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.

10_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