First Look: Akudama Drive

Anime original by Pierrot
Streaming on Funimation

Premise

In a crime-ridden cyberpunk version of Japan’s Kansai region, an Ordinary Person gets caught up in a death game involving several “AKUDAMA”, the most dangerous class of criminal.

Iro’s verdict: Finally, Something Fun

I wasn’t sure how seriously to take this show until one of the main characters shot grappling hooks out of his cyberpunk motorcycle so that he could swing across buildings and drive sideways. Akudama Drive is wacky anime trash, coasting on pure style. The characters have no names, only roles: Courier, Doctor, Ordinary Person. The set dressing is instantly engaging (especially in comparison to other shows this season like Ikebukuro West Gate Park or Hypnosis Mic). I was left immediately wanting to see more. The big question is whether Akudama Drive can deliver on itself; I’m not seeing any depth of storytelling here, and a cast this one-dimensional can only bounce off each other for so long. Here’s hoping.

Gee’s verdict: Good Anime Bullshit

Akudama Drive is exactly the kind of dumb anime antics I love to see. Helps it makes use of its 22 minutes very efficiently. Within a single episode, we’re introduced to the world of cyberpunk Kansai, its unscrupulous weirdos, and the stakes at play for our protagonists. I’m going to try and avoid repeating Artemis here but compared to some other anime this season, Akudama Drive does an exemplary job of introducing its setting’s grimy neon personality in a way that feels both bombastic and lived in. It’s a perfect premise too, with really slick presentation that gives you a feel for the cast within minutes of their appearance. Four criminal psychos of varying flavors, one mass murderer, one smalltime crook, and one hapless girl caught up in all the madness. It’s a recipe for a lot of big dumb fun.

Of course, it’s easy to be impressed by a single episode, it still remains to be seen if Akudama Drive will have what it takes to maintain these energy levels all the way through. For a show like this, which is trading almost entirely on its art direction and spectacle, its technical merits will need to stay consistent. Also, I can’t help but be a bit worried about the combination Danganronpa’s writer and Studio Pierrot. In any other world, those are two factors that would have me running away in the opposite direction. And whose to say I still don’t later on? I’ve seen enough anime make great first impressions only to fumble in the last 10 yards. Still, I can confidently say Akudama Drive makes the strongest first impression this season.

Artemis’ verdict: See, Ikebukuro West Gate Park? This is how you introduce a city.

To put it bluntly, Akudama Drive is just what this anime season needed – some personality. Sure, it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea – I’m not sure it would normally be mine for that matter – but this show doesn’t so much cut through many of the other offerings this fall like a breath of fresh air as it does smash them over the head like a heavy-duty wrecking ball. Indeed, it’s so dynamic and so fast-paced in terms of visual delivery that I actually had to pause the video a couple of times just to give my eyes enough time to process everything. Akudama Drive is all about the spectacle, with its bedazzling backgrounds, flamboyant character designs, and overall theatrical vibe. Whether you consider the result to be gratuitous or tacky probably comes down to personal taste, but either way, you can’t deny it makes a hell of an opening, especially those first establishing city shots. Art director Tanioka Yoshio, who I might even have to forgive for his work on Listeners at this point, has done a top-notch job here – hopefully the quality remains consistent throughout.

I’m hesitant to give this show my full endorsement before seeing whether it can keep up this kind of vigor long-term, and needless to say, if you’re in the mood for soothingly slow and quiet fare or are on the lookout for something with depth and subtlety, this sure ain’t it. However, if you’re after something fresh, energetic, and action-packed that’s also incredibly ridiculous and doesn’t take itself too seriously (no two ways about it, Akudama Drive is pretty dumb), you should absolutely think about giving this one a try. Worst-case scenario, it’ll be a fun popcorn title, but personally, I think it has more potential than that and can only hope it lives up to it.

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