Akame ga Kill! – 17

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This week we say farewell to the Empire’s most lovable town-burner, Bols. He blew up his Imperial Arms last week, so we knew even if he survived that, he wouldn’t be long for this world. But aside from all the atrocities he committed for the Empire, he remained a decent human being to the end. He knew what he was doing was bad, and would pay for it one day.

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This was that day, as Chelsea disguises herself as an injured little girl and exploits Bol’s big heart, stabbing him in the back with a needle as they hug. As dumb-looking a character as he was, I’ll always prefer guilty villains like Bols to mindlessly evil/sadistic ones. The Jaegers are composed of both types, and yet it’s funny how they can still all sit at a table and enjoy a meal together just like Bizarro Night Raid.

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One of the Jaeger’s psychopaths, meanwhile, is Kurome, but we learn there’s a damn good reason for that: she and her sister were victims of a deplorable crime. With only two corpse puppets left, she makes a tactical retreat in the present, and remembers when she and Akame were first snatched up and thrown into a beast-ridden forest gauntlet with more than 100 other children.

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Kurome only survives because Akame…and vice-versa, but then the sisters are cruelly separated. Kurome’s master experiments with drugs to boost her attributes, while presumably Akame’s master didn’t. No doubt the sisters drew further apart, to the point that when Akame finally defected, Kurome was fully indoctrinated, believing her sister wasn’t just betraying the Empire, but her as well.

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While armless and exhausted, Leone lives to fight another day, as does Akame, Mine, and Tatsumi. Najenda and Susanoo are also fine, as is Lubbock, who informs the others what the only unaccounted Night Raid member, Chelsea, is up to: she’s going after Kurome.

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Chelsea is able to convince Kurome she is Bols, having learned his personality through Tatsumi’s exposure to the Jaegers. She’s also able to stick Kurome with a needle, just as she did with Bols. Kurome goes pale and collapses. Everything seems to have gone swimmingly for Chelsea, who works to rid the world of depravity…

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…Which is ironic, because had she used a less elegant, more depraved means of killing Kurome — like beheading her or destroying her heart — she would have actually succeeded in killing her. Kurome, who deals with animating the dead all the time, survives the needle. She herself is extremely weak, but she still has Natala and the gunner lady puppets, who chase Chelsea down, destroy her Gaia Foundation, slice off her fingers and arm, and shoot her in the back.

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All those times Chelsea warned herself of going soft, and she turns out to be right. She screws up royally, and unlike Leone, doesn’t get a second chance, which is annoying, because Chelsea was frankly a far more compelling character developed in a fraction of the time Leone’s been around. And for the record, both Bols and Chelsea get equally somber, contemplative death scenes, despite being on opposite sides of the conflict.

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In a final insult, Natala beheads Chelsea, who lost because she didn’t do the same to Kurome, and her head is stuck on top of a spike in the Capital, which is how Tatsumi finds out she’s dead. He’s lost beloved comrades before, but that doesn’t make him any more prepared for that horrible sight. So Bols and Chelsea are the first casualties of the war between Night Raid and Jaegers, with Leone and Kurome narrowly escaping demise. So…who’s next?

8_mag

Akame ga Kill! – 16

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As Night Raid and the Jaegers clash in various new combinations, AGK returns to what it does best, big, bold, bombastic yet stylish battles. There is a ton going on this week, with only Lubbock and Wave sitting out the action, and sides made even more complex by Kurome’s “collection” of corpse puppets, all formidable warriors she’d assassinated in the past, including her own childhood friend Natala.

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Thus sub-group of one-shot baddies, both humanoid and bestial, is as diverse and colorful in both appearance and skills as Night Raid and Jaegers themselves, and are the initial barrier keeping Night Raid from taking on Kurome directly. Some get more backstory and screentime than others, but the bottom line is, most of them are tough enough to hang around for most of the episode.

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Frankly, there are so many different combinations of face-offs in the simultaneous battles that it would be a major pain to list them all out, but suffice it to say the episode stays fresh because of the sheer variety of combat going on, and the numerous times a Night Raid member will shift from one target to another one that’s a better fit. They all strive to match their unique Imperial Arm power to the weakness of the opponent in a particular time and place.

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The urgency and seriousness of these battles is helped by the fact we’ve lost Night Raiders in the past, and everything from limbs to garment integrity is lost at various points in the action. But everyone gets to shine, striking and dodging, landing what they intend to be coups-de-grace, only to find their opponent slipped away for found another edge…or if one of their allies interrupts.

