TV Shows

Akame Ga Kill; My Thoughts on Its Aesthetics. What Kind of World is This!?

So, I have written a couple of posts before this one on Akame Ga Kill, as I was watching it, which are to be found easily on my blog site, but they were basically very general posts on simple concepts to be found easily within the show. While I like those posts, and they are sincere, I realize that I have neglected to actually write about the specifics of what is good or bad about the show itself, for example: What do I think of the Art Style? Are the Characters well developed? How is the world-building? How well done is the plot progression? My first post, “I’m Watching Akame Ga Kill; Is It a Classic Fantasy, or Just Another Over-Hyped Anime?” was specifically about Akame Ga Kill’s place in popularity, and whether or not I think it deserves it by my viewing of its first few episodes. The next one, was about the killing off of side characters, and how mad I was that a certain character was killed off just to bring the viewers emotions to a boil. Now that I’ve already done that, let me backtrack a bit, and allow me to tell you just exactly how I like or dislike Akame Ga Kill for its actual specific creative specifications. Yes, I know, specific specifications is a bit redundant, so sue me. First off, lets start with the visual aesthetics of the show’s characters. As I’ve said elsewhere, I think that the character design and overall aesthetic of the show is simply iconic. Everyone has an instantly memorable look; simple enough to remember or recreate, and detailed enough to satisfy the avid fanboys/girls. For example, according to my imperfect memory, Akame has long black hair with messy bangs, a black, sleeveless school-girl’s outfit complete with skirt, with a red tie and gloves, wielding a katana with a red grip. A more detailed observation will yield also a white collar with red vertical stripes, her tie has a metal boss on it, there is a red satchel attached to her red belt, which has a black line down the middle, she wears black knee-socks with brown slip on shoes, and more importantly, she has crimson irises. This applies to all characters, and everyone has this same sort of dual aesthetic, of high-school uniforms, with medieval or traditional Japanese accents, such as minimal armor or weapons. This is a look which I simply adore, and while the art style is not exactly the most detailed or strikingly mature in nature, (it still has that very rounded and clean looking cell shading look) the overall look and feel of the show is enhanced by the incredibly unique look and feel for each character. The variety is to be admired. Nobody uses a similar weapon, nobody has a similar hair style, and it seems that almost every character is sporting a different primary color. The main character carries a Roman Gladius, Akame has a Katana as I mentioned, the loli girl Mine has a sci-fi looking sniper-rifle/cannon, Sheele carries a giant pair of scissors, etc. etc. It is, to me, artistic genius.
Now, all this is well and good, but if you were to read this description without any context or knowledge of what this story is about, you might think Akame Ga Kill to be a modern story, set in present day, or perhaps the future, where the high-schoolers in question are caught in a Hunger Games, Battle Royale, or Mirai Nikki styled situation, where they are all forced to pick up weapons specific to their style of combat from different eras throughout history. Right? Wrong. This is a fantasy world, a world in which there are medieval castles, half timber houses, Middle Eastern palaces, and Victorian Villas, all within miles of each other, all within a single country of this planet. This is a jumbled up world of different eras in Architecture, jammed together to make a completely incomprehensible conflagration of disconnected visual flare, and no matter how nonsensical this construction of visuals is, it is by no means set in the present day.
