Killer Ladies: In Defense of Akame ga Kill!

Night Raid
From left to right: Akame, Tatsumi, Mine, Leone, Sheele, Bulat, Lubbock, and Najenda.

Long after its original run in 2014, Akame ga Kill! has remained, for me, a tough nut to crack. As a sucker for dark fantasy, this anime immediately grabbed my attention with its grim premise, fast pacing, and even flashier action sequences. On the other hand, it bothered me to no end that the protagonist was your typical zero-to-hero, rather than the woman whose namesake is that of the show. Having watched the series twice, I stand firm in my belief that much potential was lost among the female cast in giving the target audience a character – Tatsumi – upon whom to project themselves.

Of course, this isn’t anything new within the genre.

While the show tries for a “shock and awe” approach with its large death count, there’s just not enough build-up for us to truly care about the fallen. One of the reasons behind this lack of development is, like many manga-turned-anime, a shortage of source material. There are quite a few changes between adaptions due to the manga’s ongoing status – a real shame considering how fascinating the female cast is at surface level.

Another reason lies with the size of creator Takahiro’s ensemble: there are seventeen characters to keep track of among Night Raid and the Jaegers alone! But among the forty or so anime I’ve watched, the heroines and villainesses of Akame ga Kill! still rank highly in my book. If they were given a little more time to shine, I’m certain the show would have been able to deviate from its harem mold and explore other sub-plots.

In defense of what could have been, I’ll be ranking the ladies of Akame ga Kill! from least to most fleshed-out in terms of backstory and personality. And yes, like Tatsumi, some of them do bleed into Mary Sue territory. But as mentioned before, I acknowledge that the anime did its best to jam-pack a largely unfinished story into a single season. And who knows? Perhaps Takahiro will surprise us in the near future.

In the spirit of another favorite series of mine, The World God Only Knows, I’ll say this: there is no such thing as a bad heroine, only bad games – or in this case, a half-fulfilled anime.

So without further ado, here are my two-cents for each character…

SPOILERS AHEAD!

9) Sheele

Sheele

Besides Akame and Esdeath, Sheele is the only woman to be given a theme song in the anime. The reason? She’s the first casualty among Night Raid. It is her death that drives the team to work even harder to defeat the corrupt Prime Minister and his followers. While the gravity of the situation was well handled, Sheele is a prime example of a “woman in the refrigerator.” A great deal of her screentime is occupied with consoling and motivating newcomer Tatsumi, leaving only a few minutes devoted to her own backstory. Speaking of which, Sheele is presented as a person who has always been clumsy – except when it comes to assassination. I personally found the idea of such a kind-hearted woman possessing sociopathic tendencies – and not fitting into the yandere trope – to be a unique idea in itself. However, Sheele is killed off far too quickly for us to get an in-depth look at her.

8) Chelsea

Chelsea.jpg

After the deaths of Sheele and Bulat, two new members are recruited into Night Raid, one of them being Chelsea. This woman not only managed to escape her abusive employer, but offed him with the help of a stolen shape-shifting weapon. With such a complicated history in tow, it’s no surprise that her carefree demeanor hides a blunt and level-headed woman whose kill count rivals that of Akame. In theory, I thought I’d like Chelsea. Appearance aside, she was the only assassin to embody the traditional sense of the word – deadly, but subtle in her art. In addition, she added a unique flavor to the team with her sense of humor and surprisingly modern fashion. If I had to list one shortcoming though, it would be her desire to impress Tatsumi. For some reason or another, Chelsea is completely drawn to the protagonist. Sure, Tatsumi’s a nice guy, but it rubbed me the wrong way how he became Chelsea’s sole driving force during the mission that took her life. Quite frankly, they didn’t know each other well enough for said feelings to make sense.

7) Seryu

Seryu.png

With Seryu at Spot #7, we encounter our first villainess of the list. While Chelsea’s looks may have been deceiving, she’s got nothing on this bloodthirsty member of the Jaegers. The real clincher is her violent sense of justice – something that literally transforms her from a seemingly sweet girl to an augmented soldier with firearms implanted in the most unexpected of places. In terms of backstory, we learn that Seryu’s mentor, Captain Ogre, was in fact Tatsumi’s first kill. If this name doesn’t already tip you off, I’ll put it bluntly: neither Ogre nor Seryu are what you would call “good people.” They are very much benefactors of the oppressive system in place. However, Seryu is so lost in her delusions that she can’t see how terrible the people around her truly are. For a show that strives to explore the many facets of good and evil, the depiction of its villains are rather black and white.

