The Summer 2016 Anime Preview Guide
Active Raid Second
How would you rate episode 1 of
Active Raid Second ?
What is this?
Some time has passed since the climactic Logos incident of the first season, and Unit 8 are now regarded as heroes for stopping it. Inagi's new position as governor has also smoothed the path ahead for Unit 8, and their activities have become accepted enough that there's more demand for Willwear-equipped police than manpower, so civilian contractors are now allowed. But there have been manpower changes within Unit 8 too. Asami has left to form Unit 9 in western Japan, and Sena has finally retired to embrace his life's true calling: a trash collection service. Replacing them are newcomers Emilia Edelman (who is part of a foreign exchange program) and Marimo Kaburagi. They get no time to settle in though, for an incident involving a rogue Willwear quickly arises. Unit 8 soon learns that they're dealing with a teenage girl who has been duped into becoming an unwitting suicide bomber, and a sniper is required to stop her before she blows up. Hence Sena gets pressed back into service as part of the civilian contractor program. Active Raid Second is the second season of an original anime work and can be found streaming on Crunchyroll, Sundays at 1:00 PM EST.
How was the first episode?
After a season away, Active Raid returns for more somewhat mundane Willwear adventures. This first episode was a mix of reintroductions and a simple one-episode case, as Unit 8 worked to take down an unwitting suicide bomber before she got herself killed. Rookies were introduced, rivalries were rekindled, and everything concluded with Unit 8 once again getting together for drinks after work.
Having watched a full season of this fairly lukewarm series, nothing in this episode was much of a surprise to me. The show's first season established a general neutral of “competent execution, zero excitement whatsoever,” and this premiere fitted neatly into that legacy. Though there have been some slight Unit 8 staff changes in the time between seasons, and the finale of last season means Unit 8 now has a bit more breathing room when it comes to solving their cases, this was fundamentally one more episode of “cops wearing powered suits are actually a lot less exciting than you'd expect.”
The show's aesthetics are about the same as ever, similarly sticking to Active Raid's general “pleasant but never thrilling” mantra. The character designs are crisp and attractive, and though there isn't much impressive animation, it also never feels like the show is taking any obvious shortcuts. The show's familiar CG powered suits didn't get all that much time to shine this week, but that's to be expected - it's very rare that Active Raid stretches its muscles with a legitimately dynamic fight scene, since most of Unit 8's opponents are the robot-powered equivalents of purse snatchers and jaywalkers.
Overall, Active Raid's new premiere leaves me roughly as unmoved as the first season's material. The show can occasionally pull together a legitimately engaging episode, but its fundamentals just aren't that interesting, and it never really follows through on the potentially compelling elements of its premise. The fact that Sena is now cooperating with the unit as a civilian seems like it could lead to potentially interesting questions of government overreach and dangerously unreliable contractors, but considering the first season concluded with a teen hacker holding the government hostage, I don't have much hope this season's narrative will possess all that much nuance. Active Raid is a competently cooked but slightly dry chicken breast seasoned with salt and served with water.
In most split season cases for anime, the second season is just a direct continuation of the events of the first season. This second season, however, is the less common case which feels more like a sequel series. Though there may have been some lingering plot threads at the end of the first season, it firmly resolved most of its story to that point and had a definite end. Hence this looks to be a new storyline.
The impact the first season's events can be felt quite prominently, though. Doing everything in exacting, official procedure on mission was a big part of the first season and it is still around here. What's changed is the greatly reduced amount of bureaucracy that Unit 8's leaders have to navigate to do anything, as well as the public becoming accepting enough of Unit 8's role that Kuroki opens the episode doing a TV interview. What hasn't changed is that the action still ultimately comes down to the Sena and Kuroki show (although Haruka does suit up first) and they're still squabbling over their stark world views, although they also recognize the role that each of them has to play. Also still around is the series’ mild but weird sense of humor, which shows through here in Asami's commercial for Unit 9 and the odd quirk of one of the new recruits and how it is compensated for.
Speaking of the new recruits, the two new young ladies are both formally introduced, but we don't get an opportunity to learn much of anything about them – or, for that matter, even interact with the established cast members – before the action starts. In fact, Emilia shows no personality beyond being businesslike during the mission, while Marimo's portrayal mostly comes down to the stark difference in her personality when she wears special glasses to compensate for her scopophobia (i.e., fear of being seen or stared at); they digitally censor the eyes of whomever she looks at, you see, so she can't tell if the people are looking at her or not. Given that both of them are attractive young women, it almost seems like the writers decided that they didn't have enough male-oriented sex appeal in the series. Sena's sexy manager seems to be further evidence of that, although her astonishingly foul-mouthed speech patterns are a bit of a jolt.
The actual mission is fairly typical for what we saw in the first season: someone is abusing Willwear in a creative way, and due to the circumstances a creative solution has to be created to keep calamity from striking. I especially like one scene at the end where Haruka easily manhandles the disarmored teenage culprit when she tries to slap Haruka and found it interesting that teenage compensated dating is still a reality even in that era. One brief dialog exchange also had some unusually sharp political commentary when a comment about increased immigration leading to discrimination and poverty is replied to with the statement, “it's a pain that they can't keep it within their own countries.” Yeah, nothing's being implied there.
Anyway, technical and musical merits are about the same, with Liko still serving as an AI but stepping up to singing and dancing the closing theme. The uncertainty about what prompted the attempted suicide attack sets up a definite plot direction for the second season, so overall this season is off to a decent start. In short, if you liked what the first season was doing, you probably won't be disappointed by the start to the second.
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