Akame ga Kill! – 02 Review
What a nice thing to say! I bet, anyone would like to hear that sort of compliment!
Oh man, well, that could’ve gone better. I mean, what could possibly go wrong with a story about a bunch of people that try to kill another bunch of people…? That can be something special! Like… I don’t know, maybe someone slips on a banana-peel or something. That would be something worth watching, right? No, wait, Akame ga Kill wants to be a really dark series, so scratch that. What I meant to say was: Like… I don’t know, maybe someone slips on a DARK banana-peel or something. There we go! That’s more like it! Seriously, have you ever held a banana that’s already darkened? That will be the most creepy thing your hand will ever feel! If that isn’t the stuff edgy stories are made of, I don’t know what is! But sadly… Akame ga Kill had no banana-peels, neither darkened nor unripe green… It’s a missed opportunity!
Humanity – the most dangerous animal… except in water, it’s sharks in that case. But you may wonder, why humanity? What makes these stupid assholes so super-special?
Just go into a forest, look around and then count all the thumbs you see? You know how many you see? TWO! And those are your own fucking thumbs! Unless a shark has bit off your hand because he had a grudge on you. Sharks are really dangerous and VERY persistent. Only persistent animals can spawn a whole movie-franchise after all.
Well, that proves it: humanity is dangerous! And so no one is surprised to find out that the place with the most humans is the biggest pissing-contest anyone can imagine – and right now the worst kind of people piss on a lot of innocents in this crappy place.
That’s when Tatsumi, a new guy has come to town and it turns out that like all pumpkinheads from a village, he immediately comes uncomfortably close to being pissed on by some evil cityslickers. But he’s saved by the most colourful band of brutal murderers imaginable.
Also, Tatsumi’s friends already lost the pissing-contest and spent their last breaths in a very uncomfortable place, you might say. But naturally there’s no time to dwell on that too long and Tatsumi moves on to become a valuable member of the murder-circus that calls itself Night Raid.
I guess, that’s what we call a ‘motivation’ in the review-business and naturally it’s exactly the kind of motivation the audience needed to hear! It really puts all those scenes with gore, torture and people bluntly talking about murder into context, doesn’t it?
When this second episode started, I felt a bit disoriented. Tatsumi, the protagonist of this series, stood over the two graves he made for his two friends. Their deaths weren’t pretty and Tatsumi’s hopes and dreams were pretty much shattered with this turn of events. And he sadly recalls the optimistic start of their journey and remembers how he found them broken and dead or close to death. But here’s where the scenes becomes so confusing: Tatsumi is surrounded by the lush green of a forest and the graves are at the edge of this pretty cliff that offers a beautiful view on a little valley and beyond that there are some picturesque mountains. The sun is also shining and the disorientation sets in because you ask yourself: Wait, is this still the same world where an aristocratic family, young daughter included, had picked up sadistic torturing as a hobby?
There’s a real sense of isolation to the Night-Raid-hideout that borders on disconnection. Akame ga Kill lacks a sense of coherence that could’ve made events a symptom of the world instead of the result of the character’s actions. The biggest problem about Akame ga Kill is that its world is completely generic, it seems. There isn’t any kind of world-building being done that would clear up a lot of tonal issues that are present throughout this episode. This series wants to sell a world where people are capable of absolute evil but the world around them doesn’t seem to reflect that. Imagine the series The Walking Dead starting with the on-screen-message “10 years after the start of the zombie-apocalypse” and then you’re shown a perfectly fine-looking supermarket with a parking-lot where clean cars are parked just as they are supposed to be – and then you see someone running around chased by zombies. The horror of this zombie-apocalypse wouldn’t seem very convincing, would it?
And so for all the professed darkness in its storytelling, Akame ga Kill really doesn’t seem very dark. It’s more a matter of perception than presentation because this series does try to be dark, VERY dark. But if these two episodes have been any indication then Akame ga Kill isn’t interested in all the nuances of darkness. Melancholy, despair, the feeling of loss, doubt and so on would all qualify as parts of a dark story as well, but these rather quiet story-elements don’t seem to be acknowledged by Akama ga Kill. It goes for gore, revenge, anger, coldheartedness and so forth, all the kind of stuff that can result in action. And since the world already fails to sell the dark tone of the story, all the darkness that is present comes off as cheap.
‘Because fuck physics!’ – What everybody involved in creating this scene thought.
