Review

by Rebecca Silverman,

Akame ga Kill

Blu-Ray - Collection 1

Synopsis:
Akame ga Kill Blu-Ray
When Tatsumi leaves his rural village to come to the Capital, he has rosy dreams of making money and finding glory in the army. Instead he is taken in by a family of psychopathic killers and saved by the assassin team Night Raid, who suggest that he joins them. Thoroughly disillusioned and disgusted with the corruption he's found in the city, Tatsumi becomes a member of Night Raid himself. But there is more disillusionment to come as he realizes that killing for “justice” is still murder and that to the soldiers and rulers, Night Raid is Public Enemy Number One. No matter who you kill, there will always be someone waiting to get revenge...
Review:

Since Beowulf at the very least, popular entertainment has glorified violence for our enjoyment. The “cool” character is often the most violent (although not the most vicious – he still has to have a conscience) and “strong female character” is often synonymous with “kicks the most ass.” Whether or not there's something wrong with that is not a debate to be had here, but it is the jumping off point for the first half of Akame ga KILL!, a 2014 series based on the manga of the same name about a group of assassins in a corrupt fantasy world. While the members of Night Raid, the aforementioned assassins, do appear to be killing people who deserve to be taken out, they have no illusions about what they're doing – murdering people. It makes for a brutal twelve episodes sprinkled with some levity about a battle that is anything but black and white.

The point of view character is Tatsumi, a fresh-faced country kid who has come to the city with his two best friends to make their collective fortune. Sadly all three fall prey to a sadistic family of nobles, leaving only Tatsumi alive. Saved by the assassin group who has come to kill the family, Tatsumi ends up joining the band known as Night Raid, an elite squad from the Rebel Army who take out individual targets. Night Raid is quick to reassure Tatsumi that what they do shouldn't be mistaken for justice, however – they have no illusions about either what they do or their own chances of survival. It's just that the child emperor is so under the power of a corrupt minister that something has to be done if the people are going to survive. In an interesting parallel, corrupt (and terrifyingly evil) General Esdeath has her own answer to Night Raid in a similar band of killers...who are absolutely positive that justice is on their side. That's what makes them more frightening than Night Raid – they honestly think that what they do is right, no matter how much they might torture their victims. If the good guys do it, it's not torture, right? This is really the strongest part of Akame ga KILL!. Fortunately it is one that doesn't get left by the wayside as the discs go on, and the introduction of Seryu Ubiquitous really does drive the point home, albeit with a sledgehammer. (She's still better than Dr. Stylish, however.)

Less successful is the very jumbled feeling of the story's world. It's a mix of fantasy tropes (The Capital! The corrupt government!) and strange real-world elements, making it difficult to decide if this is an actual fantasy world or some sort of post-apocalyptic setting. Costumes are the biggest issue, with several variations on the school uniform floating around, a Goth Loli character, and parkas galore. It can get distracting, as can the use of gaming terms as the series goes on, with people talking about “leveling up” among other things. There's also a strange melange of humor and violence that doesn't entirely work, with the mood-lightening elements feeling more cliché than the harsher parts of the story. On the other hand, Night Raid's general joviality feels like a coping mechanism to combat their violent lives; in that sense, the slight imbalance of the tone does work. Other elements, like the gay stereotype that is Dr. Stylish and his bondage minions, do not work nearly as well, and Dr. Stylish treads very close to the line that separates “funny” and “offensive.” Generally speaking the anime is somewhat less intense than its manga original, although interesting artistic choices, particularly where gore is concerned, heighten the experience.

Both dub and sub tracks have their strengths, some to the point where it's a shame we can't mix and match the voices. Corey Hartzog's Tatsumi is excellent (and gets better as the show goes on) while Kana Hanazawa gets more creepiness out of Seryu. Hands down one of the best performances goes to Rob Mungle for his brief turn as Zanku, who completely steals the show during his one-episode appearance. If you do prefer the dub, however, there's good news for you: “AkaKill! Theater”, the omake included on the second disc, are dubbed and really give Leone and Lubbock a chance to cut loose. These extras are also where most of the fanservice elements (apart from Leone's outfit in general) comes in, and they have a good sense of humor about the fact that it has been kept out of the main show.

