Akame ga Kill… Oh how I wanted to totally love Akame ga Kill. I really did. The concept was interesting and the first episode showed a great deal of promise. I watched the first few episodes quite happily, enjoying the characters silly antics in between the more serious plot and as time has progressed I began to feel a little betrayed and unfulfilled by the characters in particular. As a general summary, I enjoyed Akame ga Kill overall but felt there was definitely room for improvement.
I can stay silent no longer! So I’m going to try and keep my ranting to a minimum for this review. I apologise in advance if I’m not very successful. I’ll also keep all spoilers to a minimum.
My original assumption for Akame ga Kill is that the story would be particularly character driven and while this is true in some senses, the failure of Akame ga Kill to develop the characters to an high emotional level and make us (as the audience) totally invested in them means that the story also suffers a little.
The concept of Akame ga Kill is really fun and actually rather simple. A bunch of assassins (Night Raid) fighting against the Capitol and for some reason there are also danger beasts around… which other than giving the writers a reason to create the “Imperial Arms” have no real impact on the story.
The first handful of episodes were generally focused on introducing you to the wide cast of characters which includes our titular character Akame. The introduction of Night Raid in episode one was done exceptionally well and I found myself excited for picking up this anime.
From then on, the series is fairly episodic (up until nearer the end) with a different mission per episode to fight against the Capitol and help to "develop" characters. These missions are always interesting, intense and enjoyable to watch. The action, for the most part and in my personal opinion, cannot be faulted. I’ve noticed a few reviews mentioning the excessive gore, I personally don’t think that this was so out of place and actually quite appreciated it in some episodes. But then I like gore in animes so I’m probably a little biased there…
Akame ga Kill doesn’t delve into anything particularly complex and neither does it take itself too seriously. I personally would like a little less comedy and a little more intensity but I do feel that the comedy helps us to like the characters and breaks up some of the darker scenes. The harem between Tatsumi and all the women in the show is not really needed but can make for some amusing conversations.
I do also feel that at times Akame ga Kill suffers from “stating the obvious” where rather than showing us what a character is going to do, the writers have the characters tell us exactly what they plan to do as they are doing it, as though they do not trust the audience to be able to work it out for themselves. I have noticed this more and more as the episodes progress and it made me feel as though the writers thought “Huh, do you think that the audience will get that Tatsumi feels this way about this certain situation? No? Well lets have him tell every man and his dog about it until we’ve beat them across the head with it so much that it’s lost its affect.” Good shows do not do this, they expect the audience to have enough intelligence to work out things without being told five million times.
Saying all this, I felt like the ending was tied up rather well considering. I was actually not intending to focus so much on the overarching story itself as I feel each separate mission is genuinely enjoyable and reasonably well thought out. I genuinely have enjoyed each and every episode and found them compelling and interesting to watch. However…
Here, in my opinion, is whether this show falls down. Don’t get me wrong, I have characters I really like but as time passes, I was more and more cautious about the characters I felt I could get invested in.
More often than not, I felt like the writers thought “Oh wait! We haven’t killed anyone off in *two whole episodes*! Who should we kill off? Oh I know, let’s kill off X… then Y… Then we can kill off Z. I bet the audience will be so heartbroken!”
No. No. That is not how it works.
There are reasons why some anime characters have the most heartbreaking deaths in history and that is a wonderful thing called “character development”. The problem with Akame ga Kill is that the character development is not very impressive. Sure, we get a very brief insight into each characters backgrounds but this is usually just as they are about to die which isn’t really very useful now, is it? Character backgrounds are to help you really want a character to fight and live, not watch their backstory and be like “That’s super interesting anddddd they’re gone…”
And the titular character Akame is a character that I hardly felt attached to at all. I really really wanted to like her but I don’t feel that she has the amount of screen time needed for me to fall in love with her character. In fact, I don’t think she’s said more than a handful of sentences in a lot of the episodes. She seems to just be there to look good and for Tatsumi’s benefit. Which is a shame because the first episode made me think that she would get plenty of screen time and I would grow to love her just as much. She had such potential! Why waste it?
One thing that Akame ga Kill does do differently is try to make you care for the “villains”, that is to say the anti-Night Raid group working for sadistic General Esdeath. I was pretty excited about this to begin with as I love likeable villains as much as I love likeable heros (case and point, Light from Death Note, Beatrice/Erika from Umineko). However, I find it extremely difficult to like some of these villains that the writers are desperately vying for us to fall in love with. Bols and Kurome are prime examples – they show the watchers the “cutesy” side of their characters (oh look, there’s Kurome eating lots of the Japanese equivalent of what looks to be Jammy Dodgers biscuits, she’s so kawaii) and then you see their murderous cutthroat bassassness and you begin to wonder how on earth you ever thought these characters were “normal”. I think with a little more cautious writing and planning, the writers really could have made up connect with the villains as much as the heroes (something that they do very well in shows such as Shiki) but they just about missed the mark. Which is a real shame because I liked some of the villains even more than some of the heroes.
Saying all of this, by no means do I want to put anyone off watching the show, all of the characters have interesting traits and character flaws that will always keep them interesting to watch. After moaning about the lack of character development, I realise that I do actually like the characters even if I do not feel invested enough to care how many the writers kill off. My favourite character who was killed off caused me to want throw my TV out of the window in response as it was a truly emotional ending and I could see that the writers had built up to it beautifully. So it can be done! But seriously, stop killing off a character an episode and expecting us to bawl our eyes out over it. As a viewer, I became immune to the deaths of the main character and my friend and I began to place bets on who will be next to go…
If you do, like me, prefer deeper characters where if they die you will want to beat the writers over the head with something heavy, I would advise looking elsewhere.
Soundtrack and Art 7
The art was pretty enough. It wasn’t anything particularly special but the character designs were interesting. Very bright colours which are often contrasted with darker sketchier moments for more intense scenes. This seems to happen a great deal in the fight scenes. Though a few people seemed to feel the sudden change in art style was out of place, I rather like it.
I adore the soundtrack. The OST is simply wonderful from the OP and EDs to the background music. It never feels out of place and fits in well with the action and especially the more serious moments.
Alright, alright. I know I promised not to rant and I got a little carried away.
Despite my little rants about character development, I have genuinely enjoyed watching Akame ga Kill! I really have. The episodes have all been enjoyable and despite not feeling particularly as invested in the characters as I would have wished, I like them enough to understand their motivations and enjoy each episode separately. It is quick moving and no one episode is quite the same. So watch the show, but be careful not to let your expectations run away with you after the first episode!