Akame ga Kill! – 24 (Fin)

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As the big let down that was Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle demonstrated, it’s rare for a long-running series to field a finale that delivers on virtually all of its promises and potential. But Akame ga Kill! succeeded everywhere Chaika failed miserably,  pulling out all the stops for an ending worthy of the excellence that preceded it.

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Akame v. Esdeath was being billed as one for the ages, and in this it did not disappoint, from the moment a surrounded Esdeath seals scores of Revolutionary troops in a jagged ice wall, forming an arena in which to tangle with the raven-haired wielder of Murasame.

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The show could really take its time and do things right with this battle because it so painstakingly took care of everything else on its sizable plate, along with killing off most of the cast. Everything we’ve seen of Akame and Esdeath in combat is brought to the table here, along with a lot of new moves and counter-moves, and it’s just fantastic to see these two go at it like no one on the show has quite gone at it before. There’s the feeling that everything has naturally escalated up to this level.

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When she realizes she won’t be able to defeat Esdeath without her trump card, Akame uses it, merging further with Masamune to increase her speed and power to even more ridiculous levels; a testament to just how tough a customer Esdeath is. Esdeath has basically merged with the soul of a terrifying danger beast and the two share unending bloodlust out of a desire to destroy the weak – all the week.

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The deaths of ‘livestock’ mean nothing to Esdeath, but they mean everything to Akane. Masamune has remembered every life she’s taken, and while the weight of those deaths on her shoulders is considerable, it also gives her the strength she needs to fight not just on Esdeath’s level, but above it.

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Esdeath will always be weaker, because she doesn’t understand and thus can’t properly utilize the weight of the death and destruction she causes. Akame works for the good guys, but she’s not necessarily a good guy herself, just a necessary evil in a world where foes like Esdeath threaten peace and won’t stop killing unless they’re killed.

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A lot of Esdeath’s early confidence in the fight is knowing she can lean on her Makahadoma to freeze Akame if things get that serious. She even says it’s the second time she’s had to use it; the first being to defeat Susanoo. But she’s so confident it will work just as well against Akame, she doesn’t consider the possibility that Makahadoma is exactly what Akame wants her to do.

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Esdeath doesn’t realize this until it’s too late, the Akame before her is merely an afterimage, and the real one is coming down upon her with the full force of her blade. The certainty that Esdeath would use Makahadoma proves to be her downfall.

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After that, Esdeath is not only an arm short, but also mortally wounded from throat to hip, and she concedes defeat. She is not upset; by her own lifelong code, she deserves to die for being the weaker one. If anything, she’s glad it’s something else she can share with Tatsumi, whose body has been lying nearby all along. Before Akame can stop her, Esdeath embraces him and surrounds herself with ice and shatters, in just the latest in a series of gorgeous deaths.

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In their last talk, Akame tells Esdeath about how she draws strength from taking responsibility for the lives she’s taken, but she just can’t understand. And yet, Esdeath loved Tatsumi, something else she couldn’t understand, but still accepted.

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With Esdeath now diamond dust, the Empire really is done. Wave and Run aren’t going to fight for it anymore, and Minister Onest is scurrying through the palace like a rat until cornered by Leone. When he uses his Imperial Arms to destroy hers, I thought “Uh-oh…now he’s going to inject himself with something and become a ferocious beast-man.” Fortunately, I was wrong! He takes out a gun a gun! — and simply shoots her with what looks like small-caliber shot.

But Leone, born and raised in/by the slums, is a tough cookie, Imperial Arms or not, and gives Onest the death that, if I’m honest, I always wanted for him: getting his face smashed in by her bare hands. It’s gruesome, undignified, and downright icky, and underlines the fact that Night Raid are vicious killers too, but the difference being they kill for something other than themselves.

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As Leone later says her goodbyes to Akame (Onest shot her ten times in the abdomen), we also see that the ‘something’ Night Raid has fought for — a peaceful land free of the corruption and bloodshed of Onest and Esdeath — isn’t something they’ll be able to partake in. Leone ignores the calls from the townsfolk asking her to join them for a drink. Instead, she finds a dark alley to lie down in and die with a smile on her face, knowing she’ll be with the others soon. Night Raid gets a different kind of peace.

