Akame ga Kill has graced us with its presence over the past six months and what seemed to be a decent adaptation at best, completely spiraled out of control at the end because the studio went with an anime-only wrap up to the series, leaving a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. However, Akame ga Kill did NOT leave a bad taste in mine. I’m probably in the minority here when I say that I actually enjoyed Akame ga Kill because I did something that I touched upon in my last Anime Pulse column… I never read the source material so I was forced to take this anime at face value. Now, does that mean that I think Akame ga Kill is an AMAZING anime? Not by far as it did have some shortcomings, but it’s far from the atrocity that many source faithful are making it out to be.
The story is simple. A fat, disgusting, drunk-with-power advisor to the emperor is manipulating him into being ruthless and unfair to his people. He is hutting down and raiding villages, imposing harsh laws upon the citizens, and using the might of his military to instil fear into the hearts of men, women, and children. Someone has to stop it and that someone is more or less a group of assassins called Night Raid.
There is a rebel army of people against the government that take on some of the easier, lowly missions to try and overthrow those in power, but the Night Raid are the best of the best. They carry out the toughest missions and obliterating others. While that is the overarching premise for this series, you also have a story between our main character, Tatsumi, and the general of the imperial army, Esdeath. They fall madly in love with each other. It’s nice to see an anime focus on more than one story; I feel a lot of animes have been lacking that kind of depth. A lot of shows will just focus on the main plot and call it a day, but this one seems to do things a bit differently and that’s a good thing.
In addition to the story plots, each member of the opposing sides possess powerful artifacts called Imperial Arms. Imperial Arms are special weapons that can only be used if the wielder is fully compatible with it. They range from a sword which poisons anything it cuts, to a cute and cuddly dog who will eat her master’s arm and replace it with anything from a cannon to a rocket launcher. They get pretty creative with each person’s Imperial Arms and it really turns this from what could be considered a dark anime into something a little more light-hearted, venturing into the shounen category.
Overall the story was intriguing, but as aforementioned, there are some shortcomings with the show and it falls mainly on the characters…. there are a LOT of characters and… spoiler alert…. don’t get too attached to them because about 90% of them die by the end of this series. Because there is such a large cast, 24 episodes seems really short and that’s saying a lot due to the way anime has been presenting itself over the past few years. To try and mix in the story elements and character development with a cast this large, you would probably need this to be a 52+ episode series just to get you to care enough about the characters.
So while we’re on the subject of characters, let’s take a look at them.
This is your main character. He grew up in a small village and got his strength by fighting Danger Beasts, which are giant monsters that inhabit the world. One day, he and his two best friends, seek out the capital where they plan to join the imperial army to try and persuade them to save their village from poverty and ruination. When Tatsumi gets there, he’s separated from his friends and gets taken in by someone of the royal bloodline.. only to find out they enslave and murder peasants and Tatsumi’s friends were among them. It also just so happens that these kidnappers were a target of Night Raid and predictably, Tatsumi is rescued by Night Raid and persuaded to join them.
At first, Tatsumi was falling into the role that I absolutely hated… the weak hero who is always questioning what’s right and wrong and is always afraid to get his hands dirty. I’ve hated that archetype for the longest time, but this show fixes that really fast. Tatsumi steels his heart when he is sent off on his first mission and since then, he acts as the character who tries to find the morals in what Night Raid is doing, but he also has a legit badass side to him that will still carry out missions. He likes to protect his comrades and will do almost anything to do so… even if it means returning the favor when they protect him. It makes him a well-rounded main character that realizes the necessity of the bloodshed and that it will help change things for the better, but he still has that innocent side to him that makes him endearing. I enjoyed the Tatsumi character a lot and I’m glad they chose to develop him this way.
Here is your second lead character. At first, like Tatsumi, she seemed like a typical archetype. The cold-hearted skilled swordsman who I wrote about in my first Anime Pulse column dealing with Anime Tropes. However, that changes pretty quickly as well. You’d think she’d be a tsundere due to the fact that she has a gruff exterior, but she cares deeply for Tatsumi’s safety as well as every other member of Night Raid, but you soon learn that’s not the case… she’s simply just a legitimate badass.
