ANIME & MANGA - Review
10:48 - 8th July 2016, by NEO Staff

Akame Ga Kill! Collection 1

After making his way across the boundless Empire to the sprawling metropolis of its Capital city, it seems like the trials of brash young swordsman Tatsumi are over, for a while at least. But when his plans of joining the Imperial Army to send money home to his starving village are swiftly quashed, he finds out that the Capital, and indeed, the entire Imperial government, are not what they seem, and that there’s a dark heart lurking within the bustling and vibrant city…

Before long, Tatsumi falls in with a group of assassins known as Night Raid, who will take on any job, not matter how bloody – and they get pretty bloody – as long as their targets are people of power and influence within the corrupt imperial hierarchy. Though they’re famous – or perhaps infamous – throughout the Capital as deadly fugitives with wanted posters on every street corner, the members of Night Raid are actually highly-trained members of the Revolutionary Army, seeking through their murderous after-dark activities to bring down the Empire by taking out as many of its high-ranking officials as they can. Making their job a little easier are the prized Imperial Arms. From sniper rifles to oversized pairs of scissors to homicidal dog monsters, the Imperial Arms are a rare set of semi-sentient weapons with a devastating array of special abilities. Unfortunately, the Night Raid gang aren’t the only ones who have access to these specialised armaments, and when two Imperial Arms users end up facing off against one another, sparks – and various body parts – are sure to fly.

The members of Night Raid – and the other Imperial Arms users – are just as varied as their weaponry, too. But try not to get too attached to any one character, as their lifespan in the deadly clash between factions is usually as limited as you might expect. If you’re used to shonen series where characters tend to survive even the seemingly-deadliest wounds with surprising regularity, you might be in for a grim surprise after just the first few episodes of Akame ga Kill! It’s an oft-repeated maxim throughout the series that the eclectic bunch of assassins are playing for keeps, and while their skills are as deadly as you’d expect, their adversaries are just as fearsome, and even primary characters aren’t safe from a sudden and brutal death on the battlefield.

Everyone who’s had an absolute favourite character snuff it partway through a series can relate to how frustrating it can be at times, but in this case none of the characters feel like they’ve been taken out for mere shock value, and the knowledge that any character could die at any time certainly adds to the tension and excitement of the series, once you’ve gotten used to the dark tone nestled within the otherwise rambunctious show.

And even though some of them have a limited amount of screen time, the primary characters are generally written exceptionally well. The members of Night Raid definitely fall into some familiar tropes that seasoned viewers will be sure to recognise – there’s the ditzy (but deadly) one, the brattish (but deadly) one, and the over-enthusiastic (but deadly) one... but as the characters are given more time throughout the series, they each have a great deal of development which often plays with the audience’s expectations. The titular Akame, for example, appears initially to be the stereotypical cool-hearted assassin with no emotional attachments, but actually reveals herself fairly early in the series to be a professional but warm character who cares deeply about the well-being of the rag-tag family of hired swords she’s found herself a part of. This kind of self-aware crafting of the protagonists is a major plus for the series, and adds even more to the aforementioned tension of the frequent to-the-death battle scenes.

This collection of Akame ga Kill contains the first dozen episodes of the series, but it leaps straight into the action, with more excitement crammed into the first half of the series than a lot of shows would manage throughout their entire run. Though that might seem like it wouldn’t leave much time for the story to develop, the pacing is actually handled with great care, with a perfect level of balance between characterisation and action. The former is also augmented a lot by the brilliant performances from both the Japanese and English voice casts. The dubbed audio track is particularly good in this case – while there’s a few stilted deliveries that are clearly hampered by the actor’s attempts to match the mouth flaps of the original animation, the characters often have their own verbal foibles and a lot of believability in their performances, even when they’re being downright wacky (which is, to be honest, often the case with this eclectic band of assassins).

The series’ art is recreated in a classic shonen style, with a great deal of attention paid to making the varied locations and settings look colourful and engaging. However, during some of the battle scenes, the animation quality does tend to fall a little short, relying on blurred and limited motion to illustrate the fights. Especially when compared to the dynamic and explosive art of the original manga, this can leave some of the otherwise tumultuous battles feeling a little flat as you watch them, especially after the first viewing – though the chances are you’ll be too close to the edge of your seat to mind too much.

If you’re on the lookout for a fresh new action-adventure with fun characters and a gripping story, Akame ga Kill! should go straight to the top of your hit list.

Akame ga Kill! is certain to be an up-and-coming star of the genre. If you’ve exhausted all the old favourites, be doubly sure to check out this newcomer that skilfully blends classic shonen stylings with inventive new twists – and some blood-dripping fights that’ll have your heart in your mouth.
SCORE: 4.5/5
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