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With Esdeath and Onest gone, all that’s left is for the Rebellion to take one last life: that of the young, naive Emperor. It’s fitting and very nice of the show to give the lad as clean and dignified and honorable death by guilloutene as Onest’s was dirty and pathetic. The Emperor holds his head high until it’s lowered into the stock as the entire capital watches, while Onest died in the dark bowels of the castle, his killer the only witness to his end.

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Najenda, along with Wave and Run, take up new posts in the New Kingdom (who is actually ruling isn’t made clear yet). After all, those who remember the horrors of the war that brought them this Kingdom are well-equipped to stand and protect it from those who would threaten it again. But Akame leaves the capital, keeping the lives she’s taken on her shoulders. Her work isn’t done, and it will never be done as long as she’s alive, and there is no other course for her.

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The episode also ends with one last stirring hurrah with a booming narrator talking about everything Night Raid did…and how history will not remember any of it. They were assassins, killers, working in the shadows, doing dirty work for a clean world. They’ll have no honors or monuments or even songs or stories sung or written about them, ever…but what they did have was each other, and that was enough.

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In the post-credits epilogue, Akame continues her duty, facing those who would destroy the progress made, both burdened and fueled by the ones she killed before. She’s not with Leone, Mine, Sheele, Bulat, Chelsea, Lubbock, Kurome, and Tatsumi…yet, but one day she will be. Until then, she has work to do.

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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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24 Blondes of Fall ’14

Note: This isn’t every blonde in Fall, but it is most of them. If someone you like was cruelly left off this list, let us have it in the comments.

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1. Fuka Yuki

Ai Tenchi Muyo! – Leader of the Junai High Science Club and a ‘mad-scientist/inventor’ type who is constantly battling the ‘oppressive’ Student Council for resources. The ‘eyes’ in her large glasses mimic her moods.

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2. Leone

Akame ga Kill! – Sure, those boobs don’t seem possible for that waist, but google ‘human barbie’ and you’ll see there are living humans who look kinda like this! In any case, they can’t transform into half-beasts with ridiculous healing powers.

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3. Run

Akame ga Kill! – Baby-faced sandy-blonde Run hasn’t done much in AGK! other than observe from on high with his angel wings, but I imagine that will change soon in the last three episodes.

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4. Latifa Fleuranza

Amagi Brilliant Park – Latifa (or Latifah) is the park’s manager, and also the princess of Maple Land, whose subjects depend on the happy energy of people to survive. She also possesses magical powers that she can bestow upon people by kissing them, which is what she does to Seiya, who is prophesied to be the park’s next manager. She’s named after Queen Latifah.

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5. Sylphy

Amagi Brilliant Park – Sylphy is an employee of the park working at the Elementario. She’s rather ditzy and a bit of an airhead. She’s also a wind fairy.

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6-7. Aino Minako & Tsukino Usagi

Sailor Moon Crystal – If you’re a newcomer like me to the franchise, you might wonder why they’d have two blonde Sailor guardians. After ten episodes, it makes perfect sense now. And it’s not like they’re impossible to tell apart. One has buns!

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8. Ange

Cross Ange – The first of the several blonde leading ladies on this list, Ange has also probably had the roughest character route thus far, having been exposed as a Norma, stripped of her royal and human status, and shipped to Arzenal to die fighting fearsome DRAGONs in skimpy flight suits with other girls of her ilk. But I don’t see her dying anytime soon; despite her delicate upbringing she knows how to fight and survive.

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9. Suzuki Kana

Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – Positive, cheerful, fun-loving, and funny, Kana would make a great match for the protagonist Kyouraku…if there weren’t two or three other girls ahead of her in the harem order of precedence. She’s also classically been the clown of whatever group of friends she’s been in, but more by default than by choice.

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10. Tsunashi Kaoru

DannaNani – The wife who can’t understand what her husband is saying.

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11. Saber

Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – A powerful legendary swordmaiden summoned to be Emiya Shirou’s ‘Servant’ in the newest iteration of the Holy Grail War, Saber is utterly devoted to, and patient with, her non-mage master.

