Senkou no Night Raid

Senkou no Night Raid is an anime directed by Matsumoto Jun of Arashi fame. The 13-episode anime aired in Japan starting April 5, 2010. It is a historical piece set in Shanghai during the 1930s with plenty of action and the super-natural. After the First Sino-Japanese War, Russo-Japanese War and World War I, the Imperial Japanese Army is dispatched to Kwantung, west of Manchuria.

Japan was seeking an expansion into Manchuria (which was at that time leased to Japan as per the Treaty of Portsmouth) not as a colony but as an ally against foreign forces – namely the Russians. Others, of course, view the establishment of Manchukuo by the Japanese as an occupation of Chinese sovereign land by force. This incident and the ones thereafter, will soon lead to the Second Sino-Japanese War and subsequently World War II.

A military spy organization, “Sakurai Kikan,” is dispatched as one of the government’s chess pieces. The young members of the organization all have special powers, each contributing to the success of their missions.

The use of Chinese dialogue and/or native speakers to the language is truly commendable. Hats off to the first try of Matsu Jun.  I know a lot of his fans must be in awe of this other side of him now. Even though the story was at first hard to grasp, it is quite entertaining to watch the action and discover each of the character’s abilities.

My major complain would be that the series does not elaborate on the historical aspects of the war. Many throughout the world know of the Japanese atrocities in most of Asia from the 1930s up until the end of World War II with the bombing of Hiroshima and consequently Nagasaki. But this black mark in their history has been conveniently erased by the Japanese themselves. It would have been a good opportunity to educate the (Japanese) audience of the darkest time in Japan’s history, yet, it is lacking.

There is one opening and ending theme:

1. “Promise” (約束) by MUCC
2. “To the Future…” (未来へ…) by HIMEKA

April 5, 2010, Episode 1: Rescue

A military spy organization, Sakurai Kikan, is tasked on a covert operation to rescue a Japanese conglomerate president, Kaburagi Chairman, from the hands of a small Chinese military faction, Lin Tsung Wu’s army. After Supervisor Sakurai Shin’ichirou briefs the team on the mission, they set out their individual task. Sakurai was formerly a lieutenant colonel of the Imperial Japanese Army. He is mild-mannered and always speaks using polite Japanese.

Sakurai Kikan consists of four members, of which, there is one sole female in the group.

Members of Sakurai Kikan: Kazura, Aoi, Yukina & Natsume

Members of Sakurai Kikan: Kazura, Aoi, Yukina & Natsume

Miyoshi Aoi has a great sense of justice, but acts rashly in certain situations. He has vibrant personality and a positive attitude in most circumstances. He is a linguist through his overseas residence (albeit not quite perfect), with Chinese, Russian, German and English under his belt. Aoi has telekinetic ability. It allows him to manipulate the speed of objects, but it has a limited duration of use. He runs a photo studio as a cover with Iha Kazura – the total opposite of him.

Kazura is very conservative, a reflection of his samurai upbringing and time spent as a soldier with the Imperial Japanese Army. His ability is teleporting, although he is very reluctant to use it. Only when he is persuaded by Aoi that he uses it. His real name is Kishida Takuma.

Sonogi Yukina comes from a noble family, and as such, has the demeanor and training to match. Her telepathic and psychometric abilities make her the coordinator of missions. She is closely guarded by Kagiya Natsume. For outward appearances, he addresses her as his mistress. Otherwise, they treat each other as equals.

Natsume comes from a family of poor farmers. He is very faithful to Yukina and has an honest and sincere personality. His ability is akin to a telephoto lens, good for surveillance missions.

The team is briefed that the Chairman is on Lin Tsung Wu’s army base. Their ransom has been changed to a demand of weapons from the Japanese government. Meanwhile, Lin Tsung Wu’s army is armed with leftover Mexican Revolutionary war weapons (outdated but definitely lethal). This is why they need to barter for newer weapons from the Japanese government. Before the arms deal go through, the Chairman has to be rescued.

After two rescue attempts, which ended with decoys being posted, Sakurai Kikan has to ensure the success of this mission.

Aoi & Kazura

Aoi & Kazura

Aoi and Kazura sneak into the army base pretending as the food taker to the Chairman. They get to the Chairman and rescue him, but the real food bringer appears. The guards are immediately alerted for a possible breach in security and rescue of the prisoner. Yukina and Natsume, stationed on the outside parameters, communicate with Aoi, telling him to find a tunnel, which is their escape route. However, the army had set a blockade on that tunnel and are closing in on them.

Fortunately, Supervisor Sakurai “accidentally” leaks out information of Lin Tsung Wu to KMT (Kuomintang). KMT holds off the army.

Stuck, Kazura is forced to use his teleporting abilities to teleport the three of them to safety.

April 12, 2010, Episode 2: Rondo of Reminiscence

At the photo studio, Fuu Ran, the shop help and a restaurant owner, tells Aoi that a mysterious roll of film has been dropped off.

