Akudama Drive – Episode 8 – “Black Rain”

Man, Kansai must have some really top-notch takoyaki.

Picking up from last week, the rocket launched from Expo Park continues its ascent towards the moon, with Swindler and Sister (5557) still inside. Unfortunately, the rocket runs out of fuel rather quickly and begins falling back down towards Earth, forcing Swindler to reach for the emergency release in order to avoid certain death. The rocket ends up crash-landing in a dried-up lake surrounded by sludgy sewage pipes, with Swindler coming to her senses some time later. She rushes to the wreckage of the rocket and finds Sister crushed underneath some metal, quickly working to free her so she can heal up. The two decide they have no choice but to continue running… only they’re unsure as to where, exactly.

Back over with the Executioners, the Boss is getting scolded by her superiors as the Akudama managed to escape yet again in the aftermath of the rocket launch, with them threatening severe punishment if her failure continues. Eventually Pupil catches up to her in the Monument HQ where she is informed that she’s being assigned a new partner. Unfortunately, Pupil is stubborn and prideful enough to attempt to decline the offer despite the insistence of the Boss. Elsewhere, Doctor is doing research into Brother’s (2502) genetic material, deducing that his genetic material doesn’t age and can divide indefinitely, not unlike stem cells.

Eventually, Swindler and Sister make it back into Kansai proper, and the two of them decide to celebrate their moment’s peace by grabbing some takoyaki. Unfortunately, when Swindler goes to pay, she sets off the security system which identifies her criminal status, with alerts calling for her execution/capture spreading throughout the city as well as the rest of the Akudama. The two of them duck out of sight as they try to hide in and out of the alleys avoiding capture. Elsewhere in town, Hoodlum is also trying to avoid capture until a stranger approaches him and offers to sell him drugs only to be confronted by Doctor shortly after. He offers to give her the location of one of the missing children as he placed a tracking device in a small bag one of them was holding, but Doctor is more demanding, forcing him onto her side in the conflict.

Swindler and Sister manage to get far away from the city, taking refuge inside a building located in a garbage treatment plant. The two locate a surplus of food and supplies and quickly feed themselves, sharing a wholesome bonding moment as they are able to relax for a bit. As the two plot out their next steps, they are suddenly ambushed by three strangers who reveal themselves to be criminals working in human trafficking who think they can sell the two off. Swindler manages to fight back against the trio, managing to kill at least two of them before nearly being killed by the last one. At the last minute, Courier shows up to take him out and save the two from certain death. Exhausted by the situation, Swindler passes out and wakes up some time later wondering why Courier tracked the two of them down. He responds by handing the two of them the small bag that was previously in Brother’s possession before his capture, declaring his job done before trying to leave. Swindler manages to convince him to stick around to aid her in reuniting the siblings and escaping the pursuit of the Executioners, and the episode ends with Cutthroat approaching the site of the rocket crash, vowing to find Swindler no matter what.

This week’s episode doesn’t feature an overwhelming amount of plot reveals and twists in comparison to what we learned last week, but in exchange, we get a surprising amount of character work that alters a lot of the dynamics established up to now. What stands out the most here is how Swindler’s personality and role in the world grows and changes from where she started in the plot. Originally getting caught up in everything by complete accident, as the story has gone on further and further, Swindler has grown more and more into the role of a proper societal outlaw/Akudama, with the fight scene against the sex traffickers marking her biggest turning point yet. Up to this point, she hasn’t really been known in the series for any sort of combat abilities, but she has frequently expressed a desire to protect the younger siblings through a caregiver role. When the three men ambush her and Sister, we can instantly see the behaviors and instincts of the other Akudama take hold of her, namely deception and violence. She manages to lure them into a false sense of security as she “abides” by their commands only to immediately launch into a violent counterattack: slashing one’s eye with the serrated edge of a can, stabbing another, and shooting the last one to death. It’s such a far cry from the ordinary person archetype she was at the beginning, marked explicitly by when she chops off her long locks of hair into a shorter more jagged style. She may still have a vested interest in protecting Sister, but Swindler will be more ruthless if she must.

Stray observation: the series has been using these streaks of shadows and bright lights to censor some of the more violent segments in the past few episodes… but we quickly see this character with the serrated can embedded into his eye uncensored a few seconds after this shot. …Not sure what the logic is there.

Expanding on the betrayal from last week, we see more of Doctor now that she’s free of the Executioner’s pursuits, and we get the sense that she is truly in it for no one but herself, playing whatever side she must for personal gain. When researching the biological material of the siblings, she’s interrupted by other researchers that she promptly kills, despite the fact that they would seemingly be on the same side now. Obviously the stigma of being an Akudama is still attached even with the legal dismissal at play, but she will still deal with anyone in her way. This includes Hoodlum, as she proudly calls him out for being a liar who more or less has conned his way into being a part of all this, but she is willing to partner with him to track down the missing sibling.

The episode also does well in iterating on a recurring motif and theme that’s become more prominent in the past few episodes: the value of life and finding purpose in existence. Brawler’s arc served as a vessel for this up to now, with him feeling that his life had no value unless he was willing to risk his life to prove his strength as a fighter. This was paralleled with the Master/Pupil executioner dynamic, especially considering how Pupil refuses to accept a new partner as she’s willing to throw down her life for the sake of revenge against the Akudama. This philosophy of how characters value their lives is probably most explicit with the experimental nature of the siblings themselves: the two literally have lives of value due to their genetically engineered immortality, which was intended to be exchanged to Kanto for as-of-yet unknown reasons. At one point Doctor even utters the line “I play with lives… including my own”, indicating that much like the rest of the cast, she will gamble her own life for some sort of stated ulterior motive, without any care for her own well-being.

There’s a great use of dramatic irony in regards to the small bag that’s in Courier’s possession throughout the episode. Hoodlum shook it off of Brother before they entered Expo Park, handing it back to him only for Brother to hand it to Courier before getting captured. Hoodlum pulls up a radar to show Doctor the location of what he thinks is the missing sibling, but it’s revealed to be Courier in a ruined building. The moment he brings the bag back to Swindler and Sister, it seems like a mildly sympathetic moment, but then the viewer realizes that this will only place the trio on an inevitable path to conflict with Doctor and Hoodlum, which will surely make for an interesting reunion, especially if Cutthroat reaches all of them as well. One can only anticipate how the plot will expand within this last third of the season coming up.

New episodes of Akudama Drive premiere every Thursday and can be streamed exclusively on Funimation. 

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