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12. Alfonso Saint-Variante

GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – Heir both to the throne of his father’s kingdom and the armor of a Makai Knight, Alfonso was forced to flee the palace when the king’s advisor Mendoza started consolidating his power.

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13. Fredrica

Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle – One of the heroes who slew Emperor Gaz and brought peace to the land, Fredrica is a dragoon that comes in many forms, including metal dragon, chibi girl, and fully grown lady knight, and the form above, that of an elementary or middle school-aged girl in a frilly dress.

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14. Himeki Chifuyu

Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – The only member of the literature club still in grade school, Chifuyu possesses the terrifying power to create anything out of nothing, from matter to portals and dimensions. Like the other girls of the Lit Club, she’s in love with Jurai, but the others won’t consider her a real threat for a few years.

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15. Sata Kyoya

Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – The titular ‘black prince’, Kyoya is a bit of a sadist who agrees to pretend to be Erika’s boyfriend if he can treat her like his dog. Has intimacy and commitment issues probably stemming from his upbringing. Eventually he develops feelings for Erika to match hers for him, and they become a real couple. But both can still be jerks on occasion.

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16. Tachibana Marin

Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – A shallow, self-involved older/richer guy-crazy Ganguro without the tan on the surface, Marin and her friend Aki start out as the friends Erika chooses by default, and the entire reason she has to pretend Kyoya is her boyfriend. But Marin and Aki actually grow into legitimate friends who care about each other’s fortunes in life, albeit perhaps not as close as Erika’s childhood friend Ayumi.

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17. Wakasa

Orenchi no Furo Jijou – Wakasa is a handsome merman who takes up residence in the bathtub of Tatsumi, leaving his old home, a polluted river, behind.

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18. Karanomori Shion

PSYCHO-PASS 2 – An Enforcer in MWPSB’s Division 1 who spends virtually all of her time supporting the rest of the group from her own computer-filled office. She’s quietly maintained a physical and possibly romantic relationship with fellow enforcer Yayoi for some time.

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19. Aiza Takeshi

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – This Goku-haired bastard is a fellow gifted pianist and self-appointed rival of Arima Kousei, someone who didn’t even notice him when they competed in the past, but who was so inspired by Kousei’s greatness – and pissed-off by his aloofness — that he strove and grew into a great pianist in his own right.

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20. Miyazono Kaori

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – Kao-chan is a gorgeous and brilliant violinist with an avant-garde style that traditionalists despise but really lights crowd up. She also ends up lighting up the life of Arima Kousei, becoming the muse who pulls him out of a dark sea where he can’t hear the notes he plays. Kaori can also be prone to violence…as well as the occasional sudden and worrisome bout of health trouble.

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21. Jeanne d’Arc

Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – Unlike many anime characters who share their name with the legendary warrior maiden, This Jeanne lives up to the name, a young woman from humble beginnings possessing awesome powers bestowed upon her from the heavens. Her trusty holy sword Maltet comes when she calls it! She may be humanity’s only hope against Bahamut. You’d think she’d act aloof, especially toward a rogue like Favaro, but she’s surprisingly genial and down-to-earth.

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22. Leafa (ALO)

Sword Art Online II – AKA Kirigaya Suguha or “Sugu”, Leafa is the name of her avatar in ALO, which is blonde instead of her real-life black hair, and slightly bustier (or perhaps it’s just a push-up outfit). She had cultivated feelings for her brother Kazuto, and though they’re not related by blood, he couldn’t return those feelings. But that was SAO I! In SAO II, she plays a far smaller role. But she is blonde, so here she is.

23-24. Inubouzaki Fuu & Inubouzaki Itsuki

Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru – Fuu is a third-year in middle school and the president of the Hero Club. She is the older sister of first-year Itsuki, who she has been looking after following the death of their parents. She is knowledgeable about the Divine Tree and Vertex and was the one who gave her fellow members the app needed to fight against the Vertex.

