HMMM…Well, now, that was certainly something. A quick check of MAL indicates this puppy currently stands at 8.27, which is high. Almost as high as Hannah’s top pick, Zankyou no Terror, and certainly higher than anything else I’ve watched so far this Summer. MAL ratings can be as dubious as seemingly kind aristocrats in the Imperial Capital, but in this case, they did not mislead, and now I have some catching up to do.
Don’t get me wrong: there’s a lot here I’ve seen before. In fact, the lands of AGK could easily be a continent over from the lands of Hitsugi no Chaika, which I must admit I’m kind of missing right now, so this really scratches that itch. Like Chaika, it starts strong, as the protagonist Tatsumi—also seemingly plucked from an RPG—brings down a monster that’s actually pretty cool and fearsome-looking (the horse isn’t quite drawn right, but I’m splitting horse hairs).
Tatsumi comes from a remote mountain village, seeking fame and fortune in the capital with which to help said village, presently suffering from overtaxation. His first interaction with a (busty) citizen of the capital results in him losing all his money, but the kindly young Lady Aria spots him sleeping outside and invites him to her palace, where he is offered every hospitality by Aria and her equally lovely-seeming family.
Considering all the foreboding things we’ve heard about the capital “rotting with corruption” and “demons in human form”, they do seem to clash with those descriptions. When Aria’s mother is walking down the hall and is suddenly sliced into several pieces by an assassin in a stylish flash of blood, I honestly felt pretty bad for her. Man, was I a bloody idiot!
The show made an interesting, and I thought clever, choice to portray the week’s villains as the good guys, while Night Raid, the group of assassins who attack them, look like the villains. We see things as Tatsumi sees things, and he’s ready to die to protect his benefactor Aria…until the contents of her family’s creepy-looking storeroom are revealed to him, which…Oh Dear GOD.
Turns out they’re a ghastly family sadists disguised as Good Samaritans, luring in country folk new to the city and having their way with them. Among their victims are Tatsumi’s own childhood friends and companions, Sayo and Ieyasu. When the jig is up, Aria merely lets off a vicious rant defending her actions, but before the members of Night Raid can kill her, Tatsumi does it for them, without a moment of hesitation.
Leone, the busty woman who swindled him, is a member of Night Raid, and the one with by far the most screen time and lines among them. Recognizing Tatsumi’s courage, skill, and above all luck (every RPG hero needs it!), she recruits him into their group on the spot. “What’s up with this turn of events?!” exclaims Tatsumi, a babe in Leone’s arms as she soars through the night. I don’t know, m’boy, but it’s a lot of fun so far!
- There’s blood and gore aplenty here, but without that annoying “half the screen is just black or white or blurred out” censoring that plagues Tokyo Ghoul.
- There’s a right job lot of characters to keep track of, but Night Raid is thankfully just seven members, including Tatsumi. The show also doesn’t try to squeeze all their stories into this episode; we only get glimpses.
- There’s a great sense of ruthless, competence about the Night Raid crew. They slash, smash, and shoot hard. And as it turns out, their cause was quite righteous!
- Was not expecting Tatsumi’s friends to both end up dead. Will they continue to yell at him in his thoughts? I’d be okay with that.
- It’s never overtly mentioned that Aria and her ilk were those demons wearing human skins, but…well, they really were.
- The episode is suffused with a great soundtrack as well, with some nice mood-setting non-western influences.
- My thanks to reader Randophilus for recommending this! I might have to drop DRAMAtical Murder for this…