Review-Roundup: Aldnoah.Zero 08, Akame ga Kill! 08
Sure, analysing other battles the minute they happen always takes top-priority – even if that means stopping your own battle, it seems.
Look, maybe I’m slightly spoiled by having watched Legend Of Korra’s new season recently… but when Liver talks about how his Imperial Relic allows him to freely manipulate water I can’t help but feel immensely disappointed about how that episode interprets that ability and what one can do with it. And don’t even get me started on how that fight made sense in a universe that supposedly has the same laws of physics as our universe…
This time around, I review:
Aldnoah.Zero 08: Guess Slaine just cannot catch a break in this series. Meanwhile, everybody’s fine with the Martian princess being alive and being on a Terran ship and so on. I mean, she’s a naive, beautiful princess in danger! Of course, nobody has a problem with her!
Akame ga Kill! 08: A dude is fighting some other dude and that other dude who’s fighting another dude is kinda the student to that first dude who’s fighting that other dude. But then this dude dies and his dude-student has to show off his manliness because he’s a real dude, you know! In the end the dude-student cries like a little girl – but it’s fine! Nobody’s around to see it so his manliness is still intact!
Aldnoah.Zero 08 Review
It’s really indicative of the emerging theme of this series that Slaine here reprimands Count Cruhteo less for the deaths of the Terran population but more for the destruction the Vers-Empire has caused on Earth in general.
The eighth episode of this series is mostly a transitional episode. It’s a way to lay down the terms for the next arc of the story or to just show a somewhat conclusive ending to the happenings from the previous arc. It’s an odd choice, I feel like, as I really didn’t think that much of the first seven episodes of this series. They were fine, sure, but they lacked the tension and drama necessary that would make me feel like this series needed to take a break.
Then again saying that this episode took a break is only half-right and maybe that’s one of the problems with this series plot. The series is only very slowly starting to show its personality and what it wants to strive for. But more than that, the series hasn’t been very successful so far to show the Vers-side and the Earth-side of the story working together as a cohesive narrative. There’s always a slight dissonance between what’s going on with Slaine in the Vers-Empire and what’s going on with Inaho and the princess in their Terran plotline. I’ve already talked about how this series lacks heart and in moments like these you really notice that the characters aren’t strong enough on their own to make these differences between the two plotlines work. And since each episode has to split its airtime between two equally important plotlines, each episode has only half the time a series usually would have to make the characters seem sympathetic and interesting.
It also doesn’t help to reuse scenes as they did with Slaine having a few flashbacks this time around. I think this was like the third time we’ve got to see the scene of Slaine being rescued by the princess in a rather… intimate manner. The thing with reusing scenes like these is that they are about poignancy. They are supposed to mean something. It’s like when Uncle Ben says to Peter Parker while dying that “with great power comes great responsibility”. But that’s the thing with such scenes: They have to be concise. For example in Spider-Man it’s enough to utter this phrase and you not only have the inherit meaning of that phrase but also the tragic death of someone close to the hero. And through association with that phrase the whole thing gains more dramatic weight while using up very little time within the plot. And that’s the ideal you’re striving for with reusing scenes. In this case this scene basically ONLY wants to tell the audience that the princess has saved Slaine’s life and that way she has not only earned his respect but also his loyalty and love. But considering how Slaine acts faced with the reality of a plot to kill the princess, I hardly think this is something the audience needs to be reminded of. The silence of that flashback worked the first time around but each time they show this again it just seems like a waste of time.
The other flashback-scene with the princess gushing about the animals on earth and various other environmental things is far more important. I really think that this is where the series has shown its cards a bit. The way the princess talks about the nature on earth, about the way animals can “thrive together” and how nature has recovered from the man-made disasters: This is essentially the ideal the series is striving for. This series idolizes nature as a model of harmony where differences are part of a balance that benefits everyone involved. That’s basically the model for what is good in this series. And when the princess is later in the episode shown to react euphorically just at the sight of a seagull (I assume, that’s what the bird was), the series is basically showing the avatar of that ideal celebrating the thing that inspired that ideal. But unlike some Ghibli-works this is less about nature as a whole but more about the sentiment of peace and harmony being a better option than war, I assume.
Overall, there wasn’t much going on with Inaho & Co this time around. The sudden reveal of the Martian princess didn’t really lead to a lot of drama as it all seemed to amount to just a simple shrug. That woman who is in command is basically like “Not my problem. Just disappear as soon as possible.” and the friend of Inaho who seemed to be as much a racist as the Martians are, was simply like “Yeah, you look nice, princess… so now I’m not a racist anymore.”
The real meat of this episode was to be found with Slaine this time around as he had landed in a rather lengthy torture-scene. On one hand I liked the opportunity for the series to show off one of its themes with a flashback but on the other hand I felt a bit disheartened by how the sequence ultimately played out. Considering how Inaho behaves, it’s easier to consider Slaine the true hero of the story and he becomes even more compelling when you consider what he has to deal with in his plotline. And yet the series apparently hates him. I mean, while the series is showering Inaho with success, it always seems to find new ways to punish Slaine for some decision he has made. He hasn’t got any reward for staying loyal to the princess while remaining close to her enemies. And the way this episode resolves the torture-sequence it slowly turns into a pleasant change of pace for Slaine’s plotline – only to immediately squash that with yet another depressing plottwist. And once again Slaine is at the mercy of the enemies he tries to fight.
