Over the time, the term "edgy" has become something that people throw around for just about anything like Halloween candies. Therefore, when people label something as "edgy" these days, the chances are that it's not an appropriate term to describe that something. Fortunately, that term has found a perfect place just recently, and it's called Akame ga Kill. The more of this series I read, the more I'm convinced that the author is working on his 100% run of Shadow the Hedgehog and DMC as he's writing this masterpiece.
The biggest problem with this series already starts with the first chapter- The main character, Tatsumi,
is a rather generic shounen protagonist who starts off with his two best buddies on some unexplained journey. Unfortunately for him, the group gets separated at some point, and when Tatsumi finds his buddies again in the Capital, the main setting of the series, it's shockingly revealed that they have been tortured to death by the very mean woman, Aria. (Don't bother remembering her name since she's irrelevant) Later, she gets killed and Tatsumi joins up with his actual group. What a fake out! Such a ruse! Deconstruction of a typical shounen manga! Now, what's wrong with this? It seems to be a nice introduction to the grim-dark setting the series seems to be going for, and serves as a possible motivation for the protagonist to stop the corruption that festers the Capital. Well, nothing, really. In fact, that's a good thing. So why did I state that the problem starts here?
Because this becomes a gimmick.
The series really seems to like emphasizing that the Capital just happens to be full of terrible people who seem to take their ideas from Comiket guro doujins. Even when the first chapter establishes this idea already, the author just has to beat the dead horse over and over in order to invoke some sort of emotion from the audience. Unfortunately, it's not very effective by the 10th time, and especially more so when the victims are extremely shallow or just so obviously fodder. The extra chapter later in the series is a perfect example of this- Three random girls, suddenly tortured/raped and dead. (one by suicide) What was the point? Nothing. The villains were irrelevant, and so were the 3 girls. The point emphasized? Uh, the Capital is full of bad people? Wait, that was already established by first chapter. It's really just another half-assed attempt to invoke some sort of emotion from the audience, and it doesn't work at all because it's just really trying too hard and eventually becomes just annoying. The author seems completely incapable of portraying something as "evil" unless some gory scene is involved. This baffles me because plenty of shounen manga-tier antagonists are fully capable of murder- But apparently visually showing that process in detail, despite it leading up to the same outcome, makes it any different?
Eventually, the series introduces a rival group called "Jaegers" to oppose the protagonists. Mind you, these characters, unlike most of the random fodder Monster of the Week villains in this series, are supposed to be actually relevant. Now, how would the author try to differentiate these guys from the rest? Give them the panel time instead of the protagonists, and write them just like how the protagonists are written with random SoL segments. Of course. It's sort of already painfully obvious what the author is trying to do here- By humanizing them, clearly the audience will feel some sort of sympathy for these guys when they die, and question the morality of it all. No, it doesn't work that way.
This is a great example of cherry-picking. Just showcasing some moments of these characters being not murderous psychos does not make them any more sympathetic than the rest. No, all that does is show that these characters are human beings, not some cardboard cutouts with the label "I am evil" attached to them. And the last time I checked, a character being a human (i.e. having emotions and personality) isn't an attribute. It's a requisite to even qualify as a character, so this really doesn't do anything to develop them at all either. And as for the central antagonist the protagonists are supposed to be aiming for- He's some overweight guy in charge of the Capital behind the puppet monarch who has a headgear that vaguely resembles devil horns, which I guess it's supposed to be deep and symbolic. And just like all the cardboard cutout antagonists outside of Jaegers, he has nothing going for him other than the fact that he's a dick. What a fucking joke. Of course, you can argue that maybe later in the series, whatever his motivation might be would be revealed or something, but I think it's already far too late in the series to give him a personality.
So while I was busy describing how awfully written the antagonists were and the plot driven by them, I forgot to mention the protagonists in much detail. Well, there's an excuse for that- There really isn't much to them at all either, except maybe Leone, who is one of the first characters Tatsumi meets. First of all, outside of their personality quirks, they aren't given much time to develop as characters. One reason is that some of their would-be panel time is given to Jaegers instead, who are even more shallow. In fact, two of the characters who die later in the series are given some sappy flashbacks (which is an obvious death flag- and this is rather offensive since this shows that the author is at least partially aware that these characters would be too shallow without addressing them before their deaths) and the author calls it a day for those characters- And one other character who dies is introduced much late in the series, only to be killed very quickly. It's like the author couldn't decide to kill off one of the existing characters, so he introduced a new one instead just to make that possible. Again, shallow characters dying to invoke emotions. Nothing could be more forced.
