Pre-release copy provided by Manga UK for the purpose of review.
As usual, we’ll begin with the contents of the Blu-ray. Akame ga Kill Collection 1 contains 12 episodes, at approximately just under 30 minutes each, across 2 discs. Extras featured include a clean opening and ending (no credits), publisher trailers for upcoming releases and the AkaKill Theater: a series of short skits featuring the cast in comical situations that tend to parody the events of the corresponding episode number. It features both Japanese and English dubs, so take your pick.
Now that you’ve got the basic information, let’s get in to the actual Akame ga Kill review.
Akame ga Kill is a story about a revolution in the making. Tatsumi, a skilled swordsman, arrives in the big city to earn the money that’ll save his village, only to be met with a devious woman that cons him out of the only money he has. Taken in by a seemingly kind, wealthy family, Tatsumi encounters “Night Raid”; a group of assassins that murder the rich and influential. In an effort to defend his hosts, Tatsumi clashes with Akame but is vastly out-matched until a familiar face tells Akame she owes him a favour. Ultimately, Tatsumi is taken by Night Raid and thus begins our story.
As you can probably tell, I’ve been avoiding spoilers as much as possible because, honestly, the biggest thing this show has going for it is its unrelenting violence and its shock value. Henceforth, the article will be filled with spoilers so as to provide a thorough review of the product. The aforementioned information is enough for you to decide whether or not it’s worth checking out but I will say this one last time: I am now going to spoil the show as if it were a carton of eggs left out in the sun for two years. Are we clear? Fantastic!
Let’s begin with some positives: the animation is of a very high quality. White Fox have done an excellent job of the character models and the fight scenes are brilliant to watch. Its high octane action doesn’t shy away from the brutality expected of a story involving assassins. The main reason for this is the “Imperial Arms”; a set of unique weapons developed by order of the first Emperor to protect the Empire after he’d passed on. These weapons have secret abilities and can only be used by those with a particular affinity to the weapon in question. It’s said that if Imperial Arms users do battle, it’s a fight to the death. This results in some incredibly tense fights throughout the twelve episodes in this first half of the series, and also leads to it being referred to as the “Anime Game of Thrones”.
The main characters draw you in well enough, even if it does take a few episodes before anything hits home. Akame’s mysterious relationship with her younger sister Kurome, Bulat’s ex-military experiences and Esdeath’s obsession with domination in all aspects of her life all make the best impression. In contrast, I felt that Leone’s brief mention of her past fell flat, but she’s a bubbly enough character to carry herself without a deep back-story. Mine, however, almost forces her past on to Tatsumi in a jarring way that really made me back off of her in the beginning, though I began to warm to her after the fight with the justice-seeking Seryu. Lubbock has little-to-no exposition, but his perverted ways are entertaining and his weapon is arguably the most interesting in the way that it gets used. Those wire gloves are remarkably versatile. The air of mystery around Najenda – leader of Night Raid – is also intriguing at this point, though we’re given no real closure on her situation as it stands. Esdeath’s sudden want to find love, and subsequently finding that in Tatsumi, creates a nice conflict within the two major groups involved, though it’s essentially “if you can’t bring Tatsumi to me, kill him”. The Jaegers actually drew me in more-so than Night Raid. They’re a eccentric-looking bunch with their own Tatsumi clone that are under the direct command of Esdeath for the purpose of exterminating Night Raid, and they’re all fitted with Imperial Arms. So, admittedly, there’s a lot about the characters themselves that could fascinate you, and in your first time through, it’s easy to overlook the poor story that they’re involved in.
