Akudama Drive – 1st Episode Review
Synopsis: Many years ago, a Great Civil War ravaged Japan, leaving the country fragmented between two regions: Kansai and Kanto. In Kansai, a group of six Akudama carry out missions given to them by a mysterious black cat, while evading the police. But a dangerous journey is about to unfold when a civilian girl becomes twisted into the Akudama’s way of life and witnesses their criminal drives. (Official Funimation Synopsis)
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Akudama Drive oozes with personality throughout the entire premiere; helping to craft a colorful, futuristic, dystopian Japan that’s immediately gripping. The first few minutes are all about selling us on what Japan, or more specifically the Kansai region, has turned into by this point in time. We’re treated to visuals of a city covered in smoke, illuminated by Japanese neon building ads and holograms run amok. With a peppering of sky ships flying about it’s clear that Akudama Drive takes some inspiration from films like Blade Runner in its efforts to craft a gritty, future society that pops with color from the very first shot, while adding a bit of its own spin.
From there we begin our story, meeting a seeming nobody; a cute, young girl whose name we never quite get. Just exiting work she rushes to save a cat from oncoming traffic, casting her in a favorable light with the audience. This immediately likable girl then stops off for a quick bite of Takoyaki, only to stumble into a chance meeting with Courier, one of the Akudama, a group of powerful, law-breaking individuals. From there her life is turned upside down by misunderstanding after misunderstanding, until this poor, Ordinary Girl’s only option is to play along as if she’s one of these dangerous criminals herself.
What’s fantastic about this opener is how grounded we start and the gradual escalation of absurdity by episode’s end. Once our Ordinary Girl has her fated meeting with Courier we begin to meet each and every one of the most dangerous Akudama. These exceedingly dangerous individuals may not be the most original of characters; boasting the typical big muscles tiny brain Brawler, the seductive but sadistic Doctor, the arrogant Hacker, the cold Courier, and the in-over-his-head Hoodlum. Just the fact that their names are but their preferred method of criminal activity sets how standard the show’s main players are. But what really works, and turns them from archetypes into endearing individuals, is the interactions between them, particularly once the episode forces the entire ‘crew’ together in a monumental task of saving one of their own from execution. The way these characters bounce off each other, and throw quips around really brings them to life, giving the show a fun dynamic that you just can’t help but want to see more of.
What really seals the deal though is the episode’s end. Just as the show reaches an incredible action climax, which builds over the course of the last 12 minutes, the show switches gears, ending on a cliffhanger that forces a sudden turn of events that’ll have you wondering just what is going to happen next. How is our Ordinary Girl going to get out of this? Who is pulling the strings of the Akudama, and what terrible crime will they be asked to commit next? It’s this parade of questions, in the wake of the show’s excellent escalation and lively banter between its leads, that has me completely enthralled for what the series might do next. Honestly, Akudama Drive’s premiere might be the strongest, tightest first episode to air yet this Fall, and I am all in to see just what happens next. This is a Fall offering you don’t want to skip out on, not if you like sci-fi action and plenty of it.