Akame ga Kill! – 02

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Tatsumi’s two friends are dead, and he has no other prospects or better ways to make money for his village, so when he learns what Night Raid truly is—a group of elite covert operatives attached to the country’s growing revolutionary army, literally rooting out the evil in the capital in preparation for a future coup—he decides to enter “the life of carnage.”

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Night Raid is a very colorful collection of characters, literally and figuratively, and while some are cordial or even friendly, the fact is, he’s the newbie. If he doesn’t prove himself, he can’t hope to earn their respect, trust, or approval, let alone friendship. The eye-patched boss accepts his enlistment and assigns the titular Akame to train him.

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Akame is a young lady of few words, all of them precise and to-the-point. She also has a penchant for hunting huge ferocious beasts and eating them. Because she tried to kill him so readily, twice, Tatsumi doesn’t quite trust or even like her; she just doesn’t show enough of a hand for him to even get a proper read off her.

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In its first two episodes AGK has had a knack for employing deception in its storytelling that is gradually training us the viewers not to take anything at face value. It’s how assassins must live. Last week’s Evil Samaritans were one example of that; this week we get two: Akame’s initially cold demeanor, and Tatsumi’s strategy for defeating his first target, a crooked cop named Ogre.

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I think I speak for most in saying most excessive infodumping is tiresome drudgery, especially if one’s mind is filled with pointless information, but I didn’t have any problem with how it was apportioned here. Not only do we get a sense of the bigger picture, in which Night Raid plays a crucial role. They also have no illusions about being “assassins of justice” (Tatsumi’s words, met by a burst of laughter by some members); they’re murderers, who could lose their own lives at any second.

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But it makes perfect sense for Tatsumi to want to join, and more importantly, to be up to the task of killing Ogre. Practically speaking, he’s trained for this kind of stuff his whole life. Emotionally speaking, he, Ieyasu and Sayo vowed that they’d die together, fighting for the good of their village. Only Ieyasu and Sayo went before him. Some in Tatsumi’s position may not mind dying sooner rather than later, that he may join them.

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But then who would help the village? Tatsumi isn’t ready to go yet, and before he’s willing and able to contribute to a cause that promotes a better world than the one he entered, with people with diverse pasts all similarly scarred by the evil that stil infects that world. After defeating Ogre (emphatically and with quite a bit of panache, I might add), Akame is almost immediately warmer and kinder to him. The next member he’ll shadow, Mine, however, is a nut he may never crack.

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Stray Observations:

  • Tatsumi is a bit too shocked that Bulat is gay, but then again Tatsumi is a backwoods yokel, so I’ll forgive him this. Don’t make me regret it, show!
  • It’s pretty clear this weeks two targets were also “demons in human form.” I like how their over-the-top monologues defending their evilness are accompanied by severely-drawn close-ups that make them even less human.
  • This episode also had a painterly “coup-de-grace shot” with 3D blood similar to last week’s. Good to have a consistent visual language.
  • The client paying Night Raid to kill likely sold her body several times to earn the gold. Leone, usually flippant about everything, isn’t so about this. These are dark times…they call for dark heroes.
  • Mine looks like she’s going to be a handful…both for Tatsumi and for me.
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Akame ga Kill! – 01

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Stray Observations:

  • 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…