Fuu uses a large sword in her hero form and her familiar is Inugami. As a result of using her Mankai form, she loses vision in her left eye. Itsuki uses vines to attack her enemies in her hero form and her familiar is Kodama. As a result of using her Mankai form, she loses her voice. (Wikipedia)

Akame ga Kill! – 21

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Note: I have not read the manga, so I have no idea how the events of this episode or the episodes to come will be adapted. It’s all totally new to me.

Tatsumi is in the hands of the enemy. He’s not just alive so that the Empire can make a example of him in a highly public execution. He’s also live bait, in the off-chance Night Raid is foolish enough to attempt a rescue. Of course, they are: Mine doesn’t care if its a trap; she’s going to save her love. Akame decides to come along, so their chances will be better. Leone also volunteers: she scouted and recruited him; he can’t be dying before her. Finally, Najenda states they can’t let a public execution tank rebel morale at this crucial juncture.

Bottom line, the ladies aren’t going to sit back and let Tatsumi get executed. They all love the shaggy-haired little bastard too much, albeit in very different ways, and no one more deeply than Mine.

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Tatsumi, meanwhile, is fully prepared to die, knowing the remaining members of Night Raid got away with their lives. He doesn’t want to be saved, lest they throw those lives away. In this state, it’s understandable if he may not quite grasp just how much Esdeath is exerting every last morsel of her authority and standing in the empire…to save the life he’s willing to give away.

As the embrace they share makes clear, Esdeath’s love for him is real, and strong. So strong, she isn’t even asking him to betray his friends, only hang back and stay close to her. Part of me wanted Tatsumi to take her offer, but he can’t, and not just because he loves another, but because as beautiful and capable of kindness as Esdeath is, he can’t overlook the crimes she’s committed and continues to commit in service of an empire that’s taken everything from him.

Yet even when Tatsumi categorically refuses and pushes her away, it’s not as if she can stop loving him. She can only accept that the only course now is to kill him herself.

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When Wave hears Esdeath will be killing the man she loves, he’s greatly troubled and doesn’t understand…but Kurome understands. As Esdeath hasn’t stopped loving Tatsumi, she hasn’t stopped loving her sister, which is precisely why if Akame is going to be killed, better for Kurome to kill her. Kurome’s problem is, nature may step in and kill her first, as clearly shown when she pulls dead hair from her head.

My eyes welled up quite a bit at this scene, which I’m sure was the episode’s intent. And this was just a side scene with ‘bad guys’; the only scene with these two in the episode. But this serves as a good prologue for the final Akame-Kurome fight we know is coming.

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Did I mention this was a particularly beautiful episode of Akame ga Kill!? It was; it was staged and lit like a movie, an epic movie. The shot above is special. The remaining members of Night Raid, gathered in the sitting room of the late Lubbock’s home, the green upholstery suggesting he’s there to, just not in person. This is the last time this particular group of Night Raid members will ever be in the same room. Everything will change from this point on.

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One of my favorite live-action films is Gladiator, in part because no story about Rome before or since quite captured the slightly weathered but still strong and seemingly invincible power, grandeur, and glory that was the Roman Empire.

The descent through wispy clouds into the Imperial capital’s arena and the theatricality of a grand final battle seems inspired by similar scenes in that film. Only this is an execution, not a rigged duel.

I must say, the little Emperor gives a rousing speech, without the use of cue cards, that pretty comprehensively demonstrates how easy it is to twist words around to make Night Raid the enemy. They are killers, after all, and they are trying to throw the Empire into chaos, though that’s so they can root out its corruption and evil.

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Goosebumps gather as Esdeath draws near to the cross where Tatsumi hangs restrained. Even here, Esdeath prepares to deliver a blow that will look like it kills Tatsumi to the masses, but doesn’t actually kill him; still holding out hope Tatsumi will come to his senses so she won’t have to go through with it.

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Tatsumi refuses, but before Esdeath can kill him, Mine arrives and fires a shot she has to dodge, followed by Leone, Najenda, and Susanoo on the big flying manta ray. This would be a terrific specacle to watch at the arena if the participants’ attacks didn’t cause widespread collateral damage, so the spectators flee, and we’ve got ourselves a battle some people won’t be walking away from.

