Sore ga Seiyuu! – 10

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As the OP states, even though Kohana Rin is only fifteen, she’s been working for ten years. As such, she’s by definition not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill fifteen-year-old junior high schooler. She’s a special case, which is why her counselor counsels her to seek education at a high school better suited for special cases such as hers, in which she can take acting classes and her work-related absences can be worked around.

The whole reason Rin’s been working so long (in addition to being talented) is that she used to be so painfully shy, so her parents put her in a theater trope. Since then, she’s simply gone with the flow, but it isn’t until now, when she’s now faced with going to a different school than her oldest and best friend, the heart-eyed Sayo, that she starts to doubt whether she even should be a seiyu.

The episode makes it a point to show that unlike Futaba and Ichigo, her present situation didn’t come about as a result of a choice she consciously made; her parents made it for her in hopes it would help her social skills. Futaba and Ichigo don’t lets their doubts get the best of them because they know they’re on the path they want to be on. But Rin isn’t so sure anymore.

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Things become a little clearer when, suddenly and coincidentally, her manager hands her a script for an anime film where she’ll be playing the little sister of the lead, voiced by Kamiya Hiroshi (making his second appearance on SgS). The director specifically chose Rin because he wanted a real 15-year-old actor.

With few actors her age out there with as much experience, she seems the perfect choice, but Rin’s recent realization she hasn’t led a typical 15-year-old’s life makes her uncertain. The director cuts several times because she’s either sounding too responsible or too young. But that’s to be expected, considering Rin is more responsible and composed than most kids her age.

Even Kamiya tells her she impresses him; when he was fifteen, all he did was goof off, and even though he’s regarded as one of the industry’s top voices, his own opinion of himself is of someone constantly unsure if he’s even cut out to be a seiyu. He can be negative and overthink things. He never thinks he’s good enough, so he’s always polishing.

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Learning this insight from such a towering voice works wonders for Rin, now that she knows she’s not the only one who feels the way she does. And however her career started, she is a seiyu, and she wants to become a great one. For that, she decides she’ll change schools for high school.

When she breaks the news to Sayo, Sayo takes it as you’d expect. She can’t hide her sadness or tears, but nor does she think it’s the end of their eternal relationship; not by a long shot. In fact, Sayo’s tears are both of sadness they won’t see as much of each other, but also joy and pride that her once-profoundly shy friend has grown so strong, and can now stand on her own two feet.

Of course, Rin still needs Sayo’s help with one thing, and will continue to year after year, no matter what: their annual end-of summer giant parfait.

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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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Akame ga Kill! – 04

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AGK has been nothing if not consistent, balancing fairly equal measures of exposition, world-building, character dev and action, and keeping me thoroughly entertained. This week is no different, formally introducing us to the forty-eight Imperial Arms, six of which are wielded by Night Raid mebers, while the seventh belongs to the target-of-the-week, Zank the Executioner. Around the time the empire started to rot, Zank was made to take so many heads it became a compulsion, and he started taking heads at random, regardless of whether they were condemned to die.

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This makes Zank notable in that as crazy and murderous a demon as he has become, he was, and one point, just an ordinary overworked executioner, and not necessarily evil. Zank also refrains from rape threats, as he’s only interested in beheading people. Heck, he even thanks Akame for killing him and “silencing the voices of all the people he’s killed, a marked contrast to the previous demons’ last words of protest or contempt.

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His third-eye style sense-augmenting and illusion-creating Imperial Arm makes him the most challenging foe yet, as Tatsumi lacks the strength to defeat him alone. But then that’s why Night Raid was sent out in pairs, and Akame is his partner this week. Zank disguises himself as Sayo to lure Tatsumi away from her, but Tatsumi is able to stay alive lone enough for Akame to find him and clean up the mess.

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When Zank transforms into Akame’s dearest loved one, it backfires on him, as she kills “her” as quickly as possible because she loves her so much. Despite her age, Akame is a hardened assassin who won’t succumb to mind games. And thanks to her Imperial Arm Murasame, it only takes a scratch to kill her opponent, which begs the question: why don’t all the Imperial Arms have that ability?

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Akame’s mindset is not to overestimate the power of her sword; it is a bitch to clean, after all, but they live in a world where just one cut can kill you anyway, regardless of the weapon. Wielders of Imperial Arms are undeniably stronger than those with conventional arms, but they’re still just tools; tools that only sing for the right hands and minds. I imagine Zank’s Arm will pass to Tatsumi, but simply possessing one doesn’t make you invincible.

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Akame ga Kill! – 03

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This episode had a nice air of relevancy and competence to it: all of the scenes had a discernible purpose that aided either our understanding of the characters and the messed-up world they inhabit or both, starting with the cold open, when intruders are on Night Raid’s doorstep.

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It provides some group combat experience for Tatsumi, It shows off all of the members’ unique skills, and it illustrates the constant vigilance required to preserve their operation. The Prime Minister, who has the young emperor wrapped around his little finger, is gunning for Night Raid, and there’s plenty of mercs out there willing to try their hand at capturing them.

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Of course, the focus of this episode was Tatsumi butting heads with the pink-loving master sniper Mine. From the moment he barges in to her room while she’s changing (of course), she wants nothing to do with the newbie, but just as Tatsumi warmed to Akame in the last episode, Mine gradually comes around to acknowledging him “a little bit.”

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But before that comes their mission to “investigate the capital city’s conditions”; in other words, go shopping, as Tatsumi angrily points out. Still, as the intruder raid reminded, any or all members of Night Raid could die tomorrow, so Mine is fully committed to playing as hard as she works, enjoying her time off to the fullest, which makes sense.

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The trip to the capital also allows Tatsumi a chance to see through it’s ornate sheen to the suffering and despair the majority of citizens are going through. as a result of the crummy, brutal government, which holds public crucifixions just ’cause. I will say, the Minister Onest himself is a bit over-the-top evil-wise, promising to “take care” a subordinate’s comely wife as he sends him away to be drawn and quartered.

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The Minister also has relatives, like Iokal, who lives in a garish monstrosity of a mansion with a harem of women he and his guards beat and rape to death when he’s in the mood. You gotta leave it to AGK, it doesn’t leave any room for you to sympathize with the bad guys! They will rape All Of The Women if not stopped. But when dispatching them is as satisfying to watch as it was here, that hardly matters whether there’s any good in them…which there isn’t.

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Mine does the dispatching of Iokal with her trusty Imperial Arm Pumpkin, a sniper rifle on steroids. When the fifth of his five elite guards tries to get the jump on her, Tatsumi is there to be her shield. He holds the guard (another one who threatens rape) down so she can put a big hole in him; Mission Complete, Let’s Go Eat.

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So Tatsumi is two-for-two in proving himself. Leone and Balut seem to already like the guy, so that leaves Lubbock and Sheele. There’s also an Imperial Arm bearer freshly arrived in the Capital who wants to tangle with Akame & Co and loves his killin’. We’ll see how long he lasts.

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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.

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…