Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Anime Review: Active Raid

I've noticed an odd trend in my anime reviews lately, namely that the series with the best first episode premiere of the season usually isn't anywhere near my favorite show of the season. I don't know why this is, you would think that a strong first episode would mean a strong show in general and I just wouldn't use that generic word "strong" for this show.

Active Raid

In a future Tokyo, new technology means new crimes and Unit 8 is a semi-secret police force created to tackle these new problems. Asami Kazari isn't yet 20 and yet she's been assigned to, semi-secretly, monitor this group of loose cannons and see how vital they really are to the protection of Tokyo.

I saw a lot of people comparing this show to Patlabor but since I haven't seen that show yet (it's on my list!) I'm instead going to say that this show reminded me a lot of Tiger & Bunny. It has the tokusatsu-style super suits (with secrete identities!), a background character who appeared in the weirdest situations, and a hot and cold dynamic between the two male leads. Although, both of these shows had their best moments when it was more character focused than action focused and T&B just blows this show out of the water. It's not simply that T&B had more runtime (and therefore more time to develop), AR just didn't seem that interested in moving beyond "let's make the characters have funny conversations." Don't get me wrong, a lot of that bantering was enjoyable! But AR feels very much like a workplace kind of drama, it's not interested in the characters beyond their roles, and when the actual story is a bit shaky this is a problem.

Ultimately, the underlying plot of this show was a bit of a mess, too many pieces, contrivances, and moments that lacked emotional payoff. Again, bits of the show were funny but as it slightly shifted gears (from being more episodic to build up ideas to actually tackling the villains) the story seemed to think that it's plot was more compelling than it actually was. I also just wasn't a fan of the super robot episode, it's not my biggest complaint with the show but I just didn't like it! I know a lot of people dug but it was too, earnest to work for me in a show filled with snark, the show was tone deaf like that quite often.

There is a sequel series coming out this summer and, while I can see where the story could still go (it neatly wrapped up this story but there are one or two loose ends regarding the side characters) but I doubt I'll be dropping in. Nick/Bobduh said that he had forgotten he even saw this show and while I tried to tease him about that at first I have to confess that I'm the same, there are certainly better shows of this kind out there to watch instead. 


  1. The thing is, most of the "better shows" you're thinking about aren't really aiming towards the same goal in the first place, nor are they using the exact same tools in the process.

    Which is why I believe you haven't watched a lot of Super Sentai (think Power Rangers, more or less) series, or have you? I am saying that because many Super Sentai shows have almost exactly the same sort of feel as Active Raid.

    They're not supposed to be too deep nor too serious in the first place, even if they do have an occasionally sincere emotional moment (such as the Super Robot epĂ­sode) between episodes of mostly lightweight entertainment.

    Nothing in the story of Active Raid seemed all that complicated to me, nor did I believe it was attempting to be particularly compelling as a dramatic narrative. They did slightly raise the stakes towards the end, but not in any way that would be unusual or unexpected for the genre.

    So, I don't agree with the argument that the show was overreaching. On the contrary, I think it simply lacked ambition and sometimes that's fine.

    For me it was just a nice distraction for a laidback audience who enjoys Super Sentai antics, rather than trying to appeal to those who demand something with more calories and fiber in their diet, so to speak.

    Of course Tiger and Bunny was better, but I don't think they are directly comparable.

    T&B had a lot more western superhero genes too, rather than strictly tokusatsu. It wasn't Super Sentai either. Unlike AR, T&B was definitely trying to be more focused on one or two characters as a central anchor and aim for dramatic interactions on a more regular basis.

    Therefore, I won't claim Active Raid was all that memorable. However, I didn't have any difficulty remembering the gist of what happened in the show either.

    Which is why I will keep watching. Hopefully those who didn't care for the series will just ignore it, rather than going out of their way to bash something for not wanting to do what they (unrealistically) demanded. Not referring to you, by the way, but there seems to be this weird antipathy towards Active Raid that strikes me as foolish at best.

    1. I feel like you misunderstood a lot of my review honestly, I didn't think that AR was overreaching or that it was trying for a dramatic narrative, I just thought the whole thing was rather inconsistent. It dabbles in giving the character's backstories and shows that side by side with utterly 2D characters.
      And when I said better shows I didn't mean just in the police drama/tokusatsu genres, I meant like, in general, of all shows! I think that's the reason for the antipathy you're seeing, this show didn't do spectacularly well in any element so I think that a lot of viewers, myself included, just didn't connect with it.

    2. See, I don't think that is even an inconsistency. But I know it's not proper to further elaborate on that here.

      A lot of viewers were already acting rather petty towards the show from the start and some of them keep talking trash about it even after dropping the series early on.

      That seems so...pointless and hateful to me. Yes, it's fine to dislike the show. But people don't need to be so over-the-top in their venom towards it. There's been both better *and* worse shows, you know. But nope, let's see folks bully this one show more than what it deserves.