「凍土の国で」 (Toudo no Kuni de)
“On the Frozen Soil of a Country”
Following the Mukden Incident last episode, Japan uses the opportunity to seize the entire Manchuria region in the next six months. In 1932, the puppet state of Manchukuo is created with the last Qing emperor Aisingioro Puyi (Aishinkakura Fugi in Japanese) instated as its government leader, though he is essentially a figurehead for the Japanese to manipulate from the shadows. The second largest city of the Liaoning province, Changchun, is then renamed “Hsinking”, which reads “Shinkyou” 「新京」 (New Capital) in Japanese. All of this is in accordance to history, bringing us to Sakurai Kikan’s fictional involvement from that point on. With Takachiho Isao pulling the strings on a worldwide scale and eclipsing Japan’s actions in Manchukuo, the biggest revelation is that he and the independent organization he’s working for somehow possess nuclear weapons. Needless to say, Japan did not have access to atomic bombs before the Second World War or things probably would have turned out very differently.
Under the assumption that they did have nukes, the story here suggests that Isao’s organization used them to strategically manipulate the Western and European superpowers, namely the international investigation committee that was sent to look into the bombing of the South Manchuria Railway, lead by Britain’s Earl of Lytton. At the time, the League of Nations would not recognize Manchukuo as an independent nation, primarily because of the suspicion that Japan plotted the dispute with the Chinese in order to seize Manchuria, so Lytton’s committee was sent in to investigate the situation. The end result as we know it involves him and his investigators from various other countries compiling the Lytton Report, which did not condone Japan’s response to the bombing as merely self-defense (amongst various other findings). This subsequently led to the League of Nations condemning Japan as the aggressor in the incident and the country’s eventual withdrawal from the inter-governmental organization in 1933. The Senkou no Night Raid story is now focusing on the fictional aspect that led up to that, with Isao kidnapping Lytton and the other investigators and showing each of them the destructive capabilities of an atomic bomb in the Taklamankan Desert.
The twist is that he had all of the investigators witness the explosion from different locations and led each of them to believe that they were the only one to do so. Having expressed how they wouldn’t hesitate to drop such a weapon on a city, Isao had each of them report back to their country leaders of what they just saw along with the demand to relinquish control over countries they’ve colonized. Clearly, it was a threat to help realize his Pan-Asianism vision, but Isao’s insistence that they keep what they saw from anybody else also ensured that word of the bomb would never reach the League of Nations, as each of the countries would be interested in developing its own such weapon after learning that it’s possible. In other words, it was their way of ensuring that their demands were met without risking further scrutiny of Japan from the international stage. In addition, Isao and his organization were also able to secure a million dollars as ransom for the safe release of the five international investigators ($200k each) when they intended to let them go from the very beginning in order to strike fear back in their home countries. All in all, a pretty cunning move on their part, where Isao’s subordinate also outsmarted the Sakurai Kikan in the process by snatching the briefcase of money right from under their noses and still released the hostages.
Surprisingly, development of their own nuclear weapons appears to stem from the deceased physics professor Kajikawa seen back in episode two, whom the Kwantung Army’s secret agency discovered had ties with a physicist named Ichinose (Okamoto Nobuhiko). Whether or not this was planned from the onset I don’t know, but I’m impressed the story’s managed to tie in elements from earlier on in the series given how episodic it felt then. In any case, with Aoi, Yukina, and Natsume following that lead and Kazura serving as an undercover bodyguard for the prophet, whom Puyi is having transported from Dalian (a.k.a. Dairen) to Shinkyou to meet with her, things are getting really interesting on the fictional side of things with Aoi catching sight of “Shizune” alive. There have been so many flashbacks of his relationship with her that it’s started to feel like the story within the story, so I was glad to see Yukina help Aoi call out to her telepathically and confirm that she is indeed the woman he believed to have passed away.
Other than that, I’m curious about the situation with Yukina after Sakurai mentioned that he would allow her to part ways with the Sakurai Kikan if pursuing her own brother proves to be too difficult, but only once her memories of the past few years have been erased. Much like Aoi, I took that as his way of saving her from experiencing hardships down the stretch, but Yukina sort felt like she was only in the organization to begin with to act as bait for Isao. Whatever the case, that’s definitely the other subplot I’m really looking forward to seeing develop further.