*Thanks to reader John B. for the recommendation! 😀
Akame Ga Kill is a deceptive series.
Its colorful character designs and opening set up – Main character Tatsumi leaves home with two friends to join the Capital army and Be Good Guys – lead the viewer to think that it’s going to be a fun shonen series where characters solve problems through lots of yelling and the power of friendship. After all, the show’s first problem sees Tatsumi separated from his friends and resting at the home of a sweet, hospitable aristocratic family and their soft-hearted daughter, Aria.
It’s not fifteen minutes before the series goes “LOL jk ;P” and rears its disturbing head.
Tatsumi’s two friends? Oh, he finds them. In a vast and gory torture house kept by that family’s sweet, soft-hearted daughter. Who captures and kills lower class wayfarers, because why not? After all, they’re just poor and unnecessary people.
In case you need more evidence of how crazy she is, here’s a pic of her at the height of her crazy:
And the Capital that Tatsumi aims to fight for? Turns out it’s full of more of the same. But he doesn’t find this out until Night Raid, a notorious team of assassins, shows up at the torture house to reveal the truth. Everyone outside the capital has been lied to about the Capital’s competence and purity. By that point, Tatsumi’s allegiance is decided.
Akame Ga Kill, then, is the story of Night Raid as they assassinate all the bad guys.
Akame Ga Kill is a flawed anime, but if you’re looking for a bright, colorful, and yet exceedingly tragic, bloody show, it fits the bill. Its particular brand of insanity is what anime does best – and oh, there is SO MUCH insanity – but you have to be in the mood for its violent sense of morality.
Granted, the series isn’t trying to make you ponder the complexities of said morality. It gets around the obvious moral issue of solving problems though murder by making most every one of the antagonists an undeniable caricature of abject evil. Prime Minister Honest (ha) is a nasty piece of work, the true power behind the child Emperor’s throne, interested only in maintaining his power and blatantly corrupting the young Emperor to do it, all while munching gluttonously on raw meat.
The most obvious in the series, though, is General Esdeath. One of the most powerful military leaders in the Empire, her mantra is “The strong survive and the weak die,” and she tests the strength of her opponents to sadistic ends, at one point even burying a population of 400,000 people alive.
In most cases, I’d consider the extreme characterization to be cheap writing, but Akame Ga Kill has such fun with the absolute wackiness of its characters, good and bad, that this was for once forgivable. Seryu Ubiquitous may be an overzealous Capital soldier with a twisted sense of justice, but this zeal also led her to have hidden guns installed in the stumps of her arms and her throat, which is simultaneously disturbing and hilarious.
And that’s before you even get to the adorable horror that is her pet (and additional weapon) Coro.
(This is not his final form.)
For real, this show watches like Soul Eater and One Piece had a baby and then left it to be raised by Future Diary.
That said, Akame Ga Kill is a show that you watch for how wack it is. Even the good guys have their levels of crazy, like Sheele, whose backstory is that she’s so darn clumsy and absent-minded that she can’t find anything she’s good at…until she happens to go on a murdering spree and realizes she’s just that good at killing people. (Also she fights with a giant pair of scissors.)
And even though Tatsumi is easily the most well-balanced of the characters, it takes him and his innocent-looking sweater less than half an episode to decide that he wants to kill everyone he’d wanted to work for fifteen minutes before.
But that doesn’t mean the characters aren’t well developed in their own weird ways. The first several episodes of the series are a bit average, but when The Jaegers take the place of the early antagonists, the series really begins to take off.
Mundane-looking Wave is a do-gooder like Tatsumi who just hasn’t realized what the Capital’s up to. He’s what Tatsumi could have become if he hadn’t come upon Aria’s murder house, and this makes him surprisingly easy to sympathize with. Bols is a creepy-looking silent type…who stays creepily silent only because he’s too shy to speak up, and is actually something of a family man. Angel-haired Run is allied to the Capital only because he sees the revolutionary cause as a lost one and wants to do actual good from within the flawed structure. Though Seryu is nuts, she genuinely believes her intentions are pure. Granted, the stylish Dr. Stylish is just nuts and the remaining Kurome has a rather uninteresting backstory. But even General Esdeath has a softer side: despite her infamous sadism, she only wants to experience true love, and when she eats a good ice cream, wonders if her soldiers would enjoy it. This doesn’t really make up for the fact that she’s an absolute sociopath, but it is amusing to watch, if only for its absurdity.
Overall, this is a show that you watch more for its characters than its plot – first because the plot is the very simple “Kill all the bad guys,” second because the plot is not very good.
Akame Ga Kill watches like a show that tries to do both too much and too little in the expanse of its allotted time. The first several episodes watch like baddie-of-the-week filler, albeit entertaining filler. The series also introduces the concept of the 48 Imperial Arms – some truly neat magical weapons – but doesn’t explore them beyond using them to give the characters their identifying abilities, and generally watches like a device that was intended for a longer show that didn’t happen. (We don’t even see half of the 48.) There’s also a point where Esdeath decides that Tatsumi is her true love; Tatsumi confesses his connection to Night Raid in the same episode, hoping her affection for him will cause her to change sides. She doesn’t, viewing his confession as merely cute, which is not remotely believable behavior for a general who’s famous for subjugating enemies of the Empire in horrific ways – and whose very goal is to destroy Night Raid.
The climax of the show is also a hot mess, with the young Emperor realizing that he hasn’t been a good Emperor and that he’s been surrounded by complete sadists (HOW COULD HE NOT NOTICE?)…and then bemoaning his condition by whipping out the biggest Imperial Arms ever and wrecking the heck out of the Capital. Because that will certainly make up for all his failures. 😐
There’s not even a clear reason for the title by the end. Sure, the titular tsundere Akame plays a significant role in the series, especially after her sister Kurome shows up as an antagonist, but her role’s no more significant than that of the other protagonists. (It’s telling that I didn’t feel the need to mention her before this point.)
Maybe she earned the title because she’s one of the few survivors? (Oh, right, like you expected a show like this to let your favorite characters live. 😛 )
Still, despite its flaws, Akame Ga Kill is worth watching for what it does well. It’s not for everyone – particularly those who dislike bloody violence or shows that require a huge suspension of disbelief – but if you’re already accustomed to the wacky heights that anime can achieve, it’s a fun show.
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