A traitor?! I’m shocked. SHOCKED! …well not that shocked.
Picking up from last time, the ruins of the Akudama’s destination are upended to reveal a massive elevator structure leading underground. As they marvel at what lies before them, Hoodlum suddenly shows back up, having survived his encounter with Pupil… although he confirms to the others that Brawler is dead. The group mulls over things as they get in the elevator and descend into the ruins of Expo Park. The group explores the ruined settings, seeing all manner of abandoned scientific advancements before the brother and sister finally reach what they have been looking for: a launch platform housing a rocket for space travel. The brother activates a nearby terminal, intending to fly the rocket up to the moon. According to him, humanity had established a base on its surface before the war between Kansai and Kanto, and that base is their ultimate destination.
The brother then begins to recite his and his sister’s story prior to encountering the Akudama. We learn that the boy originated as part of an experiment in the Kyushu Plant, designated subject number 2502 amongst a massive slew of other children of strangely similar appearances stored within what looks like a school gymnasium. Day in and day out, 2502 is subjected to experimentation that leaves him on a table in a pool of his own blood, seemingly numb to constant physical torture with the only breaks in his routine coming from interacting with the other subjects and a familiar-looking cat called “Professor.” The subjects wish to ask their headmaster to stop the experiments, but 2502 can still deal with it. One day, he’s awakened by Professor who informs him that the experiments are now complete… only for him to step out into the gymnasium and discover that it’s completely empty. Panicked, he searches around for his fellow experiments until the lights suddenly dim save for a menacing presence from up above. The headmaster makes an appearance, congratulating 2502 for being the first successful graduate as it looks to produce another graduate alongside him. The floor glows as it reveals all of the other subjects floating in a strange pool underground, with the headmaster revealing that the purpose of the experiments was to produce children with confirmed genetic immortality as an offering to the Kanto region. Some time later, 2502 is introduced to the other successful graduate, a girl given the experiment number 5557, and soon after the two are loaded into the cargo vault of the Shinkansen alongside Professor where they plot their escape, leading to where the show began.
With everything all said and done, the mission is now technically complete and 2502 offers the Akudama their payments as promised. The rocket is set to launch in 3 minutes, and Swindler says her farewells to the two before they board their transportation. Suddenly, a blade comes out of nowhere and slices 5557 right across her neck, as Doctor is revealed to have tossed a scalpel in the siblings’ direction. She attempts to attack Swindler more directly, but Cutthroat intercepts just in time, only for the Executioner Boss to make an appearance, revealing that Doctor was secretly in league with her throughout the entire mission in exchange for Doctor’s freedom. The team is then ambushed by a group of Executioners as 2502 attempts to make his way to the rocket… only for the Boss to reveal that his mission is all for naught. Even the moon became a casualty of the war between Kansai and Kanto, revealing that what’s seen in the sky is an illusion covering up the destroyed remains of the astral body. Everything seems hopelessly futile, but the remaining Akudama refuse to go down without a fight, squaring off against the Executioners with only seconds left until the rocket launches. They manage to fend off the attackers long enough for 2502 to guide Swindler and 5557 into the rocket just before it launches, and the episode ends as it takes off into the heavens to… wherever it may lead.
The story of Akudama Drive has made plenty of twists and turns up to this point, but the reveals of this week’s episode are certainly some of the most surreal and striking yet. The seeds are planted early in the exploration of the underground Expo Park, clearly meant to homage the concept of the real-life world’s fair where countries come together to celebrate the collective scientific, technological, and cultural advancements of all mankind. Japan itself has played host to at least 4 official Fair expos: Expo ‘70 in Osaka, Expo ‘75 in Okinawa, Expo ‘85 in Tsukuba, and Expo 2005 in Aichi, with another planned for Osaka in 2025. The themes of the Expos vary from year to year, with Japan’s Expos having focused on motifs of aquatic/marine life and science, harmony among mankind, and even technology for advancing home life. The ruins of this fictional Expo contain information on scientific advancements towards immortality, setting up the reveals of the brother and sister’s existence.
The sequence of 2502 repeatedly awakening from his torturous sequence is unnerving in a way that feels oddly subtle considering the imagery of a child waking up in a pool of his own blood over and over. This stems from how casually he plays off the repeated unseen torture sequences, only giving mild hints as to what occurs while conversing with the others in a supremely casual fashion. The reveal of the experimental subjects’ purpose feels extremely otherworldly, with the headmaster making his presence known only through a swirling display of neon orange and purple lights hanging above in pure darkness like some unknowable god-like cosmic entity. Of course the image of the children’s bodies drowning and overlapping each other in vast masses is made extremely unnerving thanks to the lighting, with the teal glow of the liquid underneath accentuating the silhouettes of every body underneath. The scene feels vaguely cult-like in a way, as the headmaster speaks of 2502 as an offering to Kanto in a way that feels like a religious sacrifice, adding to the surreality of it all.
The character dynamics change further and further as the Akudama’s numbers begin to dwindle further and further. While the reveal of Hoodlum’s survival was spoiled somewhat by the “next week on” segment from the last episode, there’s a genuine payoff to the events of the fight, as we frequently see how Brawler’s death is severely affecting him. He grows increasingly angry with the flippant dismissive manner that 2502 discusses his passing, and when exploring the remains of the Expo, he excitedly reaches to Brawler to show him something, momentarily forgetting that his ally is dead. Then of course comes the Doctor’s betrayal of the group near the end, which does help to explain her recurring animosity towards the children up to this point. Much like the storylines of any given Danganronpa title, the characters are removing themselves, dropping from the party like flies, with our team of Akudama being whittled down to 4… only two of which (Courier and Cutthroat) having any true offensive combat abilities… and that’s all they have now. The group is really being pushed to the brink now that one member has bailed, one is dead, and one has turned traitor in exchange for her own freedom. Also, as an aside to this digression, I find it somewhat humorous that Doctor turned out to be the traitor here given that she shares the same Japanese voice actress as Nagito from Goodbye Despair.
The moon is a distinct out-there factor in all of this now, especially considering that it’s in ruins according to the Boss. It’s tough to say where the rocket is leading to given this factor, but knowing how the plot has swerved into some wild territory so far, there’s definitely going to be something interesting on the other end of that rocket’s journey.
New episodes of Akudama Drive premiere every Thursday and can be streamed exclusively on Funimation.