Akudama Drive Review: You Done Good Studio Pierrot.

4 and a half stars
If I’m honest, before watching
Akudama Drive, I didn’t have the best opinion of Studio Pierrot.
I only knew of them through watching their adaptation of Tokyo Ghoul, which, if you’ve seen my review of each season, you’ll know I thought was atrociously adapted in the last few seasons.
However, now having watched Akudama Drive based off recommendations, I can say that I need to give this studio more credit because, while they have made mistakes in the past, as seen with Tokyo Ghoul, they can make truly fantastic work.
Akudama Drive is one such anime, with its fast-paced, energetic action and great cast of characters. 

All of the main characters in Akudama Drive are memorable and a lot of fun.

Directed by Tomohisa Taguchi, Akudama Drive is set in a Cyberpunk Japan where the Kansai Region has been taken over by the Kantō region, and high ranking criminals, known as Akudamas, are hunted by Executioners.
Our main character is an Ordinary Person (Tomoyo Kurosawa) who, due to a set of extreme situations, has to become the Swindler and join a powerful group of Akudama, who are then hired to rob the deified Shinkansen.
Although, some backstory was sorely needed for many of these Akudama, I came to like, or love to hate in some instances, all of them.
There’s the always business focused Courier (Yūichirō Umehara), the fighting obsessed Brawler (Shunsuke Takeuchi), the big-talk, suck up Hoodlum (Sabaru Kimaru), the power hungry Doctor (Megumi Ogata), the psychopathic Cutthroat (Takahiro Sakurai), and the technologically genius Hacker (Shun Horie).
Out of all of these Akudama, I would say that my favourites of the bunch are Swindler, Courier, and Hoodlum.
Swinder and Hoodlum were both characters with fantastic character development that really made me care for them and their arcs.

Watching Swindler and Hoodlum go from newbie Akudamas to big time criminals was a blast to watch.

Courier was more of an interesting case because I was mainly indifferent to him for most of the anime, until the last three or four episodes really got me on board with his character.
It’s not just the Akudama that are great characters, though, because the Executioners are also a lot of fun, with Master (Akio Ōtsuka) and Pupil (Yumiri Hanamori) being standouts.
However, this is where my one big criticism of the show comes into play.
All of the Akudama are given fantastic endings to their character arcs, however, many of the Executioners get no ending at all.
It honestly feels like they had something big planned for some of their characters but it got cut for time in the final episode.
Now, it was recently revealed that five minutes of cut footage from the final episode would appear in the Blu-ray so hopefully this footage is the missing conclusion to many of the Executioner’s arcs. 

Even if their story isn’t concluded well though, I still found the Executioners’ role in the story fitting.

It would also be nice if a lot of the gore could be uncensored in the Blu-ray because the censorship did get a bit distracting, especially in Episode Nine.
Although, this censorship thankfully didn’t stop the action from being adrenaline pumping with a lot of hype moments, helped by excellent animation, especially in the first few episodes and the last one.
The score also helped these scenes, with it being fun to listen to. 
This also extends to the OP and ED, with the OP, STEAL! by SPARK!!SOUND!!SHOW!!, being an absolute banger that I have listened to for days on end on Spotify.  
Overall, Akudama Drive is a fantastic anime that mixes cyberpunk with anime incredibly well.
Some characters may be missing conclusions to their arcs but, if this is fixed in the Blu-ray, then this could be an all time great anime. 

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans Review. Raise Your Flag!!!

4 and a half stars
When I first reviewed Attack on Titan, I basically called it the Game of Thrones of anime on account of how many characters were dying.
After reading the rest of the series so far, though, I know this is far from the case.
And now, after finishing Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans, which we started but never finished at my university anime club, I can see that the Game of Thrones title suits the Gundam series a lot more.
Iron Blooded Orphans made me wonder just how bloody the other Gundam anime could be, with constant brutal deaths from the large cast of characters, which resulted in a tragic yet fitting ending.
Directed by Tatsuyuki Nagai and developed by Sunrise, the show follows Mikazuki Augus (Kengo Kawanishi) and Orga Itsuka (Yoshimasa Hosoya), two child soldiers who form the organization known as Tekkadan, with their first mission being to escort the maiden of revolution Kudelia Aina Bernstein (Yuka Terasaki) to earth.
What follows is a long and bloody journey both before, during, and long after the mission has ended with, as I said, many brutal and shocking deaths occurring.

Try not to get too attached to the characters because they’ll probably die horribly.

Although many of these deaths are telegraphed before they happen, they still carry huge emotional weight that makes you feel for the characters.
Whether these deaths be in massive Gundam fights or Godfather style assassinations, they always hit you where it hurts.
This is helped by how great the characters are.
Orga is definitely my favourite with me caring for him, even when his naïve desire to see Tekkadan succeed as quickly as possible inevitably lead them all down a tragic path.
As for Mikazuki, I was surprised by how much I liked him as a character, considering he is pretty emotionless.
Usually, I find it hard to connect with such characters but I think it completely worked for him.

Mikazuki may not express much emotion but I still understood and cared about him.

