OP: 「Golden Life」by (AKINO with bless4)
「File 1: コード No. 538」 (File 1 : Kō do No. 538)
“File 1: Code No. 538”
Anime future police sentai. It’s as flashy as it sounds.
Active Raid: Kidou Kyoushuushitsu Dai-Hakkei depicts a bright and futuristic Tokyo that has become plagued by criminals of increasingly impressive technological power, engendering a more powerful and effective policing system to keep them in check. Perpetrators and enforcers alike now don “willwear”—suits of mechanical armor which bear dangerous strength. Assistant inspector Kagari Asami (Ozawa Ari) has been freshly assigned to the 8th unit of the 3rd Mobile Assault group of the 5th division of the Special Public Security Section—an unruly and reckless bunch of officers, infamous for excessive collateral damage and various protocol violations, and assigned to a particularly troublesome sector of the city. Her official task is to report whether the unit merits continued existence, but personally, she aims to shape ‘Unit 8’ into a competent and worthwhile force for good.
What immediately strikes out about Active Raid is its stylistic similarities to Sentai series (essentially Japanese Power Rangers, to the uninitiated). The bright robotic suits of power, the flair of attacks and action—hell even henshin sequences—all reminiscent of the neon spandex, explosive spectacle, and morphing scenes of classic Sentai. However, Active Raid relays the fun with a less in-your-face attitude hey-look-at-me-aren’t-I-cool aesthetic, for perhaps a more mature audience. As a big fan of the mechs and suits of Sentai that could never get past the tone of the kids shows to be bothered to watch, this is especially welcoming.
My greatest issue with Active Raid’s debut episode, though, is its lack of substantive exposition. The episode begins with quick and snappy snippets of narration and monologue introducing the basic gist of the narrative, right before violently thrusting the viewer into the fray. A show’s premiere installment should provide at least a somewhat coherent grip on the main cast, their motivations, their relationships. Though we were introduced to some basic character quirks and dynamics, they were very hastily depicted. There was also little telling of the general plot going forward. The only indication of where future episodes could be headed came in the form of an incredibly brief segment featuring what is presumably the big baddie for the season? The episode failed to introduce some greater task or end to which the plot could build towards.
Really, more time should have been spent establishing this world in an organic manner—both with the setting and its characters. For example, we should have witnessed the frequency of crime in this bustling metropolis, instead of just being told it. We also should have gotten a good feel for each character’s unique personality and general incentives, rather than being inundated with new face after new face, before cutting straight to the heat of battle. Hell, we should have gotten a more in-depth explanation for how these badass suits work
Luckily, though, all these problems are easily amendable. I can see this episode existing mainly to establish the tone and excitement of the series—drawing in viewers with the promise of dazzling spectacle—before taking time in subsequent installments to better affiliate the audience with the characters and greater plot.
Flash and Bang
The action sequences were certainly exciting, fun, and well-framed, though. I’m usually repelled by the use of CG for humanoid robotic or mechanical characters within a 2D show—I’m aware that, financially, it’s certainly a wise way to go, but I can’t help but feel that action scenes resemble two actions figures smashing against each other for minutes on end. However, I found its presence here acceptable (despite that feeling coming up every now and then). The technology has come a long way, and I feel it was better integrated with the 2D landscapes and characters more so than in any recent shows (save for Buddy Complex, which blended 2D and 3D renderings of the mechs for a near seamless viewing experience). The models used in Active Raid aren’t overly glossy or especially awkward in movement, and though 2D is always the better way to go in these cases, Active Raid’s implementation of CG is a step in the right direction.
However, the best part of the presentation by far is the music. Arakawa Naruhisa, writer of various Kamen Rider and Sentai series lends his talents in scripting and composition for Active Raid, and damn are his tracks funky. Many of the episode’s songs take inspiration from jazz and funk, granting a level of class and smoooothness to the action, reminiscent once again to the kind of stylish charm of classic Sentai.
Hopes Going Forward
I’m going to be frank, I’ve always wanted a quality Sentai-type show for a more adult audience. I’m in love with the shamelessly ostentatious designs of Sentai suits, mechs, and so forth—I just wish it was wrapped around a show of greater substance. A few series have attempted to fill that void, but none—I feel—have quite gotten the job done. Active Raid: Kidou Kyoushuushitsu Dai-Hakkei is hopefully something that will. Now, those are high expectations, I know, but Active Raid shows a lot of promise despite a somewhat underwhelming debut. Sure it’s sparse on in-depth exposition and character development, but these are flaws which can easily be resolved in the coming episodes. So far, the presentation has proven impressive enough, and the intention for a mature, Sentai-inspired show is certainly there. This series is certainly worth giving a chance, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store.