OK, I'm only writing this review as everyone else is too much of a coward to write one (as of yet). I just want to be first for once, you know?
Ay, so here's the run down for you, boyz:
- BAM! Best use of Engrish in the biz
- Best random use of out of nowhere swearing that I've seen in a long time. Where are you going to see a character nonchalantly call someone a "scumwad dick" on multiple occasions or randomly saying "Dick in pussy?", yeah that's right! Increase your hustle 'anime industry'
- Yooo, that last episode though? Budget, babbyyyyy (Even if it was for
a short time)
- You up on your waifu game? This show got you, my dood
- On the real, the soundtrack is also pretty peep worthy, scope this one
Overall I rate this a solid "Yeah/Boy" - it's alright
This sure is one goofy-ass spicy meatball
Sometimes writing reviews is easy. You finish watching, check your notes & before you know it the words are flowing onto the page. No guarantee they'll be any good, of course, but at least there was no trouble finding something to say. For Active Raid's second season, it's a struggle to say anything.
After the events of the first season (Winter 2016), Unit 8 has seen some changes. Asami has found herself shunted off to lead the newly formed Unit 9, letting her have the power trip she's always wanted while getting her out of the way of serious police work. Sena, meanwhile, has left Unit
8 to become a bin collector, working for the foul mouthed Abigail. Something, something & now everyone finds themselves facing corrupt politicians, the remnants of Logos & a conspiracy that goes to the heart of the Tokyo governor’s office.
For a series seemingly as ignored as Active Raid, there's some pedigree in its production team. Director Gorou Tanigouchi is none other than the creator of Code Geass, as well as director of niche favourites like Planetes & Maria the Virgin Witch. With series composition by long time anime writer Naruhisu Arakawa & character designs by Asako Nishida, on paper it sounds like Active Raid should have been something noteworthy.
It certainly tried to be. The second season in particular seems to have upped the efforts to fit social & political commentary into its crime stories. City Hall corruption, abuse of undocumented migrants & the use of what are in effect PMCs to supplement the police all come up for discussion. Normally, this would be praiseworthy in a medium where such subjects are rarely explored with more depth than an angry teenager shouting at people whenever they mention his girlfriend is a half-elf. But Active Raid's writing isn't really up to exploring these issues in more than superficial & at times contradictory ways. The writing in general isn't great, with some...interesting ideas to put a twist on its functional but pretty cliché structure. For example, when it comes time to try to get the prime suspect to confess, Unit 8 come up with the brilliant plan of staging a fake wedding where he'll have to tell his bride the truth for some reason. Genius!
But perhaps more important than that, Active Raid is a series that manages to not look quite like anything else airing, yet have no real identity of its own. There's a whiff of design by committee about it, as though they're trying to ensure it appeals to as broad an audience as possible. The result is a super sentai, sci-fi, police procedural, workplace comedy, character drama, conspiracy thriller; with a vocaloid mascot, sexy guys with troubled pasts for the girls & sexy girls with cute character quirks for the guys. It's not that all those elements can't coexist, but in this instance they feel as though they're There so there's something for everyone; ironically resulting in a show for no one.
Active Raid's production quality is, perhaps intentionally, best summed up by the show itself. When asking an old film director why he still uses practical effects, he says it's due to asking kids at a cinema what they thought of a new film & they respond that the CG made it look cheap. Active Raid has the same problem. Like all too many anime these days, the only things that aren't 3D models are the characters, which to be fair are all pretty nice looking, if unremarkable. The backgrounds are all those low resolution, purposely slightly out of focus eyesores that are always a red flag for a lower effort production. The Willwears look all right in action, but their designs remain rather uninspired & look floaty & awkward when performing slower motions.
It's often a knee jerk reaction to call a series like Active Raid underrated. It's certainly not bad & who knows, maybe in time it'll find a niche audience that rehabilitate it, much as happened to Maria the Virgin Witch when it started appearing in critics favourites lists in 2015. But I doubt it. That kind of thing generally happens to series that tried to be their own thing & had to wait to find an audience. In contrast, Active Raid has a little bit of everything but nothing that makes it seem more than functional. It's okay, but that's all.
