Akame ga Kill!
Review Spoilers: Low
To be frank, most modern anime disappoints me to a certain degree. In the popular shōnen genre, characters have become incredibly one dimensional, plots recycled to the point of staleness, and I feel like I’m being forced to be sympathetic to the characters as opposed to actually caring about them.
“Akame ga Kill!” has blown me away though. Casually deciding to try out the series, I was told that it was addicting and one of the better animes of Summer 2o14 and I’m going to have to agree with that. “Akame ga Kill!” tells the story of Tatsumi, a young teenage who goes to the Imperial Capital with the hopes of working for the government so that he can send money to his impoverished village which is on the brink of starvation. He quickly learns though that the capital is anything but idealistic when he can’t get a job and has his money stolen from him after blindly trusting a woman who promises to get him a job in the military.
Broke and out on the streets, a young aristocrat invites him to their house where he is welcomed by her parents and given a place to stay and the story takes off. Tatsumi is bright eyed and blind to the corruption that’s going on among the elite, but after a quick and bloody run in with the Night Raid (a group of skilled assassins who kill the nobility) he learns of the evil ways of the rich and changes his mind instantly. Without giving too much away, Tatsumi abruptly finds himself in the care of these assassins and is given a choice, join them and hone his incredible fighting skills or work as their housekeeper.
The Night Raid are a group of completely different individuals all killing to help prepare for the new world that they are trying to establish. With the current government and the wealthy as corrupt and cold as they are, they believe that they are simply “taking out the trash” that would otherwise dirty the order they are working towards. Each member of the Night Raid has their own reason for joining, but this isn’t something that is revealed to the viewers in one go. The characters are all completely their own person, and while they might be filling in a typical shōnen trope (like Leone, the well-endowed female with a flirty side) they are much more than that too. The characters are killers, and while Tatsumi might hopefully declare they they are assassins for justice, they all realize that murder is still murder no matter the reason.
In the three episodes I have seen thus far I have grown attached to the characters already, and in a series where death plays such an integral role I know that’s asking to have my heart broken. The series namesake, Akame, is a silent assassin who knows nothing else. Trained from a young age, she knows nothing but how to kill, and has a hard time showing any sort of emotion beyond the random moments of kindness to her comrades. While others might compare her to other current shōnen heroines, she seems to be a lot more developed than a simple and silent killer who supports the main male. She’s shown worry and care for her group, and has unlikely friendships with each of them. The other main female characters introduced thus far are the same; they all are far more than their gender and a killer. Heck, the leader of the assassins is a woman named Najenda who wears a beautiful suit and is one of the main leaders of the rebellion. This is a series where the woman are strong and it’s not a problem- they are never questioned about it or made to feel like they are a sideshow.
The story itself is well written, with each episode allowing us to learn about the cause, who they are fighting, and in some cases, why they are fighting. It’s a typical shōnen anime, incredibly graphic and serious with some comedic moments and fanservice (although it’s very low/typical in this show) peppered throughout. They aren’t throwing everything at the viewer at once, which is a nice change of pace that shows that the writers respect the folks at home- I’m tired of them trying to get us to care through shock tactics such as mass deaths, overly powerful yet still somehow relatable heroes, or drama stemming from romantic feelings. A revolution is a brutal thing, and people dying isn’t an event that should leave one unaffected, which this show understands.
But besides the actual story, the animation is a pleasure to watch. The character designs translated well from the manga and each character is unique and doesn’t resemble another, something that can be hard to find with such a large main cast. Most impressive though is the way that they chose to fill the fight scenes. Cut in between scenes of action and skilled displays of fighting we see incredibly harsh and ugly portrayals of violence and hatred. In such a corrupt society where the Emperor is eagerly following the advice of his demonic minister, we are shown the true nature of the people and the crimes that they commit simply because they can. Harsh lines, dark colors, and eyes that show the madness that lies within are perfectly used.
This series has shown that it’s a dark one, and going to only get worse from here. Many people are so far commenting on how it’s tiptoeing the line between lighthearted action and a horror tale, but I think it’s blending the two together before the real action and the real horror begin. This isn’t a show for the faint of heart, there are scenes of brutal torture, public execution, and more, but the actual deaths thus far haven’t been as gore filled as other parts. I actually think the images they intercut with such as the one shown above that get uglier which each cut are harder to look at then the actual deaths; there’s simply something so carnal and depraved about them.
“Akame ga Kill!” is a series with a ton of promise in every aspect. A revolution is happening, and it’s not going to be easy to get to the world of peace and prosperity they are all hoping for. People die in a revolution, family is lost, and friends go missing. Fighting for what you believe in isn’t always easy, especially when you are in the business of killing.
You can watch “Akame ga Kill!” on Crunchyroll either the week after the episode comes out for free or simultaneously with a paid membership. With 20 episodes left to go, I’m bracing myself for one hell of a ride.