At this point Doctor is just the Black Knight from Monty Python, isn’t she?
Picking up from last week, the Executioner Master has ambushed the Akudama at the Kansai Contamination Ward. Without hesitation, Brawler takes the initiative and launches into battle as retribution for the fight on the train, but Master manages to temporarily incapacitate him. Courier tries to drive the kids away from the action, but Master’s determination cannot be halted as he not only manages to interrupt Courier’s progress, but he even cuts Doctor in half at the waist. Cutthroat dives into the action as well, with the action slamming its way in and out of the pipes and machinery of the Ward. The fighting gets so intense that Cutthroat begins taking several desperate measures, including severing his own legs and using the boy as a human shield, but Master still has a noticeable edge.
Hoodlum runs off to check on Brawler, who gets back up and launches back into the action against Master. Despite his seeming advantage, it appears as though Master’s still weakened from the train fight as he’s getting worn down from the battle. The Akudama get back up on their feet as Doctor stitches herself back up and sews Cutthroat’s legs back on, giving them enough of an edge to buy time so Courier can help the others (save for Hoodlum) escape, leaving Brawler to fight one on one. While this is all happening, Pupil leaves the hospital and goes to track down Master, eventually leading her back to the Executioner HQ where she confronts the Boss about his location. Instead, the Boss begins relaying the purpose of the Master/Pupil dynamic amongst the Executioners: their forces used to be so determined in battle that they experienced fatality rates of 80% from carelessly throwing their lives away in a way that was no different from the Akudama. Adding a pupil to every master gave both parties reason to stay alive, bringing the casualty rates down to 30%. Frustrated at the answer, Pupil heads over to the Contamination Ward to track down Master.
The battle between Brawler and Master escalates further and further as they go from building to building, violently lunging at each other through steel and brick, even going as far as to bring the fight to an abandoned amusement park. The two of them eventually end up on an old bridge, both on their last legs as they lunge at each other. Pupil eventually arrives at the bridge only to witness the bodies of both combatants lying in pools of their own blood. She runs up to Master, who musters just enough energy to hand her his own blade before passing out. As she kneels there mourning, Hoodlum eventually manages to catch up to the fight, solemnly standing over Brawler’s body, reaching down to grab the blade that Pupil dropped before aggressively lunging at her. Meanwhile, the other Akudama finally make it to the coordinates given to them by the children, and the boy locates an emergency exit switch that once activated causes a structure to rise up from the ground. The episode ends on a post-credits scene of Pupil waking up back in the hospital with her head all bandaged up. As she removes the wrapping, she discovers that one of her eyes is irreparably scarred, ending on a shot of a try containing both her and Master’s blades.
Considering how much the show has been focused on the dynamics of the group as a whole, it’s interesting to see an episode that narrows its dramatic core down to one key member of the Akudama. This week’s story continues the conflict from the Shinkansen as Brawler takes center stage throughout much of the action. The grudge hanging between the two is now deeply personal at this point as a reflection of both their personal belief systems: Brawler is too prideful of a person and a fighter to really let this grudge go, and Master is too dedicated to the pursuit of justice to leave any of them alive. This mirroring of self-destructive dedication to one’s ideals is so core to the conflict of the episode, that it even presents itself through the episode’s shot composition and environmental motifs.
The weather plays a huge part in the visuals and atmosphere of the episode, as the musky cloudy skies eventually give way to intense thunderstorms and rainfall that frequently punctuate the more dramatic moments of the episode. A bolt of lightning strikes vertically across the screen as Master grabs onto Brawler in freefall out of the top floor of an abandoned game center, enveloping itself around the two combatants. Once the fight makes its way to the front of an abandoned ferris wheel, the shot composition perfectly mirrors their poses and actions as another strike of lightning splits down the middle, reactivating the powerless ferris wheel at the moment the two continue their onslaught. In addition, the rainfall frequently adds to the intensity of the fight choreography, creating motion lines that guide your sight towards the action drawing added emphasis to these fistfights.
Where this whole “mirror image” motif really pays off well is in the episodes final moments, specifically considering two characters in particular: Pupil and Hoodlum. Given what the Boss says about the current Executioner dynamic, it’s no secret that Pupil greatly values the life of her respective Master, with his death leaving an intensely devastating impact on her… but surprisingly, this dynamic is reflected with Hoodlum as well. One of the running dynamics/gags up to this point is the relationship between him and Brawler, as the former’s BS tales of his criminality often impressed the latter. Despite the obvious comedic value, you still got the sense of a genuine camaraderie between the two, which is what makes the final moments of the episode stand out so much in retrospect. Without any real words or slapstick, Hoodlum simply stands there mourning the loss of his ally, a look of gloom on his face as he processes the situation before grabbing the blade to violently lunge at Pupil. It’s one of the standout moments of the series thus far and carries a surprising amount of dramatic impact considering the comedic relief presence of the character involved.
Even with that focus at play, the rest of the episode manages to be equally thrilling in its action, mixing in excellent timing and brutal choreography with elements of dark comedy to help give things a unique identity. This comes more into play in the first half with the other Akudama being present, such as with Courier’s motorcycle antics, hand-to-hand combat, and gunplay, alongside Cutthroat’s knife-wielding shenanigans. There’s some excellently edited and timed close calls with bullets and blades, and the episode also gets some excellent comedic mileage out of how brutal it all gets. Outside of the scene where Brawler decides to fight Master inside of a defunct gondola, the image of Cutthroat flopping his body weight around in a fight due to his severed legs is bizarrely funny, alongside watching him stab through the boy to get at Master, with the unexpected reveal of him being a self-healing entity being a nice reversal. The stakes were raised really high this week through some absolutely incredible action and drama, along with the mystery of what lies in this newly revealed structure, and it will be really interesting to find out.
New episodes of Akudama Drive premiere every Thursday and can be streamed exclusively on Funimation.