Anime Review: Senkou no Night Raid Episodes 4, 5, and 6

(Originally published on Livejournal on 7/14/10)

Anime Review:
Senkou no Night Raid Episodes 4, 5, and 6

About The Series: Shanghai, 1931: As tensions are building up to full-scale war, a group of four secret agents, the Sakurai Kikan, are tasked to gather intelligence and go on special missions in support of Japanese military. However, these are not any ordinary agents; included in the group are a telepath, a clarivoyant, a teleporter, and time-manipulator. It’s high espionage set in one of the most turbulent times in the region’s history.

ep.4 tl;dr review: Aoi and Kazura chase a cat all over town after it steals their pouch; Yaaaaaaaawwwwn.

Episode 4 Synopsis: The local Chinese food delivery girl, Fuu-Lan, enlists Aoi and Kazura to take photographs of the restaurant’s food to help stimulate business, since the restaurant across the street has started displaying realistic food models. Aoi is all gung-ho, while Kazura is more pragmatic, but they to the request. After completing the task they take a break for some coffee and discover the pouch containing the film has been absconded — the same undeveloped film that also has pictures of their leader’s family vacation. Aoi and Kazura run all over town trying to track down the culprit and are ready to accept their loss when a cat walks by carrying the bag. The chase begins anew, and they ultimately end up back at the restaurant, where the stray cat is notorious for its yen for steamed buns, which is why it grabbed the bag in the first place.

ep.5 tl;dr review: Kazura tries to track down an old friend, runs across his mistress, gets a beating and it all ends up for naught; Double yaaaaaaawwwwn.

Episode 5 Synopsis: When developing film, Kazura sees a picture of an old friend of his that has mysteriously disappeared years ago. He starts a search for his acquaintance, Nishio, on his own, but only ends up tracking down his former mistress Airi. The two of them get abducted by the secret service — it turns out they are looking for him as well — and gets beaten to a bloody pulp. The next day, Kazura is released in exchanged for information about an illicit weapons purchase where Nishio was involved. The Sakurai Kikan observe the exchange, bust the deal, Nishio goes running, and Kazura briefly meets up with him. But Nishio cannot escape those he double-crossed and ends up being killed while on the lam; meanwhile Airi keeps waiting for Nishio to return, even knowing that he’ll never come.

ep.6 tl;dr review: A secret meeting concering Pan-Asianism takes place where Yukina’s lost brother plays an important role; Yaaaaawwww….oh, wait, something actually happens this time.

Episode 6 Synopsis: A respected Japanese scholar and statesman arrives in Shanghai to head up a secret meeting between all the major powers on the region about the future direction of the countries. Aoi gets wind of the meeting and tries to track down the details, only to get knocked out by mental powers. Kazura tries to find him, but only runs across Yukina, who he was trying to avoid because it seems whatever happened involves her missing brother, Isao. Yukina gets a mysterious message from an umbrella-wielding girl that leads them all to where the meeting is taking place, only to have them stopped by the super-powered guy who they ran across earlier (the one who tried to abduct Yukina). Meanwhile, Aoi is awakened by Isao in a position to surreptitiously overhear the secret meeting. Various major countries have gathered and they discuss the future of the region and the growing influence of Japan. Isao steps forward to throw a wrench into the works, advocating for Japanese supremacy in the region, knowing that his ideas would be rebuffed but only to sow the seeds of the idea. As the meeting ends, Isao takes his leave just before Yukina manages to arrive.

My Thoughts: I thought this was supposed to be about a small group of sooper-seekrit spies doing sooper-seekrit missions during one of the most contentious periods of Asia’s history. Instead we get…a buddy-buddy episode between Aoi and Kazura??? I realize that the fourth episode was mostly supposed to be a bit of comedy relief as they run around chasing a cat, but really, what’s the whole point? Okay, I see who they were trying to spotlight how very different Aoi and Kazura think and operate, yet end up getting the job done, but did they have to throw away a whole episode just for that?

And then the fifth episode seemed equally as frustrating to me. I’m failing to see how all of this is tying together. All Kazura ends up doing is getting caught, getting beat up, doesn’t know what’s really going on, and in the end the person he was looking for ends up dying anyway. These two episodes have little tidbits of information, I’m sure, but for the most part I can’t make heads nor tails of the direction of the series. Once again, what’s the point?

As for the sixth episode…something actually happens. Initially there was lots of speculation as to how this show was going to handle the whole relationship between Japan and China during the Thirties (e.g. the Mukden Incident, invasion of Manchura, Rape of Nanking) — and it seems after the first few episodes it was largely avoiding the greater topics completely. Well, until now. Looks like we *finally* have a direction for the series, previewed in this episode with the unresolved matters from the secret meeting. Viewed through the lens of the anime show featuring secret spies with superpowers, Isao may be one of the key players in setting the whole shebang into motion, with the members of the Sakurai Kikan being set up as his primary opposition.

Oh, and the Senkou no Night Raid “Comedy of Accents” continues to amuse. Rather ironic in a meeting to discuss Pan-Asianism as a defense against the colonial Western powers, they decide to hold the meeting in English (well, Engrish, except for the Indian delegate who had an incongruous middle-American accent).

The Verdict:

Overall, I remain somewhat disappointed by this show, lots of stories that do not seem to go anywhere. Maybe two solid, meaty episodes-worth of actual plot crammed into six episodes. Bleah. But the next episode, number 6-and-a-half, will prove to be the crux of the series, determining whether it’s worthwhile to continue watching or drop for good. The next episode, mostly a recap designed to tie everything together (for people like me who can’t see the forest for the trees), did not air on television — perhaps because the subject matter and the mere suggestion that Japanese could be viewed in a less-than-positive light regarding the various historical events remains too controversial even to this day. Not liking the show, but still remain interested to see what they have up their sleeve, especially since I’ve heard there’s a *major* twist coming up.

Up Next: Arakawa Under the Bridge, and The Tatami Galaxy.

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