Akame ga Kill! – 23

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With just Wave and Run still standing between Night Raid and Onest and the Emperor, AGK!’s milieu has become a much smaller and lonelier. But Wave is, er…wavering, and we already know Run’s designs. Also, this is the last two episodes, so it’s good there aren’t too many people milling around. It was also fairly certain someone would die…but who?

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After one final Night Raid mission briefing, Tatsumi, Akame and Leone blow right into the ornate but flimsily-constructed Imperial Palace, and none of the guards put up much of a fight. But they’re not here to fight grunts or kill unnecessarily.

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The guards won’t stand down until Run himself dismisses them. While he’s all for rebellion, he wants it done bloodlessly, from within, or something. Sorry Run, the ship has sailed on that! Still, he bars their path, but Leone is able to occupy him enough to let Tatsumi and Akame slip past and head to the throne room. This is it!

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With just a handful of palace guards around Onest and the Emperor, this looks like it’s going to be a cinch, but of course, it isn’t. Night Raid and the Jaegers may have had their Imperial Arms, but through the puppet Emperor, Onest has THE Imperial Arm: Shikotazer. Trump-cardier and trump-cardier…

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Backed into a corner and with the rebellion literally at the base of the throne, Onest directs the boy to harden his heart and assert his authority through force. Shikotazer rises from the wreckage of the shoddily-built palace, possessing the ‘Power of God’, which is to say the atom, apparently, and starts firing devastating (though hopefully not radioactive) volleys all over his own beautiful capital, burning and killing hundreds. Nice job, kid.

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Onest’s hold on the kid is as ironclad as Shikotazer’s armor, and Tatsumi is soon overwhelmed, but then Wave shows up, having made up his mind. Actually, pretty sure Onest made it for him by attacking innocent people. Wave is a soldier, and soldiers protect the weak. Even if the Emperor is a lost cause, I’m glad Wave ended up on the right side. Though man, he sure ‘saw no evil, heard no evil’ for a long time!

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The Emperor begs Tatsumi and Wave to give up (not sure why, since he’s fine blowing everything and everyone else up), but Tatsumi obviously perists, driven by his desire not to let those he’s lost down: Sayo and Ieyasu; Sheele, Bulat, Chelsea, Lubbock, and Mine. They all died so Tatsumi could be here and finish the job.

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He awakens a new stage of Incursio, golden and winged, and blasts a hole through Shikotazer’s weakest spot, blowing numerous holes in his own body in the process. His wounds are made worse and ultimately fatal by his final selfless act: slowing the descent of the defeated juggernaut to save a group of bystanders frozen in terror.

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Akame is not happy that Tatsumi breaks his promise not to die, but she just doesn’t understand how death flags work. She also isn’t aware of the title of the show she’s in, because this isn’t Tatsumi ga Kill!. The final battle was always going to involve Akame, and her opponent will be Esdeath, no doubt just as pissed off about Tatsumi dying…if he’s really dead…which he probably is.

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Akame ga Kill! – 20

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After last week’s almost total victory, in which the Jaegers took a heavy loss, we knew Night Raid was due for a casualtie or two of their own in battles we knew would get tougher from here on out. The episode helpfully narrows down the choice based on who gets initial scenes of levity in which death flags fly: Lubbock and Mine were our predictions.

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The intricate plan to storm the palace and kill the Minister runs into trouble almost immediately when Tatsumi and Lubbock’s rebel contacts all end up dead by the hands of Shura, Honest’s demented, woman-hating man-child of a son. Shura’s way of life is refreshingly simple: He wants to have fun, and everyone and everything in the world are his toys. Hey, he’s his father’s son!

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So yeah, we’re obviously not sympathizing with Shura. As for Budou, Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Army, he’s just freakin’ HUGE, as in ‘not-human’ huge, so despite the fact he has no personal quarrel with Tatsumi and even admires his swordsmanship, there’s not much to sympathize with him, either. But that’s okay; these bad guys are meant to impede our heroes, not garner sympathy.

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The two matchups work out pretty tidily, too. While Tatsumi and Budou are primarily hack-and-slash knights, Lubbock’s and Shura’s Imperial Arms employ preparation, deception, and delay. Shura has set up marks all over the city and the skies above with which to teleport using his Shambhala, which Lubbock counters by setting up his Cross Tail’s threads like rigging.

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Lubbock also fights by making it seem like he’s the underdog, when in reality, due to his cunning and Cross Tail’s versatility, he’s a tougher out than Shura. Shura catches a break when the palace informant interferes, stabbing Lubbock in the back in hopes Shura will free her parents for her service…after he already cut her neck open, mind you. Unfortunately for her, Shura already had her parents killed. Yeah, we GET IT. SHURA’S NOT A GREAT GUY.

