I did my impressions of the series back at episode 5. This was a rewatch as I had seen the show when it first came out but I didn’t really remember much and from all the buzz on the internet I kept thinking maybe I’d missed something. So now that I’ve finished watching it through I’m ready to review.
Right from the word go, I’m going to say that this show is going to be forgotten a second time by me. It isn’t particularly bad but neither is it particularly good or interesting. It falls into the most bland of positions of being okay at what it does but not really having anything to make it memorable. It may be a weird preference, but I actually prefer shows to be hideously constructed and horribly executed to the dullness that I felt while watching this.
And already the fans are annoyed at me so I should probably explain just what Akame Ga Kill did that I found so boring (or rather what it didn’t do). On that note though, this review is absolutely going into spoiler territory by anyone’s definition so if you don’t want to know who lives and dies or anything about the final conflict, this is your warning to opt out of the review now.
My first issue with this series is the title character. By the final episode it is clear why she is the title character but that does not save Akame from disappearing into the folds of blandness for a good 75% of the series. She get’s an episode early on where she’s training Tatsumi and she kind of has a bit of personality behind her stoic and laconic nature. Then we get one night seen after the first apparently tragic death. Toward the end we get the diversion with Akame having to fight her sister. The problem is by that point Akame has sat in the background of the show for so long that other than the opening and ending constantly reminding us she’s the title character, you’ve all but forgotten her existence outside of the occasional appearance at the dinner table.
Akame looks cool. She dresses in black with red accents (and like an uncommonly large number of anime characters her outfit matches her eyes and the weapon she has acquired also perfectly matches the whole appearance). She stands stoically against her enemy and cuts them down without mercy. Her swordsmanship is amazing (just have any of the other characters tell you even though we really only see an impressive display on maybe 4-5 occasions throughout the series). And in case she’s getting too aloof, every now and again we’ll drop a touching vulnerable moment between her and Tatsumi.
The idea of Akame is cool. The silent assassin. The dark haired beauty who strikes in the night and disappears again. She should be a cool character. But she essentially amounts to nothing. So the final episode, where Akame actually stands up as the title character, is a case of too little too late, I’m not emotionally invested in you and you just killed the last character I cared about.
And that is the second issue. The number of characters they kill. Yes, regular readers of my blog, even I can get sick of characters being killed off when the deaths are treated as a way of upping emotional tension without providing any further substance. See, the essential plot line of Akame Ga Kill is that Night Raid are fighting the evil Capital. No real evidence of evilness beyond hearsay and a few actions by individuals is ever delivered and the evilness doesn’t really accelerate or ramp up as the series progresses. In point of fact, several members of the Jaegers (Esdeath’s squad of imperial arms fighters) are actually half-decent humans which makes the conflict even messier. Night Raid themselves don’t really do ‘good’ very well and they never seem in any more or less peril until the last quarter of the series. (While I know the ambiguity of right and wrong in war is one of the themes of the show, when you don’t know if you even want the main characters to win it is hard to invest emotionally.)
Instead, the show ops for a character development episode followed by a gory and tragic death (usually on a mundane or ‘ordinary’ kind of mission or one that could have been avoided). Then we see characters cope with said death and set up their next mission or two before the show realises that the plot is not progressing and instead of offering real plot development we knock off another character. While each death does help Tatsumi progress on his path from country boy to assassin, at the end of the day, Tatsumi’s character progression is pretty pointless. From a narrative point of view his character can all but be eliminated and that brings me along to point three.
Tatsumi is a great way to get into the story because he is an outside and he does force characters to explain things, but the show’s endless focus on him is to its own detriment. Other characters respond in illogical and contrived ways in order to ‘save’ Tatsumi or win approval from Tatsumi, usually leading to their deaths. One could argue that with one or two exceptions every death Night Raid suffers can be laid at the feet of taking Tatsumi in. Yet despite that, despite his weaknesses, his naiveté, his general lack of survivability in the world he has come across, almost every female character in the show falls for him.
And this is where the real spoilers come in.
Night Raid should have let Esdeath execute Tatsumi when he was captured. Then Mine wouldn’t have died and they would have had a sniper in the final fight (who, given her power got stronger in a pinch) could have performed the same role Tatsumi did) and they would have had Su which would have meant Najenda could have had a more active role. They would have been better off with Tatsumi dead. Their half-hearted logic about not allowing morale to fall doesn’t hold up when they lost two members saving one.
Najenda herself is problematic. As the supposed leader of Night Raid her contributions early in the show are limited and she isn’t a commanding enough speaker or schemer to really live up to the hype the other characters give her. Even when she gets an imperial arms it has a life and personality of its own so doesn’t really seem to be hers. Plus, when using a secret weapon is supposed to have life-draining consequences and then it doesn’t, a one line throwaway does not make the problem that she’s still alive go away. It just feels like a cheat for the sake of plot.
But, as I said at the start, the show isn’t actually bad. There are plot points I disagree with and most of the characters have one default personality and another hidden one that Tatsumi brings out (mostly the female characters), however the action sequences are mostly well constructed and the final fight with Esdeath is actually kind of cool.
That actually brings me to one of the points that I found really positive in this anime. I actually liked every interaction between Tatsumi and Esdeath. It’s bizarre given as characters each is too one dimensional and not particularly likeable, but the two actually work well when sharing a scene and some of the most memorable moments came from these two.
It’s tricky to know whether I would recommend this or not. If you like anime with lots of fights and you aren’t too picky about characterisation this will actually be fairly enjoyable to watch. If you haven’t seen it and you are just looking for a new anime to watch, there certainly isn’t anything broken or ‘bad’ about this anime. However, now that I’ve watched it a second time, I know that this one won’t be one I’m going to really think about beyond this review.
If you’ve seen Akame Ga Kill I’d love to know what you thought of this series.