• 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?

Cats are always trouble!

Production

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.

you see it, right?

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.

Maybe even some Matrix!

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.

Oh no the takoyaki will fall! Tragic!

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.

Hacker’s magical probe is fine though. I accept cute mechanical dog things, no explanation needed

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.

white haired anime boys are almost as much trouble as cats!

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.

why didn’t I chose an image of Hoodlum?

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:

Hoodlum

Suggested drink:

Swindler sour

  • 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.

23 thoughts

  1. The colors look very intense.

    There was another anime where each episode was another movie title. Remember Rec? One of my very favorite rom-coms.

    Haven’t seen it yet but… Sometimes too many characters leaves a story muddied. I can’t follow it when lots of people all seem to get significant time, especially when there isn’t a lot to visually differentiate them. Magia Record is a bad offender that way. Except for hair color, they all look alike. My brain is too weak.

  2. It is based on the characters design from the person who did Dangaroba series. It is a original show. Thanks for watching this. I thought only I and Scott saw this, so I am really happy you did too.

      1. I did not get that expression when it was airing. Oh btw Irina, I asked this on twitter, but I don’t know if you’ve seen it. Have you seen Mushoku, and how do feel about it?

        1. Oh no, I missed that. I have not seen Mushoku and right now I don’t really have any plans to do so. I have a little isekai fatigue.

  3. Okay, there’s four of us and now I don’t feel so bad. Don’t get me wrong. The hubby actually watched this with me, and he quite enjoyed it. I enjoyed it but I did get to the end and think…maybe I missed something there… But then all flash and action with weak world building and story is (sadly) kind of the norm in most live action scifi in this century, so I have come to accept that that’s just how it is. You know, it isn’t your grandma’s scifi which was more about the science, or the speculation part of it than lots of zoomy spaceships and cool haircuts and makeup. And there’s something to be said for rampant action and flashy colors. Long as you accept that there isn’t much more to it. That said, yes, Akudama Drive did a great job of making me feel swept along like Swindler so it was okay to be a little confused about what was going on. It was entertaining and fun and nothing deep or thoughtful about it, really. I liked it, but I don’t see it going down as a great classic. It’s okay. 😀

    1. I’m with you. It was a fine but kind of run of the mill show with room for improuvement. Or so I thought. Oh well.

  4. Oh, I so know that feeling when everyone else is raving about something and I’m scratching my head thinking, “What the…?”

    Here’s how I concluded my review of “Akudama Drive”:

    ‘The denouement comes as no surprise – and, indeed, is highly visible from a long way before the end – but the relentless pace of the action-driven narrative makes “Akudama Drive” compelling and entertaining viewing, even if it isn’t particularly thoughtful or original. High-octane, gorgeous to look at, and bloodily violent, this is holiday viewing par excellence when you’re not too busy playing Cyberpunk 2077.’

    So I suspect we probably have similar feelings about this show even if I (possibly) got a little more out of it than yourself…

  5. The show definitely gave me a Cyberpunk type experience. It was edgy and fun. I would agree with your overall point that for all its panache Akudama Drive was largely all over the place. The start was totally bonkers! What’s more it was tricky to gauge where this series is going.

    Despite this obvious madness I found this confusion exhilarating. I felt like Swindler who was spirited away in some crazy world full of criminals and police. You want to look away and run like her but at the same time you are curious to know more. Her experiences gelled with me and I felt like I was experiencing events with her. That plus the action scenes plus great animation made this an easy watch. It is a largely a superficial show though so no deep analysis required here. Maybe a few more drinks would have helped here 😛

    To me it was more of a surprise hit of the season. It would be a big push to call it anime of the year. However, if you are fan of sci-fi, action or are enamoured by its animation style I can definitely see how it could strongly appeal to such people. I did enjoy the ending and found it pretty epic. Some brave moves were taken with the cast and it would be easy to chicken out of the corner it put itself in. Kudos for having the balls for taking the drastic action at the end. I did feel bad for the poor Swindler girl but such is life! Don’t get any funny ideas and pull similar stunts Irina 😉

    1. I’ve said it before and will say it again. I’m not a fan of the noble sacrifice trope. I did think it was super funny here though.I’m glad you liked it

  6. I thought I missed something crucial and was thinking of picking it back up since the series didn’t interest me after 3 episodes but everyone else was enamored with it, at least glad to know I wasn’t alone :,)

  7. I think for me it was the pure energy of the piece. Sometimes the atmosphere just really ‘clicks’ for me, and this was one of those times. I can’t really be any more precise than that unfortunately – and going in, I didn’t expect to love the show, given that when it comes to atmospheric titles, I generally much prefer the slower, nostalgic slice-of-life type fare. So not sure, but maybe my low expectations were also a factor.

  8. I think it’s just the sense of fun and chaotic energy that made it interesting. We were also in the process of some complex political things in it that were very in the moment when this came out that fueled a lot of energy towards it. Plus all the sci Fi stuff looked great.

    1. I agree with Scott. The shows quirky directing style and loud colors make it a vibrant experience. It’s willing to throw away everything, from its characters to the world itself, just to convey its bombastic plot, and I love it. (And it definitely SHOULD feel like Danganronpa because it’s from the mind of the same creator, Kazutaka Kodaka!)

  9. I liked it, and I liked it more than I initially thought I would. I didn’t like the colours; they came close to triggering my photosensitivity at times – so the look wasn’t a draw for me. As for the show, I quite liked the ending and the development. It’s basically a morality play, but it’s not moralising. The show never forgets that vile people are vile and that criminals deemed criminals by a corrupt system aren’t all rebels with a heart of gold. And our portagonists are all sort of guided by cirumstance. The show cares little for guilt or redemption, and good at displaying chaos, which is why in the end, all the plans fall apart, and it’s completely open which way the world goes. I sort of just roll with the mood here. It fits me.

    That said: anime of year? It wasn’t even anime of the season for me. I’ve just gone through Fall 2020 and it looks like it’d have come up in the good middle field for me, along with Noblesse and Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear. I like the show, and I look back at it fondly, but it’s not that special to me in the end either. Lots of people did love it, though. This happens to me quite often; and if it is with shows I don’t like all that much (as it happened with Death Parade, for example) that can make me like the show less than I otherwise would have. Here at least I sort of get it, and I’m fine.

    1. I have to say, I like it a litte less now than when I watched it. I think by the time they went into the whole Jesus metaphore they lost me. Oh well. I’m, usually the one who loves anime other people didn’t like so it’s a change!

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