6) Najenda

Najenda.jpg

A former general, Najenda is the true mastermind behind Night Raid. Cool, confident, and boasting one of the best character designs in the show, she simply exudes authority. Due to her weakened condition, Najenda doesn’t often get involved with combat. Nonetheless, she cares deeply about her troops and doesn’t hesitate to give advice when needed. Her characterization in the anime, unfortunately, is on the lackluster side. We know that she worked alongside General Esdeath in the past and somehow convinced Akame to desert with her – but that’s it. There’s several questions I want answered regarding how Najenda ended up where she is. With this in mind, I can’t help but wonder if her design was used as shorthand to describe how “edgy” she is without fully backing it up.

5) Mine

Mine.jpg

Among the many ladies of Night Raid, Mine was probably not the one fans expected to see falling for Tatsumi. The pink-haired sniper is a tsundere through and through, hiding her true feelings behind a love for combat and clothing. To a degree, she’s pretty similar to Chelsea. But the qualities that made me prefer the former are her sheer ferocity and intriguing past. It is only through Mine’s narrative that we catch glimpses of racism within the Empire. Growing up as an impoverished outlander isn’t easy, and yet, Mine managed to overcome her circumstances and find a new purpose in life. But once again, her shortcoming lies with Tatsumi – albeit, her romance with him is arguably the most well developed. While this pairing came as a pleasant surprise (most fans assumed that he’d end up with the titular Akame), Mine’s interactions with him often seemed obligatory to her trope, rather than genuine.

4) Leone

Leone.jpg

Leone is undoubtedly one of the anime’s fan favorites. And what can I say? She captured my heart many a time as well. This lioness of an assassin is sassy and tough-as-nails, fighting off foes with her immense strength. Having grown up in the slums, Leone is sympathetic to the plight of the Empire’s less fortunate citizens. Her resolve never fails to move the other members of Night Raid, making her death the most shocking of them all. If her relationship with Tatsumi had been kept at the platonic level, I think she would have been made an even stronger character. While I have no problem with Leone being a flirtatious woman, her playful antics are often exaggerated and disrupt the darker moments of the story – a criticism that pertains to the anime as a whole. It doesn’t help that Leone is hypersexualized to boot.

3) Akame

We’ve finally reached Akame, the red-eyed killer herself. At a first glance, Akame seems to fit the “dark-haired aloof girl” trope and little else. However, her past reveals that she and her younger sister Kurome were trained as royal assassins prior to the former being recruited by Najenda. The two were then separated, only to meet again as enemies. We also learn that Akame’s teigu – one of forty-eight relics created by the Empire’s first ruler – makes her the deadliest woman in the land. A stoic nature is expected of a warrior like Akame, but it isn’t all that defines her. Due to her intensive upbringing, the swordswoman can be awkward and even tactless when it comes to completing everyday tasks. She’s brave, determined, and well aware of her own faults – traits that make her more than worthy of Spot #3. But as mentioned before, it’s a shame that the anime’s cast even pushes her into the shadows at times.

2) Kurome

Kurome

Despite being introduced later than the members of Night Raid, the disturbing powers of Akame’s younger sister easily earn her Spot #2. The first of her abilities it that of reanimation: Kurome can command up to eight corpse puppets in battle. Needless to say, her desire to add Akame to her personal collection is not exactly what you’d call “sisterly love.” As if that weren’t creepy enough, she’s also been injected with an experimental drug that makes her near-immortal. Aside from her obvious attachment issues, she does exhibit the same quirkiness and vulnerability as many of our heroes. These characteristics not only make her interesting, but add more depth to Akame as well. While Kurome may be driven by vengeance, there’s no doubt that she cares about her fellow Jaegers. To destroy or to perish at the hands of her remaining family is a choice that speaks to a truly complex psyche. What makes her story even more tragic is the fact that she’s very much a puppet of the government herself.

1) Esdeath

Esdeath.png

Spot #1: Esdeath. While hypersexualized, she’s the only other character besides Mine whose interactions with Tatsumi don’t induce an instant eye-roll. Though I can’t say I ship the two, I do find their dynamic humorous. Did Esdeath need to be paired up with him? No, but that’s the beauty of it. Esdeath is still an absolute beast on her own. She hails from a warrior tribe that believes in survival of the fittest, a dogma that remains with her throughout the series. As the head general of the Empire, Esdeath is cold, efficient, and ruthless. Her teigu allows her to freeze anything or anyone in her path, including time. It is only on a whim that she seeks someone to love, and ultimately, someone to control. She doesn’t change her mindset even after falling for the hero. And to top it off, she doesn’t even care about having political power; being able to prove her strength against worthy opponents is more than enough to satisfy her.

Agree or disagree with my lineup? Leave a comment in the section below.
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