Manga Review – Akame ga KILL!

Akame ga KILL! Volume 1

Akame ga KILL!
アカメが斬る! (Akame ga Kiru!)
Takahiro (story), TASHIRO Tetsuya (art)
Shounen – Action, fantasy, war, tragedy
3 Volumes (12 volumes original Japanese release) (ongoing)
Yen Press

Summary:

Tatsumi heads to the capital to raise money for his village. However, he finds out he would have to start off as a private in the army. He knows he has talent, and a woman volunteers to help Tatsumi bribe his way into being a captain. However, Tatsumi is about to find out the capital is not quite as friendly as he thought.

Note: this review has been updated and can be found here.

Review:

I’m usually not a fan of assassin/yakuza-type manga. However, I’m enjoying Akame ga KILL! so far, so that should tell you something.

Many manga (especially shounen) feel like a JRPG in written form; Akame ga KILL! is no exception. Many games feature a varied group of ragtags who are determined to do what an entire army can’t. And they generally succeed with little to no desertions or casualties. (Because, let’s face it, it would be very annoying gameplay-wise to keep having party members leave or die.)

However, unlike many “group versus the empire” stories, Akame ga KILL! makes it clear by the second volume that not everyone will be around for the final battle. It’s a blood-filled series with death occurring onscreen (onpage?) instead of just being implied. Tatsumi, the protagonist, also does not spend chapters proclaiming to be a pacifist. He joins the assassin group Night Raid with high ideals, but the veteran members assure him what they due is murder. The enemies they face are not just random NPCs but humans with their own lives and loved ones. Tatsumi himself could go down one of two paths, and so I’ll be sticking around to see if he becomes more jaded or more sympathetic as the series goes on.

Make no mistake, though, this is not a series about the characters; this is a manga focusing on the battles. Most of the villains are people with screws loose, and so far none have really questioned the empire’s decisions. The few who would have been allies to Night Raid have been killed off. In fact, the officials of the empire in Akame ga KILL! are so twisted, it’s surprising more revolts aren’t occurring, especially when it’s revealed the country is surrounded by other tribes. Surely one of those areas is more attractive to the empire’s citizens. One soldier who could have brought some grayness to the black-and-white world in Akame ga KILL! is twisted by her own sense of what justice is. I’m hoping as the series progresses, this clear line of good versus evil will be blurred. And with death so prominent, it is hard to develop strong attachment (good or bad) to the cast because it’s very likely they’ll be offed by someone shortly. The series really needs someone to take the part of a recurring boss battle like in a JRPG; there is one potential person to fill this role, but who knows if they’ll be killed by volume four or five.

As I mentioned previously, I tend to shy away from manga where people kill or inflict great bodily injury on others for money. I don’t avoid them completely, but they’re hardly my favorite. But one of the aspects that helps this manga is Akame herself. In a manga starring a female assassin, so many authors would have her be a cold tsundere or kuudere. You know the type: “I’m against him being here”, “I’ll never accept you”, “Well, I guess I have to praise you for a job well done”, “PERVERT!”, etc. Fortunately, this type of character is reserved for Mine, another member of Night Raid. Akame is quiet but she is not silent. She cares about her comrades and even takes steps to look after Tatsumi from the moment he joins the group. She’s immensely serious when doing her job, but she has a silly side with her obsession with food. It’s so refreshing to have a lead like Akame, and this significantly raises my enjoyment of this manga. However, I don’t see yet why she is the titular character. Perhaps this will change in the future, but right now, Tatsumi is both the main character and protagonist.

Tatsumi could have also fallen into the trap of being a “I don’t want to kill them” protagonist. While he struggles with the morality of his chosen career, he does not avoid killing. In many ways, he is still a typical shounen protagonist, but this is one key element separating him from many others. Another aspect is the fact he is not an idiot. While there are no school episodes and he is still an optimistic youth in many aspects, we as readers don’t have to put up with lines like, “This book is too hard to read!” or, “What was a teigu again?” to show off his lack of intelligence.

The rest of the group is made up of some characters you’ve likely seen before, like the aforementioned tsundere and the ditz. However, my favorite so far is Bulat, the guy who wants to be called “big bro”…and if you’re a manga fan, you know what that means. Fortunately, Tatsumi is weirded out at times, but he greatly respects Bulat. However, most of the main characters haven’t been developed outside of explaining how they joined Night Raid, so I’m hoping for more about their personal struggles instead of just their physical ones.

