Akame ga Kill! – 06

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While AGK painted super-bleak pasts for all of the members of Night Raid (the most recent bleak past being Tatsumi’s), but their present had typically been painted with an optimistic, jaunty brush, as they defeated target after despicable target with righteous ease.

Not this time.

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Just when Tatsumi was finding solace in the warm kindness of Sheele, she is the first curmember to bite the dust, indicating the show is fully invested in the idea that members of Night Raid can indeed die any day, at any moment, something Tatsumi didn’t understand the full weight of. Bumping off a major character only a quarter into its run was a bold move by a show has never been afraid to be bold, even to the point of ludicrousness.

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The episode is pretty sneaky about it going down, too, starting out with Just Any Other Mission as Tatsumi and Leone sneak into a drug-addled brothel, kill its operators with their usual baroque flourish, and free the women. Leone even licks Tatsumi’s ear! When they wonder whether Mine and Sheele had as easy a time as they did, we cut to that pair, having just completed their mission as well.

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Then the episode did something I didn’t expect: it never goes back to Tatsumi or Leone, but sticks with Mine and Sheele for the rest of the episode, because now is the time Seryu has chosen to emerge from her hiding spot and take out one of the wanted Night Raid members; specifically, Sheele. Her reasons are simple: they’re criminals, she’s justice, they killed her dad and dad figure.

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Let’s get this out of the way: Seryu’s Imperial Arm Coro is ridiculously overpowered, capable of doing…whatever it is Coro (and the show) wants or needs it to do. Still, it wasn’t invincible; if they could find its core they could destroy it; and it would deactivate if Seryu herself was killed. But Mine simply doesn’t find the core in time, and Sheele’s fatal mistake is treating Seryu like normal human being.

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A normal human being whose arms were lopped off would probably be willing to yield, but Seryu was hiding guns in her arms, and even her mouth. This is frankly quite disturbing, and a little random, but there it is. This is an battle where Night Raid comes close but ultimately comes up a little short, and they were always only an inch or a second away from being killed.

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We didn’t get a lot of time with Sheele, but this has always been an exceedingly efficient—if never particularly deep or nuanced—show, and we cared enough about Sheele to feel bad when she was killed. The montage that closed the curtain on her life was another example of doing a lot with a little bit of time and material.

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So…Night Raid can lose sometimes, and they can die. The group of assassins looks particularly vulnerable and shell-shocked when Mine arrives outside HQ with the grim news. With Seryu arm-less but still alive and full of bile and Esdeath arriving in the capital, more of them are likely to die still. Whatever happens, Tatsumi’s honeymoon is officially over.

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Akame ga Kill! – 05

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This week Tatsumi shadows Sheele, who is on the surface a clumsy airhead, but conceals just about as dark and rough a past as the other members of Night Raid. Again Tatsumi’s loss of Sayo and Ieyasu is put into perspective. He can, after all, cook and do other things well, whereas the only thing Sheele is really good at is killing, something she learned under terrible circumstances.

Her story, in which she saves her only friend from being strangled to death by an ex by slitting the ex’s throat with calm, grim efficiency. The friend survives, but in exchange for Sheele’s bloody awakening, she and the friend never speak again. From there, the ex’s buds try to get revenge on Sheele, but she wastes them all, and she gets work as a freelance assassin, eventually joining up with Night Raid.

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Tatsumi also has his dark and bloody tale of how he ended up with Night Raid, and with Zank’s defeat, he also has the opportunity to try out an Imperial Arm. But after glimpsing all the ladies in their underwear (revealing a hint of perversion on the part of the late emperor) he is utterly exhausted; the arm simply isn’t a good match for him, and that’s that. But other arms will come around, and collecting them Night Raid’s ongoing side-quest.

That’s when Tatsumi gets super excited all of a sudden about the possibility one of those arms out there could somehow resurrect Sayo and Ieyasu, who still haunt his dreams. The other Night Raid members are quick to quash this hope; none of the Arms can restore a lost life; they were created with human morality very much in mind, to be inherited by future generations, not to bring back past ones.

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Hastily developed impossible dream or no, having his hopes shot down is a blow to Tatsumi, but that’s where he reveals another way for Sheele to be useful beyond killing: comforting Tatsumi and giving him all the time he needs to express his grief and try to move on from those dreams. Her seiyu Noto Mamiko certainly has the right gentle, soothing voice for such a task.

Meanwhile, a nightmare lurks in the far north. We’re introduced to the infamous butcher general Esdeath, the first glimpse of whom we get as the former Hero of the North licks her boots, naked and broken in the cold. In color and disposition she reminds us of Kiryuin Satsuki, not a bad template when you’re going for Ruthless Ice Queen.

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Esdeath is the very embodiment of the demonic rot that has infected the empire, and Premier Honest wants her in the capital to deal with Night Raid once and for all. Saying she’ll likely hang around in a battle against our assassin antiheroes would be a gross understatement. As bosses go, she’s utterly terrifying. The fat, goofy, meat-gnawing Honest…less so.

As if there wasn’t enough squeezed into this episode, when Tatsumi gets separated from Leone at her old stomping grounds in the slums, he comes across another new character: the plucky, happy-go-lucky “soldier of justice”, Seryu (Hanazawa Kana) of the Imperial Police. She’s ever so polite and helpful to Tatsumi, not knowing he’s the one who assassinated her beloved boss, mentor, and father figure, Ogre.

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That’s right folks, in the last couple minutes of this ep we get the show’s first attempt at engendering a degree of moral grayness to its cadre of villains. Seryu serves the evil Night Raid seeks to wipe out, but her lot in life logically led to her situation. One could call her naive or misguided, but from her perspective she’s one of the good guys, and she’s half right: Night Raid themselves admit to being murderers operating above the laws of the land.

Seryu also happens to be equipped with a bizarre Imperial Arm, the dog-like Coro, and we see that several others died in compatibility tests. She took the fact the Coro chose her as a sign that she needs to become stronger to defeat injustice (as she sees it, at least). Interestingly, Coro doesn’t expose Tatsumi in their first encounter, but I have a feeling next time Tatsumi and Seryu meet, things won’t be as cordial.

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