A prequel series to Akame ga Kill!, Akame ga Kill! Zero tells the story of Akame’s time as an assassin for the Empire and how the status quo got to where it was at the start of the original series.
Akame and her sister Kurome were taken by the Empire at a young age and were ruled capable enough to be trained in groups of elite assassins to aid the Empire in quashing rebellions before they start. Although Kurome and Akame are placed into different groups, they work hard with their new-found friends for the purpose of protecting the Empire. Their targets are powerful and pose a great risk to their and their friends’ well-being, and casualties are inevitable. However, the Empire is not as it seems, and much is going on behind the scenes that could be an even bigger threat and potentially cost them their lives.
Who Is It For?
Akame ga Kill! Zero is a series that, much like its primary series Akame ga Kill!, will appeal to fans of action-packed shounen series, especially those looking for a slightly darker take on the demographic’s style of battles.
How Was It?
Akame ga Kill ! Zero follows the original series’ titular character, Akame, during her time serving as an assassin for the Empire. As a prequel/background kind of story for what is a fairly popular franchise,Akame ga Kill! Zero definitely has a potential wide appeal to fans of its parent series. And to a certain extent, I would say that it manages to have appeal. However, there are a few significant issues mixed in with the good that have prevented it from really living up to its potential in the first volume.
Before we really delve into the plot, it’s worth discussing the art of the series, as while the story is handled by Takahiro in both series, in Akame ga Kill! Zero the art is done by Kei Toru instead of Tetsuya Tashiro. I felt that the character designs still had a decent level of quality to them and facial expressions in particular were heavily emphasized with excellent use of shading techniques. The issue, however, was that action sequences saw a significant downgrade in Zero. Akame ga Kill has frequent, dynamic, and violent fights littered throughout each volume, and Zero is no exception. However, action was disorganized and difficult to follow for most of this volume. I found myself a lot of the time just thinking, “Okay so a fight just happened and the verdict is this person died”, with little to no idea about the actual attacks performed during the battle.
Akame ga Kill! Zero has a decent amount of interesting plot elements that appear to have been set up in this volume. The large cast of characters was set up fairly effectively. Although most of the members of the cast are fairly one-dimensional at the moment, I didn’t have a problem keeping all of them straight in my head because the information that was provided about each character was memorable enough to make them stick out on their own. Other elements, such as the weapons of Akame’s comrades, were handled fairly well too. The “Shingu”, as their weapons are called, are similar to the ancient and extremely powerful Teigu, except while each of them has one big strength, they also come with one major weakness. I actually found this to be more clever than the parent series’ use of Teigu as it sets up for potential usage of Achilles’ Heel-style moments.
My biggest complaint with Akame ga Kill! Zero, however, was how much of the narrative was designed. As I mentioned earlier, it was hard to follow what happened in battle sequences due to illustrations, but this issue is highly symbolic of most of the plot in this first volume. It’s not that it’s difficult to follow (it’s very easy), but a lot of events feel very contrived and poorly positioned to allow readers to suspend their disbelief. For example, at the very beginning of the volume, the traveling group mentions that they are wary of a band of bandits that aren’t active in the area but should be feared, and then surprise, the very same bandits attack them on the next page.
Additionally, Akame ga Kill! has never been the kind of series to be particularly capable at handling the concept of moral grayness (which wouldn’t be a problem if it didn’t try to do so, but it does), but Zero had a particularly difficult time of it. The idea is that Akame and her friends have been more or less brainwashed and trained as assassins for the empire while being tricked into thinking they are acting for good. However, this is very difficult to believe because of the blatantly evil way the empire’s commanders behave. It’s to the point that even though these kids are supposed to be raised to believe they are the good guys, I have a hard time believing that they wouldn’t see right through their handlers because of how inept they are at hiding their true nature.
That all being said, Akame ga Kill! Zero still works fairly well as a prequel series for the original. Although technically you don’t have to know anything about the previous series to enjoy the books, I would still recommend only approaching the series if you have read the originals. I say this because the originals just serve as a much better introduction for the world with a slightly more composed story, and so most of the narrative cracks in Zero can be filled by reading the original. On top of this, there are quite a few foreshadowing moments dropped into the story for fans of the original that make for some excellent dramatic irony and tension that wouldn’t exist otherwise.
Akame ga Kill! Zero is a moderately capable prequel to the original series, although I wouldn’t really recommend reading it unless you are already a fan. The art is pretty solid outside of fight scenes (although that’s a pretty big caveat right there), and although the narrative has a few glaring flaws, it also mixed some interesting concepts that likely will have some appeal to readers of the original manga. If you’re considering buying the book, decide for yourself if you are okay with the flaws I’ve discussed. If suspension of disbelief is critical for your enjoyment of a series, then you might have a tough time of it, but if you feel like you can look past these issues then there is still a decent story at the core that could appeal to you.
Akame ga Kill! Zero Vol. 1 was published by Yen Press on March 22nd, 2016. With a story by Takahiro and art by Kei Toru, the series is currently ongoing and published by Square Enix in their Monthly Big Gangan imprint. The original series, Akame ga Kill!, received an anime adaptation from White Fox, which ran from July 2014 to December 2014.
Date of Publication: March 22nd, 2016
Translator: Christine Dashiell
Author: Takahiro and Kei Toru
Publisher: Yen Press