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Najenda and Susanoo take on Esdeath, which, duh, while the hard-hitting Leone backs up Mine in her fight with Budou. Mine is confident both her love for Tatsumi and the intense pinches Budou will put her in will make Pumpkin’s shots strong enough to defeat him.

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She’s proven right, but in the process, the tiny frail Mine gets tossed around and beaten up quite a bit, and her final shot takes a lot out of her, and more to the point, she may well have known it would take too much out of her, but she had no other choice. Budou is defeated, but we can’t score one for Night Raid, now or later.

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Meanwhile, Najenda’s battle with Esdeath is everything we hoped for from these two powerhouses. Najenda leans heavily on her human-type Arms while Esdeath relies on the ice demon within her. Both use their trump cards, but while Esdeath’s time freeze is a once-a-day affair, Najenda’s ability at this point in her life is one-time-only and unrecoverable. She puts much of her remaining life force into healing Susanoo, knowing she can’t defeat Esdeath but can keep her busy long enough for Tatsumi, Mine, and Leone to escape.

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And yes, Tatsumi gets away with his beloved Mine, scolding her for coming after him as he rushes out of the city at top speed. But Mine is not in a good way at all, and tells him to stop and put her down, not because she’s embarrassed — we’re light years away from that childishness now — but because she doesn’t have long, and she has something to say.

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And this…this just isn’t fair. After all that fighting, after she defeated Seryu and Budou, the toughest badasses anyone from Night Raid has ever taken out, after Tatsumi just manages to catch her before she falls to her death…she’s simply at the end of her never-sturdy-to-begin-with body’s rope. But there’s still time for her to tell Tatsumi she loves him and she’s glad she fell for him, and that they’re on the winning side, and always were, and then share their first and last kiss.

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In a show that’s become very good at farewell scenes, this one really knocked it out of the park, and is all the better due to its simplicity inevitability, and raw emotion. I really really wanted Tatsumi and Mine to come out of this and live a happy, loving life together, to make a family. I wanted this so much that I ignored just how ridiculously unlikely the chance of that happening really was. R.I.P. Mine.

This was the most epic, thrilling, heartbreaking episode of Akame ga Kill! yet, but we’re not done yet. Mine can no longer create the fair, peaceful world she fought for all her life, which led to her meeting and falling for Tatsumi, who wants the same thing. He, Akame, and Leone have three more episodes to make it happen.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go sob in the dark.

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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!

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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! – 13

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Like Brynhildr a season ago, AGK is not afraid to infuse comedy into any situation, whether it’s supposed to be serious. I actually don’t mind that, as at the end of the day the show is full of ridiculous characters and situations that frankly shouldn’t be taken too seriously. That’s not to say there aren’t any scenes wholly serious scenes to be found—this episode started with the brutal killing of a couple living outside the capital by the new humanoid danger beasts. But the show seems to know when to use laughs and when to not.

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It’s also wise in not having every single chracter cracking wise. The show is largely split into those who are primarily the butt of jokes or subject of snarky observations, and those who make said observations. Oftentimes this week we get pairs representing both groups: Minister Honest and the Emporer; Wave and Bols (I just like how Bols has a perfect, loving family); Tatsumi and Akame. I also appreciate how even-keeled in its portrayal of both sides of the conflict while they’re in relative down-time.

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For contrast, let’s look at the villains in Sailor Moon Crystal, which I’m also watching. When we get scenes with them, they’re really just plotting evil stuff; they’re not really interacting as people the way the good guys are. We also know next to nothing about them, their pasts, or their motivations, so they come off as a bit dull and dry. In theory, showing the lighter sides of Esdeath, the Jaegers, etc. could potentially minimize their power as villains, but that’s not really an issue for me here.

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It’s also interesting that even though the empire is working to eradicate all rebels including Night Raid, they actually share the mission to eradicate the new danger beasts, though that doesn’t make it a case of “the enemy of my enemy”. Tatsumi, taking the moral high road, rejects Chelsea’s position to simply hang back and let the Jaegers take care of the beasts, because there are people in danger as they speak and the more people on the job, the more people can be saved.

