When this show premiered on Toonami, I wasn’t expecting much. The voice acting seemed bad from the previews, and the plot idea was pretty standard. When I watched it, it seemed to be as much as I expected – some mixture between comedy and drama.
Then, it took a hard 180. The family that Tatsumi stayed with died, his friends were both dead, and that family turned out to be evil. Oh no! Well, it was certainly surprising. Little did I know that the show just played the only fucking card it knew how it to play!
Now, I’ve ragged on some shows before and even underscored some because I was pretty mad at how badly they bungled shit, but this show? This show only has promise in its idea of having a guy who joins assassins to fight a government. And it’s not even that special of an idea, either!
The card the show plays at the start is shock value; It’s the idea of showing an event solely to be shocking to the audience, and not to benefit the story/characters. This is all it does in the following 23 episodes.
It tries to instill this idea that it’s all “morally gray”, but the purpose of this is defeated when all of the main characters you introduce are reasonable (to an extent) and almost every antagonist is so comically evil that it’s impossible for you to ever question who’s in the right.
Take every random antagonist and most of the Jaegers. Just look at how most of them are introduced! You have some happy-go-lucky girl and maybe a guy. If there’s a guy, he dies immediately, and cutely designed waifu-like girl suffers a prolonged death on some level, either seen or not, just so you know the bad guy is evil.
What antagonists are played off as neutral? Wave, Bohls, and Run. Stylish? Crazy and evil. Seryu? Crazy and evil. Kurome? Crazy and evil. Minister Honest? Crazy and evil. Syura? Crazy and evil. General Budo? Uhh, not crazy, but still evil. Those 4 guys that were around for two episodes? Crazy and evil. Every random antagonist in the entire show with a name not worth remembering? Crazy and evil. Esdeath? WE’LL GET THERE SOON OH BOY
It’s evident that this show attempts to be gray in its ideas but completely fails in the process. If this show really tried to send the “History is written by the winners” message, it sure fell flat on its ass considering almost every villain in this show is unrepentantly evil.
Similarly, Night Raid’s only seemingly evil deed in the entire show is killing the family at the start, and that’s about 5 minutes before you discover, oh my god, the family was evil all along!
In fact, if we’re being totally honest here, the narrative the show should’ve probably gone for was “Yeah, we’re killing people, but they’re all horrible people and totally deserve to die anyway.”
This is show is edgy. I use that in the most derogatory, insulting manner possible. It’s that “I’m 13 and I’m gonna swear! I like Saw and I stole my dad’s playboy!” level of edge. Next thing you know, Akame Ga Kill is gonna make its own Sonic OC called “Bloodkatana the Hedgehog”. We’re Coldsteel levels! SOUND THE ALARM
WAKE ME UP WAKE ME UP INSIIIIIDE
So yeah, this show is pretty black-and-white with what it presents, and with all the antagonists being so uninspired and evil it just makes the main characters almost objectively correct in every scenario they’re in. But… hey, the characters can still be compelling, right?
Oh, wait, no. They’re all templates. Every single one of them is a template. Have you ever seen a harem anime before? If no, can we swap brains? If yes, take every character archetype you’ve seen, give them unrelated designs, and edge™ their backstories up so they’re all filled with pure angst.
These characters are unremarkable because even when they die the show only occasionally references them afterwards. While you’d think main character deaths might have a significant impact on the story, they really don’t, because this show has no actual plot and the characters aren’t actually characters.
You don’t feel a sense of loss because the characters don’t. I wouldn’t blame you if you forgot that Tatsumi even came from a village or even had friends because he stops caring about them immediately and nary mentions them more than once or twice.
How does a show manage to go on for 24 episodes with virtually no character development? Well, Attack on Titan did it, but it did it by having all of its dialogue be exposition. How does Akame Ga Kill do it?
By wasting all of its time on terribly done fights and spending a depressing amount of time on lazy exposition or tone-shifts. We’ll focus on the tone shifts first, because they’re the biggest crime here.
The show can’t do things correctly in part because the tone is barely even understandable. I don’t know what the neutral is – because the show rockets between -10 and 10+ on a constant basis, if -10 is terrible harem comedy and 10+ is over-the-top unironic edge™.
It does this in the first episode when they start cracking jokes almost immediately after Tatsumi’s friends are dead. Leone jokes about being with Tatsumi the episode after Mine dies, and not in a somber “cheer you up” way, in a played-straight “this is supposed to be genuinely comedic” way.
If the show can’t take these shock-value deaths seriously, why should I? They don’t matter to the characters on anything past a superficial level. I’d like to say that this levels out as the show goes on, but the show becomes increasingly action-oriented, to a point where it’s just as much of a problem because it acts like I’m supposed to care about fights with uninteresting characters, too.
It might work like that if this show was Hellsing or DBZ or something where it has self-awareness, but it doesn’t, so when they get to the fights it’s just as shit as anything else. They aren’t engaging. Not only because the characters involved sucked, but because the fights themselves are reptitive.
Creative? I guess. Imperial Arms, what they use to fight with, are often inconsistent or nonsensical and make me ask a lot of questions about the show’s worldbuilding. You’d think the backstory to these things might matter, but they don’t, because I sure as hell can’t even remember what the backstory was because it was delivered in a droll exposition-drive way where they show us a nice power-point presentation on shit. Good way to make your audience care, Akame ga Kill!
The whole worldbuilding aspect of this show sucks, too. Danger Beasts? What are those? Who cares? There was an entire subplot where Syura unleashed a bunch of Sylish’s. They made a huge deal out of this and it stopped being an issue in half an episode because what this show really needed was a beach episode.
