Tatsumi is a young man with excellent combat skills who wishes to save his poverty-stricken hometown, so he seeks his fortune by joining the Capitol military force. Originally accompanied by his two childhood friends, Tatsumi finds himself separated from the group and his naiveté makes him an easy target for thieves in the big city. When a wealthy family offers him a place to stay, Tatsumi is determined to reward their kindness by protecting them from a notorious assassin squad known as Night Raid. But Tatsumi does not yet realize that Night Raid’s motivations for murder are far nobler than his lodger’s reasons for offering solace.
First printed in a periodical produced by Square Enix, Akame ga Kill! delivers appealing character designs worthy of the Enix catalogue. Tatsumi is a spike-haired protagonist who carries a sword on his back, while the members of Night Raid are mostly female and diversely attractive. These include Leone, a busty girl with a bare midriff whose fighting style transforms her into a cat girl; tall, elegant, and bespectacled Sheele, with a soft gaze and a large pair of ornately decorated scissors; and Mine, a loli-goth whose long, full pigtails cascade down her back. Finally, there is Akame, the mysterious raven-haired killer whose expressionless face betrays no emotion.
Although the players are pretty, the story is standard fare for shounen series aimed at an older crowd. After Night Raid reveals Tatsumi’s generous landlords for who they really are—which is pretty awful—Tatsumi’s combat abilities impress members of the squad and he is invited to join Night Raid. As it turns out, Night Raid’s purpose is to assassinate the corrupt members of the Empire in order to replace its tainted regime with a better government. Tatsumi has never killed before, but aside from the glory of becoming a champion of justice, he is offered funds that will surely help his village.
Most of the story in this volume centers on Tatsumi learning the depths of evil carried out by the heads of government, the aristocracy, and the government underworld. The rest of the story explores his interactions with members of Night Raid, particularly Akame, whose approval he never seems to gain. The writer seems so intent on implying that there is more to Akame than the “expressionless killer with a tragic past” trope that she comes off as a jumble of other played-out character types. For instance, one of Tatsumi’s indiscretions sends him to the kitchen to cook as penance, and lo and behold, Akame is already working in the kitchen, as she is a great cook! In another scene in which the two go fishing, Tatsumi is shocked to see Akame strip down to her skivvies in order to swim, yet she seems unphased by the fact that freely exposing her body is a taboo to her male companion. This also serves as a less-than-covert method of adding fanservice to the storyline.
The story’s freshest moments come from Tatsumi’s interactions with Mine, which are mostly meta; Mine threatens to put Tatsumi into a different manga, usually a school love story, which is riffed on in the omake (extra) pages at the end of the volume. It’s cute and fun, but it’s not enough to make this a standout series debut. While Akame ga Kill! would likely find some readers despite its unremarkable storyline, there is little reason to invest in this series with so many others crowding library shelves.
Akame ga Kill!, vol. 1
Art by Tetsuya Tashiro
Publisher Age Rating: OT (16+)