Active Raid Episode 7
by Nick Creamer, Feb 18th 2016
How would you rate episode 7 of
Active Raid ?
It's rarely a good thing when a show leaves me unsure of whether I'm supposed to laugh or actually care about what's happening, but that's where I found myself in the newest Active Raid. This was another episodic narrative, with the focus character this time being Haruka, the blue-haired girl who… likes trains. And… yeah, that's about it. That's her personality. She likes trains.
It actually might have been for the best that Haruka is such a one-note character, because the rest of this episode was actually very busy. We were first introduced to Nagamura, a man running for the governor's position as the head of the “Peace Party,” who apparently also likes trains. And then we met Terao Kazuyoshi, the current governor, who was fighting off charges of corruption and looking for any way to improve his popularity. And finally we met Kobari, this episode's actual criminal, who'd stolen a Willwear with the ostensible purpose of “making the governor pay” for some vaguely alluded-to political crimes.
Likely the best parts of this episode were the moments when it focused on either to the political brinkmanship involved in the current act of terrorism or the larger forces that are finally coming into view. We finally got some potential context on the actions of Logos this time, when Rin's sister made a quick reference to the Fruit of Tragedy, a terrorist attack from ten years in the past. Meanwhile, the members of Unit 8 spent most of this episode negotiating with local politicians and track managers to gain permission to deal with the terrorist. There was the now-standard sprinkling of reflections on how bureaucracy is generally more of an antagonist than the actual terrorists, and a nice sequence where the governor attempted to use this attack in order to boost his numbers by actively blocking Unit 8 from action.
But in the end, all of the actual drama came down to Haruka and her feelings about trains. Confronting Kobari head-on, she spoke of how it was his train dioramas that had driven her passion, and that his attempts to punish the governor were a betrayal of the trains. “You love trains!” she passionately shouted, in a sequence that was played with such sincerity that I couldn't really tell if it understood how silly it was. Neither Kobari nor Haruka are characters we've been given any reason to care about, and “liking trains” is by itself a pretty meaningless character attribute. Did anyone expect this finale to actually carry some emotional weight?
In previous episodes, the show was at least able to tie passions like gambling or giant robots into reflections on how the shifting world had forced people to change their lives. Even if the characters were shallow, their feelings had some thematic relevance. Here, the focus on trains didn't have any actual meaning, and Kobari's feelings weren't based in some larger dissatisfaction about the current world order, but simply a result of his daughter being held hostage. By the time Haruka started making a heartfelt speech about how Kobari and his daughter were just like two trains, and that they should “travel together on that long rail known as life,” I felt half-certain the show was making fun of its own poorly constructed drama. Active Raid has always had trouble providing good reasons to care about its episodic drama, but if this was an intentional turn into self-parody, it sure didn't come across that way.
This week's Active Raid was emotionally and dramatically sterile, one more boilerplate police story that was notable only in its hollow absurdity. The show can occasionally pull off a good episode, but this was most definitely not one of them.
Active Raid is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.
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