In fact, Akame ga Kill is actually a very hopeful series. While none of the characters may talk about being happy or enjoying the world, evil is easily distinguishable. On one hand, evil always seems to be “in the city” and on the other hand, evil is always done by specific individuals. The story proudly declares who’s at fault and where that person is. There’s a clear enemy for the (anti-)heroes to fight and with the Prime Minister supposedly being the head of this snake there’s a clear goal in sight. It goes even further when it’s explained that Night Raid is just the “covert operations”-team of a rebel-faction that is ready to take the evil old regime’s place. Let me summarize: A band of outlawed assassins kills influential people in the capital of an empire – which they do for money and to install an army of rebels as the new government. In a truly grim setting this would sound like the shadiest kind of trouble you could get involved in. But here, Night Raid is full of heroes. You may not be expected to think of them as good people but you ARE expected to sympathize with them in some way.
This series wants to be dark in some ways and that leads to them being somewhat relentless in their portrayal of moral ambiguity. It really seems to me that in a desperate attempt to do something edgy or dark, the story sometimes loses its self-awareness. At these points the story simply loses sight of what their dark story-parts would look like in a more justifiable moral setting. The worst moment of that is when Leone retells the way she received Night-Raid’s most recent assassination-request. First of all, it shows Leone meeting the contact for the request in a graveyard at night. Fucking hell! Maybe it should’ve rained as well just to get the fucking point across, just how fucking edgy this whole assassination-stuff is! And then Leone proceeds to show Tatsumi and the rest in the room that she indeed had paid the necessary amount for them to fulfill her request. Well, if it always takes that much money to make Night Raid get off their asses, I think it’s no wonder that they haven’t been successful yet in cleaning the city.
But then there’s this little comment that seems REALLY weird: Leone points out that she suspects that the woman has become a prostitute in order come up with the money. I mean, that IS dark, it’s also very crass but the thing that made me pause was the way they talked about it. From the way Leone and Najenda talk about it, you might think it’s “all the corrupt people in the city” ’s fault. It was because of them that her husband got unrightfully framed for a crime and it was their fault that she now has to live in poverty. But wait a sec…! Nobody evil in the city forced her to find ways to come up with this giant amount of money. That was all Night Raid! It’s their fucking fault! And if they really want to kill the whole corrupt and powerful elite of the city… then why the hell do they expect their clients to come up with this giant amount of money?! Since they’re gunning for the social elite of this city who are cruel to everyone under them, it’s only logical to assume that most of their possible clients are NOT rich! Also, they’re fighting for a political agenda since they want to replace the current government with the rebel army! Asking for that much money doesn’t make any sense!
The actual story of this episode revolves around Tatsumi being “trained” or more like tested by Akame. There’s also a short introduction for every member of the Night Raid team and they all have somewhat dark background-stories but naturally they don’t seem very evil or despicable. It certainly seems like revenge will be the main-motivation for these characters when the story calls for personal drama. So, for a big portion of this episode things are somewhat lighthearted. There are certain moments where the episode chases bleak statements like it’s the punchline to some joke or something but aside from that… nothing. These sections do nothing to convince the audience that this is happening in a world where people are in the habit of committing the foulest acts imaginable without regret.
And naturally things end with another assassination, of course. It’s a very perfunctory-seeming finale for this episode as it was mostly the characters going through the motions. Especially the confrontation between Onyx and Tatsumi lacked drama and real flair. It was bloody, sure, but it all seemed trivial and predictable due to the lack of build-up or emotional investment. And the way this episode presented the fight, the previous worries of Akame kinda look foolish and unnecessary. Leone even opened this episode with her judgment that Tatsumi isn’t a killer. And yet it only takes a few lame villain-lines by Onyx to convince Tatsumi to become a murderer. For all its professed understanding of the brutal nature of the jobs the Night Raid undertakes, this series lacks the emotional depth to make these words truly meaningful.
- The pink-haired girl Mine is a tsundere… I don’t want to say that that’s an uninspired choice… it’s just that a TON of shounen-series somehow had the same inspiration to make a girl-character a tsundere.
- Well, the way Tatsumi assassinates the guard-captain is rather plot-convenient, isn’t it? After all, for a guy frequenting the main-street, Tatsumi sure was lucky to have easily found a totally abandoned alley nearby, in fact, the alley is SO abandoned that not even the sounds of swords clashing and the death-screams of the guard-captain attract attention.