How Not to Animate Sword Fights: Episode 8 of Akame ga Kiru

I have remarked on Twitter that watching Historical European Martial Arts and Oriental Martial Arts videos has made it more difficult to enjoy anime sword fights.  Either the fight needs to be outlandish enough for me to completely suspend my disbelief–like the fights in Jubei-chan II–or bear a significant degree of realism–like those of Carried by the Wind: Tsukikage Ran.  (No, I’m not going to spoil any of the fights for my dear readers.  You must watch the show if you haven’t seen it!)  On the other hand, the eighth episode of Akame ga Kiru went to neither extreme, which left me cringing at their bad techniques and scientifically impossible feats.  The bad techniques went far beyond General Liver and Bulat standing in place and exchanging lightning fast cuts and parries in a manner reminiscent of the later fights in DBZ.  I know that Akame ga Kiru is fiction and that I should not expect moves out of the Codex Wallerstein–as awesome as that would be; but, bad swordplay will detract from anyone’s enjoyment of the fights.  A friend of mind who cares nothing about HEMA even noticed that the fight was badly done!

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But, let’s start here in my highlight reel of bad swordplay:

Three on OneIf you remember the fight, Bulat takes out the fighters behind him with kicks and bisects the opponent before him simultaneously.  There are many problems with this nonsense: 1) One does not stay in the middle of multiple opponents, but attacks the closest one and attempts to tangle up his foes by out-positioning them (e.g. 4:40 into this video); 2) Two side kicks delivered simultaneously would have no power; 3) the bearded enemy to Bulat’s front, being closer, should have been struck down first no matter how you look at it.  Tatsuki ogles at Bulat’s awesome technique, but I look at this scene as pure laziness by the animators.

Next one’s a doozy:

Ridiculous High JumpRemember how high Tatsumi jumped to deliver this strike?  Akame ga Kiru loves showing these ridiculously high jumping attacks, but they should all be epic failures.  Remember when you caught fly balls in little league?  Essentially, that’s how devil kid should have approached this situation and taken Tatsumi out with a strike to his back.  Who in their right mind would block a strike that started a hundred feet high?  Also, Tatsumi misses his first chance at slicing off devil kid’s fingers.

The third one stands as the worst shot of the whole fight:

Bad BlockIf you watched the footage carefully, you’ll notice that Tatsumi blocked well ahead of the strike, and the devil kid obligingly attacks his sword.  Why?  Tatsumi’s arms are actually ahead of his weapon and a much easier target!!!  This was just wrong, I tell you!

And we have a good parry from Tatsumi, but…

Great Parry…he neglects the obvious counter-cut and the fight continues.  Nevermind, this is a terrible parry.  See how far Tatsumi needs to extend his arms?  They’re even locked, which is a huge error!  How much easier to simply draw back a little, let the strike pass, and deliver a solid cut in the opening left by devil kid’s attack?

Three things need to be said about this picture:

If Tatsumi was competent, that awed expression would be the last one on that villain's face.

If Tatsumi was competent, that awed expression would be the last one on that villain’s face.

Lindybeige has an excellent video on this very common position which we see in movies and TV shows.  There’s an additional point to make here that the devil kid’s fingers have no protection whatsoever.  Tatsumi could easily slice them off!  Then, let me reiterate two more points Lindybeige makes: 1) This is a very bad and unnecessary position to be in–whoever moves first wins; and 2) Tatsumi should have half-sworded into his foe’s neck.  Yes, you can grab a sharp sword with your bare hands–you really can!

The following pictures suffer from the same defect:

vlcsnap-2014-08-24-15h29m03s250 vlcsnap-2014-08-24-15h29m38s89Neither of the fighters’ swords have proper hand guards.  Bulat’s cut should have traveled down the blade and through Liver’s fingers.  In the second, either opponent has that option.  A guard of some kind, even a simple cross guard, must be part of a sword if one means to bind with it.  Ancient swords had no guards because they were always used in conjunction with a shield.  And no, it is not unchivalrous to cut your opponent’s fingers off!  We see it in European manuals, and the world of Akame ga Kiru has no chivalric code to speak of!

