Episode Synopsis: Japan’s ACTIVE unit, a recently formed organization operating as part of the National Police Agency, is tasked with fighting crimes committed by users of Willwear (this show’s name for mecha). The experimental unit (Special Public Security Fifth Division, Third Mobile Assault Eighth Unit) has attracted a lot of attention – and not in a good way. Their lack of respect for “by-the-book” tactics and penchant for collateral damage has earned them the nickname “the garbage men” by citizens of their assigned prefecture, and the top brass isn’t sure if this bold new experiment in policing should continue. Enter Kazari Asami, a driven, newly-minted officer, who has been sent to decide whether Unit 8 should continue existing.
Her first day on the job comes just as a major Willwear crime is underway, and she gets a whirlwind introduction to life at Unit 8 and the complexities of operating mecha in a major urban area.
Active Raid has a dizzying amount of material packed into its first episode, but on the balance shows a decent amount of promise. It’s clear that we’ll largely be focusing on the members of Unit 8, which are a colorful cast of characters.
The team (in the order they appear above) is made up of two pilots of diametrically opposed temperaments, two “bridge bunny” types (the bubbly one and the one that prefers to converse via text), a tiny little bean of a chief with some serious tactical chops, an old section chief who has all the right connections, and the talented but kinda weird maintenance guy.
It’s not an original cast by any measure, but it’s a solid enough setup that doesn’t feel like it’s drowning in tropes, so I’m cautiously optimistic.
Weighing down my optimism a little are the (admittedly small) fanservice moments the show has chosen to throw in. Maintenance guy, I really hope this doesn’t turn into a thing with you.
Then there’s the random pickpocket the team captures early on, and has to restrain while they go do mech stuff.
There wasn’t too much of it, and it didn’t derail the episode, so I’ll just keep my fingers crossed for future episodes.
As for the actual policing work, it was handled differently than I expected. Sure, there’s a cool transformation sequence in which the user’s mech can be configured for different roles.
Sure, there’s a decent amount of mech vs. mech action.
Surprisingly, though, the actual combat between mecha takes a backseat to navigating the legal maze necessary to even get to that point. Every ward in the city has it’s own political body (city council, mayor, what have you), and they have to give their permission before Unit 8 can enter or use local transporation (their command vehicle gets towed around by passenger trains). Once in, they also have the final say on whether combat can take place. The pettiest of reasons can derail a carefully planned operation.
For example, a ward that wasn’t even in the path of the fight demands that no combat takes place in a different ward, because a city council member’s re-election strategy hinges on a local anime company finishing its 3D rendering in time.
Quickly, we come to the realization that it’s practically a miracle Unit 8 is able to accomplish anything at all, and they’re actually quite skilled at working within the bureaucratic limitations set on them.
On top of all that, the criminals throw their own twists in. Appeals to social media to attempt to mislead the team as to their true objective,
moving through crowded areas to prevent the police from taking action,
and… whatever just happened here.
As you may have guessed, there’s also plenty of ridiculous (in a good way) stuff to go with the more grounded elements. When it’s time to launch their mechs long distances, they transform into giant bullets and are shot to wherever they need to be – it’s an 8-year-old’s dream.
Upon exiting their bullet transport, the mechs drop in equipped with disposable skis, because how else are you going to slow down gracefully?
As shown in the top image, the police mechs have special holsters from which they can pull enormous police badges when it’s time to make an arrest. Is it completely silly? Yes. Did I smile anyway? Of course. And if the show can keep that feeling going, it should make for some amusing watching.