Night Raid 1931
The year is 1931. The place Shanghai. China has a tenuous relationship with Japan, a nation becoming increasingly aggressive in the region, and even more so with the Japanese army stationed within the country. Protecting Chinese interests are a group of intelligence agents known as Sakura Kikan. Strangely enough, they're Japanese employed by China for their special abilities. This becomes important as one of the latest concern involves a Japanese army unit which has gone absent and disappeared; apparently now serving their own interests. But no one really knows what they're up to.
The members of Sakura Kikan are dedicated to their Chinese organization, but as their ties to the leader of the missing unit become clear, each of them will have to look inward to see where their loyalties lie.
Many shows have a weak start, so that didn't bother me. If anything else this one has a great backdrop to work with. That part is good. But as things wore on I found this one to be more of a chore to watch than a pleasure. Why? I'm not even sure myself.
The setting is fascinating. Not only as a period piece, but as an anime taking place right before Japan entered WWII. It's an unusual perspective that Night Raid leverages with exceptional intelligence. A spy group caught in a web of political intrigue seems like it should hit a high point in entertainment value. But it just didn't do it for me. While I like the history perspective, it seems to mire Night Raid 1931 at the same time.
A part of this comes down to the characters and story. The cast is an interesting bunch, that avoid the overdone personalities I'd expect in todays anime. While I liked that, none of them drove the show as much as I hoped. Each of them has a super power. It's never explained why they have them, they just do. Which is fine, yet the show often ends up stuck in various plot conveniences because of them. I think a deeper plot would have flowed more easily with little extra thought if they were just regular people.
The story meanders between character development, caper of the week scenarios, and of course "the big picture" plot. I wasn't interested in in most of the show, but towards the end the pieces fall into place just the right way - enough for me to like.
The dub does a good job. It's well done, but also side steps bad accent problems I was sure this one would fall into. Feng Lan for example speaks Japanese well, but her odd ordering of words makes her Chinese heritage pretty clear. Which I thought was brilliant, but I suppose opinions vary on that.
I don't think Night Raid is bad. Quite the opposite really. I think the show itself is solid, it just happens to be one of those titles that isn't for me. In the beginning I started to feel thankful I'd only have to watch 16 episodes, but by the end I felt I'd like to watch more. It shows intelligence that is unfortunately rare in today's anime, and for that reason I think it's worth checking into.
Feng Lan: You can't keep fighting like stallions over me.
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