Like Tatsumi, she has a nice balance between her ability to fight and her sensitive side that makes her feel human, rather than robotic. I actually thought that Tatsumi and Akame were going to end up as a couple in the end, but that didn’t exactly pan out. The way the two interact is more like a bond between comrades in arms more than a love interest. They respect each other deeply and they care about each other’s safety. It’s enough to make you beg the studio to ship this pairing, but it’s that tension and desire that makes you want to keep watching both characters.
Now onto the secondary characters, which I like to refer to as… The Cannon Fodder. I will be going through each of these rather quickly.
He is your hulking muscle-head who is in love with working out and training. He reminds me a lot of Apachai from History’s Strongest Disciple, Kenichi, except Bulat is a full on homosexual, but don’t worry… he’s not massively flamboyant about it (despite what the picture I picked out for him suggests). He even assures Tatsumi that he’s pretty much safe around him. Bulat’s imperial arms is Incursio… a suit of armor that can wield a powerful sword or spear. Incursio can also turn invisible for short periods of time to embark on stealth missions. Bulat is also the one who trains Tatsumi how to fight and because of this, the two of them form a close friendship. When Bulat dies, he gives Incursio to Tatsumi and lo and behold, Tatsumi is compatible with Incursio due to their friendship.
Here you have your glasses wearing klutz character. She is clumsy when it comes to everything.. except fighting. She possesses an immense fighting ability and is nearly flawless when it comes to executing opponents. Outside of that.. well.. it makes you wonder how she can even function in everyday life. Her Imperial Arms is a giant pair of scissors that can cut through anything. She’s also best friends with another character named Mine. Sheele is the first to die and it deeply upsets Mine, but this is actually the catalyst which begins Mine and Tatsumi’s relationship. I really felt they rushed Sheele, but as soon as they started to give her some screen time and backstory, you knew the death flags were set. When Sheele died, it was a bit emotional because of the way they presented her, you were just starting to warm up to the character, and then in the snap of a finger she’s gone. Had I known what was to come, instead of feeling emotional, I would have been more like “Welp.. that’s one… NEXT!” I’ll talk about Mine later, though, because she’s pretty much the reason why people went ballistic over the anime-only ending to the show.
Leone wins the death race and makes it all the way to the final episode before she dies. Congratulations on being last. Leone’s Imperial Arms is that of a spirit animal. She can turn her body into a cat-like beast and she possesses healing abilities that would even make Wolverine jealous. She’s feisty, has big boobs, and likes to drink. She’s not afraid to dive into a fight and likes to protect her comrades. She’s just that type of character. She wasn’t my favorite, but she was enjoyable to watch as her antics lightened the mood when it needed it and she even still kept that positive vibe when fighting opponents. Even though she took the fight seriously, she always looked like she was having fun doing it and that made her interesting.
He’s kind of like the male version of Leone personality-wise, except, he’s the token pervert of the group. Like Leone, he’s there to lighten the mood by attempting, several times, to peep on the women while they are most defenseless… in the bath. As you can imagine.. he fails over and over again. Despite that, he is a master tactician and does a lot of the group’s planning. He’s also a bookworm who owns his own bookstore. His weapon is equivalent to Ninja Wire… strings that are indestructible and can cut almost anything. He can shape the string into weapons or body armor which makes his ability very well-rounded. He also reveals that he was born into royalty and fell in love with Najenda, who was a general for the Imperial Army turned leader of Night Raid. He swore to follow her anywhere in the hopes that he can, one day, ask her out. Guess what? DEATH FLAG!! Yep.. he died and didn’t get to fulfill his dream. Lubbock dying was predictable, but this one stung just a bit because of the unresolve that he experienced. He also bonded pretty well with Tatsumi so Tatsumi’s reaction really drove his death home. Lubbock was probably third among my favorite characters and it legitimately sucked to see him die. I had really hoped he survived to the end, but alas, he didn’t.
She is the leader of Night Raid. She is a former general of the imperial army and partner/rival to their current general, Esdeath. Her imperial arms is a prosthetic arm which acts like Link’s hookshot from The Legend of Zelda, but this would not be her only Imperial Arms as she has the power to control two. She is one of two members of Night Raid that actually don’t die in the end! Her personality is stern like a general would, but among that sternness, she is also the voice of reason for the group. Some of her opinions aren’t liked, but she does care deeply about anyone. She has the role of being the glue that holds the group together when they need it most. In my eyes, she is a true leader.
So with Bulat and Sheele gone, Night Raid decides to hire new cannon fodder.. I mean.. members to join their ranks.
