Posted on 15 February 2011 with categories: Senkou no Night Raid



Most DVD episodes are random side-stories that if they’re lucky, have something to do with the main story. This one is different though: it shows a vital conclusion to this series. The story is over now, but it tells what happened to the characters after the events of the TV-series: what happened to them, and how they changed.

It was mostly centred around Kazura, as this episode hints that he died in a rebellion, started by his former classmates. Before that happens he’s able to meet Aoi (who recovered and is now travelling with Shizune) and Yukina, who has been handling Natsume’s death. Again, they really did justice to the setting: they didn’t choose a cheap way out. Even Aoi helping Kazura from out of nowhere didn’t really have an effect, and he made the conscious decision to help his former classmates.

It was also wonderfully told. This had none of the acting problems of the TV-series, and the actors probably put out some of the most believable performances of the entire series. Obviously the story being less epic really helped there, but even compared to the other DVD special, the pacing and atmosphere felt very natural here. I also really like how the creators used that story of the escaped panther to subtly spice up this episode. If you liked the TV-series, then this episode is a must watch.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 3 July 2010 with categories: Senkou no Night Raid



Okay. So apparently an episode 0 got released. I assume that it’s a DVD-episode, but I don’t think we’ve ever gotten one of these this fast. I mean, it hasn’t even been a week since the series ended. If this trend is going to continue throughout all of the Anime no Chikara series however, then we might have the beginning of a very interesting trend and attempt to lengthen anime beyond thirteen episodes.

This episode plays before the entire series: we’re on a boat, and we get to see the point at which all of the lead characters are introduced to each other. A very important episode, and I’m very glad that it’s this that the creators decided to focus on, compared to Sora no Oto’s DVD episode. The rest of the episode was about a standalone story about the infiltration of a group of human smugglers who posed as a film making company on that same boat.

I actually believe that this serves as a better introduction than episode one. It’s nicely action-packed, we get to immediately see a bit of intrigue, the characters are properly introduced and I think that it’ll give a favourable impression on more people than that that real first episode did, which rather haphazardly threw in the concept of superpowers.

The story of the episode itself was interesting in the way that none of the main characters knew about each other, so you could all see the jobs in which they infiltrated intertwined as they waited for the right moment. The problem with it was that the villain was a bit stupid to just leave an enemy like that unconscious without confirming whether he really was harmless. This brings me back to the earlier criticism I had about this series, before it came with episode seven: the spies in this series are closer to James Bond than actual spies.

Still, I wonder: Sora no Oto is going to have a total of two DVD only episodes. Will Senkou no Night Raid be the same? I’m especially interested if one of the later episodes contains one as well: at that point, there’s going to be no way for the creators to squeeze in an episode with a pointless or random story, so who knows what they’ll end up contributing to?

That attempted rape was… heavy, though. The way that the creators made no attempt at focusing at how Yukina was about to be violated by a creepy old pervert.
Rating: * (Good)

Posted on 28 June 2010 with categories: Anime Reviews, Senkou no Night Raid




The fact that a series is slowly subbed doesn’t mean that it can’t be excellent. Really, with Yojou-han immediately subbed, this was by far the hardest one to translate by fansubbers, and therefore it didn’t get the coverage and attention that it should have gotten. Night Raid is a special series, and much more series should share the utter guts that it displayed. Be sure to support it when it eventually does come out in English!

But first and foremost, let me respond to the naysayers out there: no, Night Raid does not rape history. As a series about a group of Japanese people in China, in the 1930s. This could have been the most historically insensitive series out there. The problem is that, if I understood things correctly, there is this habit of the Japanese to really ignore anything they did around the second world war, and instead of accepting that they did a lot of things wrong and move on, there seems to be this air of not wanting to talk about it and learn from it at all.

This series, it seems to me, wanted to be a response to statements like this. While we follow a group of Japanese spies in the middle of China, it makes sure to cause no misunderstanding: the Japanese did some horrible things, and they consciously chose to do these things. In fact, a huge part of this series is about them, making these decisions, considering the alternatives, and act based on what they believe is right. Self-righteousness is a huge theme in this series, and the way this series explores them makes it a very thought-provoking series. Sure, some of the tropes it uses have been used a number of times before, but never in this context.

