected. Think about stealth based games like Dishonored, Thief and particular runs of Skyrim. A ‘stealth run’ means a run where the main character appears as a ghost to the world – only being seen by those who die moments later. So, because Nagisa is always in plain sight of the enemy, stealth can’t be his speciality, right? Not exactly.
Nagisa focuses on another form of stealth entirely – one that ensures that the enemy sees him at all times.
The primary purpose of stealth is to create a jarring contrast between Nagisa’s opponent at rest and in combat. No matter how buff or physically overwhelming the opponent is, catching them off guard with a split second attack would surely give the edge.
This trait can be seen literally everywhere in the show, but where it’s most evident is in his “fight” against Takaoka. “Fight” is in air quotes because it’d be unfair to call it a fight. In fact, Takaoka didn’t have time to react or attack. He just fell over on his butt, crying and drooling in fear.
So, how did this happen? Karasuma’s advice to Nagisa says it all
“I don’t have to fight him to win, I just need to kill him”
I’m willing to be that many people were confused by this ‘advice’. Surely beating Takaoka in a fight would be somewhat easier than ending his life? And what’s up with that, anyway? Not only did a teacher just advise his student to kill, but Nagisa didn’t even end up killing him. So, what gives?
It’s simple = this advice tells Nagisa what cards are on the table.
When Takaoka challenged Nagisa to a fight, the image that Takaoka prepared within himself was a brawl. A one on one cage fight with fists thrown and eyes locked. Karasuma corrected Nagisa on this image. He knew that should that be the case, Nagisa would never stand a chance. But that’s not it.
A fight is different to an assassination.
An assassination utilises everything in the environment. The sound of the wind. The time of day. The deception, pretending and striking. Like a snake, Nagisa intends not to fight Takaoka and ‘beat him’, but ‘kill’ him, through any means necessary.
The difference between a fight and an assassination is the code of honour. In a fight, both people know that they are participating. In an assassination, the target shouldn’t know until the very last second.
So when Nagisa walks towards Takaoka, aptly described as ‘casually, as if I were on my way to school’, that wasn’t Nagisa’s way of declaring battle. Takaoka stood still, not even knowing that the fight had begun. Nagisa even bumped into Takaoka, and he still didn’t react. It was only in the last second that ‘Takaoka knew he was being killed.’
This jarring contrast between peace and death is Nagisa’s greatest weapon. He knows how to act petite and harmless, and then turn into an assassin in a fraction of a second. The target shouldn’t know they are being killed until the very last second – and nobody knows this better than Nagisa.
That is one of Nagisa’s talents in assassination. The ability to put someone off-guard and then turn that on its head. Karasauma picked up on this talent when sparring with the class. Althoug he had undergone intense, elite military training, Nagisa clearly sent a chill down his back that he never felt before.
Later in the same day, when Karasuma was challenged to hand a knife to one of his students to mock ‘kill’ Takaoka, he didn’t choose the most physically adept or the most violent student. To the surprise of everybody, he chose Nagisa.
Nagisa doesn’t even know it himself, but he has a talent for assassination. Nowhere is this demonstrated more prominently than right here – he is innocent yet experienced. He knows how to kill, yet is unaware of it himself. And this, to some extent, is terrifying – He’s a natural born killer and he isn’t even conscious of it.
Let’s get this out of the way – although Karasauma did teach the class combat techniques to battle Koro-Sensei, he never taught him any specific assassination techniques. At this stage in the show, the focus was much more on building physique, confidence and mentality.
Nagisa was able to pull this off on a military elite with no formal training.
Of course, this dosen’t mean that Nagisa dosen’t understand the ideas of ‘traditional’ stealth. Nagisa knows the importance of information in winning a battle – and how effective hiding yourself can be for catching your opponent off guard.
Understanding what your opponent knows and what they don’t know is key to a successful stealth attack. Although a brawl has a code of honor, everything is on the table. You know who is involved, who has what weapons and the potential outcome. But in stealth, anything is possible. The cards are still being dealt, and who knows, there may be a player that’s been hiding this whole time.
The best example of this is when Nagisa took down four members in the duel to save Koro-Sensei. Hiding behind Karasuma, he took the opportune moment to strike down four people at once – making for an epic climax to the episode.
Not only did he completely hide from four students (remember, they’ve been trained to kill a super-monster, so they’re no ordinary students), but he also was able to slit a blue knife down their backs without them even noticing.