I can’t really tell you much of anything about the setting because it’s just a bunch of inconsistent nonsense stapled together. Setting? Medieval europe-style. Yet, the entire cast looks inconsistent in styles:
It’s a mess.There’s tech like Chelsea’s headphones, Seryu has radar and rockets, whatever. It’d be like if Frodo pulled out an Ipad and said “Mordor’s 5 miles that way, Sam. Gandalf tweeted that they’re in trouble so we better be quick.”
Then they bring experience/EXP into things. This is related to Danger Beasts and there’s LEVELLING UP or something, the idea is never expanded upon and it doesn’t make any sense. Let’s take this opportunity to roundly criticize the resort episode.
Susanoo, who may be the show’s only decent character, builds a resort on a place called Danger Beast Island. In an action-heavy show, you literally have a guy build a safe and comfortable resort for the main characters to relax in when the entire idea was to get strong as fast as possible.
Really? No prolonged action, no intense fight scenes? No insight on the world? We’re just gonna build a resort so we can play out the same-old terrible “Girl in the hotsprings” joke that anime has done since the 90s?
The lack of worldbuilding on Danger Beast just about reaches its apex when one randomly spawns during Kurome and Akame’s fight, which had many episodes of…”buildup”, I guess. Not only did it toss in more backstory, but it interrupted what was supposed to be an important fight with Danger Beast nonsense nobody cared about.
This show is honestly like a terrible version of Game of Thrones. There are a lot of comparisons to draw, but I won’t – it’s just a small insight into how good this show could have been and how bad Game of Thrones could have been in George RR Martin was an edgy thirteen year old.
As we get closer to the end of this review, let’s touch on Esdeath.
I say, without a hint of hyperbole or restraint, that Esdeath is the worst serial television series villain I’ve ever seen. I’ve covered some incompetently written villains in anime before (Death Gun, Female Titan, Akihiko Kayaba, etc.) but what in the bloody hell is this shit?
I can concede that some awful villains I’ve covered have good moments or are too bland to be truly awful, but Esdeath by design is about five different characters haphazardly stapled together. None of it makes sense. Her character contradicts itself constantly.
Sometimes she’s kind to her men. Sometimes she’s cruel. Is there a clever statement made by the writer here somewhere? NOPE. Not one sign of consistency linking her varied cruel/sadistic shades together. It’s just excused with the eternal “Fuck you” from writers who don’t care, “She’s just craaaazy!”
That’s an insult to well-written psychopathic characters in fiction. It doesn’t fly. It’s making the argument that just because a character is crazy, that justifies an inconsistent personality even by that character’s standards.
As a writer, you’re in the character’s head. You know who they are, because you designed them. Designing them to contradict themselves on a consistent basis with no rhyme, reason, or self-awareness leads me to believe that there was a mistake along the way. When you get to Esdeath’s level, it goes straight into being lazy and incompetent.
I mean, goddamnm, she’s even designed to be fanservicey with constant shots of her comically oversized boobs and her cleavage. Why would you try and make your self-admitted morally abhorrent villain a fanservice machine?!
They show off a 10 minute backstory to prove the point everybody already know, “I’m evil becuz lol” but they still have the balls to play it off as cringingly fanservicey as possible. But, I mean, she loved Tatsumi all along because… reasons. I’m not sure if the show was trying to drive point the home that she was crazy or if I’m supposed to feel sorry for her character. I don’t know.
So, this is a show lacking in character development, it makes too many huge mistakes for me to even reasonable cover without making a book of this, it sucks at worldbuilding, the fights are often repetitive, there’s no plot structure, elements are randomly introduced and dropped without a care in the world, etc.
Oh, right – the plot structure. Haven’t covered that yet, have I?! The plot structure and worldbuilding suck so much that the biggest religion in the world is introduced 15 episodes in, dropped immediately after a ten minute explanation, turns up again two episodes later, then ceases to ever be mentioned or noted again, in spite of supposedly being super important. That’s just this show in a nutshell.
But what does it get right?!
Well, Susanoo is a decent character. He’s consistent, his dialogue when he fights Esdeath has some slight bit of meaning, he encourages Tatsumi… and… yeah. He’d be a fine side character.
Bohl’s death. He’s the only sympathetic villain in the whole, given that Wave and Run are just sorta there. Bohls dies a tone-appropriate death that emphasizes the qualities of his character. He dies to an assassin in a tricky way that’s a gut punch to him, and he has to suffer at the fact that he lost his family.
There’s something there, but it’s the one truly good element in a show that’s devoid of nearly anything good.
Danger Beast Air Manta. That is all.
The soundtrack can be okay. I guess. It’s never used appropriately.
The animation isn’t hot garbage.
Having done a series on cynicscape where we react to Toonami every week, I’ve covered this series in great length; There are so many problems, so many moments, so many ideas that the show gets wrong that I could never adequately cover them all. I have to generalize, or this’ll be 10000+ words.
I’ve rescored series before. E.g: SAO as a series gets a 4, Attack on Titan gets a 3, etc, but I don’t see this show improving in my mind. Where those shows were either simply boring or had some good ideas here and there, this show instead just gets shit wrong. It gets nearly everything it tries to do wrong in such a way that a rewrite would need to consist of
- A match.
- Lighter fluid.
- Try again.
So when I say this, I mean it. I know I’m subject to hyperbole, but I’m confident in saying this is a 2/10. I’ve hated certain shows worse. This in particular would be something to use as a demonstration on how not to write a story, because it gets so many things wrong.
I want to pass in my sleep. I also hope Dimension W doesn’t suck this bad. Come on Toonami, step it up.