Manga Review – Akame ga KILL! [Redux]

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
15 Volumes (complete)
Yen Press

Summary:

Tatsumi arrives in the capital to raise money for his village. When he learns he’d have to start off as a private, a woman volunteers to help Tatsumi bribe his way into being a captain. She makes off with what money he has, but Tatsumi soon learns that unkind act cannot compare to the true depths of human cruelty in the cold-hearted Empire.

Review:

First of all, Akame ga KILL! has some of the biggest manga volumes available (excluding 2-in-1 or 3-in-1s of course). Obviously, if you’re a digital reader, this is less noticeable, but if you head out to your local manga shop, the black volumes will probably stand out. The final volume, for instance, is over 300 pages. Some other volumes are lucky to be half that, and they cost the same! So if you are looking for a series where you can’t breeze through in a matter of minutes, Akame ga KILL! is one to consider.

That is, of course, if you are willing to consider a rather bloody manga with some depraved actions. Other manga deal with rebels taking on a corrupt country (for example, Fullmetal Alchemist), but this is less philosophical debate and more outright action. The series is not afraid to kill off main characters, so there’s always a chance your favorite will kick the bucket long before you’re ready to say goodbye. So not only can this manga be violent, but it can be depressing.

And it is, right from the start. Tatsumi and his two friends head off to raise money for their poor village, but they get separated. Tatsumi is a talented fighter who doesn’t think he should have to start from the lowest ranks in the military. After a series of events, Tatsumi joins Night Raid, an assassination group allied with the rebels hoping to overthrow the Empire.

The story is roughly divided into three main arcs with some overlap: the Night Raid arc, the Jaegers arc, and the path to the final battle.

The first, as the name suggests, introduces the close-knit members of Night Raid, including the titular Akame. Akame and the others all use magical weapons called Teigu which give them special abilities. Meat-loving Akame’s sword curses its target and kills them instantly, tsundere Mine’s gun fires off powerful blasts from long distances, booze-loving Leone is given beast-like abilities, and the other members also have their own quirks and skills.

Akame ga KILL! Sample 1For me, it’s this arc that is likely to leave the biggest impression on readers. It’s a dynamic opening not afraid of shock impact, of making readers recoil from what they see as Night Raid takes on assignments. At the same time, Night Raid warns Tatsumi that they are not heroes; when it comes down to it, killing is killing no matter what excuses or reasons are given.

Eventually, the focus starts to switch away from Night Raid and to the Empire. First off, there’s Esdeath, known to be the strongest soldier in the Empire. Although Tatsumi wishes she would turn her back on the Empire like Akame did, Esdeath enjoys the thrill of battle. In her eyes, if someone dies, it’s due to their own weakness.

Akame ga KILL! Volume 9Esdeath is later put in charge of a group known as the Jaegers, but she’s often off on her own missions rather than managing them. As the story explores characters like Wave, an optimistic young man, and Kurome, Akame’s sister, the members of Night Raid often disappear for long periods of time. Again, these are bulky volumes, so even missing one volume could easily be 200 pages of content. Akame in particular often doesn’t live up her status as the titular character, and there were points I wondered why this series wasn’t called Night Raid ga KILL! or something. Even then, I think the author spent a little too much time on the Jaegers.

It isn’t until the Revolutionary Army is ready for one final assault that Tatsumi and friends try to reclaim the narrative. Ultimately, the results are probably closer to what people expected than a surprise or twist ending, with the final chapter serving as an extended epilogue. However, unlike many manga which had a rushed or axed ending, fans of Akame ga KILL! are likely to be satisfied. The battles readers had been waiting for are dramatic and violent, reminding readers of what made Akame ga KILL! so popular in the first place. Author Takahiro provides information on what happened to everyone who survived except one, leaving open the possibility of a sequel.

