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Night Raid 1931 (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

August 11, 2011 by  



A refreshing anime series that has a good balance of drama and action.  Definitely one of the most controversial anime series to come out in some time due to it taking place during Japan’s occupation of China.  If you are looking for a series that is refreshing and different, definitely give “Night Raid 1931” a chance!

DVD TITLE: Night Raid 1931

DURATION: Episodes 1-13 + + 1 Special + 2 OVA (400 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9 Anamorphic, English and Japanese 2.0 Stereo

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks

RATED: TV MA VD

RELEASE DATE: August 16, 2011

Directed by Jun Matsumoto

Series Composition by Shinsuke Onishi

Music by Satoshi Kadokura, Taro Hakase

Original Character Design by Keigo Sasaki

Art Director: Yoshio Tanioka

Mechanical Design: Shinobu Tsuneki

Sound Director: Minoru Yamada

Director of Photography: Shinji Nasu

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures

Featuring the following voice talent:

Daisuke Namikawa/John Gremillion as Kazura Iha

Hiroyuki Yoshino/Greg Ayres as Aoi Miyoshi

Ayako Kawasumi as Shizune Yusa (The Oracle)

Hiroaki Hirata/Andrew Love as Isao Takachiho

Ryusuke Oobayashi/John Kaiser as Shin’ichirō Sakurai

Saki Fujita/Luci Christian as Fūran (Feng Lan)

Takanori Hoshino/David Wald as Natsume Kagiya

Yoshiko Ikuta/Brittney Karbowski as Yukina Sonogi

The year is 1931. The city is Shanghai. Ten years before America will enter World War II, the hydra’s teeth planted by the first great global conflict are beginning to germinate. Hatching like spiders, they weave the complex web of plots and conspiracies destined to inevitably draw entire nations against their will to the brink of destruction once more.

Caught in the heart of these webs, desperately seeking to separate lies from truth, is “Sakurai Kikan,” an ultra-secret intelligence agency staffed by extraordinarily talented individuals with abilities far beyond those of normal humans. Their duty: to stop the darkest plots and eliminate the greatest threats. But in a city built on intrigue, can even a team of clairvoyants, telepaths and espers stand against the ultimate forces of destiny?

Contains episodes 1-13 plus two OVA episodes.

Back in 2009, Japanese TV network TV Tokyo and anime production company Aniplex formed a joint project known as Anime no Chikara to create original anime series.

Their first anime series was “So Ra no Wo To” which aired in January 2010 and their second anime series was “Senko no Night Raid” (Night Raid 1931) which aired in April 2010 and now, the series plus the two OAV episodes will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sentai Filmworks.  It is important to note that because of the sensitivity of Japan’s occupation of China during the war (and continues today) and because this series does showcase an alternate revision of what took place during the war,  an episode of the series was streamed and not aired on television.  It is important to also mention that the series was broadcast with information that the series is fictional.

The series also tackles the concept of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, a concept created by the Japanese government and military of the Empire of Japan and the goal for Japanese occupation was to control Asian nations and to be free of Western power.

The series is directed by Jun Matsumoto (“Persona – Trinity Soul-“, “Blood+”), series composition by Shinsuke Onishi (“009-1”, “Kikaider”, “Persona -Trinity Soul-“), character design by Keigo Sasaki (“Blue Exorcist”, “Tsubasa Tokyo Revelations”), art direction by Yoshio Tanaka (“Gurren Lagann”, “My Santa”, “Valkyria Chronicles”) and mechanical design by Shirobu Tsuneki (“Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex”, “Magician’s Academy”, “Crest of the Stars”).

“Night Raid 1931” is set in Shanghai during a time when the Imperial Japanese Army is dispatched to mainland China after the First Sino-Japanese War and Russo-Japanese War and also World War I.

The series focuses on four characters.

Aoi Miyoshi is a young man who is actually a spy.  He hides his identity by pretending to run a  photo studio with Kazura Iha.  He has special abilities which allows him to telekinetically manipulate the speed of objects.  If he sees it, he can either deflect them or use them as weapons but he has only a short time to control his ability.  He is also a positive young man who knows several languages.

Kazura Iha is a prideful man who is very strict in his way. Unlike Aoi who is liberal, Kazura is conservative and his ancestors are samurai.  Kazura has the special ability to teleport but doesn’t use them unless it is necessary because he feels that having the ability gives him an unfair advantage.  But he can only transport if he knows the location and envisions it.  Kazura plans to enter the Imperial Japanese Army but is made to join the Sakura Kikan for his ability.  Similar to Aoi, he also is fluent in several languages and knows aikido.

Natsume Kagiya is a bumbling man who grew up from a poor farming family.  His ability is clairvoyance and can survey during night missions.  He is also a sniper.

