Akame ga Kill!! is a well-paced, shockingly dark and violent fantasy manga, pitting a group of ruthless terrorist/assassins called Night Raid (aka our heroes) against a corrupt government that makes them look virtuous by comparison. The setup is formulaic—quirky young people with cool powers and weapons taking down the Man—but the plot is engaging and the action unusually imaginative.
Although Night Raid assassin Akame isn’t the protagonist, she quickly became a fan favorite, which is no doubt why she gets this prequel manga explaining how she became a stoic, black-clad dispenser of bloody justice.
Akame ga Kill! Zero introduces us to the young Akame and her little sister Kurome, orphans groomed by the Empire to be obedient living weapons. Both girls believe the Empire loves them and is training them to do vital peacekeeping work, even when they’re forcibly separated. Each sister joins a team of assassins in training and dedicates herself to martial arts. In time, the manga introduces shingu, magical weapons that give users a variety of power-ups.
The tear-jerkingly close relationship between Akame and Kurome is as predictable as the likelihood that eventually they’ll meet again on opposite sides. But the story chugs along at an enjoyable pace, introducing a plethora of supporting characters and a backstory of political intrigue without getting bogged down. This is far from the only manga about innocent young people brainwashed to kill, but it’s done well, developing the student assassins’ personalities as they find different ways to deal with their grim work. It’s a more interesting setup than Akame ga Kill!!, showing the workings of the evil Empire from the inside.
Zero has the same writer as the original series but a different artist. In both manga, the art is weaker than the writing; Kei Toru, the artist of Zero, draws flashy action and cool character designs but isn’t much for detail, and the female characters have weird-looking breasts. Still, it’s good enough to move the story along and make the cast visually engaging. Like its progenitor, Akame ga Kill! Zero takes the stale ingredients of fighting fantasy manga and serves them well enough to make them feel fresh.
publisher: Yen Press
art: Kei Toru