One of my chief complaints about the series as a whole is the tendency to have narration. I don’t just mean beginning of chapter or background stuff like this:

Akame ga KILL! Sample 2There’s that too, of course, but there is often explanations right in the middle of battle. What would have been better is to show the characters’ thoughts, to present this type of information in first person point-of-view. I mean, which would you rather have:

  • “[Character] is almost out of energy from this long battle. They only have enough power for one final attack, but if it fails, people will die.”
  • “Damn! This battle is taking too long. I have to end it with this next shot, because if I don’t, the citizens…”

This is just a made-up example, but the point stands. Sometimes, the manga tells instead of shows, which is disappointing in an action series. Plus, the actual fights are well done, and each injury is a potentially life-ending scar instead of evidence of bragging rights. Pages can be quite busy, but Tashiro lays out the scenes in a way that readers don’t get lost in the melees. (Having a lot of 1-on-1 fights helps as well.) The series uses quite a bit of ink and screentones, which fits the dark nature of the series and reflects the power radiating from the characters and their weapons. Monsters do exist in this world, but fights against Danger Beasts aren’t as common as facing humans (Teigu users or not), but they are large, impressive-looking creatures, if a bit generic.

Surprisingly, the characters themselves aren’t as generic as they may first appear. Akame is neither a cool, standoffish heroine nor someone who lords her skills over others. She cares for her comrades and steps up to assist Tatsumi from early on. She leaves the role of the traditional tsundere to Mine, and I like how things did not play out like I would have assumed. There are a lot of nice, small spins on the traditional Japanese character line-ups, and that keeps an air of freshness around Akame ga KILL! Like, Tatsumi is a nice guy but not an idiot who needs everything explained to him. He also isn’t amazingly powerful or have some super-special ability like most shounen protagonists. Another male character, Bulat, is gay, but he’s not the common archetype of an effeminate man. He’s a seasoned warrior, and Tatsumi looks up to him. Other great characters can be found in the manga, but it can be hard to bond with some of them knowing they could die at any time. Long periods with main characters playing small roles can also make readers feel less connected with them. Akame ga KILL! is better on a reread in this regard, as you will know how long they’ll be around for and can appreciate their personalities.

As for the villains, plenty have screws loose and don’t question what should be considered horrid actions, but mob mentality and acquiescence can be scary. I did wonder at points why, since life is pretty bad, citizens aren’t revolting more, but again, sometimes fear of the known is easier to accept than fear of the unknown.

Now, a few final words on the art. Character designs range from teenagers to old men, but early in the story, all the antagonists’ faces tend to warp into to the same crazed, grotesque expression.  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. Eventually, Tashiro does hit his stride, and the quality improves. Even the comedic scenes are better placed, which also could be do to Takahiro’s skills improving as a writer.

However, fanservice would most likely have fallen under Tashiro’s umbrella. For a mature series, it’s not a prevalent as you might think. However, when the main cast is a group of assassins trying to avoid detection, they don’t get a lot of vacation time. Even when the girls outnumber the guys, the manga doesn’t descend into full harem with everyone falling in love with Tatsumi or him trying to spy on the girls.

Akame ga KILL! Sample 3

Translation:

No honorifics are used…  at first. About halfway through the series, a new translator comes onto the scene, and honorifics are kept for the rest of the publication. Since this is a fantasy series without heavy Japanese influences, I do think not using honorifics was the better choice, even though this affects nicknames like “Su-san” from “Susanoo”.

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 appears to go through a couple of different versions. The first few volumes she says, “I will send [them] to rest”, but it is also adapted as, “You will be buried”, and then later, “Rest in pieces”. Either way, I think it’s a little wordy since it’s literally one verb in Japanese. Crunchyoll’s subtitles translates this as “eliminate”. 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 mean, kaleidoscopes do change patterns, but I don’t usually think of making thread into different shapes as kaleidoscopic. 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.

Perhaps these sorts of things led to a new translator…? Or maybe they just didn’t have time anymore to do a long-running series.

Otherwise, this is a good adaptation.

