Moeronpan is coming to visit me next week, so the Episode 6 review will probably be a little late.
After the last mission, Sena and Kuroki have been getting along surprisingly well. Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry has received a threatening message, claiming that a bomb has been placed in a plane about to descend into Haneda Airport. The Ministry assigns Unit 8 to the task, specifically Sena, who has trained in how to disarm a bomb. Kuroki asks to help out, but Sena refuses, calling him a distraction. Instead, Sena is paired with Miho, a woman from the Defense Ministry whom he seems to both know and be rather uncomfortable about. Concerned that they will not have enough manpower to handle the crisis situation, Rin ignores Sena’s wishes and sends Kuroki out anyway.
As the passengers on the plain become increasingly restless, Rin breaks the bad news to her team: the government has refused to give the public any information about the bomb or order an evacuation of the area. Their reason is that a storage center for top-secret data is located in the area, and could be damaged during an evacuation. Realizing the immense number of lives at stake, Sena vows to disarm the bomb at all costs.
On top of the plane, Sena and Kuroki resume their usual arguing, but do manage to find the bomb. Meanwhile, Miho makes cryptic comments to Sena, referring to him as her enemy and lamenting that he “switched sides” by joining Unit 8. Sena and Kuroki are ‘attacked’ by….a horde of inflatable mascot characters. The blasts of air when they pop send Sena flying out of the plane, but Kuroki catches and rescues him, arguing all the way. The plane is forced into an emergency landing, but Sena disarms the bomb just in time. Unfortunately, Unit 8 is once again blamed for the situation, specifically by a drunken Diet member who was aboard. Mythos and his associates are the ones celebrating – as, by observing the situation, they were able to discern the locations of all three government data storage facilities.
While Episode 4 did not contain any of the uncomfortable moments that plagued Episode 3, it had flaws of its own. Most frustrating was the fact that this episode felt like a step backwards in terms of plot and pacing. After having Mythos take a somewhat larger and more active role in 3’s story, he’s back to sitting around and making the occasional cryptic comment in 4. The focus on Sena and Kuroki’s relationship yet again seemed redundant, and Rin, Asami and the rest of the team got the least focus of any episode so far. Instead, we got repeated scenes of an increasingly inebriated Diet member complaining that he’s going to miss his daughter’s wedding. I don’t know if this was Active Raid’s way of trying to show how these situations affect ordinary people, but if so, it wasn’t very effective. It was repetitive and dull, and the loud man annoyed me within seconds, especially because I could easily tell that he was the one who would end up getting mad at Unit 8.
The high point of this episode was that we did get a few more significant looks into the larger government goings-on. Between Miho’s cryptic words to Sena, Kyoukai’s realization that the Defense Ministry’s Willwears are a type he’s never seen before, and Rin’s discussion of the data storage centers with the rest of the team, it’s clear that Unit 8 are slowly getting dragged into a larger political conspiracy, possibly against their will. I hope we see more of Miho, because her and Sena’s strained relationship is actually pretty interesting and a lot less stereotypical than his “our personalities clash, but we come together at the last minute” thing with Kuroki. (Also, if this show gains any kind of popularity, I predict a flood of Sena x Kuroki doujins and fanfics. Years ago, I would have been riding that wave too, but I must be making my own descent into Angry Bitter Anime Blogger, because I have a hard time seeing their reactions as cute, squee-worthy or anything other than generic).
Basically, this could have been a great episode if they’d made just a few changes – send someone other than Sena/Kuroki to deal with the bomb, show the reactions of more than just one passenger, have Mythos or one of his crew actively interfering with attempts to disarm the bomb. (Sena’s only “obstacle” during the disarming process as the army of inflatable mascots. While that did get a laugh out of me, it was more due to the utter unexpectedness of it than it being actually humorous…and it felt out of place in an otherwise rather tense, high-stakes scene).
Another mixed bag of an episode, but the hints regarding the bigger picture are enough to keep me intrigued regardless of pacing issues. Out of 5 Dios:
Unit 8 becomes suspicious of its quiet member, Madoka, fearing that she might be a spy for Internal Affairs. (Much to the dismay of Asami, who actually -is- said spy.) While tracking Madoka’s movements, she mysteriously disappears just as several miniature missiles explode. The person responsible sends Unit 8 an ultimatum: to prevent further explosions, they must beat a teacher named Ryou at poker.
Conveniently, Unit 8’s oldest member, Funasaka, reveals himself to be a former gambler. Despite Unit 8’s tricks and secret devices, he quickly begins to lose. Ryou reveals that he himself is the one who fired the missiles, which were provided to him by Logos. His goal was nothing more than a thrill – to have the chance to play against poker masters again after being blacklisted from casinos due to his great skill.
Kuroki takes Funasaka’s place, but is quickly defeated as well. Luckily, Madoka steps in to save the day. In the process, she reveals her secret identity – the legendary gambler, Bloody Mary, who won great amounts of money but disappeared when gambling was legalized. While Sena handles the missiles, Madoka handily defeats Ryou. Despite having hunted Bloody Mary in his youth, Funasaka decides not to turn her in, as she is a valued member of his unit.
This episode was absolutely ridiculous. Insanely high-stakes poker, a hammy villain, the out-of-nowhere reveal of Madoka’s secret identity, another filler-like plot with Mythos and his crew in minor roles and nothing about the larger government conspiracy. By all rights, this episode should have been an utter failure…
…yet, I loved it.
Active Raid works best when it’s not taking itself too seriously. The high-stakes airplane bomb of last episode clashed with the goofy personalities of the cast and the overall concept of a police unit that uses ridiculous methods and causes huge amounts of collateral damage. A poker game to stop missiles being fired, on the other hand, is the exact kind of situation Unit 8 was meant to handle. I laughed several times – at Ryo’s increasingly strained facial expressions, at Rin’s failed attempts to use technology to help in the game, at Kuroki’s rapid defeat and admittance that he has 200,000 yen of gambling debts.
Another high point of this episode was that the focus switched from the heavily featured Sena and Kuroki to two of the previously more minor members, Funasaka and Madoka. I really like Funasaka – he’s genuinely fatherly and caring towards all the members of his unit, and unafraid to put his life and career on the line to protect them. His decision not to turn in Madoka was one of the show’s most heartwarming moments so far. And while quiet Madoka having a secret double life as a gambler came out of left field, it actually fit her personality quite well – she’s stoic and observant, and keeps her reactions and emotions in check giving her a perfect poker face. I hope we get to see her gambling skills and “Bloody Mary” persona put to use in future episodes.
The biggest downside was that the overall plot wasn’t really advanced, aside from setting up a potential conflict between Mythos and his hot-headed, impatient associate Dog. However, this mostly bothered me because it came right on the heels of Episode 4, which felt like a repeat of things the show had already done. Episode 5 felt like a filler episode, but it was a -good- filler episode, with great humor and character moments. I wish that the necessary bits of Episode 4 – the government’s prioritizing data over people, the strained relationship between Unit 8 and the Defense Ministry – could have been incorporated into this episode instead so we could have been spared that awful plane-bomb plot.
I hope this strong episode is a sign that things are looking up for Active Raid. The preview for next week seems to show more Funasaka focus, which I’m excited to see.
A strong showing earns this many Dios: