Not quite killing it.
Active Raid’s first episode follows Asami Kazari, an earnest young cop, on her first day with the allegedly roguish Special Public Security Division 5, Third Mobile Assault Unit 8. Asami is confident and fairly abrasive, having been picked to have her internship ended in early in favor of fielding her as a regular officer. But while she’d expected to come in and clean up the house, she instead finds herself flummoxed by the off-beat and oft careless denizens of the Eighth. Presumably the remainder of the show is about her adjusting to her new circumstances, which will surely include her loosening up a bit.
I described this show as “new woman in workplace gets repeatedly put in her place by her co-workers”, and while this may leave some of the finer details out, it’s the best one-liner that I can come up with for this scattershot episode. Watching it, I kept realizing that my attention had wandered; a lot of what was happening on-screen was jargon being shouted, and the context was fairly insubstantial. There was nothing for me to grab onto across this entire episode – the characters were largely perfunctorily “quirky”, and for all the noise and color about what was going on, I found it impossible to discern why I should care. In media res isn’t necessarily a bad way to start, but I think to do it effectively, there either needs to be tension, the situation needs to be itself interesting, or the characters must be sympathetic to some degree… or, if not sympathetic, perhaps monstrous. Active Raid’s first episode lacks tension, the situation is ill-defined and boring, and the characters are mostly ciphers. Asami may be a slight exception to the last point, but she is nevertheless an archetype, and as irritating as it was to watch her get told to, essentially, sit down and shut up endlessly, she was pretty irritating by herself, too.
Having said all that, though, I didn’t hate it. But! I also didn’t like it. Instead, I felt profoundly indifferent to it, which is worse. I’ve watched shows I’ve hated, energized onward by the profound power of snark (Aldnoah.Zero 2 is my best example of this sort of watch, but I think this was how Guilty Crown worked for a lot of people), but those about which I’m indifferent tend to have a habit of slinking away into the shadows. This post originally read “Active Raid was a bit boring.” after my description of the episode, and it took a bit of thought on my part to answer the “why?” matter.
I saw some folks joking about how the extra-legal methods used by the Eighth is meant somewhat comically but might come across to Americans with heightened awareness of police abuses and brutality as, well, not comical at all. Maybe! But the Japanese criminal justice system itself, too, would give reason for not finding snubs of legality terribly amusing. There have long been criticisms of the fact that the vast majority of convictions hinge on confessions (as in, 99% of the time!), particularly given that arrestees can be held up to twenty-three days, interrogations aren’t required to be recorded, there are few limits on length of time arrestees can be interrogated while held, and arrestees don’t have an ironclad right to access to a lawyer. This was not at all one of the things holding me back from enjoying this show, as it bothering me would’ve required me to have been engaged by the show on some level, but some food for thought.