Now, as for the actual execution, this one could have been a bit more solid at times. The result is a number of plot-holes that are there to just keep the plot from going further. With thirteen episodes, it also doesn’t exactly have the time to give the characters a lot of background, though it definitely does try.

The acting department is a bit of a mixed bag. Some characters put down very convincing performances, like Yukina and Airi. Others, like Aoi, sound a bit too immature and unrefined. Especially in the first few episodes does this get tedious to watch.

Which is especially annoying because the first half really exist to just set everything right. It’s episodic in the way that it introduces all of the concepts, and fleshes out the setting. I think the most notable here is the infamous fourth episode, which is only dedicated to fleshing out the characters and nothing else.

If you’re interested in this series however, I do urge you to watch until episode seven before passing judgment, because it’s there where the series shows its true feathers. The thing with Night Raid is that on the small picture, it is indeed a bit inferior to its predecessor Sora no Oto. In the big picture however, I really believe that it surpasses it.

Storytelling: 8/10 – Knows its priorities, knows how to build up and most importantly: knows how to be subtle with its drama.
Characters: 8/10 – Good depth for the short length of only 13 episodes, some are well acted, others could have been done better.
Production-Values: 8/10 – A-1′s best artists were at Ookiku Furikabutte this season, but nevertheless solid enough, plus a very good soundtrack also helps.
Setting: 9/10 – The guts it has with its subject material as a medium of anime surpasses even Zipang. Very daring and thought-provoking.

(On a side-note: I really wish that I could rate this one higher, but unfortunately I can’t find an excuse for it. It unfortunately had a few too many faults, but the advantages really made up for it for me.)
Suggestions:
Zipang
The Cockpit
Mobile Suit Gundam – War in the Pocket

Posted on with categories: Senkou no Night Raid



My only real issue with this finale is that Kazura changed his opinion a bit too quickly too often. But really, this was a surprisingly good finale with a number of very interesting ideas put into it. On top of that, you could also see it play around with a number of very overused ending tropes.

The biggest surprise by far was the sudden death of Isao, but it’s also a brilliant move. There was no death speech, no overdramatic rise of tension before his death and most importantly: he died really fast here. It just shows how everyone can just die here, and that even though he was the main villain, his death doesn’t have to be over the top, or saved for the end.

Suddenly, the series turns into a rush operation to prevent the Japanese from getting their hands on the atomic bomb (how’s that for nationalism, huh?). Sakurai turns from this nice gentleman into someone desperate to get his own hands on that bomb, and to use it according to his own ideas. I actually loved it how the creators decided to solve that problem: with that blue-haired guy, who turned out to be a counter-spy. He had no backstory, but at the same time, there was a ton of spy activity at the time. It makes perfect sense for people to also have infiltrated the Japanese army. But really: his voice sounded just weird. Who was that voice actor?

In any case, the trope in which the villain dies, yet leaves some kind of projectile of doom behind that needs to be stopped. It’s been done before, but it’s the context here that makes the difference. Instead of a megablast of doom, we’ve got something very concrete that’s about to destroy a city: it’s something we can relate to much more than your average nuclear blast, because we know exactly what will happen if it goes off.

And there also is the ultimate cliche: our hero faces certain death after the climax finishes. It’s not certain whether he lived. The epilogue starts, and at the end we indeed see him back. This episode averted this in quite an interesting way by having first of all Kazura live, yet not show anything about him. Aoi meanwhile somehow failed to get out of the burning plane in the spur of the moment. I didn’t like how suddenly the creators made his powers extreme enough to be able to blast an atomic bomb into space (or at least hundreds of kilometers far into the sea), however, we never get to see him after that.

All we hear is a crappy violin, but that could have been anyone who was trying to cheer on the troops of soldiers, as they left for the upcoming war. Yes, this series decided to end with anything but a good ending. The war is still going to kill many people, and this series never got bigoted as to think that it could create a plot in which people wouldn’t end up suffering horribly throughout the next decade.