This brings me swiftly to my next point, that of the world building itself. The show starts off in episode one, with a covered wagon caravan being driven by what looks to be ninja monks, what with the whole Naruto style metal forehead protector things on their hoods, on a path through some country woods. A giant, humanoid, spiky, brown Danger-Beast (yes, that’s what they call them) rises out of the ground and attacks them. Before it does any damage, Tatsumi, the main character, slices the living daylights out of it in one swift airborne attack, all before he hits the ground. When he hit the ground however, and he turned around to talk to the caravan-ninja-monks (that’s what I’ll call ‘em) I had to pause the show, and take stock of what I was seeing. There before me, in this world where there are wagon trade routes, feudal cities and subsistence farmer peasants, all wearing period appropriate dress, stands a young boy in a button-up shirt with a sweater vest and blue jeans, wearing some leather greaves and bracers for armor. Do you see my hang-up here? They’ve introduced the nature of this fantasy world as being in the past, or at least in a parallel medieval world, well before introducing the characters I talked about before, all of whom have incredibly varied but predominately modern garb.
Now, with a satisfactory explanation, or reasoning behind these aesthetic choices, there would be no problem here. The fact of the incredibly disparate gap between the style of dress, technology, and architecture, could easily be explained away by a history of some form of doomsday event, wherein an apocalypse brings the whole planet into another dark age, with vestiges of modern clothing and technology remaining, or something along those lines. This would be eminently interesting information to explore. I actually have a sneaking suspicion that this is actually the backstory of this world, but this is never explained, and the type of world-building which would clear up the mysteries of this world and its visual cues, simply is nonexistent. There exists no such explanation or history and while there was indeed a great war in the world’s past, one in which the highly advanced Imperial Arms weapons were lost, you are given enough contextual flashbacks from before that to know that such intermingling of eras existed from before the war. The show simply continues on with its plot about rebellion and fighting the evil authority without even addressing these inconsistencies. I am glad however that weapons such as Mine’s gun are definitely addressed as forgotten technology, being one among many Imperial Arms created by the good king of the capitol before the war, which were lost in the fighting. This is enough to explain the strangely creative designs for the Imperial Arms, but not for the existence of sweater vests, mini-skirts, and headphones.
To make a very necessary qualification, I must say that I have not yet finished the series. There may indeed be a satisfactory explanation for the strange fantastical yet modern imagery by the end, but the fact that such striking visuals as guns, dragons, and school uniforms, all occur continually in the same frames, and is not explained for 14 episodes, leaves much to be desired when it comes to maintaining the suspension of disbelief. There were many, many times, when I was enjoying the show, and just had to pause and think to myself, “What on earth is going on with the visuals in this show?” Because I have heard it said, “aesthetic is narrative” and I definitely believe that, but as regards this show, aesthetic SHOULD be narrative, but unfortunately is not…at least not yet…I don’t even want to address the fact that one of the characters is a were-tiger woman, who wears nothing but a strapless black tube for a bra, and white pants that have a perfect cut out in the crotch to show her black bloomers beneath visible in the banner picture above. It makes absolutely no sense, but to make that character a walking piece of fan-service. It is despicable and I wish it did not exist. I don’t mind the character herself, but her choice of clothing is absolutely ridiculous, and completely unreasonable. There is more that I could say about that, but that would be a whole other post on fan-service and morality in anime.

