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    Akudama Drive: The Cyberpunk Experience of the Year

    Akudama Drive has officially finished airing with its release of episode 12. This cyberpunk anime has been highly rated for its cast of characters and their unique development.

    Teaser visual, Photo by Studio Pierrot

    Inspired by the film Reservoir Dogs, director Tomohisa Taguchi and story writer Kazutaka Kodaka did not name any of their characters. Rather, each character is referred to by an alias.

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    Kodaka previously worked on the hit video game Danganronpa, which was the primary reason why Taguchi wanted him on the Akudama Drive project. If you look at the character profiles for Akudama Drive, the art style is the same as Danganronpa. The storyline is also very dark and murderous, similar to its video game predecessor.

    Courier and Cutthroat teaser visual, Photo by Studio Pierrot

    The story takes place in the cyberpunk metropolis Kansai. Within Kansai, deadly criminals named Akudama roam in the shadows and if caught, can be sentenced to over 500 years. One day, the Akudama receive a mysterious text message hiring them to rescue Cutthroat, an Akudama who was caught by the police and sentenced to a public execution. After completing their job, the person behind the text message sends the Akudama on a variety of life-threatening missions.

    Cutthroat introduction, Photo by Studio Pierrot

    The story somewhat follows Ordinary Person, who really isn’t the protagonist but rather a character used to allow the viewer to ease into how Kansai works. Ordinary Person is accidentally swept up into the Akudaman’s antics after posing as an Akudama named Swindler while on the brink of death. Throughout the series, she learns what it really means to be an Akudama and witnesses firsthand Kansai’s corruptness.

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    If the story used another character, for example another Akudama, to ease the viewer into the setting, it would be difficult for the viewer to assimilate. It would be weird for an Akudama to not understand how Kansai’s police system works when they’re a high-status criminal. Using Ordinary Person as this means for ease slowly brings the viewer into the plot since she’s unaware of the criminal justice system and its ruthlessness.

    Ordinary Person, Photo by Studio Pierrot

    Each of the episodes is named after a movie, probably a movie that the directors and storywriter used for inspiration. For example, episode 2 is titled “Reservoir Dogs”, which is appropriate since all of the Akudama have been assembled and they all have aliases. Episode 3 is titled “Mission: Impossible” since the Akudama attack the Shinkansen, Kansai’s deity. Due to Kansai’s worship as well as difficult electronic obstacles, the Akudama believe that the mission will be impossible to complete. The last example is episode 10, which is titled “Babel”. Similarly to the plot of the movie Babel, this episode follows four characters trying to cross the border between Kansai and the god-like city Kanto.

    Akudama in the Shinkansen, Photo by Studio Pierrot

    Before I go into what I specifically enjoyed and didn’t enjoy about Akudama Drive, I want to say that overall this was a fantastic anime. Since the anime doesn’t delve into the backstories of many characters, you don’t get too attached to them. Adding in backstories would interrupt the flow of the story and in my opinion, wouldn’t be a good addition to the characters. This cast needs to remain mysterious to the viewer so that they can understand the viewpoints from the Akudama side and from the criminal justice side.

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    If you enjoy dark science fiction anime, definitely give Akudama Drive a try. The opening is pretty catchy too and has insane visuals.

    Below will contain spoilers for the second half of the anime.

    The episode that really shone for me was episode 9, titled “The Shining”. We get to see Cutthroat’s true nature, which caused chills to run up my spine throughout the entire episode. Despite how terrifying Cutthroat can be, I found him to be one of my favorite characters primarily because of his design and development.

    Cutthroat, Photo by Studio Pierrot

    Cutthroat is by far the most dangerous Akudama out of the seven since his sentence is 967 years. His love for the color red drives him to murder people in the bloodiest way possible just so he can see the color. His childlike happiness when seeing anything colored red hints at his mental instability. Episode 9 shows Cutthroat’s self-orientation and his will to do anything just to see the color red.

    GIF created by ianime0 on Tumblr

    Swindler, Courier, and Sister navigate the Executioner’s Headquarters to find Brother’s whereabouts. The halls are suspiciously quiet and Courier slips his motorcycle on a pool of blood and crashes into a large room. There, the three see Cutthroat on top of a large pile of Executioner bodies with an excited look on his face. He tells them that he made this pile as a “cake” for Swindler. Prior to this scene, Cutthroat was completely fascinated by Swindler and constantly complimented her beauty. Finally, we see Cutthroat reach an intense desire to kill that which he loves to reach euphoria.

    Cutthroat, Photo by Studio Pierrot

    Cutthroat begins to attack Swindler but she manages to escape. She hides in the bathroom, where Cutthroat breaks a hole in the door similar to the famous scene from The Shining. Takahiro Sakurai, Cutthroat’s voice actor, shone during this episode with his chilling voice acting abilities. Hearing Cutthroat scream as he begs Swindler to let him kill her was intense. I ended up watching this episode multiple times because of how big of an impression it left on me.

    One thing that I did struggle to understand at first was Kanto during episode 11. There was alot of new information introduced during this episode about how Kanto exists on a computer plane and how they’re using Brother and Sister to immortalize themselves. I was confused as to how the siblings would make Kanto immortal as well as what being inside of the computer was like. However, it’s not necessary to understand how Kanto works because the cast promptly leaves Kanto forever at the end of the episode.

    Courier and Swindler in Kanto, Photo by Studio Pierrot

    Akudama Drive ended with a BANG. Swindler’s character development reach its peak when she had her official introduction as an Akudama as well as her coming to terms that she needed to die to save the siblings. Courier also had a bit of character development when he finally accepted the 500 yen from Swindler.

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    Swindler, Photo by Studio Pierrot

    Having the anime end with the siblings escaping and the final Akudama, Courier, dying was appropriate. All of the Akudama, not including Doctor, died fulfilling their mission. While I was sad that I wouldn’t be able to see them in action anymore, I felt calm knowing that the siblings escaped and that the god-like hand Kanto had over Kansai was being destroyed. I do hope that Studio Pierrot releases some kind of guide for the anime because I am curious to learn more about Kansai’s structure and the reason behind its blind belief for Kanto.

    Overall, I give Akudama Drive a 7/10 for its incredible visuals and gripping storyline.

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