Chelsea tries to be the voice of reason to the group, but she doesn’t go about that calmly. In fact, hhe’s rather snarky about it and her reason comes off as making her seem like an unpleasant know-it-all. I guess I would say that when people are lost in their delusions about the world, she’s more or less the reality more than the voice of reason. Her imperial arms is the ability to shapeshift and imitate anyone perfectly. We have JUST enough time to get to know her before she dies to Kurome, Akame’s sister. In fact, she dies before Lubbock, Leone, and the other new member of Night Raid, Susano’o. Her time in the show was so insignificant that it makes me wonder why they even bothered to create this character. I can’t say that I loved this character either as I found her down-right annoying. She tried to show a sweet and lovable side, but by the time she did, she was dead. So my reaction… “Another one down.. NEXT!”
He’s supposed to be Bulat’s replacement. Susano’o doesn’t have an imperial arms because he himself IS the Imperial Arms. He’s a humanoid weapon and under the control of Najenda as her second imperial arms, although they do an AMAZING job making him seem human. He’s a neat freak to boot. He can’t stand it when things are out of order and can notice the slightest detail if it’s not in perfect harmony with the rest of the world. That makes his keen observation an important tool in battle. Susano’o is extremely powerful and his trump card is the ability to take Najenda’s life force to empower himself. Susano’o ends up dying to Esdeath when he throws away his life so that Najenda and Tatsumi can escape the royal palace during the prelude to the final mission. In the end, Susano’o states that he is merely a tool and reminds us all that no matter how human he seemed, he was never human to begin with. This made him my favorite character in the series. They took the whole living weapon ideal and spun it to make him fill the role of an actual human that you can relate and grow attached to. There are often times where you forget Susano’o is a weapon and that his death served as a grim reminder that he was nothing more than a tool of battle. Kind of depressing if you ask me.
Finally we get to her. So.. this is when people realized that the anime caught up to the manga. It was in episode 18 where Mine ended up dying which hadn’t happened in the manga yet. People who were watching the show either thought that Mine was going to die next chapter, or the show was doing what they feared.. going with an anime-only ending. The latter ended up being true. Mine’s weapon is a sniper rifle whose power intensifies the more Mine’s life is in danger. Mine was on the verge of death when fighting against the commander of the Imperial Army, Zank.. who is pretty much a carbon copy of Laxus from Fairy Tail. Mine’s weapon broke apart and unleashed a beam of fury upon Zank, killing him, but it also drained Mine’s life force to the point where she died in Tatsumi’s arms on the way back to their hideout. It was also here that Mine confessed her love for Tatsumi and they shared a kiss mere moments before Mine passed. It was probably the most emotional death because nobody saw this one coming because it wasn’t in the source material, but her death set the entire anime community ablaze and this is when people began to call this show a train wreck. I’ll have more elaborate thoughts in the overall thoughts section at the end.
Phew.. that was a lot of characters… wait… were not done? Dammit!
Time to look on the other side of the fence. Esdeath is the current general of the imperial army and my GOD is she powerful. Her Imperial Arms is demonic blood that flows through her body, turning her into a pseudo Susano’o. She can control ice by creating weapons, freezing the ground, or wrapping herself in it as a protective shield. Her ultimate trump card is to freeze the entire world in ice, stopping time and space itself. This effect only lasts a few seconds, though, and eats up most of her power, leaving her very weak afterwards. She even states she can only use it about once per day. As powerful and god-like as Esdeath is, she too, succumbs to something this series does so well and that makes her feel human. Despite her destructive ways, one her goals is to fall in love and settle down. When she describes her ideal man, she ends up describing our main character Tatsumi down to a T. In fact, Esdeath captures Tatsumi twice in an effort to make him hers, but she has no idea that Tatsumi is a part of Night Raid. It leaves the viewer wondering what would happen if Esdeath ever found out the truth. Well… she does… and her reaction is rather interesting. Most anime tropes would take the route where Esdeath would become enraged in one of those “you betrayed my heart and I cannot allow you to live” type roles, but not Akame ga Kill. While Esdeath is disappointed to learn of it, she doesn’t act surprised. In fact, she offers Tatsumi one last chance to join her side and she would have all of his crimes and sins pardoned. Tatsumi refuses and before we see what Esdeath would do, Night Raid rescues him. Esdeath eventually dies at the hands of Akame and I’ll get to her death scene later when I wrap up this review in my overall thoughts section.
