- Titles: Akudama Drive
- Genre: Action, Drama, Crime, Science Fiction, dystopia, kinda almost romance
- Episodes: 12 (and a recap)
- Studio: Studio Pierrot
She was just an ordinary girl. Minding her own business and trying to get some delicious, delicious takoyaki. That’s all. Who knew that trying to return a 500 yen coin and save a cat were going to get her in this much trouble. She might have started the day an ordinary girl, but now she’s the legendary swindler? And she’s stuck with a bunch of hardened criminals, called Akudama, trying to pull off some nea impossible train heist?!? How much worse can things get? There are sme questoins, you should never ask and an ordinary girl is about to get some answers she might not have wanted to hear!
I really thought Akudama Drive was a video game. I can’t find anything that confirms that and yet, I still think it’s a video game. Does that happen to you sometimes? When you arbitrarily decide something about an anime for absolutely no reason and then you can’t shake it even after confirming that you’re wrong? Just me?
Akudama Drive looks cool and edgy! It’s a visually interesting anime with a lot of great neon colours and some interesting designs. There are also some cool camera tricks, art inlays and well, it’s a lot. At times it gave me shades of Suicide Squad editing but I’m just gonna say Akudama was better. Line of sight is in fact pretty good throughout the series and the images and action are consistently clear.
But it does feel a bit frantic. Like a senior in school studying cinema that wants to try out all sorts of technics they just read about in their senior project. There are a lot of tricks and few of them actually add to the experience or work with the cinematic language. That’s not to say it was bad but a lot more flash than substance.
I quite liked the character designs. They were very reminiscent of Danganronpa, especially in the eyes which is what makes those designs stand out in the first place. I’m not sure if the production team of Akudama drive was involved in the Danganronpa games but I wouldn’t be surprised. The similarities are difficult to ignore. The Akudama characters are much less outlandish though, which makes sense for a drama.
Story & Characters
Before I even started the first episode something struck me. All the episodes were named for movies, movies I had almost all watched. Except for Balck Rain. And all of them were thrillers, either crime, political or good old scary with the exception of the French movie La Cité des Enfants Perdus which is more of a Sci Fi – Fantasy. I love that flick, I was so happy to be reminded of it!
I’m not gonna lie, I thought this was the coolest. It won big style points with me. I could see that there were some thematic similarities. Most of the movies were American except of course for the aforementioned French Movie and Brother which is Japanese. At least if it’s the one I’ve seen. There are a few movies with that title.
Unfortunately, I immediately realized that the movies were chosen for their titles and not for the events or themes of the movies themselves. For instance, the first episode is called Se7en and in it, the 7 main characters are brought together. There are no murders or mentions of murders, no biblical undertones, no exploration of psychopathy. It’s cause there are seven of them. Get it? If they had been choosing more thematically we surely would have gotten Baby Driver, Oceans 11, Only God Forgives, Internal Affairs and even the obvious Danganronpa. I guess it might have been weird to name an anime episode after another anime though.
And that’s sort of what my experience with Akudama Drive was. Some really intriguing concepts that ended up being surface level and kind of disappointing. For me. After finishing the series, I saw that most of the people I follow on AniList had rated it really high. A bit more digging and I discovered that more than a few professional anime critiques were completely enamoured with this series, some even calling it anime of the year.
And I don’t get it. I clearly missed something or it went over my head..
Sure there were a few good moments but it most of them seemed generally derivative. The ending was unusual by virtue of not being the expected all-out gun battle but at the same time, it was so heavily contrived and inconsistent with the universe the series had built that I really thought it might have been a joke for a while. Like maybe Akudama was in fact an action-comedy all this time and I was just a bit slow on the uptake. But all the other sites assure me it’s a drama.
There is a lot crammed into this series and that might have been part of the issue for me. You have to know that aside from the seven main characters I mentioned before, there are 2 more protagonists and 3 main antagonists to get to know. That 12 characters. Also, a universe that needs to get build from the ground up as it is quite different and includes an alternate history, and some made-up words, a bunch of sci fi tropes to throw in and a lot of gore and action.
So of course the characters are going to be less developed and the world-building is not going to have time for details. Just to give you an example, until the last few episodes I wasn’t exactly sure what an Akudama is exactly. It’s in the title. People are referred to as Akudama on a regular basis right from episode 1. But at first, all the Akudama we meet seem to be superhuman, surviving barrages of bullets and doing impossible feats. So for a while, I thought they weren’t merely criminals but super-powered criminals. But then in the latter half, they tell us people can be declared Akudama. So it’s not something you’re born with or even acquire. It’s determined by the state. So it’s just criminals? Why are they not called criminals then? The word exists in that universe.
I could have missed it and I’m sure the wiki would explain it for me, but it wasn’t made clear enough for me to just pick up the meaning while watching normally. That seems like a miss on the part of the exposition since this is such an important and recurring part of the show. And it’s not the only example. There are a lot of blanks to fill in and some of them would have deserved a little more attention from the series itself.
You can figure it out, it won’t stop you from understanding what’s happening or enjoying the series. But the writers clearly didn’t have time to set up all the foundation so they just stuck to what was absolutely necessary.
Akudama Dive is very much plot-driven. The bulk of the runtime is dedicated to action. Most of the characters are basic archetypes and few get developed. Being archetypes though, they are pretty easy to understand and it makes establishing motivations clear.
For me, Cutthroat was an early favourite. He’s a completely vile and unredeemable character. An unrepentant killer that is clearly deranged and is obsessed with the main protagonist in a way that makes you worried for her. The show frames him as a character you shouldn’t like. But he’s also very strong and helping all the characters we are supposed to cheer for.
I thought that was interesting. It forces both the audience and the characters in the series to somehow reconcile the disgust and disdain for the character to his obvious utility in action. It examines the morality of encouraging an unhinged murderer when those murders are to our advantage and where exactly is the line. At the end of the day, how is that character different from those that benefit from his actions. I thought that was a great theme.
That’s not what the narrative chose to do with the character but there was the potential for it early on and I found that promise very interesting for a while.
Honestly, I’m a bit baffled. I usually love crime thrillers way more than the average anime fan but this is a complete reversal. I still think I may have missed something. I did watch this one dubbed so that might have something to do with it.
You might like this anime if:
Your guess is as good as mine. You’ll probably like it, most people seem to.
My favourite character:
- Every time the CG gets bad – take a sip
- Every time there’s a split-screen – take a sip
- Every time Cutthroat gets excited about the colour red – worry
- Every time Hacker is over it – take a sip
- Every time Swindler panics – take a sip
- Every time Brawler rushes in head-on – sigh
- Every time Cutthroat hits on Swindler – take a sip
- Every time executioners show up – take a sip
- Every time anyone says Akudama – wait for an explanation
- Every time we see Bunny and Sharky – pay real close attention
- Every time Doctore stitches herself up – take a sip
- Every time the show uses bullet time – take a sip
- Every time we see Hoodlum and Brawler’s bromance – awwwww
- Every time Swindler frets about pets or kids – take a sip
- Every time Courier is a stickler for doing his job – take a sip
- Every time we see a 500 yen coin – get a small snack
- Every time we see Hacker’s drone – cheer
I save all my screencaps on my Pinterest and you can find more there if you are interested. But I still like to show you a few in the post. If you’re like me, screencaps are something that really helps you decide to watch an anime or not.