Overall this series would have benefited some more natural actors. However, the intention of the creators here was very good. It’s by far the most down to earth series in terms of character reactions: people cry when they lose a loved one, but there was hardly any overacting, and people remained surprisingly calm for anime, which tends to overreact even the slightest things. There were a number of very good voice actors, like Yukina for example. She pulled off a very convincing performance. Aoi meanwhile could have used more subtlety; his voice didn’t really suit the serious nature of the series. The Chinese girl is up for debate. Oh, she yelled, but girls her age who work at a restaurant… I can imagine them to need a loud voice.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 21 June 2010 with categories: Senkou no Night Raid



Hmm, this episode violently pushed the motives of Yukina’s brother into a different direction. A cliched one, I’m afraid. “I need peace so for that to happen I will blow things up.” (By the way though, this episode did blow out any hint of nationalism out of the water. For those who were still doubting the intentions of this series at this point: it features a Japanese guy who plans to send an atom bomb into the middle of Shanghai).

So let me get this straight: the blasts that the Englishmen saw were an illusion. That seems to be the power of Yukina’s brother. We already knew that he’s desperately trying to prevent the atom bomb to drop on Japan. So, what does he do? He sends an atom bomb into Shanghai! If I understood correctly, he understood that it was the atom bombs and the fear of them that gradually lead to peace: in the way that countries would begin to think twice to attack a country that could devastate entire cities with just one bomb.

As a stuck-up nationalist Japanese however, he figures that the way to prevent it is to show the world what an incredible force they are playing with, as long as it doesn’t affect Japan. There are… so many things wrong with that. Yet at the same time, was this what Japanese nationalism must have felt like back then? This is an incredibly radical decisions that was made not just by him, but also several lead characters: even Sakurai let’s him just do his business here.

I must say, this series has surpassed Sora no Oto with the way that it has been so thought provoking. The motives of the villains here are just wrong, and yet they remain interesting. When watching this series, I learned a ton of new stuff that I didn’t know about the Chinese history at that time, and it’s a bit of a shame that Anime no Chikara is going back to high schools and teenagers again in the upcoming season. There really need to be more series like this.

But yeah, it does remain noticeably unrefined at times. I mean, dude. You have a gun. USE THE BLOODY THING!
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 15 June 2010 with categories: Senkou no Night Raid



Setting two former friends against each other in a struggle is tough. This show did it, though. I really like how it has been blurring the boundaries between good and evil, using the war and atom bomb as a way to completely change characters’ viewpoints. This episode was all about that: you can’t just tell anyone about a secret so incredibly big. It’s also interesting how the characters in this episode acknowledged the coincidence of having a former lover of a colleague of your sister as one of your main allies. It remains a plot-hole, but you don’t often see characters aware of them. This really helps relativity that twist to something that really did happen through coincidence here.

Anyway, this episode was paced slowly, but this restraint has really been one of this series’ strength considering its subject material. This allowed for a much more subtle characterization than usual, and I’m getting more and more interested in how the creators plan to end this thing. Unlike Sora no Oto, there have been hardly any useless moments aside from the food filler of episode four, so if the creators can also close off with an actually good conclusion, compared to the incredibly rushed ending of Sora no Oto, I’ll be entirely happy about this show.

Also, the end of this episode came with quite an interesting plot twist: what was that guy doing there? Did he somehow find out where everyone was going, or does he have some sort of hidden agenda that he’s about to reveal? Two episodes left, let’s hope that this show will go out with a bang!
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 7 June 2010 with categories: Senkou no Night Raid



I just realized something… episode seven still hasn’t gotten subbed, has it? Oh, what a terrible place for this series to get stuck: right before the point at which this series actually gets good. I’ve unfortunately seen a lot of negative comments here and there about this series because of it, and I really want to ask people: please, if you’re going to judge this series, wait until episode seven. It’s a huge turning-point. Series like this one should really be able to get more coverage so that they can keep making more of them. People keep saying that we need more mature series, but yeah that doesn’t work when series like this one hardly get any coverage. It’s thankfully not as extreme as with Mouryou no Hako or others, but still.

Of course, this series is also partly to blame. “Senkou no Night Raid”. A flashy night raid… that’s a terrible title to be honest.

In any case, it’s a bit of a shame, but in this episode you could again see that A-1 took a bit too much on its plate for this season. It’s a relative calm before the storm, and so they chose this episode for some budget cuts, which show themselves in a number of annoying off-models. And yet despite that this episode again delivered for me.

