Akame ga Kill!: A Darkly Thrilling Rebellion Against Mainstream Shounen Fantasy Manga

|This post is written by Gilimandra|

¦Empire General Esdese as the cover for the fourth volume.¦

Title: Akame ga Kill!

Author: Takahiro

Artist: Tashiro Tetsuya

Category: Manga

Year Published: 2010.

Serialized in: Gangan Joker (Square Enix)

Licensed in English: No

Genre: Action Adventure Drama Fantasy Romance Shounen

Scanlation Latest Release: Chapter 28.

Status in Country of Origin: 5 volumes (on-going).

Age Rating: 17+.

Rating: 9.1 / 10.

“Have you no mercy?!”

“Mercy…? No idea what that means.”

Akame ga Kill! follows the story of a country-boy named Tatsumi who wants to become famous throughout the Empire, earns a lot of money in the capital, and saves his poor village. However, when Tatsumi voices out his dreams to the two city guards he just saved from a dangerous monster, the eyes of the saved ones immediately shift to that of worry. Perhaps having seen tons of such greenhorns with heads in the clouds died a dog’s death, they give the pure and ambitious youngster a short advice, “The Imperial Capital is not the dreamy place you think it is.”

¦Changing into a despaired face in 3… 2… 1…¦

The statement immediately takes effect. In one way or another, the army rejects Tatsumi’s application. Later on, he’s forced to treat a beautiful, easy-going woman to a meal and then gets scammed by her to the point of being penniless. Having nowhere to go and absolutely broke, Tatsumi is lucky to have a good Samaritan named Aria crosses his path and offers a place to stay. Moreover, the girl’s father has connection within the army and upon hearing Tatsumi’s predicament, decides to contact the army later to have him enlisted. To show his gratitude, Tatsumi becomes one of the noble girl’s guards.

While accompanying his master on a shopping spree, another guard that’s also keeping an eye on Aria tells Tatsumi that there’s a group of assassin called Night Raid, which is the only group that is dare enough to combat the moral depravity the high officials of the Empire have been displaying for years, thanks to the evil Prime Minister’s full control on the young Emperor’s every decision.

Night comes, and Night Raid has decided on their target, that is, the family who’s kind enough to host Tatsumi. In a matter of minutes, all of the family members and the guards are obliterated, mostly thanks to their ace, Akame. Her sword Murasame’s ability is to kill anyone with just one cut, which makes her the deadliest among other members.

The only one left is the girl that took Tatsumi in. Amidst trying his best to protect Aria from overwhelming opponents, the difference in skills between him and Akame is too great. When Tatsumi is about to be killed, luckily he meets once again with Leone, the big breasted, uncouth woman who scammed him before. Thanks to her high opinion of him, Tatsumi can keep his head intact.

Leone also shows Tatsumi the horrifying secret of the host family. They’re, in fact, brutal family whose hobby is to lure in innocent traveler and then torture them to death. Among the victims are two of Tatsumi’s close friends, Sayo and Ieasu, who got separated from him on the way to the capital due to an attack from bandits. Learning the dark side of the capital, Tatsumi who’s filled with anger cuts down Aria without hesitation. Then, he joins the Night Raid to help with their cause, to kill the Prime Minister and brings down the corrupt government that has made the country suffered from pervasive corruption, injustice, moral depravity and long standing poverty.

¦Rather soft on the eyes.¦

Akame ga Kill! is like an examination of conscience. It’s a slender, overwrought meditations on the nature of good and evil. The telling of their stories involves a moral labyrinth, in which good and evil wear each other’s masks. Crooked officials challenging the survival of straight ones; bad guys whose sense of honor parallels the good-guy kind: The themes that we recycle over and over again can feel brand new when we see them through someone else’s lens.

And to do just that, rather than taking the pristine high road most shounen fantasy adventure mangas take, Takahiro resolutely takes the down-and-dirty low road. He steeps its muddled plot in so much murk that the Empire General Esdese’s maniacal grin comes to seem like a recurrent grace note.

Acting as a strong catalyst for the plot is the gap between the few haves and the majority of haves not. The riches are free to treat the poor however they want. Case in point, there’s a scene in which an aristocrat’s kid plays a game where they’re trampling kids from the slumps with their horses. It is truly the survival of the fittest that exposes the malign essence of human nature.

Brutal scene is the norm of this manga. The bloodletting is in full flow, the violence is sharp and bright without being assaultive, but Takahiro also makes sure we’re aware of its impact. We may get a jolt when an innocent civilian gets his eyes yanked out, or feel a twinge of nausea when a woman’s pretty face is peeled off like what you do with ripe apple. But the violence here is doled out in details, not ladled with a spatula. It works in concert with everything around it.

The violent scenes in the manga are mostly because of Teigu users displaying their powers. Teigu itself is the term for 48 eight deadly weapons fleshed out from the most dangerous / legendary class creatures, ultra rare metal orihalcon and brilliant minds all over the world. The various functions of different kinds of weapons make the fighting scenes quite dynamic.

¦Teigus owned by the Night Raid.¦

At first, Tatsumi seems inseparable from other stereotypical shounen protagonist, but as the plot reveals itself, it’s evident that he’s different. He accepts the fact that to kill is the norm in the business, and he’s resolute to cut down whoever the target is. Yet, Tatsumi still realistically trying to realize his ideals and retain determination to save as many people as possible. His character is pretty solid and quite likeable.

