Akudama Drive is an Exciting (if Shallow) New Cyberpunk Anime

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Akudama Drive Episode 1, "SE7EN," now streaming on Funimation.

Akudama Drive has flown relatively under the radar coming into the Fall 2020 anime season. Amongst a crowd including hyped newcomers like Jujutsu Kaisen and continuations of heavy hitters like Haikyuu!! and DanMachi all premiering, this new series from Studio Pierrot might be missed. The series takes place in a gritty, futuristic cyberpunk Japan. It follows an unnamed protagonist who, during a normal commute home from work, gets caught in over her head with some of the country's most wanted criminals.

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From the jump, Episode 1 wastes no time throwing audiences straight into the thick of its story. The majority of the episode is devoted to serving as a general introduction to its main characters, of whom there are five. Four are Akudama, incredibly dangerous and powerful criminals who run amok in Japan. Brawler is a brute who prefers to force his way through any situation, throwing caution to the wind. Hacker is the polar opposite and prefers to sit back and let drones do the work, only stepping in when entirely necessary. Similarly, Doctor is a mad scientist type who uses her brains to get the better of her opponents. Set apart from the rest, Courier is calm and collected, only concerned with finishing his job and moving to the next.

After the Akudama takes a job to stop the execution of the prisoner Cutthroat, they cross paths at the police station where his execution is to take place. Coincidentally at the same station due to a misunderstanding, the protagonist tricks the group into believing she is an Akudama and finds herself assisting them in the Cutthroat rescue. In the depths of the prison, she meets Hoodlum, a small-time crook whose only motivation is his next potential score. This ragtag group succeeds in rescuing Cutthroat and get their next message delivered by a mysterious black cat, leaving their fates up in the air.

The characters have interesting designs and personalities but appear rather one-note so far. However, given the short amount of time spent on each, it feels unfair to discount them just yet. Since this premiere is simply establishing the main cast and story, it’s possible later episodes will give more individual focus and further build on these characters.

The best quality of this episode is easily its setting, which is a bit different than the average cyberpunk backdrop. With its over-the-top criminals and executions broadcast like wrestling events, there's plenty of reason for viewers to be interested in what's to come next. Alongside its characters, Akudama Drive should develop its world and truly focus on exploring everything it has to offer. With such an emphasis on the criminal side of society, there's immense potential for unique locations for the protagonist to experience firsthand.

New episodes of Akudama Drive premiere Thursdays at 8:30 AM ET on Funimation.