Anime Reaction: Akame ga Kill

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Over the course of the four years I’ve spent watching anime, I’ve seen some terrible shows like Sword Art Online, the second season of OreImo and the infamous School Days. Shows that disgusted me due to how bad they were, how much I hated the characters or how I disagree with the direction the author took them. While those and many others are indeed extremely faulty, none reaches the level of Akame ga Kill in terms of how much I despise it (I will call it AGK from now on). What makes AGK stand out so much in my hate list, you might ask? A combination of a horrible character cast, themes that are contradicted by the way they’re handled and a ton of problems with the setting. But let’s begin with a short description of how the anime starts.

Tatsumi (we don’t even get a surname for him), who wishes to join the military and help the people from his poor village, had arrived in the country’s capital city and crosses paths with a seemingly rich girl who wants to help him. She takes him to her home and seduces him, of course. Turns out that girl was just a sadistic individual who wanted to kill him like she did with his friends, and all of a sudden the rebellious army known as “Night Raid” arrives, saves Tatsumi and kills the evil girl. Tatsumi then learns of the corruption of the government and decides to join Night Raid, and so begins this story full of potential with the good guys being the rebels and the government being the evil force they need to defeat. It has a cool setting, it’s not afraid of killing off characters, it seemingly has a lot of room for character progression… nothing can go wrong here… right…?

So the first problem with AGK is really easy to figure out since it’s present in the first episode and continues to haunt the series throughout the rest of the show: the mood changes. In one scene you’ll get a gory mess full of corpses, blood and human remains, and in the next one you’ll have half-naked girls laughing as if nothing is wrong with the world. The way this anime switches between a seemingly serious scene and an all-out fanservice scene is just horrible, there is no real transition that feels smooth or anything, and many times it’s just flat out instant. This happens a lot throughout the anime, and unfortunately makes you unable to feel anything the author wants you to feel because you always fear that in the next scene everything will be all happy-go-lucky. It’s a problem that was also present in Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, but here it’s much worse because at least in Shigatsu it only happened sometimes, whereas in Akame ga Kill it’s everywhere. Another thing that quickly becomes obvious is how the morals in this anime are completely black and white. Every time the Prime Minister shows up, you just hate the Government more and more because there’s literally no argument in their favor. They introduced an inside faction of the Government lead by Esdeath, with a character similar to Tatsumi called Wave who was supposed to show a guy fighting for the Government without knowing of the corruption going on, but the evilness of the Prime Minister and the level of corruption going on is so evident that it’s very hard to believe that Wave and the other members of this faction just conveniently never noticed anything, nor did they ever question it. Compare that to Legend of the Galactic Heroes, where there’s also an Empire that did horrible things, and yet it’s not treated in this one-dimensional way, instead showing how it also has its advantages over the Rebels, and showing a human side to its characters. In AGK, the rebels are the good guys and the author never really shows any downside to this faction, other than basically having the characters sometimes claim they dislike taking lives. The lack of a grey morality in this conflict is very problematic because it makes said conflict lack depth, and it’s very hard to take it seriously because of that.

This might lead you to think that Akame ga Kill teaches you how taking lives is always wrong and how life should be respected, and at first it seems the work will explore those themes, but the author contradicts those very themes every single time he can, since death is treated as a joke by the anime. When a comrade in arms dies, it never affects any other member of the rebel army in the long term at all, instead it’s only good for advancing the plot or giving someone a new power-up. Other times it’s even worse and ends up being used as pure shock factor, like Chelsea having her head cut off and displayed for all to see, which serves no real purpose at all. A lot of times people complain how in shounen nobody ever dies, and the fact that AGK killed people like the flu is what made it so popular, but unfortunately its execution is so bad that it doesn’t make it any better than Fairy Tail, which never kills anyone (not even the enemies). Death being treated as a joke, however, is just the beginning of how terrible the characters are. Every villain in the first half seems to suffer from a problem with insanity. Everyone goes crazy once their evil nature is revealed and none of them get any real development, exposition or anything. Heck they’re lucky if they can get a short backstory in the 3 minutes before they die. It’s incredibly difficult to take these characters seriously when they are made to be so cartoon-ish and one dimensional.  The example of this is Justice Girl, and yes she does have a name but she’s better known by this nickname of hers. Justice Girl has a twisted set of morals that make her go crazy whenever someone breaks them, and of course there is no reasoning behind those morals existing. It’s moral absolutism at its worst because there is no exploration of said morals, nor is there a good background supporting her developing these ideals. And of course she dies a dog’s death without any sort of characterization, despite having had enough screen time to be something more than a one dimensional villain.

