What They Say:
When he set off for the Capital, all Tatsumi wanted was a way to make money. Instead, he finds himself rescued from a fate worse than death by a group of assassins known as Night Raid, and thrust into the middle of a bloody revolution. On the one side: Prime Minister Honest, his secret police, elite squad of assassins, and the armies of the Empire. On the other: Night Raid and a handful of rebels desperate to overthrow the brutal regime of Honest’s puppet emperor. Leveling the playing field: the Imperial Arms, a legendary set of unstoppable weapons created in the distant past. But to use an Imperial Arm is practically a death sentence, for only a select few can even survive using them… and when two Arms go against each other, only the user of one is likely to survive in Akame ga Kill!
The audio presentation for this release gets a nice bump up overall as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English language mix is done in 5.1, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show works a good balance of action and dialogue so that each is well presented, but the action side naturally comes across stronger simply because of how it operates. It also works better here since the sequences are fun to watch and there’s a decent bit of movement across the forward soundstage. This has a bit more impact – and bass – through the 5.1 mix that English-language fans get, but the stereo mix for Japanese fans is quite solid as well. Both mixes hit a good balance with the dialogue in general as it moves about, but it doesn’t work deep with placement of depth as it’s a bit more straightforward. Both tracks come across clean and clear from what we heard, doing mostly spot-checking on the English language track and listening to it in full while writing this review.
Originally airing in 2014, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes for this set are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. Animated by White Fox, the show has a pretty good look about it with some very good color pop and vibrancy to let it stand out. It’s not a garish show by any means but it works a lot of different colors through the character costuming in order to be easily identifiable and it works well to give it some life. The show works a solid visual design when it comes to detail and overall character animation though it’s a little more towards the middle of the road than high end. That said, the transfer captures it quite well and there’s a good smoothness to how it all looks and a very solid look to the colors. Backgrounds look great with a solid feeling to them and little in the way of noise to be had in larger solid color fields. The end result is a pretty pleasing looking transfer overall.
The packaging for this collector’s edition is, as you’d expect, pretty damn great. The heavy chipboard box gives us a dark looking piece that’s quite appropriate where the main panel is a near full-length shot of Akame against the moon from early on in the series. The back cover provides her and her sister together with something a little more bloody that’s accented by the blood-splattered dark background to it. Both of them set the mood well and with the red wrap, in general, it definitely gives it some additional weight. Amusingly, my favorite part was actually the spine as it provides a look at the other characters set against the setting sun and part of the city, feeling very “fantasy” oriented in a way.
Within the box, we get two clear DVD keepcases with each format getting their own case. The Blu-ray case gives us a really moody piece with Akame up close while the DVD case lets Tatsumi take center stage in a similar way, both of which work very well. The back covers are well laid out and not like the usual releases as it breaks out the discs by episodes and titles with images for each of them, allowing the visuals to draw you in. With no summary of the premise pieces here, since they assume if you’re buying a CE you know what you’re getting into, the packaging real estate is well utilized. The bottom runs to the normal design with the production credits and accurate and easy to read technical grids for both formats. Each case has artwork on the reverse side as well that works the Night Raid logo as well as more character artwork of the women of the organization.
The big extra for me here is the included hardcover book called The Red Book. With a wrap around it that says it’s full of spoilers, I’ll admit I didn’t read deep as I have the other set to go and haven’t seen it yet. But this full-color book runs just under a hundred pages and is chock full of great character material, visuals, background information, and interviews with the staff that it’s a wonderfully rich resource that will delight any fan of the show. It’s definitely a strong selling point for the collector’s edition with something unique.
The set also comes with a small spacer box that has some wonderful fanservice bathing suit images of a few of the women of Night Raid and holds more material inside. It’s in here that we get the cute temporary tattoos, the die-cut sticker, and the mini poster. They’re fun little bonus items to up the collectability of the set, but it’s the hardcover book that really does it.
Sentai changes up their menu design for this release a bit from the norm as we actually get an animated menu. They don’t do these often, but when they do they mostly work pretty well in choice. With a bit of music playing to it, we get a look at some of the Imperial Arms through the camera movements as well as most of the main cast as it plays through, resulting in a good looking menu that sets the tone well for what you’re about to watch. The navigation is also a bit different as it’s all small boxes along the bottom for the individual episodes by number and titles and separate boxes for languages and extras where applicable. They’re all easy to read and look good with the blood splattered aspect used similar to the cover design, tying it in well. Everything is quick to access and navigation is a breeze both as the main menu and as a pop-up menu.
The extras for this release are kept to the second disc and we get some pretty fun stuff. The familiar are here in the always welcome clean opening and closing sequences as well as a selection of the original Japanese promos prior to its broadcast there. The big extra here are the ONA bonus shorts that run just a hair over a minute each. Animated by C-Station, they’re quirky and silly humor pieces that play to the cast well, especially when it wants to poke fun at the expected fanservice and instead serves up other things. Instinct takes you to the hot spring episode but it was the Girl’s Bar episode that made me laugh the most. With twelve of them here, they’re definitely fun and I’m glad that once you start playing them it auto plays them all.
