…Everything’s fine, don’t worry.
Picking up from last week, the Executioners begin to fly away with Brother in tow, heading to the Kansai Station as Courier, Swindler, and Sister give chase. Hoodlum and Doctor are not far off themselves, as the two of them hijack a public transport vehicle and fly off in the same direction. The riots in the streets show no sign of stopping, clamoring for the death of the Akudama as they even storm HQ for the purpose of a massacre. The public’s attempts to take justice into their own hands continues as Courier and company eventually come across a barricade formed by vigilantes who have hijacked police robots to identify and dispose of the Akudama. However, the Executioners manage to pressure the police chief into declaring the rioting citizenry as Akudama, giving the police robots the ability to fend off the civilians as Courier breaks past the barrier.
With the order now given, Boss takes advantage of the situation and orders the Executioners under her command to slaughter all the citizens attempting to break in. There’s absolutely no mercy as blood is shed in the streets like fountains, with only a strange moment of reprieve as it begins to snow in Kansai. Courier and the others make it to Kansai Station as Pupil arrives as well, beginning the process of storing Brother in the same vault that originally sealed him inside the Shinkansen. The protagonists manage to reach the platform as the Shinkansen itself pulls into the station, with the surviving citizens entranced by the hypnotic trail of light behind it. Swindler and Sister attempt to rescue Brother as Courier tries to fight off Pupil and her partner, but the encounter is interrupted by the arrival of Doctor and Hoodlum.
Doctor decides to viciously tease the Executioners by thrusting a needle straight into the heart of Pupil’s partner, threatening to pull the string and kill him if her demands aren’t met. Pupil is forced to abide by her word, lest she risk having to kill Doctor and getting branded as an Akudama herself. Hoodlum manages to sneak behind Swindler, pulling a blade to her throat and threatening to kill her under Doctor’s orders. She makes just one demand of the Executioners: she wants Brother for herself, also ordering them to kill Courier and Swindler as their orders require. Swindler attempts to talk her way out of capture, trying to spark memories of Hoodlum’s camaraderie with Brawler to guilt trip him. He ends up pulling the blade away from her neck long enough for Courier to fire at his hand, which leads to Doctor not only dressing down his weaknesses, but even revealing that she had intentionally stitched up Brawler’s wounds from the train fight to open up and kill him later on. As the conflict escalates between the group, Pupil receives a mangled transmission that warns of citizens swarming the station to board the Shinkansen, and sure enough the platform is then crowded with people. Amidst the chaos, Hoodlum lunges at Doctor, severing her carotid artery to kill her, with Doctor responding in kind and killing him as well. Pupil then tends to her partner, with the needle in his heart taking its toll on his life as she remembers Master’s parting words: “You must live on.” As the Shinkansen opens itself up to let the citizens inside, Doctor attempts to stitch up the wound in her neck, but she’s swarmed and stampeded by the people rushing to get aboard the train, killing her mercilessly. The episode ends with Courier and Swindler boarding the train themselves as Sister attempts to sneak into the cargo to retrieve Brother with the train taking off to Kanto.
With the subplot of the citizen uprising against the police in the Kansai taken to the extremes that it is this week, it’s easy to read the proceedings as surprisingly topical. Granted, cyberpunk dystopia fiction often deals with authoritarian forces suppressing a civilian populace in both legal and lethal means, but the framing of the conflict here is quite specific. To wit: a police force supported by an extremely militaristic branch fails to protect its citizens from entities they declare to be threats. As a result, said citizens decide to take matters into their own hands and rise up against the ineffective police forces, demanding accountability and actual results from them. Instead of simply acknowledging their mistakes, the police and Executioners declare the public themselves to be criminals and begin violently attacking them instead. With that particular setup in mind, it’s hard not to read direct parallels to the criticisms of police militarization and abuse of power in places like the United States. Considering how the anime was originally scheduled to premiere back in July of this year, such a message would have dropped relatively closer to the midst of the waves of Black Lives Matter protests which occurred in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many others. Granted, the production schedule of anime TV shows are such that the story trajectory was likely determined sometime before these deaths occurred, but at the very least they could have inspired by previous incidents like the Ferguson protests following the shooting of Michael Brown. Again, the timing and framing of this episode might just be pure coincidence, but such specificity can’t help but lead to the brutal imagery of the Executioners slaughtering the populace of Kansai resonating extremely hard, especially when Boss starts speaking about crushing “evil” so that “justice” may prevail. It rings every bit as hollow as hearing police in real life speaking about the pursuit of “justice.”
Outside of these scenes, much of the story is of course focused on the attempts to rescue Brother from capture, ultimately coming to a head at the Kansai Station platform. Considering the strange roundabout paths the story has taken in regards to veering away from Kanto back into Kansai, it feels a bit unnerving to revisit the site of the initial heist, especially with the Akudama’s numbers dwindling. Hoodlum in particular becomes a prominent focus of the plot progression and character work, with his growing sense of guilt in regards to his cowardice throughout the story reaching its natural conclusions. While flying through the skies of Kansai, he can’t help but reminisce about his relationship with Brawler and how much sincere faith he had in his abilities, despite the obviousness of his lies. He waxes nostalgic about the train fight and the group crashing into that hotel, falling into a sense of despair remembering that his lone bit of genuine support in the team is still deceased. All of this escalates when Hoodlum is ordered to kill Swindler, as she tries to play to his feelings about Brawler to escape his grasp, and he engages in a final act of genuine heroism by incapacitating Doctor at the risk of his own life, finding a sense of strength and bravery that Brawler would no doubt be proud of. While it makes for a fitting and appropriate end to his arc in the story, I will admit it does feel a bit unintentionally anti-climactic.
Framing a death in such a manner wouldn’t normally be an automatic negative, as it can be quite fitting in certain circumstances such as with Doctor’s death in the episode. Given how the previous episode saw her speaking like a God about her desires to control all notions of life and death, and seeing as how this episode puts that into practice with how many characters’ lives she has in her hands through her own manipulation, it’s almost hilariously ironic that she dies such an anonymous death. Seeing her get trampled to death by a crowd of people is almost hilariously pathetic, especially considering that this was somewhat foreshadowed by an earlier scene of a random person stomping over a pink stuffed animal in the streets, as if she’s no more significant than a toy. However, Hoodlum’s death is meant to have a great deal of dramatic weight in the context of the story, and while some attention is paid to this aspect, his dying words being spoken amidst a giant crowd of nameless civilians robs the scene of some of its impact. At the end of the day, it’s still a solid scene and character moment, but it feels like it could have been handled a bit stronger. Despite that, things are still barreling towards their mysterious end, and one can only wonder what awaits in Kanto, especially with the potential for the long-absent Hacker to rejoin the story and add his skills back into the fold.
New episodes of Akudama Drive premiere every Thursday and can be streamed exclusively on Funimation.