It was tricky to know what to expect from Akudama Drive. As an anime project from director Taguchi Tomohisa and original creator Kodaka Kazutaka of Danganronpa fame, a story about a vague dystopian future could go anywhere from retreading the same territory as DR to creating an entirely new oddball story like Death Come True. With the first episode of Akudama Drive, however, it posits an interesting vision for a stylish narrative about superpowered hitmen trying to make profit in a futuristic police state while wearing an explosive Battle Royale neckband.
For those who braved through the Danganronpa 3 anime, you might be having some troublesome flashbacks once the neck bands snapped on. For the more fortunate souls out there, that anime began with the same Battle Royale scenario where its competitors had to obey a number of insane, unfair rules in order to not get killed off by poison injected from the neckband once a day passes in the competition. The shoe hasn’t dropped on what terms and conditions that Cutthroat has with the neckbands he’s procured, but it’s one of the few instances where it’s hard to distance this anime from the DR connection. That, and the animal avatar that the game master takes on.
But that’s not all that bad though because there are many perks that come from being associated with a property like DR. It’s sense of style and the flourishes that came from character introductions was fun and engaging to see. I wasn’t let down from seeing how eccentric and quirky some of its characters turned out to be. The Doctor is my current favorite at the moment because of how quickly it took her to start committing malpractice and dig through a guy’s innards on a subway shortly before taking out everyone around her. I also did a double-take when I heard Ogata Megumi’s voice come from her because of how ubiquitous she’s been with prominent male roles like Naegi and Nagito from DR or Hanako from this year’s Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun.
I’m also a big fan of the crapsaccharine future set up by Akudama Drive. Having it take place in Kansai gives the show the opportunity to fuse the advanced technology of a cyberpunk story with a setting that’s full of personality like the Osaka area. Takoyaki is one of the best foodstuffs out there, so the setting also gives it some time to shine as one of the catalysts behind our main character’s abrupt arrest. In addition, the police state not being technologically regressive also gives the series a chance to go crazy with some of its standard protocol like giving out names to convicts like our main character’s new title Swindler and holding public executions for the worst of the worst.
Speaking of Swindler, she’s proving to be a unique character in that she ends up getting lumped in with the ultra-lethal Akudama off the merits of being marked as a Swindler for being a accused of dining & dashing when she was just going to grab some cash from the ATM. She seems horribly unequipped to handle any of this, but she has a flash of brilliance when she ends up tricking a security bot to shoot an explosive crate that takes it out. The odds are stacked against her to such a large degree when her fellow Akudama are well-trained in destroying and killing, but perhaps with their current predicament, she’ll find some way to tilt the odds in her favor.