Based on the manga of the same name from writer Takahiro and illustrator Tetsuya Tashiro, Akame ga KILL is a twenty-four episode anime series that aired in the summer and fall of 2014. Animated by white Fox, it was a big pickup for Sentai Filmworks as they got it onto Cartoon Network as well, which gave us a good listen to the dub long before this release hit. The manga kicked off back in 2010 and has thirteen volumes out as of this writing and even nudged a spinoff book out there that as a few volumes as well. So an anime adaptation certainly wasn’t a surprise as it really does feel a bit old school in a way, generation depending, with what it is and what it wants to do. And a good part of that feeling is what allowed the show to work so well for me.
The premise of the series is one that works well enough as we get a kind of fantasy series that involves a world that’s based on a feudal design. We’re introduced to a young man named Tatsumi who has come to the Imperial Capital initially to find work along with his friends to send back to their village and help out. Unfortunately, the friends are killed along the way and now Tatsumi is just looking to get back at those that did this. His only reason for being alive is that he ended up rescued by Night Raid, a group of assassins that view themselves as the people’s heroes and are trying to save the country from itself. The big picture here is that the Emperor, a young boy, is mostly being taken advantage of by a cruel and deceitful minister that has him under his thumb. He runs the empire by proxy in this way in a very intense way with lots of people ending up dead and a really downbeat aspect to those that live in the sprawling and impressive capital itself.
The group that Tatsumi falls into are pretty varied in a few different but expected ways as there are those with military backgrounds that shifted sides, regular folks that discovered some strong fighting abilities, and those that just gravitate towards such enterprises in order to do the right thing. One of those is the title character of the series, Akame, who is one of the more intense fighters there as she was an assassin for the empire previously. She’s not hugely cold, but she has a dark and threatening side to her that comes out all the time. Amusingly, while she’s the title character she comes across more as a third level character here because the show is actually about Tatsumi. At least in this first half of it. Since we’re introduced to this group through Tatsumi’s eyes that makes a bit of sense at first. But as it progresses he ends up spending time with almost everyone else but Akame and it feels like there are episodes where we don’t even see her at all. She may be a bit bigger of a player in the second half for all I know, but it’s a weird and amusing way to title and run a series.
As you can expect from a show of this length and with the small but decent sized cast that exists within Night Raid, the first half of the run mostly revolves around introducing Tatsumi to the characters, providing most of them with an episode of their own to explore their quirks while nudging Tatsumi’s training alongside them, and digging into more of the makeup of the world. There are plenty of familiar aspects here, but what I like is that the series changes things up in a way that does feel old school. As we get to know the cast we get into some difficult fight situations that result in the loss of a couple of characters. Not wounded and out of commission for a while, but rather killed in service of the cause of trying to stop the Empire from being totally evil. They may come back for all I know, cause dead is never dead in most series, but by taking them out of the equation in these episodes, we end up with a regularly changing dynamic amid the Night Raid members. And even more so for Tatsumi as it just shocks him that this is happening, even though he knows what he signed up for.
Part of what he gets to learn alongside all of this is an interesting part to the history of the nation. Going back a thousand years to the founder of the Empire, this ruler knew he would not live to see it through properly so he created a hundred Imperial Arms, specialty devices that can do amazing things and haven’t been able to be replicated since this golden age ended. They were used to promote and protect the empire, but a hundred years ago they were scattered to the winds. So the Night Raid group, working as part of the Revolutionary Army, seeks to bring them back and put them in proper hands for the future of a better empire. This ends up giving various members some special weapons to work with and some unique abilities, include Tatsumi as he eventually goes through the training. The welcome part is that this isn’t an instant thing and it’s closer to the end of this set that he even gets anything. It’s not even a big part of the story in the first half of this set though they’re present. It’s another area where the show really does ease us into things as it wants to tell its larger story and explore the characters and setting with all of its connections.
Every series needs a good villain and this one provides for several though they’re a bit layered in a way. The Prime Minister is the main bad guy but is mostly off screen or just manipulating things to prove his evilness. There are a range of more physically oriented folks that take up the mantle to interact with Night Raid, such as Zanku the Executioner and a few others, but the big one that comes into play later in this half is Esdeath. Esdeath is a harsh but beautiful looking young woman who has a brutal reputation with a lot of blood on her hands. She simply exists to do the dirty work of the empire. So when she’s brought back to the capital to deal with Night Raid after they begin making bigger players, it’s certainly a worrying time. Unfortunately for the Empire – and for Tatsumi, she’s growing up a bit herself and is looking for a mate. Which means we know that she settles on Tatsumi after an encounter. It’s a bit awkward and leads to some weird sequences overall, but it also adds the right kind of humor into the mix to add a surreal element that fits surprisingly well. You can see how it’ll be used in general, but in these initial stages, it provides something more tangible for viewers when it comes to the Empire’s side.
I had no idea what to really expect going into this series since I didn’t follow the simulcast nor the manga. A little time and distance from all of its big push certainly help. The show feels like a really fun throwback to 90’s anime in a lot of ways with it doing some big things, playing with a good range of characters, and slicing some away as needed to refocus and sharpen itself. I’m still amused at how little the title character makes an impact as it’s almost all about Tatsumi. But would anyone watch Tatsumi ga KILL!? Probably not. The show ended up clicking and working far better for me than I expected and I really love the collector’s edition aspect here, particularly with the hardcover book. It’s a well put together release overall that does pretty much everything right with a solid cast and a clean and crisp presentation.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Twelve Bonus Shorts, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Japanese Promos
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: February 9th, 2016
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.