When at the beginning of the series, the superpowers were introduced, I wasn’t too big of a fan of it, however they ended up providing quite a bit of an interesting “what if”-scenario: what if a group of people knew about the atomic bombings beforehand? They won’t be just able to travel to America and stop the development, they also won’t get a lot of people to believe them. How far should they have gone, in such a turbulent time but when the war hasn’t even started yet? This episode is all about making these difficult decisions: what’s more important to you, your country or yourself, your position or your loved ones?

Despite the blocky drawings at times, I love how the creators are using their soundtrack here. The animation may have been flawed, but the pacing and direction still were very good. In fact, this series has the interesting pacing of Persona~Trinity Soul without most of the annoying baggage that made it a bit annoying to watch (the way in which it refused to focus on something interesting). Perhaps it has really helped that the series composition behind The Third has been working on this series. Either that, or the creators behind this series hit a major source of inspiration. I try, but I’m still often way wrong about which people or group of people is responsible for making an amazing anime.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 31 May 2010 with categories: Senkou no Night Raid



This episode did a great job of bringing the series together. It’s really interesting how different the build-up in this show is compared to its Anime no Chikara’s predecessor: there, everything was all over the place, fun and whimsical. Here the characterization
has been composed and mature. Aside from episode four, the creators have been carefully building everything that’s necessary to the plot and characters, while Sora no Oto’s pace felt much more random. It’s very interesting to see how different these shows can get, even though they’re both about impeding war.

A major theme of this episode was the following question: what’s more important to you, a loved one or your father land? Aoi here tried to get his loved one back, against all orders. These plots really need a lot of build-up in order for them not to get annoying, since it’s based on a very overused shounen stereotype. within this context however, it gets a totally different dimension here. It’s been constantly stressed that the stakes of this war are incredibly high. Heck, we actually see the Japanese portrayed as the bad guys in this series. At this point the characters are all performing delicate work that unlike earlier on at the series will have very big consequences on failure. Aoi trying to get his girlfriend back is totally different from an angsty teenager with superpowers who refuses to obey his superiors because he’s rebellious.

This episode was all about seeing your past back. Yukina’s brother also becomes a lot more dimensional here when we get a few hints about his intentions. It’s not like he’s immediately a good guy either, he has done enough morally objectionable things, however at the same time I’m getting the feeling that he’s acting out of fear. We still don’t exactly know how and when he learned of the atom bombs, but my guess is that he’s trying everything in his might to stop one from hitting Japan. Again coming back to that theme of choosing your country above your loved one: he consciously decided to sin, in an attempt to save a large amount of people with a plot that might not even work, above taking care of his family.

Oh, and added to that: the soundtrack really was amazing in this episode.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 24 May 2010 with categories: Senkou no Night Raid



Okay, that’s it. You can pretty much consider me a fan of this series. This series isn’t among my favourites this spring season, but the past episodes have brought it pretty damn close. It really took some time and hiccups to get going, but after last week, I’m completely hooked to this series. It follows the classic “first half episodic second half continuous” format, and now that we’ve gotten to the continuous format I’m really enjoying this series up to the point at which I don’t really care about the Engrish (which actually was reasonably good with the native English people, and actually pretty bad with the Japanese and Chinese, like it actually should be).

However, at this point I was also very fond of Sora no Oto, but that was mostly because I was expecting a strong climax to come any minute, though it never really did, making a lot of its build-up pointless. Night Raid is different, though. While I can’t see into the future, I somehow feel like the creators know very well how to pace this show and what to build up for. The first six episodes were really meant to establish the characters and the setting: the episodic stories were also just meant for that, and to introduce the villains. Episode seven then dropped the bomb, and started off the real story of this show. It’s all signs that the creators spent a lot of time thinking about the series’ structure. At this point, I’m confident enough to say that if this show manages to indeed pull of that ending, I’ll call it superior to its Anime no Chikara predecessor.