What the...?  Send that sword back to the Kung Fu movie set where you found it, Bulat!

What the…? Send that sword back to the Kung Fu movie set where you found it, Bulat!

That concludes the glaring defects I found in this battle.  Did anyone like the fight?  Sheele’s final battle in episode six is so far the best fight in the series.  It followed my rule of being so outlandish as to suspend my disbelief.

Terrifying words, but at least one character believes in having a proper guard on their weapon!

Terrifying words, but at least one character believes in having a proper guard on their weapon!

Broken Blade and Meditations on Human Misery

As many of you know, I’m incredibly fond of a manga called Broken Blade or Break Blade.  I just finished watching the superbly animated series of OVAs based on the first part of that manga.  They follow a protagonist named Rygart, who’s considered useless for his rare inability to use magic.  Somehow, this very deficiency allows him to pilot an ancient mech discovered around this time.  This fortunate event comes of the heels of war being declared against the kingdom ruled by Rygart’s best friends from college: King Hodr and Queen Sigyn.

GirgeRygatzClash

The mech transforms this useless and disappointing guy into a hero.  However, even all the talent he has for piloting this mech avails naught against General Borcuse.  *Spoilers ahead!  You have fair warning!*  In the final battle of the series with everything on the line, Rygart fanatically attacks Borcuse’s larger and more powerful mech with his now ragged looking mech.  All his weapons break and Borcuse toys with him.  At last, Rygart is given a curious looking weapon–which doesn’t work!  At least at first, but through swinging it around enough times, he gains the victory.  YOU MUST WATCH THIS FIGHT!!!!  ITS AWESOMENESS DEFIES EXPLANATION!!!!

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*Ahem*  Now, that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I can begin tying the above to human misery.  Rygart’s situation in the OVAs parallels a believer’s in many ways.  We are hounded by our sense of misery, incapacity, and guilt: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy” (John 16:20).  Though we make great strides in faith and virtue, at last we find a difficult opponent who mocks us by our failure to conquer him.  We overcame large faults, but grow melancholy under nickel and dime temptations; or, we gain little virtues, but have a great fault that downs us often.  Our prayer and penance, by which we conquered our other foes, don’t eradicate this new enemy.  We get tired and frustrated.  Our hope wears thin.  Each prayer and penance seems a joke: our lower soul wishes to burst out laughing perhaps in the middle of prayer for humility, chastity, patience, peace, piety, hope, industry, or magnanimity as our higher soul mourns our infidelity.  Our efforts fall into Einstein’s definition of insanity.  Essential acts strike us as absurd.  Yet, their very absurdity is no argument for their discontinuation!

Break-Blade-3

Human misery, even if we focused on a single person, gapes as an unfathomably terrifying abyss.  We have no reason to “believe in ourselves” as the popular mantra goes, and many reasons to distrust ourselves.  These powerful foes or nickel and dime temptations I mentioned earlier cannot be escaped by dint of effort–especially the smaller temptations which attack us like annoying flies.  We need to patiently endure every hour of the day and carry these temptations even to our beds, knowing that victory is not in our hands, but in God’s.

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Yet, let not the struggle depress anyone: what more perfect edifice has God’s Infinite Mercy to build upon than unfathomable human misery?  Indeed, God’s Mercy shows its very infinitude by filling up human misery with its grace, forgiveness, and strength.  Like Rygart, we must swing the weapons of prayer and penance unceasingly.  We feel like asses in our inability to perceive the benefit of these actions, but we must also imitate the donkey in our stubbornness.  In patience, we shall possess our souls!

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I have borrowed from St. Francis de Sales for the above paragraphs, and would heartily recommend his Introduction to the Devout Life or Jean Pierre Camus’s The Spirit of St. Francis for anyone interested in learning more of his wisdom.