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That break allows Shura to grab his Shambhala and send Lubbock to a kind of Subspace, but Lubbock has his threads tangled around Shura, and pulls him in too. As Shura blusters and tries to escape, Lubbock throws a thread-spear into his heart and pops it, like he did with one of the Demons a couple weeks back. Hey, if it ain’t broke (and the enemy is as dumb as Shura), why fix it? Night Raid 1, Empire 0.

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When Shura dies, Lubbock is teleported back to the regular world, several hundred feet in the air. His last thoughts are of his would-be love, a particularly adorable-looking Najenda, as he falls to his death atop several well-placed spears. I have to continue to hand it to AGK for giving its characters pretty fantastic death sequences, and Lubbock was cool as a cucumber as green as his hair till the end. Night Raid 1, Empire 1.

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But “Wait,” you say, “What about Tatsumi’s fight with Budou?” Well, it doesn’t go so well for Tatsumi. Budou is regarded as the only person in the empire whose strength is a legitimate match for Esdeath’s, and let’s face it: Tatsumi hasn’t faced an opponent that strong yet, so with very little fanfare, Tatsumi is taken into custody and bound in irons. Minister Honest is upset about the death of his boy…for about five seconds, then starts licking his chops at the possibilities of having Tatsumi as a captive. Empire 2, Night Raid 1.

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And who’s volunteering to interrogate him before his public execution? Why, his true love, General Esdeath, fresh off another successful expedition (I like how she admits she’s better on the battlefield than in the city on guard duty; recent history bears that out). The members of Night Raid still alive and free are down to three: Najenda (with Susanoo), Leone, and Mine. Meanwhile, not counting an ailing Kurome, the Jaegers are down to Esdeath, Wave, and Run. Just four episodes left; I’m starting to get excited here!

9_mag

Akame ga Kill! – 12

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Night Raid’s decisive defeat of Dr. Stylish and his army of experiments does not immediately lead into another Jaeger fight, and that’s okay by me, since we get to see them enjoy a little down time (or rather leveling-up) time, and we’re formally introduced to their two new members and the new dynamics that ensue within the group.

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First up, Susanoo, who we saw a lot of last week in action, turns out to be Najenda’s new Imperial Arm, having awakened for her in part because she resembles his old master (who was a guy, mind you). Because he was designed to serve as an Imperial bodyguard, he’s not just good at fighting, but is a neat freak and household chore-master. His culinary skills ingratiate him with Akame, and the two make fast friends.

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The second new member is Chelsea, who dons a school uniform, is almost always sucking on a lollipop, and is voiced by the lovely and talented Nazuka Kaori. Najenda identifies her as one of the rebellion’s top assassins, specializing in deception. Her Imperial Arm “Gaea Foundation” is a cosmetics box that allows her to take the form of anyone, a useful skill the group has lacked thus far. She’s also very laid back, confident, and arrogant, and clashes with Mine often.

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When Mine orders Tatsumi and Lubbock to “teach her a lesson”, Tatsumi ends up learning that Chelsea is the only survivor of her old group, and doesn’t want that to happen with this new one, which is why she won’t hesitate to tell it like it is if she thinks any member of Night Raid is coming up short. There are a lot of battles that have yet to be fought for the revolution to succeed.

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As Night Raid trains in a remote and secluded area, the rest of the Jaegers are also standing by when Esdeath realizes Dr. Stylish has bought it. As the person who gave Seryu her new arms, he is yet another loss for her, putting what remains of her sanity in jeopardy before an increasingly empathetic Esdeath comforts her (beating Wave to the punch). Seryu remains an interesting character in that she is utterly convinced she and the Jaegers are the good guys.

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For her part, Esdeath is still upset over Tatsumi fleeing, and is determined to get him back, but we learn that Run has joined the Jaegers to “observe” her, suggesting he may have plans in mind she may not agree with. We close with the reveal of another new guy who has a big grin and sics danger beasts on miners. One major takeaway from this episode is that there’s plenty of material for the second cour.

7_mag

Akame ga Kill! – 11

"I'm not dead! No worries!"
“I’m not dead! No worries!”

From the moment Leone is stabbed in the head, I knew this was going to be a different kind of AGK; one in which for the first time Night Raid will have to repel an invasion of their no-longer-secret headquarters. The Jeager Dr. Stylish, your typical mad scientists, sends waves of foot soldiers and lieutenants at Night Raid, resulting in some nice matchups and a good variety of battles, some of which are faught in their pajamas!

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“Sorry, No time to change.”
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“‘Tis…but…a SCRATCH…”

First, a wrong is righted when Kakusan, bearing Sheele’s scissors, picks a fight with Tatsumi. Both are brawny, but Tatsumi does his job, getting beaten up enough for Kakusan to get too cocky, whereupon Mine arrives and uses her rifle in the worst possible pinch, making the weapon powerful enough to do Kakusan in entirely. The scissors are now back in Night Raid’s hands. It occured to us if Tatsumi’s old sword broke, he could become their new user, but we’ll see.