Anyway, about this episode. It’s here where the series goes back to its roots as historical fiction. The previous episode did a wonderful job of establishing the historical roots behind the series, but this episode also made sure to remind us that we’re dealing with fiction when it goes back to the government-spanning plan of the villains. He really seems to be going for the intimidation element, detonating things that look like atom-bombs in front of a bunch of big-wigs. There’s no way that that could have happened in real life, however it does add an interesting twist to the whole story.

Criticism can sometimes be a weird thing. I just know that if it wasn’t for the previous episodes, I would have gone on about how the characters here weren’t careful enough like real spies, or indeed how overblown the villain is. This isn’t just a matter of development, but overall the series has really made up for these flaws for me. I think that it was the elegant build-up that did it for me, along with its risky but well fleshed out setting and the subtle bonds between the characters who take themselves and each other seriously. I really was expecting some cheesy back-story about Aoi’s girlfriend. But heck, the ending of this episode was a very powerful cliff-hanger when the two of them recognized each other.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 18 May 2010 with categories: Senkou no Night Raid



Oh my god, the creators actually did it. I’d easily label this as the episode with the highest stakes against it of the entire year, perhaps of the past few years: just one inserted cliche; only one weakness could completely break this show and label it as a pretentious piece of garbage. It’s been ages since I’ve watched an episode that took such a huge risk. So seeing that the creators actually pulled this episode off, showing that they knew exactly what they were doing makes this a wonderful episode.

The main characters were completely gone. In fact, only one recurrent character makes her appearance, but she only appeared for like… one minute before this episode aired, and subsequently only had one minute of airtime in just this episode. This episode was all about the figures central to the Mukden Incident, and it avoided the things that I was afraid that this episode could do really well: it did not try to avoid the fact that the Japanese themselves caused the incident, it did not present the Japanese as nice guys, but at the same time it also did not present the Japanese as stereotypical war-hungering bastards.

In fact, this episode was all about making the decision to do this. The central characters involved actually carefully considered the options they had, and eventually decided to go with the plan to blow up the railway, which eventually escalated so terribly. This episode portrayed them as knowing full well that they were changing history, and causing a lot of people to suffer.

Then, the cameo of Aoi’s sister (she was his sister, right? Or his girlfriend?). She did arrive from out of nowhere in front of key figures, right when they made the decision, but she actually did not influence them: the characters again stressed that it was themselves who decided. The one joke that this episode pulled was strangely cute, and did lessen the atmosphere. The one thing that might have been a bit fishy about this episode was how they didn’t go after her when she ran away, but I think that that can be attributed to faith: these guys believed that they saw some kind of prophet, or something. The girl overall is pretty mysterious, and perhaps it was her intention to make them believe this. Perhaps it was some sort of test, who knows? It’s up to the next episodes to go more in-depth into that.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

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  • Anon
    (Wednesday, Aug 20. 2014 08:33 AM)
    @Vincent I don’t think so. They deserve solitary confinement for the rest of their lives.
  • Anon
    (Wednesday, Aug 20. 2014 08:24 AM)
    This looks like a job for Anonymous. They’ve been quiet for a while, so maybe not.
  • Anon
    (Wednesday, Aug 20. 2014 08:23 AM)
    Someone, please hack ISIS’s Twitter already. They’re the only terrorist organization with a significant Internet presence.
  • Vincent
    (Wednesday, Aug 20. 2014 08:13 AM)
    Do they not deserve no less than the death penalty?
  • Vincent
    (Wednesday, Aug 20. 2014 08:10 AM)
    My heart goes out to Foyer and the victims of ISIS.
  • K-Off
    (Wednesday, Aug 20. 2014 08:02 AM)
    @Emma Right, you have sadistic tendencies in your writing when it comes to groups like ISIS. Usually.
  • Emma
    (Wednesday, Aug 20. 2014 07:59 AM)
    It was good to write something that condemned violence for once.
  • Friend
    (Wednesday, Aug 20. 2014 07:57 AM)
    @K-Off Thanks. I need to practice political art.
  • Friend
    (Wednesday, Aug 20. 2014 07:56 AM)
    @Emma No worries ;<
  • K-Off
    (Wednesday, Aug 20. 2014 07:55 AM)
    @Friend Oh, I think I remember that one. The one you made after talking with me and Emma about the Ukraine, right? I did like that one.

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