Senkou no Night Raid – 01
Coming off the completion of their first project, So-Ra-No-Wo-To, Anime no Chikara follows up with their second original series — an espionage anime involving secret intelligence agents who can use super-human abilities. As a collaboration project between TV Tokyo and A-1 Pictures, the studio remains the same as before, but they’ve brought in Persona -trinity soul- director Matsumoto Jun and writer Onishi Shinsuke to spearhead it this time around. Much like So-Ra-No-Wo-To, it seems a lot of research and planning went into this one’s development as well. The end result is a series fairly different from your typical anime, which I found very refreshing due to its serious nature and political-filled plot line.
Be that as it may, the first thing that caught my attention in this premiere episode was how dark everything was. By that, I literally mean how dark a lot of the scenes were in terms of contrast. While I didn’t have any major qualms with the animation itself, I would’ve like everything to be a bit crisper, simply because I feel they have something unique going on here and it would be a shame to lose out on potential viewers for visual reasons. The lack of immediate “wow factor” will surely disappoint some people, but I didn’t mind so much once I got settled into the story and was busy reading the Japanese subtitles for the surprisingly abundant amount of Mandarin dialogue.
Now with regards to the story itself, this first episode actually covered everything that I outlined in the Spring 2010 Preview. Having read that summary off the official website, I was under the impression that the covert mission to rescue a Japanese conglomerate president from the hands of a small Chinese military faction (known as the Ryuusoubu) was going to be the foundation of this series, but it turns out it’s merely the starting point. Because of that, I’m starting to wonder if they’re going for a more episodic approach with this series, with plans of stringing together a bigger story in the latter half. I wouldn’t be opposed to that if it were the case, as it’s pretty much the same format that Darker than BLACK used in its original season. Also, it seems somewhat appropriate since there are some obvious similarities between the two series, namely secret agents with super-human powers and the political circumstances that they act under. Evidently, this is no Darker than BLACK, but it does entail conspiracies as well, much like they’ve shown us in the first episode with the Japanese president Kaburagi secretly selling weapons to the Ryuusoubu faction and using the whole kidnapping as a means to get ransom money out of the Japanese government.
It’s hard to tell where the story will go from here, but this episode did help introduce the four “Sakurai Kikan” secret agents and the abilities they possess. First up is the nonchalant Miyoshi Aoi (Yoshino Hiroyuki), who has what appears to be telekinesis, allowing him to deflect bullets and toss people around. Second is the more serious Iha Kazura (Namikawa Daisuke), who can teleport large distances but chooses not to use his ability unless he absolutely has to. Next is the calm and composed Kagiya Natsume (Hoshino Takanori), whose eyes can peer through anything and has seemingly infinite range. And finally, there’s the only female of the group, Sonogi Yukina (Ikuto Yoshiko), who’s telepathic and uses her ability for extracting information and acting as a scout on missions alongside Natsume. A diverse bunch to say the least, whom I’m interested in seeing more of as the story progresses.
Overall, this wasn’t a terribly strong first showing, but it’s different from the usual stuff and Anime no Chikara has me believing that it’ll improve along the way. Music-wise, it featured some really good background tracks, which really helped set the mood for some of the scenes. Given the series’ somewhat niche genre however, I suspect this won’t be for everyone.
Note: There was no opening sequence this episode, but the series’ opening theme “Yakusoku” (Promise) by MUCC was used in the credits.