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One of the funnier battle “cross-overs” coming when Najenda, disgusted her former trainer and general is still moving around despite the fact she beheaded him, goes in to Overdrive and launches him into the air. The body hits the beam of the Destoghoul just as it’s blasting Susanoo’s arm off (though unlike Leones, it reappears instantly, since he’s, well, an Arm.) It’s a small but funny gesture that conveys the sense that All Of This Is Going On At Once.

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Another instance of clever use of character ability, personality and timeliness under certain conditions, Chelsea, who is hidden most of the time, uses her makeup kit to take the form of a tribal elder one of the puppets won’t attack, opening him up for a fatal needle to the brain. She took the risk to protect Tatsumi, whom she’s developed feelings for.

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But after one foe is downed, it isn’t long before another has to be dealt with. Susanoo brought the PAIN thanks to Najenda unlocking his secret “Madman” power, a life-threatening option, but the only way to quickly dispatch the Destoghoul.

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After she defeats her gun-toting opponent, Mine is ambused by a giant toad and swallowed, to burn up in its stomach acid, but as Kurome gloats, Mine blows enough holes in the thing to escape before the acid does too much. Mine then makes the very unreasonable, but very Mine demand for Tatsumi to somehow help her without looking at her.

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Yes, I liked that even in these tough battles, there’s still the occasional exchange of wry banter or joking around that we’ve come to expect of AGK, though there’s less of it than usual, and even in this it throws a curveball, as in the moments Leone lets her guard down watching Najenda fight, she loses her frikkin’ left arm to an opportunistic, ruthless Kurome. Keep your eyes on a swivel, guys!

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I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how long Bols manages to stick with Akame and later Akame and Leone. He even calmly asks Akame why she became a rebel, and doesn’t argue with her right to feel the way she does…it just doesn’t change the fact his job is to incinerate her. But when his corpse puppet guard goes down, it’s two-on-one, and his Imperial Arm is severely damaged by Leone biting it, he tosses up his turbine backpack and Detonates The Entire Episode. Talk about ending things with a boom! Keep it up with this AGK. You’re in your wheelhouse.

8_mag

Akame ga Kill! – 15

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Akame ga Kill! really wants you to understand that the Ultimate Battle between Night Raid and the Jaegars and between the Rebellion and the Empire, is about to begin. Both characters and the narrator mention it at least half a dozen times. They should have also said something along the lines of “these battles are definitely on the way, but bear with us a little while we lay out all the details and get people into their proper positions for said battles.” Or something.

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So yeah, this episode is yet more setup. By the end of it, Najenda, Akame, Tatsumi and Leone are engaged with Kurome and Bols, with Susanoo having smacked Wave off the battlefield entirely. It doesn’t seem like either party is going to back down or retreat; this is it. We just don’t get to see any actual fighting quite yet.

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“Wait…WHY are we in bikinis, again?”

We do get a somewhat meandering Rube Goldberg-like plan for overthrowing the Capital and Empire; one that depends on a lot of moving parts which could spell disaster if any of them failed. It starts with a popular religious group starting an insurrection within the empires borders, followed by invasions from without by the Revolutionary Army and its allied tribes.

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“Are the crepes good, people? Good!”

They’re depending on the zealots being enough of a threat to warrant a sizable movement of Imperial forces in the direction the Revolutionary wants, as well as the cooperation of disillusioned castellans on the route to the Capital to honor their word to yield their castles to the rebels. If everything goes according to plan, the capital will be theirs, its corrupt leaders dispatched, and all with a minimum of bloodshed.

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But c’mon now, not everything is going to go according to plan. Neither the rebel army nor Night Raid can do anything without dealing with Esdeath and the Jaegers first (Najenda also name-drops Commander-in-Chief Budou). The episode serves as a means to take stock in each Night Raid member or Jaeger’s specific reasons and motivations for fighting, with Seryu’s probably being the most morally upside-down (though that’s not surprising considering the mentors she’s had).

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On the other end of the spectrum is Wave, who isn’t even listed as a target, but he has his own reasons for fighting on the side he’s on. Regardless of whether you’re an otherwise nice guy like him or Bols, or a complete evil psycho like Kurome, they must all be defeated by Night Raid if the rebellion is to have a chance.

7_mag

Akame ga Kill! – 10

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This week Tatsumi is by Esdeath’s side almost the entire time, scores a lot of solid intelligence on the Jaegers, and is used as a body pillow. I’ll be honest: it’s a lot of fun watching him behind enemy lines. He (and we) end up seeing sides of Esdeath no one else has seen, a gentle, kind Esdeath, to the point he wonders if it would be possible to convince her to switch sides and join the rebels. This, of course, is not the case, as Esdeath has a strict “Survival of the Fittest” philosophy.