Final Comments:

Akame ga KILL! goes through some middle volume doldrums, but it’s a series to consider when you want more than the usual “the power of friendship will make everything okay!”-type series.

Crunchyroll and Sentai Filmworks have released the anime. Yen Press is publishing the prequel Akame ga KILL! Zero.

Reader Rating


1.5/5 (2)

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12 Comments

  1. Kapodaco

    I suppose you haven’t seen the anime adaptation to know whether or not this is worth reading if one didn’t care for the anime (me). Otherwise, there are a number of things here that sound rather positive, but for me, personally, the ending remains the biggest mystery of the manga, as I heard the anime version had altered it because the manga wasn’t finished. Good review.

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      I don’t think you’ll suddenly like the series, but it might be worth it in a, “Huh, that’s who survived and that’s what really happened to so-and-so” kind of way. It’s quite different even though both don’t end with everything being hunky dory.

      Reply
  2. dreager1

    This manga always seemed pretty solid. I think the violence would be a bit much for me but I like the character designs and the art looks pretty crisp. It’s also nice that it has a real ending and doesn’t go for 20+ volumes. Sometimes it’s mice to just be able to read a series from start to finish

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      I agree. I wish more manga could have a solid conclusion without having to make such an enormous time and/or financial investment. Although most volumes of Akame are so thick, it feels like a 20+ volume series but at a 15-volume price!

      Reply
  3. raistlin0903

    I have heard quite a lot about the anime, but didn’t know there was also a manga series for it (but that’s probably just me, and everyone else knows about this 😂😂) I do have to say it sounds pretty good. Okay the narration things sound a bit annoying, but I like the way the art looks, and the story doesn’t look to be a bad thing either. And as I don’r read an enormous amount of manga, it’s nice to have a series that is already complete too😊 Great post! 😀

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      The art is so much better than in the prequel. I wish Tashiro had done Zero’s art as well. But I’m sure Zero has its own fans since it’s borderline H.
      Still though, original >>>>>> prequel, so if you ever do read Akame, don’t feel like you have to read Zero. Akame is good enough to stand alone.

      Reply
  4. The Otaku Judge

    I am curious to see how the manga’s ending differs from the anime that I watched. The book isn’t high on my reading list though, as I left the anime with mixed feelings. Some cool characters and action, but the constant cycle of people getting killed for shock value got old after a while.

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      After the first arc, the killings do slow down. The problem is that a lot of the story switches to the antagonist group instead of the protagonist group. As I said earlier in the comments, the ending is different from the anime’s, but I don’t think it would change anyone’s overall view of the story.

      Reply
      1. The Otaku Judge

        There are some shows that work by showing the story from both sides of the conflict. You however have to put likable/despicable characters in both factions to make that work. Also the narrative has to cover both sides from the offset. Showing the heroes for one arc then switching to the enemies after that isn’t a good balance.

        Reply
  5. Tepperz

    I dropped this anime halfway in. I can’t speak for the manga, but the anime seems to follow it pretty well. It got redundant. There were a few good interactions sprinkled in the arcs but overall it lost focus. The anime tended to get that problem that I’m noticing more and more: episode 1 syndrome. The first episode was great, kicked you right in the stomach, but then it slowed down and never quite got brutal like that again. It got close, here and there, but compared to episode 1 it was misleading. I also never really got fond of Akane as she seemed like a stock character, and the “murderer” aspect wasn’t enough to spice her up for me. A lot of the characters seemed pretty boring, Aniki best boy aside. But because I liked the opening and some events, I guess I would still label it 3 out of 5.

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      I’ve heard mixed things about the anime, so that 3/5 sounds about right. I’ve read spoilers, and it is quite different.
      Akame I think was underused despite her being the titular character. She returns in the sequel Hinowa ga CRUSH!, but that series has its own issues. that I’m still trying to find brain bleach for. O_O

      Reply
      1. Tepperz

        I feel like I don’t even want to know!! Lol

        Reply

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