On the other hand, here are some more relevant plot points regarding the protagonists:
There's the whole drama between Akame, the other main protagonist, and Kurome, a member of Jaegers. They're sisters. They also used to work for the Empire/Capital. Akame left because she wasn't brain-dead enough to work for people who treat their comrades like shit. Kurome didn't. Now they're enemies and want to kill each other. Okay. Here's the weird thing- There are few possible reasons as to why Kurome didn't leave the Empire like Akame did. One being that Kurome needs to rely on drugs to survive due to heavy experimentation on her body- So does that imply that she agreed with Akame's decision to leave and that she couldn't because of her physical condition? Considering the fact that they want to just kill each other and neither of them seem hesitant at the idea, that doesn't seem to be the case. Then the other reason must be that Kurome doesn't really care for her own comrades as much as Akame did, and therefore didn't want to bother leaving the Empire, right? No, because she clearly does care for her comrades considering the scene involving her after Bors (another member of Jaegers) was killed in battle. So there's one last possibility- Kurome is being brainwashed to a degree in some form/shape. Or maybe she's stupid and just accepts all the awful things the Empire does. And at that point, it's just forced sibling rivalry. I guess the author really had to check that off from his trope list.
There's also this drama between Tatsumi and Esdese, the leader of Jaegers and the strongest soldier of the Capital. There's supposed to be some sort of romance between the two- No, of course it's not developed well at all. Esdese just outright falls in love with Tatsumi on first sight for literally no reason- What better way to make the main character seem more relevant than forcibly tying in a fairly significant character into it, right? Brilliant, AgK! Truly a sign of a masterpiece in the making.
And the last plot element that warrant mentioning is the Teigus- Most of the time, these are just fancy weapons with special abilities, which seem to be like the requisite for every generic shounen ever, but there is one very important key point about them that I'd like to go over. The author points out that there is not a single Teigu that can resurrect the dead- Basically, this is the author's way of saying "This is not a generic shounen where dead characters can come back to life like dragon ball and therefore deaths are final." However, this is how I see it: "Characters die in this series and if they do, they're likely going to be very irrelevant in the end." Even though this plot point could've been brought up much later in the series, it's introduced rather surprisingly early- Almost as if author is just desperately attempting to show how grim-dark his series is as much as possible. I think the term "edgy" fits in perfectly here.
Overall, this series is just a perfect misunderstanding of what makes a series "mature" and dark- And while it's perfectly fine and possible to make your series mature/dark through some creative writing, inconsequential deaths and completely unnecessary gory scenes leading up to them sure as hell aren't the way to go. So in conclusion- This series is just another overrated generic shounen with completely unnecessary gory scenes and characters to make it seem more mature and dark than it actually is, despite it being an extremely shallow, boring work as a whole. I suppose, in a way, that this series is trying to be really pretentious in that aspect. In the end, it's just one of the flavor of the month series, where after you read it for a while, you quickly lose interest in it because it's far too formulaic and the characters are too shallow to even care for. And then you sort of forget you ever read it in the first place. This is what happens when you focus on one particular trait of your series so much that you forget about everything else that makes a story interesting.
However, even after all that, if you're interested in how this series can redeem itself, I suppose it doesn't hurt to keep up with it. Maybe it will stop shoving forced characterizations, drama, and gore doujin materials down your throat at some point. But I highly doubt that will happen any time soon because this series is all about forcing something up your face while endlessly trying to make a point about how dark and serious it is.
Being a generic shounen manga isn't that terrible of a thing, though it makes the series relatively forgettable- And even then, one could still have a generic setting and make it interesting and fun to read. Akame ga Kill, however, just tries really hard to paddle away from the generic shounen manga territory, while at the same time, not knowing where it's actually paddling towards. So far, it's been a truly revolutionary trainwreck.