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Chelsea, who has already lost a unit and knew how kind Bulat and Sheele are, is worried Tatsumi may be headed down the same road. At some point every assassin has to preserve his or her own life, even at the costs of innocent lives. She’s also uneasy about how lovey-dovey Night Raid is in general, but that’s to be expected of someone with her past; it doesn’t necessarily make her right. Tatsumi’s cool speech being ruined by the fact his fly is open: that’s AGK in a nutshell.

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Like last week, this episode squeezed a fair amount of material into its runtime. Night Raid finds a new hideout (pretty much the same as the old hideout; by design, says Akame); we learn that Lubbock was a rich, entitled ass who one day met Najenda, fell in love with her (which I can’t blame him for; she’s gorgeous) and enlisted on the spot, and his loyalty to her is still based on the hope that she’ll one day return his feelings. Lubba’s been the least developed of the original Night Raid, and this was an example of a short but sweet little nugget that helps enrich his character.

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In terms of surprises, I was not expecting Tatsumi and Esdeath to reunite so soon, but here we are. I still wish he got to spend more time with her before, and now that they’re together again I am very happy. Only good stuff happens when these two are together, but comedically and dramatically speaking. I continue to enjoy Esdeath’s earnest regard for her feelings and the way Tatsumi affects her moods and behaviors, but it isn’t a case of her love for him weakening her in any way. On the contrary, when danger beasts interrupt their reunion, she’s as focused and vicious in dispatching them as ever.

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FInally, the shadowy grinning guy who calls the Jaegers’ Imperial Arms “his toys” is looking like someone who will be giving them trouble soon; trouble which Tatsumi may be in the middle of now that he’s been re-captured. I wouldn’t even be opposed to Night Raid and the Jaegers holding a truce so they could join forces to defeat this guy, if he turns out to be that big of a threat.

8_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.

7_mag

Akame ga Kill! – 07

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After Sheele’s death, pretty much everyone in Night Raid is miserable except for Akame, calm and composed as ever. Scratch that: Akame’s a wreck too, as evidenced by her sudden outburst when Tatsumi compliments her strength. Years of experience being around death hasn’t hardened or numbed her from the pain; it’s only made that pain easier to hide behind a mask.

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Tatsumi is used to seeing that mask on Akame no matter what the situation, so it’s understandable he’d be ignorant of the storm that brewed beneath it. Still, he remembers how worried she was about him after his first mission, so he knows Akame is capable of compassion and empathy. Now that he knows she also harbors as much (if not more) pain as he does, he punches himself in the face to “change gears.”

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Sheele may be dead, but there’s no time to mourn her: General Esdeath is in the capital, and she’s ordered her “Three Beasts” to assassinate the Minister’s political opponents and frame Night Raid. She’s killing two birds with one stone: eliminating those who’d stand against Honest, and forcing Night Raid into a confrontation on her terms.

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Najenda sends Leone to watch Esdeath, and Leone can barely hold back the urge to attack her, despite knowing It’s A Trap!. Esdeath is an odd duck this week, as AGK decides to humanize her a bit, as she asks the Emperor to find her a suitor, then enjoys some ice cream at the market. So yeah, she is human, but still clearly a psychopath.

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While she doesn’t do anything particularly crazy, her power is expressed in the brutality and sadism of her Three Beasts: the little portrait of the loving father-daughter duo that becomes their latest victim does a decent job making us care about them for the short period of time they’re around. Then one of the beasts, Nyau, flays the daughter. Not folk you wanna mess with.

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Akame and Lubbock and Tatsumi and Bulat are dispatched to guard next two likely victims of the Beasts. The latter two end up clashing with them aboard the politician’s massive luxury liner in a pretty nice set piece. Daidara comes at Tatsumi hard with his dual boomeranging axes, but once Bulat is suited up, he halves Daidara, leaving Nyau and Liver.

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The thing is, Liver is Bulat’s beloved former general, who was discharged and arrested after refusing to accept the Minister’s bribes. Bulat’s was discharged and arrested along with him, but stole Incursio and escaped. Will Bulat continue to mind his surroundings, as he’s so fond of reminding Tatsumi? Or will this seeming betrayal cause a misstep?

8_mag