Anyway, to sum up, I love the character designs, (most of them) at least in concept, but I greatly wish and desire for the aesthetic choices in any show, to tell me something significant about the world. I would say any story needs that. So, I shall indeed continue to watch this show, and let you know if that ever actually happens. Thanks for reading. God bless.

My Continued Thoughts on Akame Ga Kill, episodes 4-8; Death As A Plot Device; I Am So Triggered!

So, now that I’ve continued watching past the first few episodes, I have happened upon the episode which has finally made the reasoning behind the anime’s reputation as a gut wrenching death show, clear to me. For those who have not seen the show, I shall leave the names out of it for the sake of spoilers, but throughout the first six episodes, a certain character was being slightly developed, with a sudden spike in development in episode 6, which was well received by me. I liked the character, and the development given her. In episode 6, this character is shot, bisected, and dies suddenly, and sacrificially, an event which would increase the motivation of the revolutionary faction which the main character is a part of, which is called Night Raid. This character who died protecting another Night Raid Member, was my very favorite character in the show til then, due to the amount of pathos written into her. The fact that this character was finished off so quickly, suddenly, and without showcasing her full powers, or even fulfill her full story arc before dying, seemed like such a slap in the face to me, that I am tempted to think that the writing of Akame Ga Kill is less than exemplary, rather it is somewhat to be deplored after a certain fashion. It is taking a viable favorite character of many people, and making her an “expendable crewman,” to make people understand that the situation is serious. I understand that this death gives the plot a bit more weight, and adds one more reason why the main characters should bear a grudge against the antagonists, but having more character development, and even just a bit more screen time for this person would have drastically improved the emotional impact of their death later, and left me satisfied with her death. To prove this point, another member of Night Raid dies some episodes later, yet that was not anywhere near as traumatic to the viewer, nor such a smack in the face, as the death of the previous member, owing to the fact that this next character got at least 8 episodes worth of character development, each with active screen time in each episode to give them depth. (Sigh) It may be that my liking the character that died in episode 6 somewhat clouds my judgement, but I also liked the second character who died, and yet I was OK with it. They both were really interesting, lovable characters with cool designs according to my taste; the one just got a cool, mournful, noble death while the other got a sudden, disruptive, and somewhat humiliating one, being too quick for me to really appreciate what’s happening, and too bitter for the audience to be able to actually move on from their death. This is what I would call, a cheap way to engage the audience. “Introduce a really interesting, lively character with a backstory which could be awesome when fully revealed, but only reveal a tiny bit of it, get everyone interested, and then kill them off before anyone knows what hit ’em. Yeah, that’ll get the viewers cryin’. I can hear the money just pourin’ in.” Well, I can hear some television-mob bosses quoting those words even now. But if one were to take one quick look on IMDB for episode 6, entitled “Kill the Absolute Justice,” ( by the way, yes all the episodes are entitled with “Kill the-” at the beginning,) one would quickly find that this episode, where a lovable character is killed off too quickly for us to appreciate them, is rated at least a whole point higher than the episodes immediately before or after it! This ploy, which I know from American television is an old, tired, and despicably cliched plot device, is one which invariably works. Lost did it, Breaking Bad did it, and now The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones are doing it. Now, the thing is, this tactic definitely immediately freezes that scene, that episode, the characters, and basically the rest of the show in your mind, making the show immediately a memorable one, if for the wrong reasons. I must remind myself that this tactic is not always a horrible one. If done right, it can cause a show to feel truly perilous, like no one has plot armor, and who knows what might happen next. I feel like Attack on Titan, which I actually really like as one of my favorites, (that tells you something about me) actually did do this plot device justice, because while people continuously died left and right, there was always a disturbing reason for it, and the fact that people died did not always serve the plot, but it served the reality of the world. It gave you the feeling that this is a place and a situation where humanity, while safe for the moment, is being put in the position of imminent extinction by horrible monsters, and no-one knows why or how it is happening, so sudden, meaningless deaths are a matter of course, just like in real war. Also, another thing these quick-emotional-deaths have going for them in AoT, is that all of the characters who die are secondary characters who you are immediately able to empathize with, no matter how much development is given them, and also, if they are given development, then it is always enough for you to be able to properly feel like you’ve known the character long enough now to let them go. You are never forced to accept the sudden death of a close companion of the main characters, and I have not yet had to accept the death of my dear glutton Sasha, at leat, not yet. But, for that character that just died in Akame Ga Kill, I’m still burning with anger that I was not able to see much more of her in the show as she so desperately deserved and needed as a character. Now, while all that negativity has been said, I still was not put off by this death enough to make me want to quit watching it, it did not disgust me to that degree. I immediately understood the type of show that this would be from here on out, one which murders its beautifully crafted characters with extreme prejudice for the purpose of plot convenience and quick thrills, and if they can use this trope more effectively, then I am still up for the ride. Indeed, in the very next story arc there was another death of a very close member of the cast, and yet that one was done with elegance and grace, giving you at least two more episodes to prepare you for what was to come. Will this show be able to keep up that elegance and grace? We shall see, next time. Thanks for reading and joining me on my viewing experience.