Jade Woodruff’s “Life on Anime” – issue #13: Akame Ga Kill

Welcome to another edition of “Life on Anime”… this time we’ll be taking a look at Akame Ga Kill is a 24 episode shonen action anime series based on a manga series by Takahiro and Tetsuya Tashiro that ran in Square Enix’s Gangan Joker. The manga is still running and the anime started and ended in 2014 and is available on Crunchyroll.

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But how does Akame Ga Kill stack up? Read on to find out more!

Here’s the premise:
Tatsumi is trained in his small village to be a fighter. His village is hard-pressed, like many other villages in his country, so he and his two childhood friends depart for the capitol to earn a living as soldiers so that they can send money back home. Early in their journey, they are separated but vow to meet again once they have arrived at the capitol. Tatsumi, naive and young, is crushed when he is unable to even enlist in the army. He had hoped to start as a commanding officer because of his exceptional strength but learns quickly that he would be a foot soldier and have to work his way through the ranks. In his despair, he is swindled by a bombshell named Leone and left penniless. Tatsumi quickly learns that the capitol isn’t as glorious and pure as it once seemed. After witnessing sinister corruption, Tatsumi joins up with Night Raid, a team of highly skilled terrorists who are wanted dead or alive for assassinating government and military leaders.

Review:
Simply put, Akame Ga Kill does it right.

The series focuses on timeless themes like government corruption, ancient artifacts and weapons called Imperial Arms that bestow godlike powers to the wielders, and martyrdom. While many of these themes appear in other popular shonen, the pacing, characterization, and art style put Akame Ga Kill in a category with other greats like Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood and Code Geass.

Night Raid, the assassin group allied with the rebel army is composed of a rag tag team of Imperial Arms users. Each of their weapons is unique and, as the series clearly shows, must be compatible with that person’s personality. So, not just anyone can pick up an Imperial Arms weapon and use it. According to Bulat, the bro, whether or not the Imperial Arms chooses someone is based on their first impression of it. Each weapon also has a secret technique that’s only known by that Imperial Arms user. Some weapons grant vision or foresight, some inflict the wounded with a curse, there are some that give the user the ability to control ice or create undead hordes, and others turn the user into a battle-suit wearing sentai. The diversity of the weapons is impressive and each has a unique visual appearance and flare. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses as do the characters.

Through most of the series, Night Raid conducts covert operations against a group called the Jaegars which are led by Esdeath, another hot, sadistic anime babe reminiscent of Satsuki Kiryuin from Kill la Kill.

This anime isn’t about just one character. You’ll notice that I have yet to mention Akame yet, even though her name is in the title. There are over 12 main characters in Akame Ga Kill and each is just as important as the next. Tatsumi just happens to be the character chosen to be the viewer’s perspective, most of the time. Akame Ga Kill has some slick animation, especially during the fight scenes. I love the painted still images which were used with just a little bit of motion to give gripping moments significant impact. The art style in these sequences was unique, modern, and classy. It helped the series feel really polished.

No character in Night Raid or the Jeagers is so overpowered that they cannot be countered by either another person or team of people and their Imperial Arms. As Najenda, the leader of Night Raid puts it clearly in episode two, anyone can die at anytime and, when two Imperial Arms go against each other, one person will undoubtedly die. This holds true throughout the entire series. Even though Tatsumi and his companions know that they will fight to the death, it doesn’t make parting any easier. There’s no “reset” button, there’s no special ability to bring someone back to life (which is actually addressed early on). When characters die, they’re dead. While this seems like such a simple concept, it’s one that many anime titles fail to execute properly, if at all. By giving each character uniqueness and importance in the series, each death actually means something, even if the cause or benefits of their demise was insignificant. People pay for their mistakes. Character flaws can easily lead to death.

Without spoiling the series, it’s tough to talk about the impact of death in Akame Ga Kill. It’s something you have to experience for yourself. Even though you know that no one is safe, it just makes watching the series that much more exciting.

While Akame Ga Kill is anything but lighthearted and easy going, it still has its share of comedy, banter, and fan service. Amidst all the fighting, characters struggle to cope with death and hardship by focusing on the little things in their lives, friendships, and desires. Even Esdeath, though strong and independent, shows a softer side from time to time. Through comedy, Esdeath and her Jaegars, the “villains” in Akame Ga Kill are, for the most part, humanized throughout the entire show.

Akame Ga Kill also touches on the no man’s land between good and evil by addressing a soldier’s duty. While there are some characters who are sadists and will zealously follow orders to kill, even if it means genocide, there are other characters who blindly follow orders and hope for the best. As the iron curtain concealing the rotten core of the capitol is gradually lifted, each character reconciles his or her morals compared to the morals of their leaders. Given that death is such a prominent theme in Akame Ga Kill, the weight of fighting for something you believe in compared to giving it all so that someone can further their political agenda becomes that much heavier.

Another thing Akame Ga Kill does right is properly addressing the power curve. The power curve is when characters have to train or somehow gain skills or, well, power to defeat a tougher enemy. Many anime opt for training arcs that last a few episodes (or a season) or item acquisition (or going Super Saiyan). Akame Ga Kill has strong characters who constantly want to better themselves. Tatsumi desires to be stronger more than the rest. In the first few episodes, each member of Night Raid shows Tatsumi the ropes by training him in covert operations or working around the base. While this sounds mundane, it’s how these episodes play out that make them interesting and still gripping. The political intrigue and character development intertwine through the early episodes, giving you a reasonable amount of time to get attached to each character while still entertaining you. By introducing intelligent and strong characters for Night Raid to fight, Tatsumi gradually gets stronger mentally and physically. He is, by no means, an amazing fighter compared to the rest of the cast, but he can hold his own and gradually grows. As he trains more and more, his character art slowly changes to show his body physically strengthening. This was something I really loved about Akame Ga Kill and it’s something that is often overlooked in anime, unless you’re watching Jojo’s. Akame Ga Kill shows how a training arc is properly done.

The Bottom Line:
The rapid, but plausible succession of plot twists in Akame Ga Kill is almost unprecedented. While it’s apparent that certain characters have no choice but to face off against each other, the timing of these fights and fast pace with which the series accelerates toward major battles and plot points results in a very exciting, high energy, action packed masterpiece. It’s an impressive work of art with fully developed and likable characters on both sides of an unfortunate war caused by power hungry people. It’s a must watch for anyone looking for a political action thriller. Don’t miss it! – 10/10

-Jade Woodruff
Staff Writer/Columnist: Nerd Nation Magazine

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