I also find the way the author explores the past of the characters, especially the rebel ones, to be laughable, because he essentially inserts a sad backstory to them 3 or 4 minutes before they bite the dust, which means that you’ll start noticing a pattern and you’ll be able to predict who dies next quite easily, killing all the tension. He repeats this formula over and over again, it’s not even funny. The interactions between the characters are also very shallow and lack any real meaning, other than maybe one or two exchanges between Akame and Tatsumi in the earlier episodes. These interactions never give me the idea that the characters are good friends or comrades in arms, and their reactions to each others’ deaths also don’t help too much with this. Having meaningful dialogues is something that, especially in this kind of anime, would have helped a lot, because we’d get to see the characters from different perspectives, and it’s also a way to add exposition to them. Instead we just got a bland cast of characters that can all be described with a one liner. There’s also no real development to anyone in the series, as most of them die before they even get a chance to change their mindsets or the way they do things, and those that do last enough aren’t much better either, as the time that should have been spent developing them was instead used to show half naked women and needlessly gory scenes, as well as the waste of time that were the “enemy of the week” antagonists in the first half of the series. Unfortunately, even the most important aspect of a character for me, their personalities, was insignificant, as the characters in Akame ga Kill are defined by their boobs in the case of women or by their coolness in the case of men. They all have their own personal quirks to them and whatnot, but that’s about it. You’ll just be left wishing the author explored more of their personalities through some interactions with other characters or through some sort of inner monologue. While every problem I pointed out about the characters is a small flaw on its own, together they just create a horrible and forgettable cast of characters that don’t complement each other nicely nor do they bring anything unique to the table. Being that characters are so important in these types of stories where morals seem to be debated, it’s really a shame that they couldn’t even get that right. Unlike Death Note the thrills aren’t enough to make up for the lack of good characters, and heck at least DN’s characters weren’t sexualized every episode, and you felt the author actually respected them. In AGK the author does NOT respect its own characters, which only generates more and more problems as the story develops.

To add to the previous problems, there is also an inconsistency with the rules of the anime. It was stated at the start that when two users of the Teigu fight (which are powerful weapons that only a few people have), then one of them will surely die. However there were instances in the anime like the first confrontation between Tatsumi and Wave, where both of them had Teigus and yet none of them died, both of them managed to live. The system of the Teigu is also very poorly explained, as them selecting who wields them makes no sense, and is a classic example of superpowers done wrong, as there is no power limit so the weapons can be as strong as the plot demands. There is no limitation to the type of weapon it might be or what it can do. It reminds me of Harry Potter where magic can be anything and do everything, taking away all the tension of the work because they can just ass-pull some magical power at the end to save the day. If you take Fullmetal Alchemist for example, the limit is there clear as day: you have to sacrifice something of equal value, so the power creep is limited by that. In AGK, there is nothing like that. One thing that I hear people talk about all the time is how AGK has amazing battle scenes. As much as they’re the best thing the show has to offer, as they’re at least entertaining to watch, they’re FAR from being good. There is no choreography during those scenes like in Fate/Zero and the animation isn’t good enough to make them a selling point of the series, you’re basically watching them for the chaotic performance more than anything. So even those can’t save AGK from being the mess it ended up being.

Overall Akame ga Kill had amazing potential, as the setting clearly showed how the supposed good people, the Government, were actually corrupted and didn’t give a damn about the population, whereas the rebels were trying to defeat it and create a new country, one with a benevolent leader. Unfortunately despite the awesome-sounding premise, the show never delivers at all. If all you want to see is chaotic destruction, shock factor and fanservice, Akame ga Kill will be good for you, but if you’re in it for the characters, the consistency of the plot or the thematic exploration, you’re better off completely ignoring this one. The ending is also anime-original, or at least it was back when it aired. It’s not any better than the rest of the show though, as it’s just a kill-them-all ending which was done just to mess with the people who for some reason liked the characters, as literally almost everyone worthy of note died in the last episode, once again mocking death, and nothing really got resolved in the end. There’s no reason to watch it unless you want to see how bad it is for yourself or if you like the needlessly edgy nature of it. Alternatively you can read the manga which takes a different turn after episode 19, though I can’t tell you whether it’s any better or not, as I haven’t read it. Either way, that’s my take on this anime, and I hope I never have to sit through 8 hours of something similar to this ever again.

 

Thanks for reading!

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