After failing to stop Mythos from taking control of virtually all computer systems in Japan, Unit 8 is running out of options. Cooperation from Bird and a lucky cache of information finally give them everything they need to piece together Mythos’s name and location, and they are able to confront him. However, the JSDF has its own plans to reestablish control over the network and bring a terminal end to Logos and its creator.
Well, this is it folks. This is what we’ve all been waiting for: Active Raid limps to the finish with a dull and contrived final episode that nicely encapsulates all of the problems that have plagued the series until now. I wasn’t expecting much, but the finale delivered even less than that.
We open with a huge exposition dump in which a bunch of bureaucrats explain how Japan’s entire economy and infrastructure has been crippled by Mythos’s takeover. Between hacking into the government database and seizing control of most personal systems using a backdoor built into the Liko software, he’s now running the show and nothing can get done. It’s so bad that the United States has even ordered its Pacific Fleet to investigate the situation, at which point I had a jolly chuckle at the absurdity of it all.
The problem here is that we’re being told everything that’s happened, but we see essentially none of it. Other than a dozen random citizens listening to some lady rant about the government’s handling of the situation, we don’t see any of the chaos or simple inconvenience that cutting off a near-future society from its social, economic and military networks could cause. There’s no looting, no riots, no accidents or anything to give us a hint of what’s at stake; just empty streets and angry politicians. Without any sense of weight to the proceedings, we have no real stakes to consider except the safety of our protagonists, and frankly I couldn’t give a crap about that clown show.
So what are our heroes doing during this crisis? Well, after being saved by conveniently/ham-fistedly finding all the information they need regarding Mythos on Chief Yamabuki’s sister’s laptop…
…they manage to track him down and face him before he can escape the country. By the by, there’s a moment where the entire Unit 8 team mistakes the younger sister for the Chief, despite her wearing a high school uniform. It’s not even presented humorously, which makes me wonder how any of these people manage to tie their shoelaces without adult supervision. Somewhere in all of this, they also manage to convince Bird to abandon Mythos and send him packing on a one-way trip out of the country and into the dreadfully inevitable second season.
The ensuing fight is slightly more lively than some of the earlier ones, and I extracted some entertainment out of watching Mythos casually beat the tar out of Unit 8 once he got serious. Having to keep him trapped between two jamming units to prevent him from using his control over the network is a cool limitation to work around, but the fight itself is nonsensical. Mythos’s inexplicable transforming motorcycle/dual-rotor Willwear (it’s been done better before, guys) easily overpowers the team, yet no one has the presence of mind to authorize the use of Sublimation Mode or whatever it’s called to even the odds.
Once it’s clear that Mythos won’t be taken down, the JSDF shows up with a kill-team loaded for cyber-bear and prepares to toast him. You’d think that this is where Sena’s old flame Miho might show up and intervene, but that would have required effort, so the show chooses a more saccharine path. Kazuki and the others, having just learned his tragic backstory, stand with him to prevent him from being shot and forcing him to choose between their lives and his revenge against Japan for ostracizing him and his little sister because of the actions of their parents. Once again, all of this is conveyed by people talking about it rather than flashbacks, memories, or any minutely moving storytelling device.
What really rubs me up the wrong way is that the show is clearly trying to make us sympathize with Mythos. In all fairness to the guy, the incident that led him to hate Japanese society happened when he was too young to have any idea of its significance. That being said, his accomplice happily crushed a man to death in episode 7 before Mythos called in a hit squad on said accomplice as punishment for his actions. Not to mention that he’s directly responsible for dozens of terrorist attacks which could easily have killed people unintentionally, so trying to make us empathize with him is asinine. It’s not impossible to make someone feel empathy towards a villain, but it takes far better characterization than this show has ever come close to.
Finally, faced with Unit 8’s willingness to sacrifice themselves, Mythos breaks down sobbing and is taken into custody. The team goes off to celebrate Kazuki’s birthday and very deliberately not order Liko purged from every computer and mobile device in the nation like the cancerous security risk she is.
Oh yeah, and Background Girl makes her most subtle appearance yet.
So that’s it then, friends. Episode 12 is a pretty good biopsy of Active Raid as a whole: long-winded explanations with nothing to back them up, absurd fight scenes and a perfunctory ending that isn’t funny, entertaining or satisfying. The potentially interesting premise of an elite unit fighting both criminals and red tape is squandered, and any commentary on Japanese social structure or Anonymous-like hacker groups falls flat. We sure picked a stinker this time, and hopefully you can all learn from our example and avoid this slapdash excuse for a mecha series.
Look forward to hearing us discuss our thoughts as a group in our next mini-podcast!
EDIT: In the original post, I stated that Mythos had been the one to crush a man to death. After reviewing earlier episodes (thanks, Brendan!), I’ve updated the post to reflect that it was Dog, not Mythos, who caused that death. While he may not have directly killed anyone, I believe my point still stands.
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