Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Akame ga Kill
Blu-Ray - Collection 2
With the arrival of strange new danger beasts and an alarming new religion, both the Jaegers and Night Raid find themselves fighting the same enemies. This does not, however, mean that they're on the same side, and the two groups will also have to go head-to-head in an increasingly blind war where the difference between “good” and “bad” often simply depends on the leader's point of view. People will fall on both sides as the bloodshed continues unabated.
Akame ga KILL! may have a bit too high an opinion of its ability to be symbolic. While it is true that the first half managed to slip in some philosophy about killing being bad no matter what its purpose and to juxtapose the happy family life of Night Raid with the pure evil of the EMPiRE, this second half tries too hard to build upon that, cramming in thin excuses to pit people against each other and mishandling the “romance” between Esdeath and Tatsumi. It's still entertaining, but it's also become something much more average in the blood-n-guts subgenre of shounen.
Esdeath's character is perhaps the best example of the show's issues. She's always been the sort of villain you love to hate – utterly irredeemable, relishing her role as a killer with truly unholy glee. This does continue, with the interesting addition of her backstory showing that she is perfectly well aware that she's not a good person. She admits that she loves killing and maiming for their own sakes; it's just something she finds fun. While her harsh upbringing in a northern tribe certainly had a hand in this, even her own father worried that there was something off about her as a child, and the issue really lies within Esdeath herself, with no one but genetics to blame. Her aggressive selfishness, which helps to make her so incredibly unlikable, feeds into her joy in killing, and if she isn't a nuanced character, she's at least one that embraces her type. So why, then, cram in the weird subplot about her supposed “love” for Tatsumi? Ostensibly I suppose it is to show her as being more human, but the show takes it far too seriously, treating it as a real relationship when Tatsumi doesn't see it that way. While it does make for some really funny dating sim jokes (especially in Akakil Theater), it also sounds a false note, making both of their final scenes in the series feel awkward – are we supposed to see Esdeath's actions as sweet or selfish? Having to figure that out pulls you out of the show at a moment when you really ought not to be.
As the series goes on, the pacing begins to feel very rushed. At several points it feels distinctly like things are being left out, such as Tatsumi's fight with Suzuka (a character who wears her single-sided breastplate on the side where her heart isn't) or a meeting between Esdeath and Najenda. Likewise Chelsea's backstory feels too shoehorned in to make a big enough impact, although her passing is one of the better done in a series that tries really hard to make you feel loss every time a character exits, with mixed results. This hurried pacing (and a few serious deviations from the manga, understandable at the time the show was animated) brings the tone of the series down, throwing far too much at you to make any of it have much real impact in its rush to reach a finale. This is not to say that all changes are bad, of course. The opening scenes of the show, where a new danger beast attacks a couple at home, have been rendered vastly less disturbing from their manga counterparts, and the Tatsumi/Wave parallel about the consequences of innocence plays out well despite some significant changes.
Visually the blu-ray looks really good, with sharp clarity throughout. The animation is very nice when it needs to be, with the flow of long hair or capes being particularly well animated throughout. Some artistic choices are less well done, such as the placement of Akame's leg tattoos towards the end of the series, which perhaps should have trailed down her outer thighs rather than her inner; the resulting imagery is very loaded and unnecessarily sexualized. On the more positive side, the melting skin of the new humanoid danger beasts makes them particularly scary, and the Mr. Bols Action Figure from the omake is amazing. There is an odd disconnect between the subtitles and the words spoken in both sub and dub when it comes to the danger beasts – everyone clearly calls them “danger beasts,” but the subtitles read “dangerous beasts,” which, while more grammatically correct, is odd to see. Again the dub and sub both have generally strong casts, with my only strong preference being for Ryohei Kimura's Syura over Adam Noble's; this may be due to my general dislike of stereotypical “gay” voices that English dubs tend to whip out for characters like Syura and Dr. Stylish.
Ultimately Akame ga KILL! tries too hard to wrap everything up into a nice bow while implying that there will always be a need for assassins somewhere in the world. The oft-repeated sentiment that it's only murder if you know the victim gets beaten into the ground and the beginning statement to Tatsumi that killing for justice is still just murder gets lost as the bloodshed mounts. While it isn't a terrible ending, it also feels fairly unfulfilling, with the most unreservedly enjoyable parts being the AkaKil theater shorts included as extras on disc two. (As with the first set, these are dubbed in English.) Some of the risks it takes pan out, but in the end Akame ga KILL! gets bogged down by its own philosophical pretensions. Shock value, as this show is often said to have, only works if it stays shocking, and by half-way through these twelve episodes, that's something that this series has ceased to be.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C
Animation : B+
Art : C+
Music : B
+ Some very nice use of music during death scenes, AkaKil Theater is really fun. Some good risks taken that pay off.
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