With the series ended, it’s seems that Senkou no Night Raid is not just about Japanese spies with superpowers (a la Darker than Black). It’s more than that since it goes deeper into pre-WWII history which also touches sensitive content (e.g.: Mukden Incident).
The six episodes are just tasters on who are the characters and what direction will the story be, considering its episodic formula. The rest of episodes…well, let’s just say that where the real story is as the episodic formula is removed. The staff made a very good connection of the fictional side with historical facts, establishing a very balanced story which doesn’t offend people from both sides. Though some still considered it that the staff is touching sensitive content which should be forgotten. Since I came from SE Asia country which was under the Japanese occupation during WWII, I didn’t feel offended or sense any historical revisionism as what people had claimed.
Nonetheless, the staff did really research on the events and not including what historical revisionists had informed. So it’s safe to say that this series has not (yet) drawn any angry outburst from China or Korea or any of Japan’s neighbors for that matter.
Considering some controversial stuff, at least, the staff are not taking any side. They did show the bad side of the Japanese. Of course, there’s a disclaimer that the series’ story is fictional. By fiction, meaning that some events that occurred in the series are indeed fiction. It’s common sense that people with superpowers do not exist in real-life history. From what I’ve seen here, the superpowers did have an important role here.
Since it’s only 13 episodes, you might say there’s still a lot of things which needs to be covered most especially on the characters.
The character design is all right and balanced except that the animation is a bit wonky. But the background is neat and detailed, in fact, the staff did research on the design and layout of Shanghai (even though the series is set in 1931). OP animation also reminded me Casino Royale’s opening credits.
Taro Hakase! That’s right, the violinist best known internationally for the violin version on Celine Dion’s song "To Love You More", contributed the music here, most especially the violin music. (If you count Aoi’s skill in playing the violin, you may guess that Hakase did that on purpose just to show that Aoi is lousy in playing the violin). The OP and ED are good but the latter is better since it’s a ballad. Oh, and the OST itself asides from Hakase’s music is great.
The voice acting is all right but my problem is the Japanese voice actors speaking butchered Chinese, German, Russian and even English. The minor characters are native speakers which is something new. But it’s very funny to hear the seiyuus to be speaking a language which is not native to them.
At first, you may consider the characters plain and dull. But then, you get to realize that our four agents of Sakurai Kikan have personal motives. They are not really imperialists. They’re individuals who have their own sets of problems and conflicted by their personal beliefs. In fact, it turns out that the Chinese and other nationalities shown in the series played a minor role here.
But the staff really needs to develop more on the characters considering the limited time that the series have.
Well, honestly, there’s a lot of dialogue here but the series did show some action here and there. If you’re interested in Asian history or if you’re well-equipped with Asian history, then you’ll really know what’s going on here. But if you’re looking for James Bond action here, then you might be disappointed since the action is not James Bond action. You will realize that this series will remind you of the 2006 spy film, The Good Shepherd (directed by Robert De Niro and starring Matt Damon) except that Senkou no Night Raid has characters with superpowers. So, the spy action is still there which is why some see this as Darker than Black in 1930’s.
Though those who aren’t into Asian history or have no background of it will probably get bored with this.
For me, this series is underrated in the English-speaking fanbase. Well, I might say that the slow release of subs maybe at fault for this or that most viewers are not well acquainted with Asian history or that those who are saying that this is Japanese revisionist propaganda or that most viewers are more interested to the mainstream genres.
But judging by the series, I’m impressed that Anime no Chikara made such a risky move in making this. I’m sure that they’re pretty aware that they’re touching sensitive issues here. At least, they’re making something unique. It’s not considered to be the best but it’s considered to be very good. I would imagine this to be in a novel form or they should make this into a novel. That way, it will be just like reading some of the old spy novels. If you’re really interested in historical anime or spy anime (which is not so James Bond-ish), then this is the anime for you.
Highs: Good explanation on historical content, great music, good character design
Lows: Needs more character development, animations needs improvement, unsatisfied conclusion