First of all I have seen the first season of active raid before moving to this
season and as such im quite familiar with its concepts and characters.
So then lets get started
The story of Active raid season 2 is largely unchanged with season 1 in that
it revolves around the activities of the Mobile assault divisions unit 8
which is quite a mouthful lol so for the purpose of this review i would simply
call them unit 8. Unit 8 as a police unit is equipped with Exoskeletons that they
use to deal with criminals that use them as well. These are called Willwears
Unit 8 like most police units has a clear chain of command in that its led by
its leader Rin Yamabuki who's referred to as the boss by her subordinates.
The boss played by veteran seiyuu Masayo Kurata i felt was a great character
that held the members of Unit 8 together and serves as its glue. Although this is the first time i heard this seiyuu i thought her performance was pretty good.
Yusuharu Funasaka is the section chief of Unit 8 and though higher in rank
than Rin he actively participates in their antics as well. He mostly serves
as comic relief for the show.
Takeru Kuroki and Soichiro Sena are lieutenants that serve within unit 8
and serve as the main strength of the unit for most of the cases that the
unit faces. After season 1 Kuroki had a much bigger role in the anime due to
Asami's promotion while Sena had left the unit but came back in the course of this season.
Of the pair Kuroki is still as hot headed as he was back in the
first season however now he's somewhat more calmer. Sena is the more calmer of the pair and acts as the sniper of the unit. During the end of the first season Sena left the unit to form a trash company though he comes back to the unit as a consultant. Though loath to admit it both characters know that they have to rely on each other on the field and as such both have respect for each other.
The support staff for the unit consist of operator Haruka Hoshiymiya who serves as the main controller and Namihei Sado who's in charge of maintaining the units willwears as their mechanic. Of the pair Haruka is the more interesting one as she has a rather happy and cheerful personality which can defuse some tense situations. Madoka Amano who in season 1 was a member of the support staff is now head of a detective agency that she founded after leaving the unit. Her identity and abilities prove to be of much use during a rather memorable case in the story
Season 2 introduced a number of changes to the squad notably promoting Asami Kazari who was the main character in season 1 and played by one of my fav seiyuu's Ari Ozawa and giving her a new team to lead. I have mixed reservations about this move.
Asami was the main character in season 1 and her determination to improve the squad and her drive to punish the criminals was what made her one of my fav characters.
Taking her out and making her a support character instead felt like it was the wrong move. Still having her unit help in unit 8's cases though was funny.
Season 2 in addition to taking out Ari's character also introduced two new characters Emilia a transfer officer from Poland voiced by veteran seiyuu Yukari Tamura and Marimo voiced by Aimi Tanaka. While Marimo hardly gets that many screen time Emilia however gets much more. I found that Emilia was a pretty good character as she served as a foil to the hot hotheadedness of Kuroki and has a rather kind and caring personality that makes her easy to get used to.
Her backstory behind her willwear was also pretty interesting. Yukari Tamura was as usual perfect in that she was able to portray Emilia quite well.
As with the previous season active raid's story pairs weekly cases with the
anime's main plot with the main villain here being Hachijou while the previous main villain Mythos went to help Unit 8 instead. The relationship that Mythos established with Kuroki though was interesting and you can see the bond there is genuine. A sub villain within the anime was governor Inagi who was a support character in the first season. I find it funny how his grand plans were in the end discovered by unit 8 whom he trusted so much and whats more was hijacked by the anime's main villain instead.
The art for the anime was genuinely good and though the animation
was pretty good. The animation for the last episode was above of what i would expect from this anime and really surprised me.
The music for the anime was pretty good and i loved the series openings and
Relegating Asami to a secondary character was a poor move.
Active raid had always been about a unit of police officers with unique personalities that solve serious crimes that require the use of the units exoskeletons. In this season they tried to change the formula
by introducing more traditional foot missions and also introducing some rather unique cases. These range from giant monsters to invisible willwears and strange idols.
The overall main plot however proved to be pretty interesting especially with the twist near the end of the series. While the new characters certainly pull their weight particular praise goes to Yukari Tamura whose portrayal of Emilia was excellent in my books and made her character Emilia one of my favorites in the show.