Anime Review

Anime Hajime Review: Akudama Drive

Original Run: October 8, 2020 - December 24, 2020
Number of Episodes: 12
Genre: Action, Science Fiction

***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Akudama Drive. Reader discretion is advised.***

Series Synopsis

Long ago, there was a great war between Kanto and Kansai. Kanto, being the superior of the two, devastated Kansai and took the region under its control. Now, the people of Kansai live in reverence to their Kanto overlords, for they believe those in power keep them safe. To shatter that illusion are the Akudama, the criminals of society.

Most Akudama earned their title through petty infractions. However, some are much, much more dangerous.

Living in Kasai is an ordinary teenage girl (voiced by Tomoyo Kurosawa). Through a misunderstanding, this girl is accused of swindling and is arrested. While the girl, now known as Swindler, is in custody, all hell breaks loose.

A group of S-Rank Akudama assault the police station. They are:

They arrive to break out the notorious murderer known as Cutthroat (voiced by Takahiro Sakurai). In the chaos, Swindler runs into these most deadly of Akudama. To survive, Swindler does what she must.

Series Positives

Well, this was fun as all hell. That’s not sarcasm; I really did enjoy Akudama Drive quite a lot.

To be biased for a moment, it was nice to see an anime take place in Osaka. For those who don’t know, Anime Hajime and I are based in the city. More often than not, we get shows set in Tokyo or the rural countryside. Granted, Akudama Drive referred to the whole Kansai region (which includes Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe) and never said “Osaka” by name. Still, many of Osaka’s most iconic landmarks could be seen throughout the show, so there was no mistaking where we were.

It was a welcomed change, is what I’m getting at. However, that wasn’t what made Akudama Drive good.

This series had a healthy dose of pure insanity. I’ve seen other shows play up worlds that were supposedly filled with larger-than-life people, individuals who could do extraordinary things. Many of those same shows failed to deliver in spectacular ways. There was always a sense of reservation; there was no desire to go bigger.

I never got that from Akudama Drive. Every one of the titular Akudamas felt like a threat. They were not people anyone could take lightly; death and destruction followed in their wake.

For example, Brawler didn’t have a concept of restraint. Once his mind was made up, there was nothing that could convince him to stop. This caused him to be particularly dangerous because he often believed, whole-heartedly, even the most blatant of lies. As long as he could get a good fight, he didn’t care what he was fighting for.

That was why I enjoyed this cast. Despite the bloodlust, if you knew how to do it, you could reason with any of the Akudama. You would be playing with fire, and one mistake would mean your life, but it could be done. Of course, for a dialogue to have any chance of working, Akudama – many of whom would soon murder than put up with a slight annoyance – would need to allow you to speak.

There was a moment when our leading group needed to “catch a bus,” but none would come to where they were. An impatient Brawler leaped to the front window of a passing bus, smashed through it, grabbed the driver, and then threw the guy out without a second’s hesitation. Oh, and did I mention that the buses were airships? Thus, this poor unsuspecting driver was just minding his own business one minute, then was plummeting to his death the next.

When it came to Akudama, it could be that fast.

Akudama Drive came in two halves: The first focused on the Akudama breaking into the fabled and impenetrable Shinkansen to collect its cargo. The second dealt with the aftermath of the group retrieving said cargo.

I’m not going to say one was weaker than the other since that wouldn’t be entirely fair. The halves had two utterly different feels to them. The former was loud, flashy, and destructive; the latter was more personal and meaningful. Or, in other words, the first was more fun and the second was more interesting. Akudama Drive’s strength was its ability to balance the two.

To help with that was Swindler, who was, without a doubt, my favorite character of the show. This series did an excellent job of putting her – someone so ordinary – into a nightmarish situation and having her do her best to survive.

Make no mistake, Swindler was not a criminal and was well out of her league compared to the actual Akudama. She just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Be that as it may, as this series went on, she earned her title. Swindler was quick thinking and was willing to do some unsavory things to stay alive.

When the other Akudama killed someone, it was gruesome, sure, but it wasn’t sloppy. They were efficient in how they took a life. Swindler, who wasn’t a killer, found herself in situations where she needed to do what was necessary. Thus, when she had to strike, it was much more savage.

Also, Swindler was kindhearted, but she wasn’t naïve. She was well aware that liars surrounded her. Therefore, she didn’t have an ounce of good faith whenever one of the Akudama tried to sweet-talk her. There was one scene in the series where Swindler was completely underestimated, and the other person paid the ultimate price for it. Now that I think about it, there were several of those types of scenes.

And without giving anything away, Swindler’s role in Akudama Drive’s climax was super badass. What she did solidified her standing as a top rank Akudama, and it took those in power off guard. Although it may have been indirectly, Swindler was responsible for the biggest body count of the entire series.

Aside from just Swindler, the entire cast turned this show into a phenomenal mix of emotions. Akudama Drive was funny, brutal, dark, intense, heartfelt, tragic, and disturbing – often at the same time. Under no circumstances would I call this show boring.

Then when you combine everything we’ve already talked about with excellent animation, a kick-ass soundtrack, and an unquestionably unique world, you get the makings of an instantly memorable anime.

And to top it off, Akudama Drive ended in the most satisfying way possible. The conclusion was so substantial – so definite –  that I will be infuriated should I hear news of a second season.

Series Negatives

There are a few things that bothered me about this show. They were small things, granted, and they hardly affected my overall enjoyment of this series. Nevertheless:

First, Akudama Drive gave itself what appeared to be a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card – Hacker.

Being a top-tier Akudama and living up to his name, Hacker could pretty much do anything when it came to computers and digital programs. To be fair, the show made it a point to mention that hacking wasn’t magic, and some things simply couldn’t be accessed. However, saying something like that and following through on it are two different things.

Thanks to Hacker, in the latter half of this show, Swindler sometimes got out of situations a little too easily. Doors would be open randomly, and pathways would be mysteriously cleared of obstacles. These instances didn’t remove the thrill of the series, but it was a touch diluted.

Second, there was the reveal of what Kanto was. This was Akudama Drive’s low point.

I was expecting something along the lines of what we got because this show did everything in its power to signal it. Be that as it may, I still couldn’t help feeling underwhelmed when seeing the whole thing play out. What Kanto ended up being didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the series. It was far too mystical.

I apologize for the vagueness, but again, this was the ultimate question of Akudama Drive. I’m going to spoil it for you since I am encouraging people to watch this show.

And I think that is where this review should conclude. The small gripes I had with this series were insignificant when next to how great the rest was.

Final Thoughts

I said it at the top, “This was fun as hell.”

With top-notch action, great characters, outstanding animation, fantastic music, and an exciting story, it’s kind of a no-brainer. If you’re looking to be thoroughly entertained, then you need not look much further than this.

Akudama Drive has earned a recommendation.

But these were just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise Akudama Drive? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.

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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.

1 comment

  1. This is a really good take on a series that I felt overall was overlooked. I enjoyed Akudama Drive thoroughly, it was fun, well animated, and full of plenty of action paired with emotion. Swindler was adorable in every way possible and the series as a whole felt genuine throughout. Nicely done!

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