The artist’s specialty does seem to be the action scenes. These are heavily inked, displaying the power radiating from the characters and their weapons. Screentones are also freely applied, helping to add to the dark mood of the series. Pages are kept quite busy, but the layout is still easy to follow. Character designs range from teenagers to old men, and there are also some hard-to-draw scenes like a character in armor. With so much story and action in each chapter, there are places where the art quality drops. One scene has Tatsumi with what look like a hands belonging to a PS2-quality NPC. Faces which should have more detail just don’t. Not too many monsters have been introduced, but they’ve been pretty generic so far. The artist includes some fun visual gags to lighten up the mood. (Have you ever seen a tree monster fangirl before?) Tatsumi’s comical faces are included quite regularly, but I’m sure some readers will feel these are forced into the story. When villains go crazy, their faces warp into a grotesque version of themselves. I’m hoping this . As many people (both real and fictional) can attest to, it’s the people who always look normal that can be the scariest. Overall, I feel like Tashiro’s art is still evolving, so I look forward to see how the series’ visuals progress in another three volumes or so.

Translation:

No honorifics are used. Most “chan” are just dropped, and words like “ojou-sama” are replaced with “my lady”. Since this is a fantasy series without heavy Japanese influences, I do think not using honorifics was the best choice. The weapons keep their Japanese name as “teigu”. Some people will find this odd since most other Japanese words are replaced (even Akame’s weapon, which is technically a katana, is just called a sword). Most of the actual text is fine (or even very good), but the biggest issue some people will have with Yen Press’ adaptation is the names of things.

Firstly though, Akame’s catchphrase here is “I will send [them] to rest” instead of “eliminate” like most other translations (like Crunchyroll’s subtitles). It is also adapted as “you will be buried” in at least one panel. Either way, I think it’s a little wordy since it’s literally one verb in Japanese. In the translator’s defense, “eliminate” is not usually associated with “葬る”, as it refers more to being buried or interring a person. I might have gone with her saying something like, “To oblivion!” or, “Bury them!” to capture the shortness of the phrase.

The material “orichalcum” is adapted incorrectly as “olihalcon”. The translator must not have realized the metal’s Japanese name of オリハルコン is (or was) a real material and just gave a direct pronunciation as its name. While that’s just a material, the names of the weapons are far more significant. All the teigu (the weapons) in the story have four kanji followed by a word or phrase (most in katakana) for its name. Lubbock’s weapon name, in Japanese, is 千変万化 クローステール. The English name here is “Kaleidoscope Crawstail”. The kanji’s direct translation would be “innumerable changes”, but other sources give this a more natural adaptation as “infinite uses”. As for the second half of the weapon’s name, other sources give its name as “Cross Tail”. I admit I’ve never seen “cross” as クロース, but the dictionaries I consulted did go straight to クロス for “cross”. While I’m torn on that aspect, I have no idea how a thread-like teigu “has kaleidoscopic abilities such as binding down and amputating”; “has infinite uses such as binding down and amputating” makes much more sense. I can’t find anything close to “kaleidoscope” for 千変万化, so I’d love to hear how this came to be. In addition, ヘカトンケイル is called “Hecatoncheir”. This is the name used in Final Fantasy XIII and other media, but “Hekatonkheir” is the more common version of this Greek name.

Otherwise, this is a good adaptation.

Final Comments:

This a good series for anyone who wants a mature action shounen without having to suffer through annoying male and female leads. Come for the action, though, and not the characters.

The series was made into an anime, licensed here in the U.S. by Sentai Filmworks.

Yen Press includes the color insert from the original Japanese tankouban, which is a nice surprise.

Am I the only one who keeps reading “Esdeath” as “Exdeath” and keep picturing the Final Fantasy V villain?

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6 Comments

  1. Matthew

    Nice review. I enjoyed the first volume and I am currently watching the anime as well.

    Reply
    1. krystallina

      Thanks! 🙂

      Reply
      1. Matthew

        Ur welcome 😉

        Reply
  2. insightblue

    I’m going to have to pick this up! I loved the anime, but wasn’t a big fan of the ending they came up with for the show. I’m curious to see how it turns out.

    Reply
    1. krystallina

      I haven’t seen the anime yet, so I’ll be curious to see how the two split once I read more of the manga. Glad to know the anime is good, too.

      Reply
      1. insightblue

        Well, I thought so…but towards the end it starts diverging off for an original anime ending, and you can tell. Not as good as the beginning.

        Reply

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