Assassination. A term most commonly used for the clinical application of murder, for when a very specific target meets a very nondescript end. However, as illegal as this particular form of employment is, there exists an inherent allure in its mystery. Not to imply that anyone out their wishes to partake in said activity, merely that there are many fictional stories out there that delve into the darkness, that explain and attempt to understand it. After all, as evil as the world can be, each individual has a reason for what they do, a unique code that they follow to a personally logical conclusion. Thus, once said dogmas are known, we must all ask ourselves a question that has plagued morality since time immemorial; Can two wrongs make a right? Especially if said second wrong involves cursed swords, bestial transformations and a wicked set of armour.
Welcome to the Capital, party people, centre of society and the most wonderful, amazing…hive of scum and villainy you’ve ever seen in your life. Okay, so mathematically speaking, a rather small percentage of the populace is actually evil, but unfortunately said fraction just so happen to be the ones in charge. I’m talking ministers, military generals, bodyguards to the rich…the rich. All of the heavy hitters you probably expected to be the bad guys, though maybe not in the ways you expected. If I said to you there was this spoiled little rich kid, really looks down on the poor, you would in turn tell me how awful that was and that she should change her attitude towards the less fortunate. I, of course, would agree. I would then go on to tell you that, in her hatred, she decided it would be a fun idea to round up all the poor people she could find and systematically torture them to death in way s that you can’t even imagine. It would be around then that you would throw up in disgust and I would regretfully inform you that this is just the tip of the corruption iceberg that looms within this fictitious city. So yeah, not fun times. Especially for poor main character Tatsumi who haplessly wanders into the situation I have just laid out. What? You though that was something the series built up to? Oh heavens no, that’s the first episode buddies, and it only gets worse from there…kind of…in certain sections…torture is pretty hard to top.
Anywho, poor country bumpkin Tatsumi pretty swiftly finds himself in the company of the terrifying guild of assassins known as Night Raid who, given their rather unique designs within the context of the world, are immediately recognisable as our main cast. Well, that and the fact the intro sequence gives it away…and I guess the box art does as well…regardless, Tatsumi is in Night Raid now so the plot can move forward. Despite his rather unassuming looks, namely his sweater, Tatsumi turns out to be pretty gifted with a sword and, as evidenced when he sliced one particularly evil rich kid in half, quite suited to wetwork. Thus begins a brief and exciting romp into the mind of a wannabe hero who must determine whether or not murder for a just cause can indeed be just. It’s quite fascinating. that being said, this conflict is rather muted by the introductions of each and every member of Night Raid, through the time honoured tradition of training the new guy. So we learn a little, we laugh a little, we get to see a fair amount of the female cast in their underwear a little (because no anime can escape that) and in time come to see these assassins as a real swell bunch of people…which makes it all the harder when we find out that death is unavoidable in this series. Now, I won’t say exactly who kicks the bucket, but just know that even main characters are not immune to the call of the other side, which is honestly quite surprising. After all, how many series have we all seen where main characters escape death because of some convenient reason? A lot. So, though I fear it makes me sound a touch villainous, I enjoy the fact that this series takes a different path. It’s even laid out straight in the first few episodes, this is a war these people are fighting, it’s naive to think that everyone will make it out alive. Especially considering the people they fight…
Okay, I’m just going to come right out and say it, the characters in this series are insane. As in completely bonkers. The main example that comes to mind is Seryu Ubiquitous who, despite proclaiming that she fights for justice, is one of the more violent entries in this cadre of killers. With a weird transforming dog weapon by her side, this trigger happy soldier guns down just about everything in her path. This is of course made easier by the fact she can switch out her arms for giant drills, anti-tank rifles and any number of implements of destruction. Now, as for why I’m detailing this one particular character, it is to serve as a quick example of the kind of beings populating this world. From Seryu, to a behemoth with an addiction to decapitation, to an ice wielding demon woman who can frighten people into some sort of masochistic servitude (which is way to sexual for a woman who claims to have had no previous interest in such affairs), this series is quite the colourful canvas. What sets this all up even better is the fact that characters utilise their abilities in ways that are actually quite clever, such as a string wielder utilising his odd weapon as a form of offence, defence and reconnaissance all at once. Sure, at the end of the day most major fights are settled by who can hit the hardest, but the existence of these smarter moments precludes that from feeling as if it is the only setting of combat. also, given the convoluted nature of characters and the corruption which plagues the Capital, it’s pretty satisfying to see something get settled with a right hook.