With the roll of film developed, their next mission is assigned: The group is charged with investigating a Jewish Russian violinist who is a suspected spy to an unknown benefactor. The Kwantung Army sets the Sakurai team on Sergei Krainev to prevent the leak of classified military information.

The Kwantung Army was an army group of the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) in the early twentieth century. It became the largest and most prestigious command in the IJA. It was largely responsible for the creation of the Japanese-dominated Empire of Manchukuo, through the September 18, 1931 Mukden Incident, where they acted by themselves against the IJA commands.

During the 1920s and 1930s, the Kwantung Army was a stronghold of the radical Kodoha, and many of its senior leaders advocated political change in Japan through the violent overthrow of the civilian government to bring about a Showa Restoration, with a reorganization of society and the economy. They also advocated a more aggressive, expansionist foreign policy with regards to the Asian mainland. Members of the Kwantung Army were active in numerous coup d’état attempts against the civilian government, which led to the  February 26 Incident of 1936.

Meanwhile, Kazura reminisces his past first as a proud member of a samurai family and then his brief stint with the rigid army. In both institutions, Kazura has been labeled a shame (as a young boy) and a disgrace. Needless to say, Kishida Takuma checked out of both.

Yukino joined Sakurai Kikan after her father’s death and after finding out that her brother, Takachiho Isao, had joined the Kwantung Army.

Aoi realizes that the information will be disseminated through the broadcast of Sergei’s performance on radio. Aoi telepathically stops the signal and broadcast of the performance after Natsume find the switch box. As a musician and not a forced spy, Sergei finishes his performance with his live audience, even knowing that the transaction has been disabled. At the end, he kills himself with a pill.

April 19, 2010, Episode 3: The Big Four is Targeted

Yukina suddenly receives a letter from Isao, her missing older brother. Takachiho Isao was recruited as a member of the Kwantung Army but later vanished without a trace together with the platoon he was in charge on in Manchuria. With his own hidden agenda, he seems to be at odds with the Sakurai Kikan.

In the letter, he apologizes for his abrupt departure. He suggests a secret meeting location at the Hwangpu River at 3 pm that day. However, a bomb threat involving the four department stores in Shanghai (the Big Four) takes precedence.

The first explosion goes off, at an incomplete building. Yukina and Natsume were in one of the malls when the explosion went off. During that tremor, Yukina stumbles onto a box and catches a glimpse of the remaining three bombs. Sakurai is informed by the Consulate General of Shanghai of a crime notice on the four buildings. Is it a threat or a diversion for something bigger?

Aoi and Kazura are immediately called for back up in the other two stores that Yukina saw the bombs at: a clock tower, a toilet and under a bench. Kazura tries to locate the clock tower, but realizes he is being followed. Yukina and Aoi too realize someone is watching them.

Yukina is the first to encounter the observer face to face, and he immediately orders her to follow him to her brother. Natsume appears and scares away the stranger, but not before a stray bullet grazes his arm.

Aoi tracks his bomb to the toilet, but hears a crying child in the vicinity. He saves her, and realizes this stranger/observer has teleporting abilities much like Kazura.

April 26, 2010, Episode 4: Camera and Bun and Stray Cat

May 3, 2010, Episode 5: A Negative Summer

May 10, 2010, Episode 6: Ominous Night

The Chinese are beginning to boycott Japanese goods in Shanghai.

The Kwantung Army is advocating an overthrow of foreign oppressive power in Asia. In a secret meeting of representatives from India, Indochina, Burma, Malaysia and leaders from Shanghai, the Kwantung Army propagates that Colonial rule will destroy Asia.

Aoi finds out about this meeting, but tries to stop it by informing the group. He is kidnapped by Takachiho Isao instead. The Sakurai Kikan only knows this meeting will take place in a tea house. But which tea house? In the mean time, they have deliberately kept Yukina and Natsume out of this mission, as her brother was definitely involved. But she finds out all the same when Kazura tries to track down a missing Aoi.

Aoi awakens, two days later, in the middle of the anti-colonialism meeting. Isao voices his ideals on Pan-Asianism. At the end of the meeting, Isao encourages Aoi to join the group. His intention was only to plant a seed of distrust of the foreigners but hope for a better future. Before he leaves, he leaves a message with Aoi for Yukina. “Tell her I don’t want to take her against her will. I just want to let her see this building herself.”

With the help of a mysterious woman with a parasol once given by Aoi, the group tracks down Aoi, Isao and the tea house. They are stopped by the man who set the bombs in the malls, Kuse. He has Kazura’s teleporting abilities, but he is not limited by the number of times he can use it. Just limited by the distance.

The group breaks free from Kuse. Yukina enters the building just as her brother leaves a dumbfounded Aoi.

May 17, 2010, Episode 6.5: Prediction

May 18, 2010, Episode 7: Incident

May 24, 2010, Episode 8: In the Land of Frozen Soil

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