Panning the Stream: Akame ga Kill!, Rail Wars!, DRAMAtical Murder

This group of shows is an excellent example of the old adage: “never judge a book by its cover.”

Just one series in this trio caught my attention, but it was the one I least expected. And the other two, which at least sounded interesting on paper, were… not so much. This post also includes a brief blurb/rant on Sword Art Online II, and the reason(s) I’m not watching it.

Full details, reviews, and ravings below the jump.

Akame ga Kiru! (“Akame ga Kill!”)

Studio: White Fox
Based On: The manga written by Takahiro and illustrated by Tashiro Tetsuya
Streaming On: Crunchyroll (listed as “Akame ga Kill!”)

In a Sentence: Country boy Tatsumi comes to the capital to make it big, but things take a turn for the crazy when he runs into Night Raid, a band of assassins who hunt the wealthy.

How was it? Surprisingly fun!

Overall
I went into this one wondering how long I’d make it before I gave up – and the next thing I knew, the episode was over. I really can’t believe how much I enjoyed this show. There’s nothing particularly deep or subtle about it, but it was well-executed and damn entertaining, balancing goofy humor with nicely animated action sequences and sudden, grim tragedy. Heck, even the small moments of fanservice (all played for laughs) mostly worked for me.

The tonal shifts are whiplashy at times (it shifts from comedy to tragedy very smoothly, but from tragedy BACK to comedy a bit less so), but both the funny and dramatic parts were handled well, as the series used the humor to get me invested so that I actually cared about the cast when things got intense. And speaking of that cast, our fresh-faced MC has some spring in his step, and the Night Raid gang look to be a curious blend of screwball and darkness, making them a group of people I wouldn’t mind spending some time with each week. I don’t see this one winning any awards, but it has the potential to be a seriously entertaining pulpy action-fantasy.

Coming Back for More?
Shows like this have a tendency to have great pilots and then fall apart in subsequent episodes, but I’ll be around for at least a couple weeks, hoping that it all holds together. Fingers crossed it stays good enough for me to keep around. It’s always nice to have a fun hack-n-slash on the ol’ watchlist.

Rail Wars!

Studio: Passione!
Based On: The light novels by Toyoda Takumi
Streaming On: Crunchyroll

In a Sentence: In an alternate Japan where the railway system is still owned by the government, four walking cliches train to become railroad employees.

How was it? Noticeably lacking in wars.

Overall
The title and the premise had me cautiously optimistic about this one, which was foolish, because of course it’s just a fanservice-filled trope-fest where a bland MC accidentally gropes the sweet, busty girl and then gets beat up by the hotheaded lady-badass while the cheerful musclehead looks on.

The stuff where they actually did things with trains was mildly interesting (and certainly different from the usual “high school” locale of shows like this), but the pacing was so jerky and characters such cardboard cutouts that it was hard to really care about what was happening in each scene. I stuck around for the whole episode because I kept thinking maybe now, NOW is when the “wars” part of the title will actually come into play and all this rom-com nonsense will hit the backburner, but it never did. I am disappoint.

Coming Back for More?
I’ve seen these tropes executed worse, but they sure weren’t executed well enough for me to want to watch more of them. If I have some free time I might give it one more episode to see if it stops pandering and starts storytelling, but I’m none too optimistic at this point.

DRAMAtical Murder

Studio: NAZ
Based On: The BL (boy’s love) visual novel game developed by Nitro+chiral
Streaming On: Crunchyroll

In a Sentence: A guy wanders around a cool-looking city populated by bland “hot guy” archetypes who are all trying to seduce him in the most boring way possible.

How was it? (-, – )…zzzZZZ

Overall
You’d think a show with both “DRAMA” and “Murder” in its title would be at least mildly interesting, but this was about the dullest premiere I watched all week. There’s a cool cyberpunk-esque city with AI dogs, holographic ladies, and a bunch of hilariously named gangs (“Bug Bomb” and “Dry Juice” are the top dogs in town), which tricked me into thinking something cool was going to happen, but the entire episode basically amounted to a lot of static shots of guys talking to each other about, what? How badly they wanted the MC to join their nonthreatening gangs? Even the actors sounded bored. I couldn’t make it to the end. My eyelids were beginning to droop.

Coming Back for More?
Only if I need help falling asleep.

Not Watching

Sword Art Online II

Unlike Free!, which is more a “lack of interest” thing, I’m actively angry at SAO. The damn thing hooked me with the premiere and then strung me along for the better part of a cour, teasing me with an interesting premise but giving me nothing but a stock MC and a sequence of rushed, one-off story arcs featuring a bunch of cliche damsels in distress. I gave up around episode 10 and I wish I’d given up earlier, because now I’ll never get those hours of my life back, dammit.

So, no, I won’t be watching SAO II, is what I’m trying to say. You kids have fun, though. Maybe the MC will develop an actual personality this time around. Wouldn’t that be something?

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