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Akudama Drive

Entry updated 6 February 2023. Tagged: TV.

Japanese animated tv series (2020). Created by Pierrot and Too Kyo Games. Pierrot (studio). Directed by Tomohisa Taguchi. Written by Norimitsu Kaihō and Tomohisa Taguchi. Voice cast includes Shun Horie, Kana Ichinose, Tomoyo Kurosawa, Megumi Ogata, Takahiro Sakurai, Shunsuke Takeuchi, Maaya Uchida and Yūichirō Umehara. Twelve 24-minute episodes. Colour.

In the Near Future Japanese City of Kansai a young woman (Kurosawa) is arrested, mistakenly accused of being a swindler and taken to a police station where, coincidentally, Cutthroat (Sakurai) is about to be executed. A group of akudama, or criminals, have been hired to free him: Courier (Umehara), Brawler (Takeuchi), Hacker (Horie) and Doctor (Ogata). When the young woman impetuously rescues a Cat, she brings herself to the group's murderous attention, so bluffs them into believing she's an akudama called Swindler. Cutthroat is freed. The cat then speaks ...

The cat (Uchida) orders them to open a vault on the Shinkansen, a train linking Kansai and Kanto. At which point we cut to a children's television programme, whose propaganda provides a helpful Infodump: Kanto is a Utopia where "the gods and important people live"; it had destroyed Kansai (and, it turns out, the Moon) during a War, then rebuilt the city – "We're so thankful! As long as Kanto guides us everything will be fine." The group is attacked by members of the government's Execution Department, narrowly escaping.

Swindler finds herself settling into the akudama mindset. The heist succeeds: the vault is opened to reveal two children, Brother (Uchida) and Sister (Ichinose). They are Immortal, the result of Genetic Engineering and Cloning; their supervising Robot cat has helped them escape ("This is what they get for giving an AI compassion."). Meanwhile, a side effect of the Executioners' and Swindler's actions leads to anti-akudama hysteria and civil unrest in Kansai: under pressure from Kanto, the head of the Executioners forces the police chief to declare the rioters akudama, making them legal targets for the Executioners and Police robots (see Crime and Punishment). Bloodshed follows.

Swindler, Courier and the siblings find themselves in Kanto, which turns out to be a Quantum Computer Uploaded with its population's consciousness. They are met by Hacker; after observing "who would've thought Kanto would be some overused sci-fi trope?" (see Clichés), he explains that concerns about the durability of the supercomputer's housing led to the creation of the immortal siblings: Kanto's Hive Mind is to be transferred into them. But the sacrifices of Swindler, Courier and Hacker – the latter broadcasts Swindler's martyrdom at the hands of the Executioners to provoke an insurgency against the Kansai authorities – means Kanto is destroyed and the siblings escape.

Akudama Drive is a violent, colourful, action-packed Cyberpunk Dystopia filled with psychopaths on both sides of the law; it can also be thoughtful and is ultimately downbeat – save for the siblings, all the major (and most of the minor) characters die. Though the serious undercurrent clashes a little with the implausibility of some of the high jinks (Hacker's abilities in particular), this is a very good Anime that engages with police brutality, Sociology, Politics and Jonbar Points (what happened to a dropped coin significantly influences events). A Manga accompanied the series. [SP]


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