Akame ga Kill Collection 2 (Episodes 13-24)(Cert 15)
3 Discs DVD/2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: Animatsu Entertainment) Running time: 284 minutes approx.
Another title which has suffered from the odd delay or two finally surfaces, resulting in a six-month plus gap between releases, the concluding part of Akame ga Kill begins as it means to go on, with a violent and bloody carnage. But a revisit of the first volume, if only to reacquaint yourself with the cast and various factions, is necessary.
The first task for Night Raid, the central protagonists of this gory fantasy yarn, is to combat the Danger Beasts, rampaging grotesque behemoths created by the now deceased Dr. Stylish with his bespoke formula. Meanwhile, Jaegers, the elite killer group formed by former Imperial Army officer Esdeath, have been with eliminating Danger Beasts, putting them in the rare position of being allies with Night Raid.
It’s not a smooth union by any means, aside from Esdeath’s infatuation with Night Raid’s Tatsumi which is given a chance to blossom when the pair are briefly isolated on a remote island together. Providing us with the first of many background stories, it is unfortunate that the clashing philosophies of these two warriors prevents any sort of relationship forming.
For the next few instalments the format is pretty much further rounds of Night Raid vs. Jaegers, usually a result of the latter encroaching on the missions of the former. Fatalities are traded as the rivalry worsens, with many of the magically powered fighters forced to use their Trump Card to ensure victory, often with surprising results.
Without wishing to reveal too much, both sides lose key members, usually in unpleasant and brutal fashion. One victim ends up with their head mounted on a spike in the town centre as a trophy and a warning shot to Night Raid. For a series that habitually lapses into stupid, chibified comedy on a whim, it pulls no punches in stimulating our darker emotions, whether to excite us or revolt us.
It is this tonal disparity which made the first volume a hard one to judge, flitting between the two moods with reckless abandon, leaving its identity a hard one to accurately divine. The same occurs here, often to the point of distraction, but the focus is noticeably in favour of the serious side, resulting in a much better product.
As the body counts rise, the identity of the exiting cast members is somewhat telegraphed by a preceding flashback to their earlier days, explaining how they came to be in the position they are now. Some are typically tragic, while others are driven by more spurious motives, yet the payoff is in the added poignancy of their eventual demise.
One of the more curious rivalries is that of the two sisters, the eponymous Akame and her younger sibling Kurome. Their history is explained in detail, Kurome’s limpet like attachment to her elder sister resulting in the pair excelling as a fighting duo. Yet the fallout makes little sense – Kurome feels betrayed by Akame quitting the Imperial Army, suddenly more loyal to her comrades than her own sister?
The flimsiness of this bitter estrangement aside, one benefit is that Akame finally steps up and takes her spot as the most important character of the saga, having been relegated to the background in the first volume despite being in the show’s title! Her prior aloof personality has been replaced by one of stoic determination and her mettle shines through more as her role increases.
Previously it was Tatsumi who was the primary focus and in the early going of this volume, that remains unchanged, except he is now a chick magnet to the ladies on both sides of the battle. Elsewhere secondary players get a turn to reveal themselves (not always for long as alluded to earlier) which makes for a refreshing change as well as making their lives feel like they actually matter.
If one thing stands out in this second volume it is the maturity of the writing when it comes to the deaths of the main players. Still following the original manga by Takahiro and Tetsuya Tashiro, the heartstrings are frequently given a good old tug regardless of which side of the fence the deceased is on, and a genuine feeling of loss is felt by the viewer as a result.
Because the manga is still in production, this series only adapts the first eight volumes, therefore the five-episode story arc which closes this set is the creation of series writer Makoto Uezu. Many fans of the manga were upset by the bold decisions and liberties Ueza made but if, like yours truly, you’ve not read the manga, this deviance from the source material doesn’t show.
Whereas other bespoke created endings have been known to derail a good show, in this instance Uezu creates something that feels completely natural and in keeping with the original material. In this writer’s opinion, Uezu has delivered a rather fitting conclusion, rich with emotional investment and attention to prior details that doesn’t feel tacked on or ill-conceived.
Visually this remains a vibrant presentation, the colours leaping from the screen with gusto and the artwork bursting with detail and depth. One observation however is the influence of other anime in the designs of the monsters and new antagonists. The human baddies introduced here are straight out of the One Piece catalogue of OTT villains, while many of the magical warriors could be refugees from Bleach or Naruto.
Fans of the first volume should find this follow-up a real treat, depending on what it was that appealed in the first place. The violence and bloodshed has been turned up a few notches with some particularly gruesome and graphic deaths to witness. The storytelling is more focused than before and the attention given to the characters creates a hitherto absent emotional attachment.
Akame ga Kill has clear aspirations of being a classic shonen fantasy adventure which it doesn’t achieve. But where the first half failed to convince, the second half more than compensates.
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 – *** ½
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