Akudama Drive – Mid Season Anime 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)
Mid Season (6 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Akudama Drive immediately grabs your attention with its unique visuals and equally distinct re-imagining of Japan. This highly fictionalized take on not only Japan but society itself makes for a great setting, offering us a post apocalyptic world that’s simultaneously visually vibrant yet bleak at the same time. The show is free to get as creative as it wants and does a superb job of setting up preposterous elements and situations. Examples include our unlikely group of criminals infiltrating a bullet train that can instantly kill you simply for being onboard, or using throwing knives to break through several layers of defensive glass by creating a chain with each throw, or a super strong brawler taking down an entire army of sentry robots. The story is just overflowing with over the top content making for a memorable experience.
Tom: Not only does Akudama Drive boast a unique vision of a futuristic Japan that sticks with you, but truly top tier animation throughout. The visual presentation is quite strong, but especially whenever the Akudama end up butting heads with the Government’s Enforcers; Executioners. This is when the production kicks into high gear, doling out epic, action packed fights near every episode. Complimenting the impressive visuals is a soundtrack that never quits, helping to make every punch thrown, and every building that topples that much more enthralling. Basically, every aspect to the atmosphere of Akudama Drive is on the ball, creating an experience that sucks you right in and holds your attention every week.
Linny: Impressive production aside, the meat of the series is Akudama Drive’s charming ensemble cast. Episode one introduces us to six criminals and one unfortunate straggler, an innocent civilian who’s forced to pretend she’s a top tier criminal just to keep herself alive. We never get anyone’s names, but rather single word descriptors for the type of criminal each member of this rag tag group is. While Ordinary Person is clearly the straight-man type, caught in a web of her own, desperate creation and generally unfortunate circumstances, the rest ensure that the audience has a high chance of finding someone to connect with or root for. The scale is weighed towards those who enjoy larger than life characters, besides Ordinary Person and the Courier, a strong-silent type focused on the mission. Literally everyone else boasts an exaggerated persona, such as the cool, sexy Doctor who can literally stitch herself and others back together in a flash, even after having limbs completely hacked off. There’s also Cutthroat who is so eager to fight that he chops off his own legs without hesitation. Then there’s the Hoodlum, a Grade A Coward that constantly lies and flatters for his own survival with no shame. While they aren’t the deepest of characters you do end up growing a tad attached, especially as the show begins to part ways with some, or even killing others, which is rare for a medium that usually hesitates to off any character in a leading or important role. This lends more weight to the characters themselves, as you realize that Akudama Drive isn’t afraid to begin whittling its lively leads down.
Tom: What really makes this cast stand out though is how they play off one another. Sure, Akudama Drive’s characterization isn’t all that much deeper than any other seasonal anime (Perhaps my greatest complaint with the medium as a whole) but Akudama Drive keeps the banter between its leads front and center, letting the way they play off each other create fun dynamics that are a joy to watch. It keeps the dialogue lively, even during more exposition heavy sequences, making Akudama Drive stick out with personality.
Linny: Circling back to the setting, I really enjoy how Akudama Drive dishes out enough info at a steady pace to make it easy for the audience to follow and get a grasp of this unfamiliar world while at the same time, teasing just the right amount of mysteries so viewers become invested in discovering the truth behind the more intentionally vague parts of the story. It’s a fine balancing act as we get familiar with the premise and universe all the while building up to a big reveal about the true state of the in-show Japan and the dangerous job our cast has been forced into.
Tom: There’s really a couple mysteries floating through Akudama’s progression. First is the cat and its mission. Just what are the Akudama being asked to transport? Why? To where? And what for? This forms the backbone of the main plot, and is the mystery we’ve gotten the most answers for, especially in Episode’s 4 and 5. The second mystery is the fall out of Japan’s civil war between Kansai and Kanto, and what secrets lay beneath the foundation of this dystopian future. The two mysteries are undoubtedly intertwined, but distinct enough that progressing with one of the two leaves room for discovery with the other. Akudama Drive tends to shed light on this second mystery via little inserts of a stick figure rabbit and shark musing to each other via a Government produced propaganda video. Again, another way the show adds to its unique presentation.
Linny: To put it most concisely, Akudama Drive is an over the top show. From its highly stylized, post apocalyptic like take on a futuristic Japan, to its use of colours and character designs, nothing about the show is subtle. And while there are no supernatural, magical enabled characters, almost every single one of them display skills and abilities that are highly abnormal and not at all realistic. There’s also plenty of action that, coupled with the insane character capabilities, make for some grand fight scenes. If you’re in the mood for an action packed, violent and thrilling sci-fi show with lots of exaggerated elements and a dash of schlock, Akudama Drive might prove to be the anime of the season for you.
Tom: While we’ve had nothing but praise for Akudama Drive, I do have to air one quibble. For as fun as the show is, it still hasn’t moved me emotionally. And that’s not for lack of effort. Episode 6, without giving too much away, ends with some shocking developments, and one especially that could have produced tears. Unfortunately for as fun as the cast is, they’re still quite thin, or one note even, as characters go, making it difficult for the show to ever really land an emotional gut punch. Still, this is a quibble at best. Even without succeeding in that regard, there’s still an enormous amount of fun to be had. Assuming Akudama Drive nails its reveals, and actually manages to make them genuinely surprising, I think it might become this Fall’s top title.