¦Tatsumi’s unwavering resolve.¦

¦This innocent, yet lethal grin is the trigger for a very complex relationship in the near future.¦

The title Akame ga Kill! clearly puts Akame as the female protagonist. On the other hand, the Murasame wielder fails to meet the necessary quality for the role. Simply put, she’s just too plain. If she didn’t become a part of the title itself, I would forget that she’s the main heroine.

In the midst of overwhelming mayhem, it’s the warped, emotionally unstable psychopaths that shine brilliantly, leaving bland goody-two-shoes like Akame in the dust. To top it off, they don’t seem like ‘villains’ who at the end of the day turn out to be good guys. They’re simply lovable unhinged characters that are severely twisted by their own sense of justice and ideals. Jaegers, an Empire’s elite police force specially formed to hunt down Night Raid, and is under direct order from Esdese, hosts quite a few of such personalities.

¦Something’s terribly wrong, indeed.¦

The cool twist in Akame ga Kill! is that the females are much deadlier than the males, and have greater gravity to pull the readers in. At the peak of such refined, creepily entertaining and absolutely gripping character is the Empire General Esdese. Owning an ice-based Teigu, the beautiful blue long haired woman is dubbed as the strongest existence throughout the Empire.

¦Killing the battle fanatic would be the most difficult task for Night Raid.¦

It is the General’s eerie fervor for torture that plumbs the depths of Esdese’s derangement. Firmly holding the belief of survival of the fittest, the sadistic woman is notorious for executing the rebellious northern tribes by burying four hundred thousand people alive, and diligently experimenting on new kinds of torture techniques. In the early chapters, Esdese plays it straight and self-contained, her loyalty is not to the emperor, but to anyone who can satisfy her thirst for endless carnage. She’s shockingly effective, and very scary.

¦Esdese, ready to send a chill down your spine.¦

Having seen such splendid subjugation on the tribes, the pleased Emperor intends to reward his beautiful general with anything she wants. However, it’s her very wish that brings about unintended consequences in the future. Esdese wants to experience falling in love with someone. As a result, her melancholy turn from her character in the earlier parts successfully pushes her irresistible charm to the fullest. Everything becomes complex. And oh, what a tangled web that becomes.

¦Fates intertwined.¦

The author is very adept at “sustaining the long line”—to stay measured, to resist the impulse to break a passage up into too many climaxes. Akame ga Kill! has enough tension to keep you engrossed, and enough color required for an epic action adventure shounen manga.

The tension he builds heavily depends on human nature. Takahiro patiently goes through a thorough exposure of all prominent characters in the story, be it Night Raid and its adversary Jaegers. Entertainment, in a sense, is a function of one’s appetite for shock (the elaborate tension the plot delivers is arrhythmic, like extended cardiac seizures). And now that he’s got a sizable time bomb ready to blow, namely the ultimate clash between Night Raid and Jaegers, there’s a high strung suspense as to who’ll be alive at the end, as the author has blatantly demonstrated to readers in early chapters that he’s not afraid to sacrifice one or two central characters, all for the sake of quality story development.

All and all, Akame ga Kill! is bold and darkly thrilling. There’s no doubt about its deadly seriousness, or its airless complexity. For all its snap, crackle, and pop, this manga works smashingly.


About Gilimandra

The self-claimed irresistible, energetic life form has been enchanted by the wonder of Japanese culture (read: anime & manga) since he was able to stand on his own feet. Now he is looking forward to infect you with his love for Japan. Resistance is futile!

4 thoughts on “Akame ga Kill!: A Darkly Thrilling Rebellion Against Mainstream Shounen Fantasy Manga

  1. one of my favourite on-going manga, and you splendidly write a good review on it.
    many boring manga usually in 1 chapter have only 13 – 18 pages (if im not mistaken), but in akame ga kill!, 1 chapter have 25 – 35 pages. it makes me feel “contempt” inside, it is not the kind of manga you will think “god! why do you stop at the edge of action!”.

    surprisingly thorough in telling the story, you can feel the writer have dedicated his time thinking about this concept. “Rebellion against the mainstream shonen”? i agree! in my experience, i only find a cruel shonen manga in elfen lied. altough they have the same cruelty in the manga, i personally prefer reading Akame Ga Kill!

    you can see the mainstream shonen story at the very first chapter. tatsumi was like “imma go to capital city and make tons of bucks!” or “i will save my village by the money i made!”, in short a boy who dream big with a sense of justice and responsibility. well i kinda hate that kind of naivety character, but somehow tatsumi gone a little cooler as the story progress. how he realized something and change his naivety, i love it.

    but more importantly, i absolutely love general Esdese. his cold, thrilling, sadistic trait captivate me. but if its just cruelty, i will somehow think “this girl has to die”. as the story progress, you can see the cute side of Esdese, without neglecting the sadistic trait. somehow, it have charms me even more.

    • I wholeheartedly agree about all the points you mentioned to me. Look forward as I’ve prepared tons of other quality works to be reviewed. Oh by the way I’ll also review shitty works so that you can avoid wasting time to read them, haha.

    • 1.You can say that some shounen mangas are actually more appropriate to be read after you’re seventeen onwards, not because of its echiness, but it’s because the plot presented is rather heavy and plays a lot in the grey area. The same can be said to “Death Note”, which story presents a moral ambiguity for the readers.

      2. Yes you can, please do ask away. If it’s the manga I’ve already read then the review will be a snap, but I can’t guarantee the rating I’ll give to the manga you recommend later will be to your liking, he4. :D

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