So as I mentioned last time, airing on television this week is a recap in lieu of episode seven that will be streamed online. However, that didn’t stop them from slipping in some key story at the very end, namely how Japanese militarists bombed their own South Manchuria Railway and blamed it on the Chinese to provide a pretext for war. I won’t go over the details since I already covered them last time, but those who have been following this series in some way will know what a big deal this is. Known as the Mukden Incident, the prevailing view from worldwide historians is that the Japanese staged a precursor for war because the Chinese weren’t allowing themselves to be provoked into one. Since the cause is still heavily debated in Japan, including whether or not the alleged Japanese officers were acting under the orders from Tokyo, it’s a pretty bold move for an anime to clearly portray it as a Japanese conspiracy. Aside from the inclusion of the fictional Sakurai Kikan and their super-human powers, Senkou no Night Raid has been pretty faithful to the historic timeline date-wise, so on September 1931, we have a group of Japanese soldiers bombing a small section of the railway on the outskirts of Fengtian (奉天, Houten in Japanese), the northeastern region of China now known as Liaoning.
While I was fairly confident this is the direction that Anime no Chikara was going for and why it ultimately led to the actual episode seven being taken off television airwaves, it was still surprising to see it actually happen on screen. As Japan continues muddling over the details of the Second Sino-Japanese War in their history textbooks — with some thinking they were liberating Manchuria from China or doing what was best for Asia in light of the Western powers — the controversy over this is no laughing matter as it negatively affects international relationships with China to this very day. Because of that, a Japanese piece of work portraying Japan as the ones at fault is pretty significant, regardless of whether it’s fictional or not. As I’m far from being an expert in the area, I don’t plan to get into a heated debate about this any further, but it’s important to note that one exists and that Senkou no Night Raid has chosen to portray the view of the rest of the world, which of course includes China.
In terms of the episode itself, it mainly highlighted the events that happened so far (outside the lighthearted episodes) from the perspective of our narrator — Aoi’s lover who was presumed to be dead. After the official site announced that this episode would be told from the point of view of a key character to the series, I figured that it was going to be her since she’s also voiced by Kawasumi Ayako and was shown alive last time. Granted, I wasn’t expecting her to be a prophet of sorts and appear before the scheming Japanese militarists and warn them that the decision they make here would determine the future of Japan. I humorously hoped she’d follow that up with, “Don’t do it!”, but evidently history can’t be changed that easily. Joking aside, her appearance did emphasize how this was a key junction in Japan’s history and one many will probably agree is where they took an unfavorable turn for all of Asia.
Overall, I found that this recap episode was really well done from a compilation standpoint with the narration and use of music. In addition, it featured some new scenes depicting a bit of everyone’s pasts and why they joined the Sakurai Kikan. This includes how Kazura is from a family of proud military men and a master of Aikido, how Yukina volunteered to join in hopes about finding what happened to her brother, how Natsume grew up as a poor farmer and became her servant/bodyguard, and how Aoi spent some time studying abroad in Europe before (which may explain his easygoing personality). There was also an extra scene between Kazura and Aoi when they were on the airplane back in episode one, where they talked about novelists Saint-Exupéry and Edogawa Rampo and why Kazura won’t use his ability unless he absolutely has too. (He feels beating an opponent is meaningless unless it’s on even ground.) The narration also went into detail about each of their abilities, in case there was any uncertainties over them at this point. However, the best part of the recap portions of this episode is that I got to see Yukina in a sailor outfit for the first time. She looked so cute in it that I wish she’d dress feminine-like more often.
Anyway, the online stream of episode seven should be out sometime today, so I’ll likely cover it today or tomorrow. The official site has already posted a sort synopsis on it, indicating that it will revolve around two young newspaper reporters who are riding on the South Manchuria Railway and run into Ishihara Kanji, the Lieutenant Colonel of the Kwantung Army who helped devise the bombing so that Japan could attack Manchuria out of “self-defense”. I can only see Japan coming out of this story in a negative light, but I can’t wait to see Anime no Chikara’s take on the Mukden Incident for that very reason.
* Note: Scenes with dialogue in other languages were replaced with their Japanese equivalent for this recap, which is also an audio track option on the DVD/BD releases.