Akame ga Kill! is the end result of shonen refinement; shed of the superfluous padding, petty one-upmanship and gratuitously long episode arcs. It seemed destined to join the growing crop of manga adaptions doing away with extensive storytelling, and rejecting the formula of the demographic’s top dogs. This works both for and against it, as while we get to the meat of the matter that much quicker, allowing the action sequences to shine in all their gory glory, there’s also a dearth of real character development, the sense of vastness and the ties of friendship that make these sorts of shows so enduring.
Aside from its excellent action sequences, directed like a mad ballet, Akame ga Kill! isn’t shy about getting an audience to fall for a character only to kill them off with barely a warning. Audiences are much wiser to this phenomena post-Game of Thrones and the cutthroat TV landscape it helped spawn, but with this sort of ensemble shonen series, there’s still plenty of sting and surprise in bumping off main characters.
The first collection introduced us to a variety of likeable characters; an interesting, if familiar, political situation and some stellar fight scenes, but it all fell short of its potential. The second instalment continues much in the same vein with a series of bloody brawls between the opposing assassin gang Night Raid and the Government founded Jaegers.
The first collection introduced us to a fan-insert kind of lead and the orbiting cast fleshed out only in exposition dumps. This time it uses the flashback formula to curry a connection and emotional attachment with the viewer just before said character is killed off. It’s poor storytelling, for sure, and every subsequent death scene takes the sting out of the one before and ensuring the following is increasingly ineffective. It gets hard to care as the death toll races towards double digits and there was only one in a handful of deaths that came as genuine surprise.
Though the deaths do little to move the viewer, and the political situation becomes increasingly less interesting, the animation and fluid fight scenes are enough to see the collection through. Given some of the fights have been teased since the first collection, it’s frustrating that some last only minutes. Imagine if Goku had knocked off Freeza in a few hundred seconds. You’d feel well and truly ripped off.
Extras: English dub; AkaKill! Theatre; Japanese promo; clean opening/closing animation; also available from Sentai Filmworks