Senkou no Night Raid – Wrap-up

Senkou no Night Raid concludes on a bittersweet, even heartwrenching note. After all, the great world war predicted by prophets had not yet arrived, but by the end, it was certainly just over the horizon. The final episodes were a masterpiece of twists, revelations, character-driven actions, deft writing, and short but well-orchestrated action.

A lot of the final dialogues made a lot of excellent, if already well-established points about war. “People cannot understand a tragedy unless it happens to someone close…that’s why tragedies continue to occur”, said the protagonist, who turned out not to be so opaquely evil at all; only a little too naive. He believed attacking Shanghai – a world city – is the only thing that will cause the whole world to feel the tragedy and avoid acts that would perpetuate them. He’s right in a way; America only entered the war when they themselves were attacked.

He also made an excellent point regarding the powers he and the others possessed: seeing through walls, reading minds and sharing thoughts, teleporting, telekinesis, and creating illusions – all are powers that afford otherwise normal humans with “far too much control over their own fate”, and that the [nuclear] bomb gives that same power to anyone who possessed it. That is also true. His intention was to drop the bomb and scare the world out of ever making another. It would be the “first and last,” and therein lies his naivete…or not. Only two nuclear bombs have ever been dropped on cities…ever. He was only off one bomb.

This fear of utter destruction created a dangerous peace, but a peace nonetheless. The mere possession of a bomb wasn’t enough; its power had to be demonstrated in order for it to work as a deterrent. It’s also telling that the physicist has no idea whether the bomb will actually work until its tested…just as Americans weren’t quite sure exactly what would happen when that bomb detonated. The two bombs used on Japan were, after all, glorified prototypes. If neither worked, or the Japanese hadn’t surrendered after two bombings, we were fresh out of atom bombs for months at the least.

So Night Raid ends with some deep stuff that hits home hard not just in Japan and America, but all over the world. All kinds of what ifs permeate: what if the Japanese were the first to get the bomb, and dropped it on Shanghai? Would all the Imperial nations acquiese, and pull out of their colonies? Would it start the war or prevent one? Big what-ifs aside, I don’t want to forget about the characters and quite a lot of powerhouse acting. The way the good guys use their powers in concert to get rid of the bomb was as clever as it was kick-ass.There were some good deaths, expected and unexpected, and a lot of emotions flying around, but it was all handled with aplomb, and never felt overwrought or silly.

This was a gutsy series – daring to delve into a time and place anime rarely confronts, with an element of the supernatural mixed in for good measure. And I think the final scene and foreboding ending moments were just about pitch-perfect. Rating: 3.5 (Ending: 4)

Senkou no Night Raid – Thru 10

Senkou no Night Raid is long gone from the airwaves, but I haven’t quite finished it. One episode even aired online, since it’s historical content, an alternate version of the Mukden Incident (specifically the bombing of the Manchurian railway, used to justify Japanese invasion) was deemed to controversial for television. Controversy aside, Night Raid has a stirring story of pre-WWII espionage to tell, and its three core characters – who possess telepathy, teleportation, and telekinesis, are richly rendered and fun to watch.

As the series has progressed and the prospect of full-scale war starts to become something more inevitable, the three spies must wrestle with inner conflicts, as the main antagonist is the telepathic girl’s big brother, the baddies’ theory about war came from a mentor of the teleporter, and the telekinetic guy still holds a candle for his believed-dead wife. All three will not and cannot fully trust their superiors, either.

Looming over everyone is something hardly any anime ever references directly – the atomic bomb. They don’t call it that in Night Raid either, but in this universe, it’s there, and it’s the Japanese who have made progress developing it, thanks to the efforts of a brilliant Japanese physicist given considerable resources. So far, it’s been an entertaining and well-made anime. It doesn’t hurt that telepathic girl’s voice and character design are adorable. I have three episodes left to watch and am looking forward to how things play out. Rating: 3.5

Senkou no Night Raid – First Impressions

Rundown: Three Japanese operatives with unique supernatural powers are instructed to retrieve a corporate hostage from the Chinese in 1931 Shanghai. They employ telekinesis, telepathy, teleportation, and teamwork to carry out their mission. There’s also an old-timey car chase scene.

Darker Than Black in 1931 Shanghai, anyone? Well, not quite. I’m not well-versed in Sino-Japanese history beyond my watching of Capra’s “Why We Fight” and Herge’s “The Blue Lotus” but so far the story seems insulated from the larger political spectrum and focuses on the exploits of a few gifted Japanese spies. Unlike Valkyria and Sora no Woto, the core characters in this A-1 joint are full-blown adults, and there’s a dark, serious tone to Night Raid, without ever getting too stuffy or pretentious. The focused action sequences made clever use of the three spies’ powers. This was a good intro, and left me looking forward to their next mission.

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