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Repelling an invasion is tiring work

An HQ invasion is a good chance to see the rear line in action, and we see the ingenuity necessary to ably wield Lubbock’s string arms, as he fights a knight-like foe in a narrow hallway. Lubbock gives way to Akane to lop off limb after limb off the increasingly Monty-Pythonesque knight, but it’s Lubbock who delivers the killing blow, an unsporting surprise blow from behind. But this isn’t the time for fair play; not with Night Raid’s haven and home on the line.

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“That was bugging me.”

After Leone takes out the guy who originally stabbed her (catching another one of his knives in her teeth), Dr. Stylish surrounds the assembled Night Raiders, who all succumb to a weakening poison except the armored Tatsumi. That’s when the cavalry comes into play, atop a giant manta ray danger beast. Najenda has returned just in time with two new members, only one of whom we see in action.

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“Hi-Ho, Tatsumi!”

Susanoo, as he’s called, is a powerful “Human-type Imperial Arm” whose very body is the arm itself, making him the one fighter immune to Stylish’s poison. He also takes the time fix Mine’s mussed hair, lightening the mood. Of course, his arrival on the battlefield leads Stylish to take it up a notch and inject himself with something that turns him into a berzerking monster, as mad scientists in things like this tend to do when they’re out of options.

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“I could use a shower. And breakfast.”

Tatsumi isn’t quite the poisoned Akame’s knight so much as her horse, as he carries her up to Stylish’s weak spot in a nice bit of teamwork. Again, it was good for Najenda and the other newbie not to engage in battle at all, as it’s smart to save some reserve awesomeness for the battles to come. After all, Stylish is just one Jaeger, and probably not the strongest.

8_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

Akame ga Kill! – 08

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As Big Boss Battles between former mentors and students go, this was competently staged and executed, and there were more than a couple times I wished I had a controller to participate in the battle myself, a la PlayStation. It was still a fun battle to watch, even if most of the beats it hit are well well-trodden tropes and a few moments of plot contrivance are present.

Esdeath’s Three Beasts turn out not to be an enduring adversary, as Bulat halves Daidara without mussing his greased-up hair. When he realizes his next opponent is his old general, he acknowledges that goingout for a beer with Liver would be nice except for the fact Liver’s now working for a genocidal psychopath in Esdeath. An Esdeath underling is automatically an enemy of the people and of peace, which outstrips whatever bond Bulat and Liver once shared.

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I like how there’s never any doubt in Bulat’s convictions. Liver, both because of the past they shared and acknowledgement that his student has surpassed him, still asks Bulat to join him and Esdeath. But Bulat refuses the offer immediately, and doesn’t offer any counteroffer other than a promise to kill him. Liver must sacrifice his life to do Bulat in, combining a poison he takes with his Imperial Arm’s ability to manipulate liquids to make bullets of his own blood.

Those last-ditch tactics, combined with the Liver’s initial advantage while at sea, were all clever ways of chipping away at the nigh-invincible Bulat, and it also reinforces the truth that a fight between two Arm users will always result in one dying, since both died. Less clever, and verging on a plot hole, is how much time a perfectly fit and ready-to-fight Nyau stays off-camera and thus isn’t a threat to the on-camera goings-on.

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Tatsumi initially tries to hold Nyau off, but even wounded, the churl is almost as fast as Akame, so Tatsumi takes a beating. Not to take anything away from Tatsumi (fighting an Arm user without an Arm of his own is impressive in its own right), but for a good chunk of time between Liver dying and the transfer of Incursio, Nyau had a veritable eternity to finish off his opponents.

What holds him back, which is a bit flimsy, is his desire for an entertaining fight, since after fluting himself to He-Man proportions, squashing Tatsumi like a bug would be boring. He also expected Incursio to kill Tatsumi when he put it on, so I guess biding his time made at least a little sense. Instead, Incursio adapts to Tatsumi (and vice versa) just fine, and it’s sayonara, face-collector!

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In hindsight, perhaps the Three Beasts were sent by Esdeath as a lark to give Bulat, a beast of a warrior no army would refuse, one last chance to join them. I say that because in the end, they didn’t seem all that strong…though to be fair, they were up against Bulat and a kid who could potentially surpass Bulat, meaning he could one day match Esdeath, whose strength and beauty Liver came to idolize.

At any rate, Bulat is gone, Tatsumi has an Imperial Arm, and Esdeath is recruiting an all-new five-man death crew, including Akame’s sadistic little sister Kurome,who is voiced by the same girl who voices the not-entirely-wholesome-herself Momoka in Sabagebu!; a nice touch. We’ll see what fresh bloody insanity she brings to the table.

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