Meanwhile, Inaho… Okay, seriously, his way of talking just gets creepier and creepier the more dramatic the plot becomes. He’s simply TOO blunt. This isn’t just a shtick anymore, the way he talks to the princess he just seems like a psychopath. I guess, the princess is equally extreme in the way she obliviously reacts to this but any reasonable person would make it his or her priority to get as far away from Inaho as possible considering how he talks. The way he bluntly states the facts, I’d really assume that there’s something sinister going on beneath the surface of those statements. I mean, I still like the idea of Inaho being more like an effective villain who just sort-of saves the universe while he’s furthering his own goals but the way everybody just accepts his behavior and treats it like a running-gag feels a bit unnatural. He’s only a teenager and he’s already the most capable mecha-pilot in the whole war, it seems. Also, this moment where he’s basically like “Oh, I didn’t win those battles for you, princess. Without this war I wouldn’t know what I would do instead.”. That’s not something a sane person would say!
Akame ga Kill! 08 Review
And that’s what it’s all about after all: How to be a man. Well, and I guess manliness just means kicking the asses of evil guys. It’s not like life is a little bit more complicated than that.
One of the warriors jumps into the air, blade held high, he prepares to strike and the air is vibrating with the power gathered in that blade and the loud guttural scream leaving the snarling mask of wrath that was the warrior’s face. Quickly, too quickly to be caught by the human eye, the other warrior raises his blade and parries the first warrior’s attack while shouting angrily and defiantly. The warriors lock blades and no one is giving up an inch in this contest of strength and guts. Meanwhile, someone on the sidelines of this battle stares at this manly contest of power and says admiring: “Incredible! To be fighting at this level… Any normal man would’ve been crushed a long time ago!”
And that’s basically most of this episode. Akame ga Kill knows what its target-audience is or at least it knows how mainstream-shounen-series usually handle battles. The battle between Liver and Bulat is hardly a demonstration of wit and creativity as far as writing goes. And the animation of the battle isn’t very impressive as well. The episode employs the usual shortcuts that only a young teenager would consider a way to make the fights seem cooler. For anyone else, the whole episode will seem mostly unimpressive.
It all starts with the story here. Just the most basic thing: Why are those guys fighting in this episode? As far as I remember Tatsumi and Bulat were supposed to protect someone, right? It is NEVER even mentioned in this episode and the whole thing feels very independent of the reason that has brought all these people into the same place. But this stuff that’s been so inelegantly ignored in this episode should’ve been the context. It should’ve been one layer of the story of this episode. Instead, though, it simply gets discarded because it’s easier to do that than to integrate it into these battle-sequences.
Now, the next layer of the story is how these evil guys disguised themselves as Night Raid to indiscriminately kill people. It’s mentioned in this episode but it’s quickly buried by the simple sentiment that enemies HAVE to fight each other whenever there’s a chance. Naturally there’s yet again another convenient excuse for why only the “powerful guys” are around to kick each other’s butts (and of course it’s because of an Imperial Relic as if nobody would’ve seen that coming…). And so what you’re left with is the most basic standard-scenario for shounen-fight-scenes. Both sides equipped with macguffins and nobody irrelevant to the plot around to give a wider context to this battle.
The actual fight then perfectly encapsulates what this series’ ideal of manhood looks like. There’s a lot of loud emoting while the fight is basically all about raw strength. And someone always has to gush about the power on display in the fight or one of the fighters has to remind everyone how super-cool his moves are. The episode actually attempts to have a sort-of plottwist at the end that leads to Bulat slowly dying. But the writing is far too weak here to sell this moment. Liver first says he’s gonna unleash his ultimate move but that one doesn’t succeed so he then has to swordfight Bulat. But then he has a strength-serum all of a sudden. And still he can’t win the fight, so that’s when he reveals his last ace he has up his sleeve. But even THAT doesn’t kill Bulat. So, THEN he reveals that he has shot Bulat with his blood right now and the strength-serum had also been a strong poison. I mean, where’s the fucking cohesion and pacing here?! That’s just the script-writing-equivalent of frantically throwing shit at the audience in the hopes that something will stick!
And so another character dies… again. Actually, this death-scene was slightly better than the one of Sheele – but not by much. And Sheele’s death-scene wasn’t very good to begin with. Let’s talk about build-up. Once again the series really didn’t provide the necessary dramatic build-up for this character’s death. Look, there’s shock-value in randomly killing off characters that actually seem important and may be traditionally seen as immune to death. But most series don’t do that because they aren’t brave enough to kill off a character or because they are simply too mainstream to do that. In a long-running series any character is a currency. You buy yourself plot-hooks, sympathy from the audience and dramatic character-arcs with characters. I know, there’s value in the “anyone can die at any moment”-approach but characters dying isn’t all there is to this. You need to do a lot of worldbuilding to establish a world where that feels appropriate. And frankly: Akame ga Kill hasn’t done that sort of worldbuilding. For all its obscene displays of violence and evilness, it really does all this shit only on the surface. Theme-wise and the way the Night-Raid-characters behave this series is far more similar to a mainstream-shounen-series than it should be. So, just looking at the death-ratio you may think Akame ga Kill is a darker series than Naruto or Bleach and yeah, it actually is. But that’s just how it appears to be because beneath the surface Akame ga Kill is following Naruto’s and Bleach’s footsteps very closely, it seems.