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Furthermore, she’s not interested in him changing her principles: it is she who will change his. She has fought and won countless battles, and this is another one of those to her, only completely different in how it’s waged, and very exciting to boot. I must say, while it could be easy to play Esdeath’s affection for Tatsumi, the show finds moments to show us that Esdeath is quite serious about being in love.

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Also, Esdeath knows what she feels and respects it rather than trying to shove it down. She doesn’t see it as weakness, but as a challenge. So even when Tatsumi escapes while on a hunting mission with Wave, Esdeath is still confident she’ll see him again, and not simply force him to see things her way, but legitimatly convince him to support her of his own free will. That’s the true battle.

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Frankly, I hope Tatsumi does end up back by Esdeath’s side at some point, even if there’s virtually no chance of her suceeding in turning him, because his time with Esdeath and the Jaegers was frustratingly short, especially when you consider this show has a whole other cour to work with. And not just because watching Tatsumi squirm around Esdeath’s genuine affection.

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Watching him interact with the Jaegars was also fun, particularly the “Him” of the Jaegers, Wave, with whom he shares much in common, including a running commentary on the strangeness of his colleagues. Still, it’s also good to see a friendly face in Akame, as she rescues him from a danger beast. Akame vows to be the one to kill Esdeath, while her sister vows to kill her. And with Dr. Stylish Johnny-on-the-spot with the Tatsumi tracking, those confrontations can’t be far off.

8_mag

Akame ga Kill! – 09

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With no immediate missions, it’s a time of rest, healing (both physical and emotional), training, and rebuilding. Najenda heads off alone to try to recruit new members, as Night Raid is down to just six, including her. Tatsumi defeated the Three, but he must become much stronger to wear Incursio properly. He’s moved by Leone relaying Bulat’s belief he would someday surpass even him. But that’s a process.

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Meanwhile, Esdeath has finished assembling her new team of Imperial Arm-using special police force, but interestingly, we’re introduced to them one from the perspective of perhaps the most normal of them, Wave. Sort of a combination of Tatsumi and Bulat, his normal reactions to his quirky colleagues add a touch of levity and humanity to the proceedings. Esdeath also stages an exciting welcome by attacking them.

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The other members: Run, Bols, Kurome, and Doctor Stylish, are new or mostly new faces, but crazy ol’ Seryu, who healed from seemingly mortal injuries, is a nice addition. As Esdeath grows closer to Night Raid as an enemy (her “Jaegers” now outnumber Night Raid, and seem just as capable), Tatsumi gets more curious about her, so Leone and Lubbock clue her in.

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Turns out Najenda marched beside Esdeath as a fellow general in the Imperial Army, but part of why she deserted was that she simply couldn’t stomach being around Esdeath and her sadistic henchmen anymore, as they conquered towns but kept their captives alive and suffering as long as possible. Furthermore, Esdeath is being this brutal because she wants more and more rebellions to crop up, so she can keep warring indefinitely. That is the true danger of Esdeath.

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When the opportunity to get a better look at her comes up Tatsumi takes it, and after the Three, he realizes just how much stronger he’s gotten since joining Night Raid when he easily defeats the last foe standing in a fighting tournament sponsored by Esdeath. But assembling the Jaegers and prolonging the war aren’t her only goals, as she’s reached that certain age.

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That’s right: Esdeath is still looking for love, and that quirk is what sets her apart from most silver-haired ice villainesses we’ve come across on our travels. Despite the fact her falling for Tatsumi is telegraphed from a mile away, its execution is still plenty entertaining, as the initially bored Esdeath grows more and more interested in Tatsumi’s fight as he displays the five very particular qualities she demanded of a mate, including an innocent smile that seals the deal.

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Of course, Esdeath isn’t interested in dating an equal, so after meeting and congratulating Tatsumi in the arena, she offers her “gift” to him: a collar and chain, because who wouldn’t be honored to be dragged along, nay, knocked out and fireman lifted away by the lovely General Esdeath? I’ll tell ya who…TATSUMI.

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But I can guarantee you of two things: he’ll survive this, and he won’t waste the opportunity that presented itself. No, not the opportunity to see Esdeath naked (though that’s a noble goal), but to spy on her. Who among her countless enemies have ever gotten as close as he’s about to get? He’s the luckiest and unluckiest bastard in the whole empire…at the same time.

7_mag