It indeed is very confusing.
In episode 4 of the anime, Akame tells this to Tatsumi in the alley:
Maintaining it is nerve-raking
referring to her sword. She continues and says
If you accidentally cut your finger, you die instantly
Keeping the above in mind, I think there are three possibilities:
- She was not aware of the hidden power of the sword at that moment (in episode 4) and later on found that she can cut herself to get the cursed power for a short period. This behavior of an imperials arm has been seen at other places too, where Esdeath did not initially know that she can stop time, but she learned that after Tatsumi escaped her.
- She knew that if she cuts herself with her sword, she would get the cursed powers, but at that moment in episode 4, she wanted to signify that even an invincible looking imperial arms can have weaknesses.
- The last possibility is that the hidden ability of the sword cannot be simply invoked. So when she actually does not want to use the hidden ability and she gets cut by the sword, she might die.
Furthermore, in the last episode, while using the hidden ability, Akame thinks
Even if this consumes me
which indicates that prolonged/over use of the ability might lead the user to get consumed by the curse itself.
In any of three scenarios, I think the anime overall was really nice and it just left some open ended questions to the imagination of the viewers.