Combat aside, this series true strength lies in knowing when to have characters assume the classic anime archetypes and when to shatter those misconceptions. Take Tatsumi, he’s the humble, do-gooder farm boy who only wants to see his village receive the money they need to survive. Thus, it is quite surprising, to both us and the characters of the series, when he slices down the girl who tortured his friends without hesitation. It was awesome, in a brutal, I’m sorry your friends just died kind of way. From then on, the series goes to great lengths to show that all of the talk regarding missions taking priority was not for show. Even Lubbock, the resident lady obsessed anime guy, does not hesitate in killing women who attempt the same on him, despite him believing it to be a waste of beauty. For this reason, Akam Ga Kill! stands above a few series who lack this kind of commitment. that being said, a tinge of hypocrisy holds the series back from its true potential. Though efforts are taken to show the villains as righteous in their own minds, it is still far below the extent to which the heroes are personified. Having allied with the Revolutionary Army, Night Raid carry an innate sense of good with them, one that muddies the details of their violent pasts, even when said pasts are straight up explained. Those allied with the Capital however, are shown to be either absolutely vile or misguided to the point that you hate them. Wave is probably the only exception, though he’s just a pretty chill dude. Even Seryu’s story about having lost every person she has ever looked up to is shaded by the fact that she willfully dismembers those who stand against her with great relish, well, that and the fact that her mentors were also evil. So whilst it’s nice to see a series splash around in the grey areas of right and wrong, it is a little upsetting to see it still very much weighted on the side of the main cast.
As one may infer from the brief description of what some characters can do, the weaponry of this series is pretty weird. Born from melting down Danger Beasts and rare metals, the Imperial Arms take precedence as the only combat items that matter in this world. With fourty eight proclaimed to be in existence, it is nice that the series does not go to great lengths to show each and every one. It would just feel too coincidental. Rather, the random nature of what any given weapon can do fuels the creativity of fight sequences and serves as a quickshot way to present new quirky characters. Combat is also plotted in such a way that no one weapon feels too powerful, albeit Esdeath’s, the one we are supposed to feel that way about. Even Akame’s single hit kill cursed sword, Murusame, does not detract from the sense that it is she herself who is strong, with or without her weapon. All of this, combined with the fact that anyone can die in any kind of brutal way gives off the vibe that fights are actually for keeps, no plot armour around these parts (for the most part). Speaking of brutality, you’ll probably want to avert your gaze if you aren’t fond of seeing blood, bones, or people ending a fight in more pieces than they started one. Though far from as graphic as it could be, sequences can take you by surprise. almost as much as that guy who found himself with a noticeable empty feeling where his heart used to be.
Akame Ga Kill! is a pretty surprising series. With an opening that paints a picture of your typically atypical hero fighting monsters for fame and profit, we actually find ourselves in a horrid world of corruption, crime and death. It hits us almost as hard as it does Tatsumi, which I’m pretty sure was the point. We meet seemingly normal characters who break down into psychotic rants, weirdos who wind up being the nicest characters in the world and people who you really just want to punch in the face…a lot. To this extent, the series does a great job with presenting messed up facial expressions and rather sudden, albeit brief, shifts to a more rough hewn style. Really makes the insanity pop. Despite all of this, there is just that little something missing from making this series truly shine. The reluctance to fully embrace the moral ambiguity of each and every character makes it a touch too easy to place blame. Sure Esdeath is the bad guy, but apart from her sudden obsession with love, she has no real reason for what she does other than a sheer enjoyment of carnage. Now, if she was the exception to the rule, then fine, but quite a few villains are just way too far gone for any attempts at rationalisation to matter. Night Raid on the other hand have their murderous pasts almost ignored because they saw the error of their ways. Again, I know we are supposed to like our heroes more than anyone, but the lack of doubt felt for characters who do the things that Night Raid do is a little too naive for the world this series tries to create. Like, episode one Tatsumi naive…and nobody wants to be that.
Are you Night Raid material? head over to Hanabee and…do your best to survive