So what would Night Raid be without a counter group to match them? Enter Esdeath’s Jaeger group. Anyone who has seen Attack on Titan knows that Jaeger is German for hunter. They are just that.. the counter-Night Raid faction whose job is to hunt and destroy them and they, too, don’t escape the curse of death.
This is the most prominent member of the Jaegers. She’s Akame’s little sister. The two were orphaned and were drug to the capital to become child soldiers, except they forced them into different camps to break their bonds. They are reunited, but Akame grew to hate the government and joined Night Raid while Kurome joined the government and eventually, the Jaegers. Kurome never forgave Akame for her decision and thus we have a sibling rivalry. Kurome seems very cold like Akame, but she has a sadistic side to her. Her imperial arms is the ability to raise the dead and have them fight for her as puppets. She can even raise Danger Beasts if she chooses to. She had an experiment done to her that requires her to eat a lot of sweets in order to keep her power in check. She is heavily wounded in her battle with Chelsea, but Kurome ends up killing Chelsea and surviving. She has her duel with Akame and ends up getting killed by her sister during the final mission. I just couldn’t get behind the Kurome character. They tried to make me sympathize with her, but if Akame and Kurome had such a close bond, why would you let ideals get in the way of your sisterhood? It just didn’t make sense and this seemed like a forced rivalry more than anything.
If Susano’o was my favorite character, Bols is a very very close second. He is a mercenary and a pyromaniac. His Imperial Arms is a massive flame thrower whose trump card is to explode with the force of an atomic bomb. He was badly scarred during his life and wears a mask to hide it. He reveals his face to the characters in the show, but the viewer never gets to see it. Bols seems like a monster, but he is very gentle. He only goes on missions because it is necessary to provide for his family. Deep down, Bols is a family man and even likes helping the innocent, but he is a loyalist to the government and will do anything to protect the royal family.. even if it means going against Night Raid. Out of all the human qualities of our characters, Bols was the most human. You felt sorry for him for what he has to do and you always wished that Bols could do something else to be a loving father and husband, but this was the path he chose. He’s not egotistical enough to be blind to his choice either. He knows full well the path he chose and the consequences that stem from it. If I didn’t find Susano’o so interesting, Bols would have been my pick as overall favorite and best character in this entire series. Bols realizes he can’t beat Night Raid and uses his trump card and suicides, which was a very sad moment in the show. Chelsea uses her imperial arms to impersonate Bols in an assassination attempt on Kurome which ends up getting Chelsea killed.
This is the Tatsumi of The Jaegers. He even has the same imperial arms as Tatsumi, but his armor is slightly different. Wave is one of two Jaegers that survive in the end. In fact, he even helps Tatsumi and Night Raid during the final mission. He never joins Night Raid, but when he sees the corruption of the government first hand, he knows that he doesn’t want to defend it. Wave would rather defend a fair government more than anything. Not much else can be said… he is just a Tatsumi clone.
Here is a wild difference between the manga and the anime. In the manga, Run is killed by Kurome and forced to be one of her puppets. In the anime, Run survives until the end and rebuilds the city in the aftermath of the war against the government. Run’s Imperial Arms are angelic wings, giving him the power to fly and shoot feather-like projectiles. He can even turn his wings into energy threads similar to Lubbock’s wire. Run doesn’t get much backstory or air time, for that matter, except for one battle against Night Raid. Then he disappears almost entirely until the end of the show. Hardly a character worth getting behind as he just likes like he’s there and that’s about it.
The final member of The Jaegers. A former member of the Imperial Guard with a strong sense of justice that borderlines on insanity. Kind of reminds me of Arthas from Warcraft lore. She joins the Jaegers after running into Night Raid and seeing what they are capable of. Her Imperial Arms is Coro… a dog that can eat her arm and replace it with a weapon. Her entire body is also weaponized making her similar to Sasori from Naruto. She ends up dying during a fight with Mine by self-destructing, hoping to take Mine out, but she fails. I can’t really say if I liked or hated this character. She was downright crazy to the point of insanity and a part of me just wanted to see her die. When she did, I was kind of happy. She acted all cute and innocent and just when you thought you would like her, she goes all JUSTICE!!!!! and proceeds to be a reminder of your crazy ex. Just one of those characters that you love to hate, I suppose.
