“Absolute Quarantine Zone,” eh? How timely.
Picking up from last week, the Akudama have successfully made their way on board the Shinkansen, but it’s suddenly departed from the station on its way towards Kanto. Despite this unexpected development, the plan to access the vault is still on, only now the group has 10 minutes before the train passes through the Absolute Quarantine Zone: the sight of the bomb drop that Kanto launched against Kansai that ended the war between the two. To make matters worse, the Executioners have made their way onto the train in hot pursuit of the Akudama. They split into two groups, with the Black Cat, Swindler, Hoodlum, Hacker, and Cutthroat heading deeper into the train to access the vault while Brawler, Courier, and Doctor stick around to take on the Executioners. Brawler and Courier take charge in the fight as they attempt to fend off their pursuers, and as the groups go back and forth, Hacker attempts to make his way past the door to the next train car, but the train picks up speed with 5 minutes left before the quarantine zone.
As things escalate under the time limit, Brawler and Courier continue to take on Master and Pupil, but Master gains the upper hand and breaks through into the next train car. Cutthroat and Hoodlum stick behind to join in the fight against the Executioners as Swindler, Hacker, and the Black Cat manage to break into the following train car with 3 minutes left. To their surprise, what they find next are a pair of passenger cars with seats for people to presumably take to Kanto. Hacker mentions something he once read about the Shinkansen having connections to people in Kansai, but Black Cat regards this as an impossibility considering that past the Quarantine Zone, there’s a decontamination zone that obliterates any organic matter heading into Kanto, presenting yet another obstacle for the team. Meanwhile the battle against the executioners continues, and while Hacker tries to break his way in closer to the vault, the train finally hits the Quarantine Zone, putting everyone past the point of no return.
Despite the impending threat of the decontamination zone, Black Cat still pushes Hacker and Swindler to make it to the vault. With the fight against the Executioners feeling neck and neck, Courier finally manages to make it to his motorcycle, knocking out Pupil as Brawler manages to take out Master, but not before taking a serious stab wound to the chest. Hacker manages to open up the path to the vault but it’s guarded by a defense system that activates immediately, but thankfully Courier manages to fire a beam in time to disable the system while also pulling Brawler and Hoodlum to safety. In a last-ditch effort to get the executioners off their tail, Courier fires a beam to sever the passenger car from the rest of the train, which works but temporarily exposes them to the toxic air of the Quarantine Zone before Doctor manages to seal up the hole. With the executioners dealt with, the Akudama finally make it to the vault, and with only a minute left until they reach the decontamination zone, the Black Cat thanks them for their help before fading away into nothingness, revealing what turns out to be the key to the vault. Swindler takes it and opens up the vault, revealing to their surprise… a brother and sister hiding within. The brother reveals that he was the one controlling Black Cat as the sister manages to activate a shield around the Shinkansen, leaving the team to wonder about the state of their mission as they continue to barrel towards Kanto.
The mystery and action of Akudama Drive continue to ramp up this episode in extremely entertaining and engaging ways, with the setting of the action this week playing the biggest factor in the stakes. Once again, our team is faced with a ticking timer element in the form of the Shinkansen approaching the Quarantine Zone as well as the following decontamination zone, but unfortunately there’s no way to avoid proceeding through these areas as the circumstances stand, leaving them no choice but to head to the vault. However, unlike the timing situation with boarding the train, now they have to contend with the executioners directly, with no avenue for escape. Being trapped in a series of adjacent train cars seems like it would be relatively limiting for crafting intense action sequences, but the episode manages to keep the fights consistently engaging through some really creative and intense back and forth conflict.
The action is both creatively choreographed and hugely expressive in terms of allowing each of the Akudama’s personalities to shine through. Brawler takes charge from the outset, and his reckless-yet-determined fighting style leads to some great highlights throughout the episode, such as an excellent comedic moment where he grabs Pupil and tosses her straight at Doctor with no seeming regard for her well-being. He’s fully prepared to risk life and limb for the sake of proving his own strength, a factor that’s seen as hugely important to him when he chews himself out for letting his guard down during the times that Master gains the upper hand. Nothing matters more to him than being able to properly prove himself in a fight, taken to its highest extreme when he deliberately risks taking a stab wound from Master in order to gain the opportunity to perform a muscle buster and take out his opponent.
Courier also factors significantly into the fight, with his battle style being a lot swifter and nimbler in comparison to the hulking presence of Brawler, with the two getting in the most memorable action beat of the episode in which Courier fires a bullet that Master dodges while “striking” Brawler… while in reality, Brawler swallows the bullet and spits it directly into Master’s back with split-second timing. The back and forth between Courier and Pupil as she attempts to slash at him repeatedly is very dynamic and well-choreographed, making things wonderfully tense as he struggles to get to his motorcycle in order to tip the odds in their favor. Not to be outdone fully by the others, Doctor gets a chance to help with the battle by dropping a tear gas bomb as a distraction. Cutthroat also fights off the executioners with his usual swift blade-driven style, and even Hoodlum gets an opportunity to knock one of the executioners out. The mystery is ramping up further now that we know what’s inside the vault, so now it’s only a matter of time before the Akudama reach their destination… if they can make it past the decontamination zone.
New episodes of Akudama Drive premiere every Thursday and can be streamed exclusively on Funimation.