The bodies start dropping as the push to hit the capital goes into high gear.
What They Say:
The convoluted path that has reunited Tatsumi and Esdeath takes another twist as they find themselves transported to a remote island where their strength will be tested as never before. Dr. Stylish may be dead, but Danger Beasts still remain, and that’s only the first challenge the two enemies now face.
If the bonds of love weren’t enough to bring their fates together, could the fire of combat forge a new form of alliance? Meanwhile, the embers of rebellion are being stoked into open insurrection by the pacifist organization Path of Peace. Drawn into the impending inferno, Night Raid and the Revolutionary Army prepare for a major assault on the Capital. But while their Imperial Arms may be indestructible, their wielders are merely flesh and blood.
On the anvil of battle, only human courage and the willingness to give their lives for a cause will lead to the ultimate triumph or failure in collection 2 of 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 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 as we get a strong follow-up to the first set. The heavy chipboard box gives us a dark looking piece that’s quite appropriate where the main panel is a good closeup shot of Akame in fighting mode where she’s got all the intensity she needs. The back cover provides for the contrast sa we get Esdeath as the primary here with a brighter and more colorful approach. 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 cases bring in more of the Night Raid crew to give them their own covers in the same kind of murky but pretty nicely done design 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 Black Book, which works the same formula as the first and provides a great complement to it. With a wrap around it that says it’s full of spoilers, it’s exactly the kind of in-depth piece that you want to soak up after you watch the series. 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.
While the first set came with a spacer box to hold a bunch of goodies and trinkets, this one comes with a third keepcase that holds the original soundtrack. Or soundtracks, I should say. The first soundtrack is a two CD set that has forty tracks combined while the second one is nineteen tracks total. It’s definitely a great inclusion and fans of the music of the series make out wonderfully here because of 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 a 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 once again. The familiar are here in the always welcome clean opening and closing sequences as well as a selection of the original Japanese promos here. 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 plays to the cast well, especially when it wants to poke fun at the expected fanservice and instead serves up other things.
Well, that was a thing.
Akame ga KILL was a show that I enjoyed a fair bit in its opening half with what it did because I could see the potential of it if it wasn’t intent on rushing through so many story points. You could realistically double the number of episodes that this series ran and expand things well without it feeling like filler. A lot of it was really needed in order to connect us with the characters better because there is a rushed and almost superficial feeling to much of it. Especially since it doesn’t even feel like the title character is much of a character in the show until the last couple of episodes. And it only feels that way because nearly every other character is killed along the way of note. It’s certainly a welcome change from the show that don’t provide any real drama or tension with what happens to the cast, but at the same time it lacks the real resonance because of the lack of connection.
As you can expect, the first half worked the introductions and setup of the world and its foundations while this one works through the push to completion. One of the more interesting even if familiar parts of the first set was the introduction of Esdeath and her seeming interest in Tatsumi as a potential partner of hers in more ways than one. For someone raised on war and culling the weak, which we get through a pretty harsh if brief flashback sequence, there’s an amusing softness toward Tatsumi. But considering the way he’s survived so many situations here and has some real capability it means that it’s not that much of a stretch. When we get an episode that focuses on the two of them trapped some distance from everything else and they have to work together to survive for the short duration, it works well to give us a better view of Esdeath while also making clear that she’s really who she is and any care and interest she has in him doesn’t diminish that. They don’t try to soften Esdeath, which is a big plus, and it serves as a reason why Tatsumi gets the hell out of these and doesn’t try to view her as someone he can save.
While we do get a few back and forth motions here in the early part of this set, the focus shifts along the way to Najenda and her intention to take down the capitol and the Emperor sooner rather than later because of how badly things are going across the lands. It’s also because that as time goes on, more and more members of Night Raid are being lost. It’s in this aspect that the show frustrates me a bit because if we had more time given to it (and I know, it’s not in the source material) we should see them trying to replenish and rebuild the group so they can attack. That they go at it with fewer people than the start of the series, fewer Imperial Weapons and users, it kind of just takes me out of it. Granted, they’re going into these attacks with a bit of revenge on their minds but it’s not the motivating factor. There is a little help along the way but it’s something that doesn’t resonate as these supporting characters got even less time to be developed.
That said, the final couple of episodes really play out well. While the middling part of the series is kind of weak in some ways because of the lack of connection, the deaths during it really does work to make the finale all the more impressive. When you realize that characters can and will be killed it gets you to take a different look at what unfolds as it goes on because that uncertainty grows. It’s rare for a creative team to eliminate characters like this because of the marketability and merchandise aspect, but there’s also the truth that Akame is the main marketable character here. While she’s less of a character in the anime series, all of this really feels like it serves as a launching point for her, the things that define her and what she’ll do afterward. Is it all just prologue here? Perhaps, but it’s something that works surprisingly well because it does feel like there are things at stake.
The final fight is what drives things well here at the end as we get Akame going up against Esdeath with Tatsumi in the wings, coping from the losses that he’s seen the team take in this venture. It’s a well executed fight sequence with all the right scale, but it’s the stakes that really drove me to it in a big way. Giving Esdeath a chance to really show just how far she’ll go, the abilities that she has, and how Akame figures it all out works really well. But it’s seeing what Esdeath does after her loss that was the most surprising, and that it seemed like Akame and the others accepted it all very easily. I mean, I get the reality of it, but usually this is a big struggling sequence for characters to work through. In the end, it was the kind of moment that I like because it really does reinforce that almost anything can happen in a series like this.
While the show does have its problems, the pieces that worked for me generally outweighed them because I liked that the show took chances at alienating its fanbase. When you get characters that people like and then kill them you have a chance of losing them. There’s a safeness to anime that’s frustrating these days – though I don’t want it to become like US TV where character deaths are just shock value pieces for season finales. Akame ga Kill has some good stuff going on here and a lot of stuff that really needed a greater expansion and more time to be worked with. It’s a prime candidate series that should be adapted and made better by becoming an anime as opposed to slavish adherence to the source material. But in the end, I like that it took chances in its source material and ran with it, fans be damned.
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: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: May 17th, 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.