There are more characters… a LOT more, to be honest, but they can all be summed up with,“they appeared one episode and died in the next.” They had little to no back-story or development and if they did, it was only to set up their own demise. I could probably write an entire column on just the characters alone, but for the sake of my own sanity.. let’s move on.
Art & Animation
Square-Enix. Yes, the company behind Final Fantasy had a hand in producing this show alongside White Fox, Sentai Filmworks, and TOHO Animation. The artwork itself was very very well done. The backgrounds ranged from “okay, it fits the scene” to “just wow”. The overhead shots of the imperial capital come to mind when it comes to some of the better backgrounds. The characters themselves are vibrant with color. They are all instantly recognizable and they each have their own personality that stands out. One thing about character design is that you can usually tell a character’s personality just by the way they are drawn, but Akame ga Kill does it in a way where they draw those characters in such a way where you expect them behave as they are designed, and for the most part, they do, but the humanization of the characters through the storytelling kind of breaks the mold a bit and offers up a different way at looking at some of these typical characters. The artwork here serves as a nice setup to get you to expect one thing and then receive another.
The animation was well-done as well. There was a lot of fluidness in the motions and the CG looked very impressive and not out of place. The water flowing in the river in the above picture is a nice example of CG blending in well with the background art. Esdeath’s ice is, quite possibly, the highlight of the CG in the anime. I’m a sucker for ice, but it is very well done here. There’s no awkwardness or anything that stands out as out of the ordinary. Everything seems to blend together extremely well and I believe it is one of the better works this year in terms of animation production.
The biggest drawback to this series is the amount of characters it has. As I said before, in order to flesh out a cast this large, you would need 52+ episodes and I think even with 52, I am short changing things. There were just too many characters to the point where deaths felt rushed and the entire story suffered from a pacing standpoint because of it. It actually got to the point where one to two people were dying per episode and it really lessened the impact of their deaths, with one exception.
Yes, the main character that has been the focus since episode one dies. Because this happened, I was actually shocked. It’s very rare when the actual main character gets killed. Most people often cite Cowboy Bebop when they talk about main character deaths, but I honestly did not expect it from Tatsumi. What made it even more memorable was Esdeath’s demise. After she was fatally wounded by Akame, she walked over to Tatsumi’s body and encased herself and Tatsumi in ice. The ice then shattered and the two of them blew away into the air like dust particles. Even though Esdeath knew Tatsumi was the enemy, she still wanted nothing more than to be with him in death. It was a fitting end that really showed Esdeath’s human side and even though that was an anime-only scenario, it was one of my favorite moments from the show just because of the impact it had.
The ending of the show was standard fare. Akame and Najenda were the only ones left in Night Raid. They agree to go their separate ways. The wanted posters for Night Raid were taken down as they were all rumored to have been dead, despite two of them being alive. It was kind of like the population and the new government turning a blind eye to those who helped liberate them. It wasn’t an amazing ending, but it was far from terrible. It was kind of an average ending that was to be expected and, honestly, it tied a nice little bow around the entire package.
People who have read the manga will probably disagree with me. I’ve seen scores of 5/10, 4/10, etc for this show because the manga faithful can’t wrap their heads around this show going the anime-only route. However, these same people will praise Fullmetal Alchemist even though they took the anime-only route as well. Granted, Fullmetal Alchemist had more episodes to work with and didn’t feel as rushed, but it’s a great example of a show still being great by taking that leap into uncharted territory. I felt the same way about Tegami Bachi when it deviated from the manga and gave us an anime-only story. Akame ga Kill certainly wasn’t the first show to do it and I highly doubt it will be the last.
Perhaps people need to stop feeling so entitled and just learn to sit back and enjoy something for what it is. But cest le vie.
I enjoyed this show despite its flaws. Overall, I’m giving this show an 8 / 10. It’s above average because of the humanization the show took the characters through to save us from your typical tropes. The story itself, while death-heavy, really did capture what it can be like when you’re fighting a rebellious war against a great power. There will be casualties, and perhaps the numerous deaths themselves was also a nod towards how things can play out in reality.
This is still a show I recommend people check out.
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Until next time…
Should you check out Akame Ga Kill! ?
Rushed but interesting
While the show seems rushed, the humanization of the characters and the reality of war between a rebel group and corrupt government make this very interesting despite it deviating from the manga.