The other members of Tekkadan like Eugene (Yuchiro Yumehara), Akihiro (Yasuaki Takumi) and Biscuit (Natsuki Hanae) are just as interesting to watch.
Not only this but the antagonists are also understandable, with the anime subverting my expectations on what McGillis’ (Takahiro Sakurai) role would be in the story and also again surprising me with Galieo’s (Masaya Matsukaze) great character arc.
Although, I will say that McGillis’ creepy marriage to Galieo’s nine-year-old sister Almiria (Ai Kakuma) should have obviously been changed.
Seriously, even though we see nothing happen (thankfully) they should have aged her up to make it not feel like grooming.
Sadly, this is not the only problems with the villains as the ones in season two have plot armour that I felt like borderlined on the ridiculous at times.   
This is especially the case with Iok (Nobunaga Shimazaki) who can burn in the fiery pits of hell for all I care.
He is easily my most hated anime character of all time with his narcissistic stupidity leading to the deaths of multiple characters.

The mocking name given to him by the fans “Idiok” is perfect for this unbearably unlikeable character.

However, I’m pretty sure we are supposed to hate Iok, so I can’t fault the anime for this because the writers did their job at making him detestable.
As for the animation and music, both are stellar, with there not being one weak moment from either.
The Gundam battles look especially fantastic and this is best showcased in the action packed final episodes, where the tragedy concludes with a bittersweet ending that left me sad yet satisfied, although I will admit it is a divisive end.
I honestly considered giving Iron Blooded Orphans five stars but its problems with some of the villains, namely McGillis’ relationship with Almiria (ew) and the plot armour for the antagonists in season two, held me back.
Still, this does not change the fact that it is a fantastic anime that is a tragic thrill ride from start to finish.
Just prepare to be emotionally crushed by the end.   

Psycho-Pass Season One Review: Criminal Commentary at its Best.

4 and a half stars
Crime Dramas are some of the most loved and successful shows on television so it was natural for anime to take a stab at it.
But with Psycho-Pass, the genre is taken a step further with Science Fiction, Cyberpunk elements incorporated to make for a great piece of commentary on criminality and justice.
Directed by Naoyoshi Shiotani and Katsuyuki Motohiro, The series is set in a future where Japan is ruled by the Sibyl System, which scans people’s mental states to see if they could potentially become a criminal.
If a person registers as a latent criminal through the System’s scanners, they will either be arrested or killed, depending on the situation.
Those who are not killed are either confined or given the chance to join the MWPSB as Enforcers to work under the detectives and hunt down their fellow latent criminals with high Psycho-Pass readings.
One detective, Akane Tsunemori (Kana Hanazawa), is new on the job and thrust into a world of extreme violence where the system pulls the trigger.

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Akane taking on a job as a detective forces her to change, from a naive newbie, to a hardened detective in some great character development.

For this review, I will be solely focusing on season one rather than the entire series.
This is because I have heard season two is disappointing in comparison with the first, and since I love season one so much, I do not want it to reflect too negatively on my review of it.
Season one of Psycho-Pass is nothing short of a powerhouse season, with an amazing story, characters and commentary.
The story is absolutely enthralling with its various violent and disturbing cases that push the main characters to their very limits.
However, this also makes Psycho-Pass not for the faint of heart because of the messed up things in this series.
For example, episodes six to eight focus on a teenage serial killer at a girl’s school and this provides some of the most disturbing things I have seen on screen in a long time.

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The serial killer episodes from six to eight are the scariest in Psycho-Pass for me, with one of the darkest female characters I have ever seen.

With these constant moments of human depravity, it is no wonder the characters struggle so much, especially Akane, who changes from a naive girl to one of the strongest characters in the series, over the 22 episode season.
We can also see how the cases have affected her fellow detectives and enforcers, with Shinya Kogami (Tomokazu Seki) being a particular focus on how these cases changes a person.
The series even shows how the criminals are affected by the laws, with destroying the system being the main villain of season one Shogo Mikishima’s (Takahiro Sakurai) goal.
Mikishima is a great villain, with a scene between him and Akane in episode 11, “Saint’s Supper,” making him one of the most interesting characters in the series.

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Not only is Mikishima a fantastic villain, but his conflict with Kogami is set up and executed perfectly.

Both those on the side of the law and those against it come together in Psycho-Pass to create some truly great commentary on criminality and the justice system.
We see the extreme flaws of the Sibyl System and what it pushes people to commit, and yet, it is the only thing keeping order in Japan.
This commentary makes Psycho-Pass a very thoughtful series.
The season is so good that I only have one problem with it, and that is episode 12, “Crossroad of the Devil.”
This episode focuses on the backstory of a side character Yayoi Kunizuka (Shizuka Ito), who I never found to be all that interesting.
On top of this, her backstory does not serve much of a point in the series.
I felt it would have been better giving a backstory episode to Mikishima, or, better yet, Shuesi Kagari (Akira Ishida), who could have used one, considering where the writers take his character.
Still, even though I did have problems with “Crossroad of the Devil”, it is just a single episode so it does not completely damage my opinion of the anime.
Psycho-Pass is a great anime with some excellent commentary on criminality and the justice system.
It just might be too extreme for some people.
Enjoy it… if you have the stomach to.