Monday, July 27, 2015

[Anime] Akame ga Kill! Review

Akame ga Kill! - 5.5/10

Akame ga Kill! is a solid action anime. It's fun, it's flashy. It has action and romance, villains and heroes. It ends with an appropriately well-choreographed fight. If you want nothing more, you get nothing more, and can simply enjoy the ride.

The Good: The theme of all the pros is the same: it wasn't groundbreaking, but it did what it did better than most action series.

First off: people died. While a few characters had the plot armor feel, most did not. I recall my exact thought process early in the series. Sheele dies, and I was like "Okay, here's our token hero death that we feel sad about and avenge the whole series." Then Bulat dies. Then Chelsea dies. Etc. It was refreshing to have some actual tension about whether characters would live or die. This was enhanced by the series because a tight situation did not mean automatic death. Mine surviving Seryuu's self-destruct, Bols his Imperial Arms exploding, and Leone surviving....nearly everything are good examples of this. It was even better in Bols' case because he dies shortly afterward to Chelsea, which foils the "okay he lived, it's all okay now" feeling.

This aspect also connected well with the theme that when people fight, they die on both sides. I know that statement is so obvious as to be banal, but again it's something of a cardinal sin of most series to have the entire good guy team standing at the end (except maybe one token death) having all barely overcome their opponents. Casualties are not only common, but are pretty even on both sides, which was a touch that I could appreciate. When a team like the Jaegers is assembled it does its job, if at a cost.

Finally, there were a few abilities and fights I thought had particular merit. I'd like to give special mention of Lubbock's Imperial Arms. It was rather unusual as weapons/devices go, and they really pushed its implications. From movement, to surveillance, to heart pureeing it did it all. In fact, overall I felt the Imperial Arms were put to good use but his in particular impressed me.

Esdeath was also well-done. Her usage of ice was top notch and they did a great job demonstrating her mastery, rather than just stating it. That is, often the big bad has one trick and otherwise is just "powerful." To show how unbeatable they are, they take the super attack of some hero or another without flinching, and then via plot necessity fall to attacks that they shrugged off before. Esdeath just dominates everybody, and does it in a convincing way. And when she is cut by Murasame she doesn't evil-villain-power it off.

The Bad: In their rush to kill characters many felt under-detailed. You meet them, they get a name, then they die. Between the frequency and lack of attachment to them, many of the deaths were emotionally irrelevant. The worst that comes to mind is the general guy (I don't even remember his name). They introduce him, talk him up as being second only to Esdeath, then have him die next episode. The demons in the religious movement town also suffered from the same underwhelming experience. I also really disliked Run for this reason. He receives no build up, no explanation, then a quick forced monologue during a fight to explain why he's actually not that bad of a guy. It was poor characterization for a character who spent the whole series being hinted at having more depth. I notice that most of my examples come from the end of the series, and I suspect a combination of manga deviation and forcing the show to fit 24 episodes contributed to these drawbacks.

Their attempts at moral ambiguity were pretty weak. A few of them were okay, like Wave who was obviously just on the wrong team. Bols was actually somewhat believable as well; not from a justification standpoint, but from how disconcertingly human opponents can be. But their attempts to make me feel much for Kurome were pretty weak; they first introduce her sitting on a pile of human corpses eating cookies, and the whole tenor of her Imperial Arms resurrecting dead friends didn't improve it from there. Similarly they had token, "we do evil things as assassins" phrases pop up in Night Raid...and then promptly went on to show how they were morally superior anyway. The series seemed more sure of itself when it stuck to, "Evil guys are really evil and good guys are really good" and had them fight it out.

At last, a tiny complaint of mine: when it's all over, building a nation is a thousand times harder than destroying one. It just seemed incongruous to the whole series that everybody was getting along and life was happy sunshine in the end.  Except Akame, who gets the Homura treatment. "Hey, life's better for everybody but you. You get to wander out into a desert and our last scene will be of you launching a post-credits attack."

So overall, I thought it was better than the average action series but nothing I plan on dwelling on or rewatching.

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