Speaking of the plot, that’s where Akame ga Kill fails me. There’s a huge war brewing between the Revolutionary Army and the Empire. Night Raid exist to enact their namesake and undermine the Empire where and when they can. The Empire is under the control of a villainous minister, often found devouring meat, that manipulates the child-Emperor from the side-lines by keeping himself as the child’s only trusted adviser. It’s his greed and gluttony that caused Tatsumi’s village to be in dire straights, and we’re led to believe this is the same for many other areas under the Empire’s rule. Sounds fine, right? Maybe not the deepest of narratives, but good enough for the action to take place. I guess I could see your point, but the show tries too often to make the narrative appear as if its deep. As if it could lead to anything more interesting than some awesome fights, and that never comes to fruition. The villains are one-note. The heroes attempt anti-hero as best as they can. The big shots of the revolution are nowhere to be found. It’s all a bit of a mess because it seems like it COULD be interesting, but it just isn’t. Tatsumi, in particular, suffers from this problem. His character is badly represented as a result, which wouldn’t be so bad were he not the main protagonist. Within the first episode, we’re expected to understand the plight of his village. A village we never see. We catch a short glimpse of the elder handing Tatsumi an object that would save his life before he and his two friends set out for the capital, but that’s as much as we get. Are we supposed to just take Tatsumi at his word? It seems so. Speaking of Tatsumi’s friends, the shows does all that it can to wring sympathy from the viewer over their fates, but we never spent any time with them. They took practically no time to develop this relationship that may have given Tatsumi a place in this world, instead throwing them both away for the sake of momentary shock. There’s so much wrong with Tatsumi as a character outside of his generic-protagonist self that it’s a damn good thing we’ve got Akame to pull focus away. That’s not to say his eventual abilities aren’t cool, but that they threw away the chance to make him understandable, and now it’s too late. He’s cemented as shallow, his motives aren’t convincing and if it weren’t for Incursio, I’d write myself in to the show and do away with him myself. Perhaps I’m exaggerating for comedic effect, but I do honestly feel like he’s under-developed when he had every opportunity to be a great lead despite his template one create-a-character design and personality.
Not only is the plot an issue for me but, although the individual characters are worth investing in overall, their relationships with each other aren’t. They often feel forced. Akame’s a cold individual but almost immediately drops that “act” after Tatsumi succeeds on one mission. Mine opening up to Tatsumi doesn’t make any sense in their episode together, given how much she keeps him at arm’s length and seems to actively dislike him. That’s not to say there aren’t positives to the Tatsumi issues. Bulat’s interest in Tatsumi provides the occasional laugh and eventually creates perhaps the only reason to want Tatsumi to remain. Tatsumi and Esdeath have a great scene in the bedroom. Not like that. Well, I guess kind of like that, but that’s not what I mean! All I’m saying is, for as harsh as I’ve been on Tatsumi, he has his moments but the relationships around all of those involved are rushed at best. Only a few truly resonate, one of which being Bulat coming face to face with his old mentor, except that same mentor has a ridiculous reasoning as to why he joined Esdeath in the end. There are glimmers of hope snuffed out by lazy writing, and that’s why it feels like a gut punch. It’s as if we’re teased with “what could have been”.
The AkaKill Theater is a pleasant addition to the package, providing some levity to the mostly grim show. The fan service within is also pretty evenly-handed. Though there are enough large breasts to fill a week’s worth of KFC orders, the men are also subjected to the treatment, particularly Bulat with his muscle-bound self, although nothing can match Akame swim-suiting up to dive for fish. Leone is a huge tease as well. If you’re in to that side of anime, it’s there for you, but it’s mostly done in a light-hearted way. I won’t tell you there aren’t any lingering camera shots on a well-endowed woman. Esdeath herself could feed a family of 90 with what the show so often decides to present you with, but her sexuality is also a part of her character. I was fine with it all, but I would be, wouldn’t I? Just look at Akame!
The English Dub is passable. The voice-actors have done a decent job, but there’s a noticeable disparity between them and their Japanese counterparts in this show, so my advice, even as a fan of English dubs, is to watch this show as it was intended in Japanese.
Akame ga Kill is a one-view-only kind of anime. It masks its poor plot with surprising twists, beautiful animation, wicked violence and incredible fights to the death. With all it has going on, it’s easy to miss the negative points, but in my second viewing I found it painfully obvious how poorly written the show is. This, from a man that held this series in such high regard before watching it once again. It’s a must watch but, to me, you must only watch it once.
Game: Akame ga Kill Collection 1
Review Format: Blu-ray