Akame ga KILL!
by Matt Packard,
Last week, when I saw the ridiculous scenario that closed out the previous episode of Akame ga Kill!, I called it amusing. I'm not sure why. Maybe I was overjoyed that the series had produced an episode light on tone-deaf gore and violence. Maybe I was surprised that somewhere in the course of twenty minutes it had elicited a genuine laugh or two. Maybe I'm an optimist. For whatever reason, the setup seemed no more harmful than Team Rocket blasting off—a benign coda of cartoon slapstick fading into the distance.
I should have known better. This show's jokes tend to have hateful punchlines, and it becomes clear that this one is no different when Tatsumi ends up in Esdeath's bedroom. The creepy voyeuristic nature of the situation cannot be overstated; Esdeath isn't wearing much, the camera is all over her, and she's all over Tatsumi. This atmosphere makes it difficult to take anything that happens in the scene seriously. In fairness, I'm not sure that I would have anyway. Tatsumi attempts to convince Esdeath to abandon the Imperial Army and fight for the good of the people, and Esdeath's response is an “only the strong survive and the people who die are weak” speech: a pitifully uninspired regurgitation of something dozens of more interesting villains have said in dozens of better ways. The scene manages to trivialize both sides of Esdeath, highlighting the cardboard cutout nature of her ideals and making queasy fanservice fodder out of her inexplicable “love” for Tatsumi. It's a quintessential Akame ga Kill! moment, a patented blend of shonen cliches and warped puerile morality that steps on its own feet like clockwork.
There is a bright spot in this episode, and his name is Wave. The idea of two naïve outsiders both arriving in the capital and going in radically different directions is a good one by Akame ga Kill! standards, and this episode plays it up by placing Wave and Tatsumi next to each other for the first time. Wave is good-natured and funny, a genuinely upbeat and humble country boy whose onscreen charisma only makes Tatsumi look bad by comparison. The revelation that his Imperial Arms is a better version of Tatsumi's seems to promise a defining conflict in the future. Wave would work better as a character or a thematic vehicle if Tatsumi himself wasn't such a bland and inadequate lead—it's hard to be a meaningful foil for someone so vanilla. Nonetheless, Wave's presence is a positive one, and it's pathetic that he eventually ends up being tortured in a scene played completely for laughs.
Aside from one major low point and one high point, this episode is largely buildup. The abilities of the Jaegers are demonstrated, and the stage seems set for a showdown between Night Raid and Dr. Stylish. Akame ga Kill! continues to be one part generic adventure and one part mean-spirited junk food. To its credit, it's never boring.
Akame ga KILL! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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