Akame ga Kill!, Ep 1–3: Cartoony villains

Akame ga Kill - 01 - Large 18

Midway through the second episode, our protagonist Tatsumi is deciding whether he should join the super elite class of assassins known as Night Raid. They explain to him that they only target government officials and the upper class who they deem too corrupt or villainous, as part of the Revolutionary Army’s goals to overthrow the failing government and replace it with something better. Sort of like a more hard core version of Robin Hood. With a glow in his eyes, Tatsumi exclaims “In other words, you’re a heroic assassins, fighting for justice!”, but this naivety only prompts laughter from the others. To which Leone explains to him “Tatsumi, no matter how you spin in, we commit murder.”

Akame ga Kill at least acknowledges the moral ambiguity inherit with this sort of setting, but the aforementioned scene is merely playing lip service to this; just about every other scene of the show contradicts this notion that they’re anything but heroes cutting away at some bad guys. The members of Nite Raid is a pretty standard cast of anti-hereos, who are “villains” yet still act like typical anime heroes for the most part. (It reminds me of Disgaea and World Conquest Zvezda Plot, which says a lot considering that those are comedies.) Then just about every assassination target we’ve come across so far aren’t merely corrupt officials, but sadistic monsters who revel in doing harm to others; ensuring that Nite Raid is justified in murdering them.

In the first episode, a wealthy girl gives Tatsumi a place to stay at her mansion. She and her family happen to be a target of Nite Raid and get attacked by them, which at first makes Nite Raid to be rather villainous right off the bat. But as it turns out, the girl’s family happens to takes country bumpkins like Tatsumi in and tortures them for fun. They also just so happened to capture Tatsumi’s childhood friends and tortured them to death too, and in case Tatsumi didn’t need any more justification to murder the girl, she starts trying to defend herself by going on a rant about how one of his friends deserved to die for having better hair then her.

Akame ga Kill - 02 - Large 11

In the second episode, Gamal the oil merchant commits crimes and bribes the army official Ogre to place the blame on others. In episode three a distant relative of the Prime Minister is some guy who uses his wealth to torture women similarly to the family in episode 1. The Prime Minister in question also happens to be a fat old who eats a lot of meat, and he manipulates the boy emperor to do his bidding. And in the same scene he sentences a high-ranking official to his death for speaking against the emperor’s policy’s, and just to to rub it in his, tells the prosecuted official that he’s going to rape his wife. And just to caricaturize and dehumanize these villains even further, most of them are at one point depicted with a still image which really exaggerates just how evil they look: [1] [2] [3]

Despite these pretensions of it being a morally ambiguous show, Akame ga Kill goes out of its way to make our anti-heroes justified in killing others, to ensure that we like the characters and cheer them despite them being assassins. But really, this just makes the whole show laughable.

I don’t necessarily have an issue with cartoony villains. Some of my favorite shounens such as Fist of the North Star and Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure have their fair share of ugly thugs which are just walking excuses for the manly-man protagonists to show us some ultra violence. The problem arises when a story utilizes these cartoony villains with a pretense of being anything more than dumb fun. Akame ga Kill tries to give us commentary about the evils of a corrupt society and the human condition, but actual perpetrators of corruption hardly act like this in real life. Sure, corruption could often be summed up as officials exploiting the government for power, sex, money, and other things. But corruption is a more complicated issue than just some sadistic, rich fat people laughing at all the lesser poor people, and Akame ga Kill certainly doesn’t address this with any depth of tact.

Akame ga Kill - 03 - Large 06

It also doesn’t take long for Tatsumi to get used to murdering others. At the end of the first episode he doesn’t hesitate to kill the girl who tortures his friends, which is only understandable I suppose. But then in the second episode he’s eager to prove that he can deliberately kill someone without hatred motivating him, and by the third episode he’s able to go to sleep more worried if his gay friend has feelings for him than the fact that he killed someone earlier that day.

Once you get past the initial shock value of seeing a lady get cut in half, there’s nothing too impressive about the action either. I like cartoony action as much as the next anime fan, but when you have characters that are able to jump 20 feet into the air without any explicit super powers, that’s when I start to roll my eyes and find it hard to get into.

In short, it’s fine for Akame ga Kill to have this sort of plot for the sake of fun, but it takes itself too seriously for that, and the way it caricaturizes corruption for the sake of justifying murder is awfully grating.

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4 Responses to Akame ga Kill!, Ep 1–3: Cartoony villains

  1. Overlord-G says:

    This show sounds like one that its diehard followers will say the following if it ends up sucking “OH! OH! The manga was so much better. Go check that out instead! Please believe us!” Problem with that is if I was not impressed by the anime, I would have no interest in checking out the manga no matter how much better the story is told there.
    Oh well. I have a feeling things will heat up once the big bad, or first one, shiws up. Not watching this show, just a hunch.

    • It’s one of the more highly ranked shows of the season on MAL, at #230 with a weighted score of 8.26 as of this writing, so I don’t think we’ll see many people defend it by calling this a bad adaption. It’s one of those shows where critical reception is starkly different than that of the anime community at large.

      • Overlord-G says:

        Oh I knew this show would become a mainstream sweetheart before it even aired. Just like Tokyo Ghoul. It’s one of those shows otakus will drool over for reasons I bother not understanding. I’m an SoL and yuri expert. My action shounen savvy days are long behind me, though I still watch some every now and then.

      • But OG, between the people who love seeing ultraviolence in their cartoons and those like you who like watching sexualized little girls, who’s the real otaku here?

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