Akame ga Kill Collection 1 (Episodes 1-12)(Cert 15)
3 Discs DVD/2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: Animatsu Entertainment) Running time: 284 minutes approx.
If there is anything worse in anime than a show with confusing or unrealised storylines, or one which tries too hard to be deep and cerebral, it is a show with an identity crisis.
And with that I present to you Akame ga Kill.
Fearless young swordsman Tatsumi is on a mission from his tiny village heading to the capital to raise funds to combat the high taxation crippling his community. Upon arriving Tatsumi is conned out of his money by a devious young woman and resigned to sleeping on the street until a kind rich girl takes pity on him and invites him home. That night the girl’s home is attacked and Tatsumi is duty bound to protect the girl until the attackers reveal the family’s true evil nature.
The assailants are called Night Raid, former Imperial Army soldiers disgusted with its tyrannical ways, who recruit Tatsumi to join them in their fight against corruption. Led by the androgynous Najenda, Night Raid is made up of quiet but deadly Akame, pink loving loli Mine, cat woman Leone (the woman who duped Tatsumi earlier), meek and clumsy Sheele, wide boy Lubbock and muscular homosexual Bulat.
Akame may appear in the title of this series created by Takahiro and Tetsuya Tashiro, but this is about Tatsumi’s journey from a small village boy to a master fighter educated in the ways of the Imperial Arms, special symbiotic equipment which gives the user an additional boost from its inherent powers – as long as the wielder is compatible otherwise death is on the cards.
Fantasy shows by their very nature are about pushing the boundaries of creativity and embracing the freedoms of the imagination to take us on magical journeys into worlds full of wonder and dreamlike splendour. Akame ga Kill certainly does this but its world building is very confused.
The opening scene of episode one suggests we are in a typical Tolkien-esque/medieval world of mythical beasts, rudimentary transport and clothing which technically we are, but this is also a world where modern style anachronisms like maid cafes, brothel owners in pimp suits and palace security dressed like the Men In Black (no relation) while Tatsumi himself is attired in a cream jumper and sport jacket!
Similarly the various weapons the Night Raid and the Imperial Army wield range from old fashioned swords and blades to mecha style armour and military fire arms and not in a Steampunk way for ease of acceptance. And it is not just the visuals that are hugely contrasting either – the tone keeps shifting from serious to comedy in a heartbeat, often with embarrassing results.
For example, in the opening episode when Tatsumi learns the shocking truth behind the family that took him in, the resolve is extremely brutal and hugely emotional for Tatsumi but literally the next frame after this, they go into a comedy skit, not allowing the gravity and horror of the previous moment to sink in and resonate.
And this is before it is established that Night Raid is made up of five women and two guys meaning even this series isn’t immune from the harem set-up. It is therefore something of genuine shock when the violence hits because this show is one of the more unrelentingly gory on the market, with geysers of blood, heads being ripped off, limbs severed and bodies sliced in half. And those are the bits that can actually be shown!
Compounding the issue further is the lack of direction in the stories. Having not read the original manga, which is still ongoing, I can only assume that individual chapters have been cherry picked for adapting – each episode has a different director – which makes for an uneven narrative with the first half of the twelve episodes in this set reduced to the “villain of the week” format.
It is not until the arrival of the powerful Imperial Army officer and aptly named Esdeath who forms a deadly splinter group called Jaegers that we finally have something comparable to a sequential plot to follow. With the Imperial Arms being distributed between all of the Empire’s elite we know have two factions of equal ability going at it, and with revealing too much, the death of two Night Raid members shows that this isn’t going to be an easy fight.
There is an attempt to flesh out some of the characters but for unexplained reasons this is afforded mainly to the minor ones whilst the major players simply enjoy a larger share of the spotlight. Similarly the driving motivation of Night Raid is poorly defined (Najenda is barely present), as is the despotic rule of the Empire, with the identity of the chief antagonist not fully established yet.
White Fox handles the production and while the artwork is strong, detailed and full of colour and the animation perfectly competent and fluid, the character designs are pretty much off the peg bland. You could spend most of the time playing “spot the influence” with the cast and indeed with the overall aura of the show – I got vibes from the likes of Fairy Tail, D.Gray-Man, Aria The Scarlet Ammo, Sword Art Online, Shakugan no Shana, Samurai Gun, Fate/Zero and more.
What is most annoying about Akame ga Kill however is that despite its glaring faults, discordant tone and surfeit of ideas it is stupidly entertaining and never dull. The unbridled graphic violence will be a drawing point for some viewers, although the real horror is in the unrepentant actions of the villains, which the heroes are somewhat duty bound to return in kind in the name of justice.
There is a kernel of a solid story somewhere beneath the confused presentation which has left itself a little too late to develop, and may not be rectified in the second volume. Far from perfect, action fans with a taste for fantasy and violence will find Akame ga Kill a satisfactory treat.
English Language 5.1
English Language 5.1 with HOH Subtitles
Japanese Language 2.0 w/ English Subtitles
Disc 2 (Blu-ray):
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – ***
Man In Black