Would he win in hand to hand combat against the four? Absolutely not – but that’s the beauty of stealth. Nagisa can take down far more intimidating opponents if they don’t even know he’s around.
But Nagisa has yet another talent – one that turns the first from a battle tactic into a killing weapon.
Nagisa has the ability to read the consciousness of human beings.
That sounds quite far-fetched – almost supernatural. Besides Koro-Sensei, the characters in Assassination Classroom are human, so such a claim seems a little bit insane. But it’s true – and we see it in the show several times. From his experiences with his bipolar mother, he knows when she’s feeling scared, happy and angry. Honing this talent with years of experience, Nagisa became able to read emotions like words in a book.
Using this to his advantage, he can collect information about a few things to make sure that his ‘assassination’ is successful.
- Is my target off-guard?
This is told explicitly later in the show when he literally is able to tell the Whip Assassin’s emotions, but this comes back much, much further. This is told to us in the very first episode of the show.
Nagisa was the first to realise that Koro-Sensei’s reaction speed drops slightly after lunch, and he was the first to capitalise on this observation. Before the wavelength thing was even explored in the second season, Nagisa could tell through the slightest differences that Koro-Sensei was slightly more vulnerable at that period in time when nobody else could.
- Is my façade working?
Walking towards the assassination target with zero apparent killing intent is incredibly difficult to pull off. The closer you get to the target, the higher the chances of assassination. Most people would fail to hide the excitement, and the target would be aware. Think about playing in Dishonored – when your heart beats faster as you approach the target. You wonder if you should speed up or slow down, and you wonder if others are approaching. Undoubtedly, if we were really Corvo in that situation, and we were face to face with the target, they would be able to tell “Hey, this guy might be trying to kill me”
This helps Nagisa tell if he has given away any sort of killing intent or not. If the wavelength suddenly spikes, he knows to back away. If the wavelength sort of evens out, he knows that the target doesn’t see him as a threat.
Using this talent, Nagisa was the first to approach Koro-Sensei so closely without him even reading his killing intent, and he was the first to force Koro-Sensei to use his molt technique. This is a MASSIVE deal, and here’s why:
Nagisa isn’t the only person to have this emotion-reading talent. Koro-Sensei also does.
Yes, we see in the flashback that Koro-Sensei is also able to read wavelengths of consciousness – and he was able to tell when Yukimura-sensei was terrified and when Yanagisawa was enraged. Striking at the peak of his wavelength, Koro-Sensei used the Nekodamashi on the glass wall to knock out Yanagisawa.
This tells us two things:
The first is that Koro-Sensei can apply this ability to execute the Nekodamashi on Yanagisawa’s wavelength, successfully paralysing him. This is the mark of an incredible assassin – and is a testament to the accuracy of his wavelength reading. If the soundwave was so loud and so perfectly applied to Yanagisawa’s wavelength (notice that Yukimura-sensei was left untouched), he must have read Yanagisawa’s wavelength perfectly.
And the second: even with this level of wavelength reading, Nagisa was still able to pass as harmless to Koro-Sensei.
Remember, the molt technique is one of Koro-Sensei’s emergency techniques. It’s his once a month ‘get out of jail free’ card, and with so many assassination attempts, it makes sense for Koro-Sensei to save this for only the most perfect assassination attempts. Sure, he can move at Mach 20 (0r Mach 36, if you’ve read my earlier article on his true speed), so he can get out of nearly all attempts by Class 3-E, but the fact that Koro-Sensei had to use the molt technique instead of just dashing away meant that he was truly caught off guard – even though he could read wavelengths.
So Nagisa’s ability to hide his killing intent even went under the incredible radar of Koro-Sensei, who was able to read wavelengths himself. Calling Nagisa a ‘talented assassin’ in this regard is a total understatement. He has to be a prodigy among prodigies to deceive the former Reaper.
So, with these two talents, Nagisa carries himself as he most naturally talented killer in the show – even more so than those who were experienced and hired by the government. His ability to catch people off guard and understand their emotions allows him to pull off moves that others would only struggle to try.
Born as a natural killer, he found a way to use his talents in an environment that constantly builds him up. He ended up using his skills to teach students, but hey, it’s more practical than working as an assassin.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover” – looking at the short, small and cute Nagisa, you’d never assume that a killer lies within. But his experiences, talents and desires shaped him from a confused, directionless teenager into a competent and reliable teacher.
This has been An Idiot’s Guide to Nagisa Shiota’s Talents – The Blue Assassin of Assassination Classroom – but hey, don’t take my word for it. I’m just an idiot.