With its extensive use of character parallels (Sheele and Bulat are clearly meant to represent Ieyasu and Sayo, while Wave and Tatsumi are the same character on different sides of the war) and Night Raid's unwillingness to sugarcoat their work, Akame ga KILL! has a lot going for it in terms of a war story that doesn't play by the book. Its modern/medieval hybrid world can be a distraction, as can the fact that the minister looks like Evil Santa, the story itself is enough to keep your eyes on the screen. Strong use of interesting background music and good vocal casts help as well, and if it stumbles into Tropeville a few too many times, that can largely be forgiven. This may not be the best violent action anime, but it really is an interesting one as it points out that sometimes in a war, there are no good guys.

Grade:
Production Info:
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B+
Animation : B
Art : B-
Music : B+

+ Good vocal casts for both languages, nice that the extras are dubbed. Story plays with parallels well, interesting commentary on “justice” and “good guys” as perceived by the characters.
Unbalanced world building elements, symbolism gets a bit heavy-handed. Attempts at humor don't always work, a few unfortunate stereotypes. One name gets a totally different pronunciation depending on the language: “Shaylay” vs “Shell.”

Director: Tomoki Kobayashi
Series Composition: Makoto Uezu
Script:
Touko Machida
Koujirou Nakamura
Makoto Uezu
Storyboard:
Tomoko Hiramuki
Atsushi Ikariya
Goichi Iwahata
Tomoki Kobayashi
Takeshi Kurosaki
Ken'ichirō Murakawa
Atsushi Nakayama
Toshiya Niidome
Manabu Okamoto
Kazuhiro Ozawa
Hiroyuki Shimazu
Masahiro Sonoda
Masafumi Tamura
Episode Director:
Daisuke Eguchi
Tomoko Hiramuki
Atsushi Ikariya
Jin Iwatsuki
Takahiro Kawakoshi
Tomoki Kobayashi
Kazuomi Koga
Masaki Matsumura
Yoshiko Mikami
Manabu Okamoto
Kazuhiro Ozawa
Sumito Sasaki
Mamiko Sekiya
Akihisa Shibata
Masahiro Sonoda
Hiroyuki Tsuchiya
Unit Director:
Daisuke Eguchi
Kazuhisa Nakamura
Manabu Okamoto
Music: Taku Iwasaki
Character Design:
Kazuhisa Nakamura
Asami Watanabe
Art Director: Yoshito Takamine
Chief Animation Director: Kazuhisa Nakamura
Animation Director:
Hideaki Aizawa
Kazunori Aoki
Daisuke Endo
Hiroki Fukuda
Atsushi Ikariya
Yuu Ikeda
Taro Ikegami
Kazuaki Imoto
Asako Inayoshi
Tomoshige Inayoshi
Ryosuke Kimiya
Shinpei Koikawa
Kyoko Kotani
Asuka Mamezuka
Daisuke Mataga
Rumi Miyata
Nobuhiro Mutō
Kazuhisa Nakamura
Masahiko Nakata
Tomotsugu Sakakibara
Ayumu Samukawa
Mutsumi Sasaki
Yasuhiro Seo
Naoki Takeda
Daisuke Takemoto
Kazuma Tanaka
Yoshio Usuda
Yukiko Watabe
Asami Watanabe
Yaeko Watanabe
Masatsugu Yamamoto
Yoshiya Yamamoto
Ikuo Yoshida
Mechanical design: Atsushi Ikariya
Art design:
Hyun-jung Lee
Masanobu Nomura
Sound Director: Hozumi Gōda
Director of Photography: Keisuke Nakamura
Producer:
Kazuhiro Asou
Yoko Baba
Gaku Iwasa
Masanori Miyake
Hiroto Shinohara
Kazutaka Yamanaka
Takashi Yoshizawa

Full encyclopedia details about
Akame ga Kill! (TV)

Release information about
Akame ga Kill - Collection 1 (Blu-Ray)

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