Yukina Sonogi is a young woman that is known to have an attitude.  She is also a telepath with psychometric abilities that can be used with Natsume and Aoi’s abilities.  Her abilities are heightened by the smell of flowers.  Yukina is also searching for her older brother, a member of the Japanese military who disappeared.

But what she doesn’t know is that the enemy that she and her friends are working to fight is her brother, also a spy, who happens to be quite powerful.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Night Raid 1931” is presented in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen and English and Japanese 2.0.

The character design for “Night Raid 1931” is reminiscent of a series like “BACCANO” and has a good balance of beautifully painted art backgrounds.  Very good use of colors and for the most part, this series looks great!

It’s important to note that the series is also available on Blu-ray and if you are wanting better picture quality and lossless audio, definitely go for the Blu-ray release.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Night Raid 1931” features the following extra episodes (note: these are placed between certain episodes and not all on Disc 3):

DISC 2

  • Special Episode: The Prophecy (24:43) A recap episode.
  • Clean Closing Animations (4:36)  Clean closing animation featuring music by Himeka.
  • OVA: Demon of the Opium Den (22:40) Featured after episode 7.  Features Yukina having issues with her power and meets a little girl who for some reason is familiar to her.

DISC 3

  • OVA: Panther Atop the Snow (30:20) This OVA takes place several years after the final episode and also lets us know what happened to the characters since the final episode.

“Night Raid 1931” is an intriguing, suspenseful anime series that has drama, action and also an interesting spin on historic events.

First, let me talk about the good.

What I did like about “Night Raid 1931” is the fact that the series is serious and not farcical or comedic.  A lot of anime series coming out in the U.S. on Blu-ray or DVD tend to be science fiction, comedy or action-adventure and rarely do you see more serious driven plots.

“Night Raid 1931” tries to take on the theme of Imperial Japan making its conquest in Asia, specially China and then of course adding a supernatural element to it.  By the end of the series, the story eventually gets better as it does start out a bit slow and the series ends quite well, granted…you have an OVA added that kind of changes how you feel about the TV series ending a bit, but for the most part, plot-wise and its balance with action and drama worked out quite well.

The animation was good and in some ways, it kind of reminded me of the series “BACCANO” as it tries to feature more on closeups of the characters and also having similar character design.  And the art backgrounds were well-done, well-painted and looks great!

With that being said, now I need to touch upon the negative, because “Night Raid 1931” is an anime series that has infuriated because of the era its covering.

I’m going to be truthful with you about my feelings towards this anime series prior to watching it…  When I first heard that the setting took place during Japanese occupation of China, I didn’t want to watch it.

I’m not going to get into the politics of it, but I know how sensitive the issue is between Japan and China and I know that many Chinese, especially younger Chinese who continue the grudge that some of their family members have had towards Japan because of the past.  At the same opposite spectrum, I know Japanese who feel that it is messed up that the Japanese government still doesn’t acknowledge some of the atrocities that took place during that time in China but at the same time, for the newer generation of Japanese, they have no association to the past and what happened then, they have no connection to it.

So, without becoming polemic, the fact that I know of people, primarily Chinese and even Korean who have issues towards Japan of the past and even the older members of Japan’s current government, there are those who find any discussion of the past, to be sensitive.

Granted, we have seen Japan, Korea and China work together when it comes to entertainment and pop culture and most recently, we have seen quite a few Chinese productions such as the popular film “Ip Man” showcase their take on Japanese occupation.

But when it comes to the Japanese side of focusing on such issues, you just hope that they handle things with great care.  Especially if an anime series written by a Japanese is going to revise Japanese history based on “Co-Prosperity Sphere”.  And sure enough, there was an episode that was not broadcast and was instead streamed because of the nature of the series and that Chinese and Koreans objected to this series.

With that being said, it probably is more of a moot point because if the series is shown in U.S., France, Brazil or any other country, anime fans have been good to separate the politics and just take the anime for what it is.  But in this case, you can do a search on various anime forums on “Night Raid 1931” and you will see people really get into the nature of debating on how Japan treated the Chinese and the crimes of Imperial Japan.

I chose to give this series the benefit of the doubt and as mentioned, the good of this series is that it’s a series that has positive elements of action and drama but at the same time, part of me felt, if the anime series was about some alternate war instead of the Imperial Japan’s occupation of China, would I have enjoyed it more?

If anything, by no means is Imperial Japan portrayed in a positive light in this anime series.  When it comes to the “Co-Prosperity Sphere”, Japan wanted to dominate Asia and become a superpower controlled by Japanese interests.  It was what the Japanese government and military wanted and unfortunately, like any country who has seeked domination in world history, there are always atrocities committed, there are a lot of negative things that took place.

The difference is, it still affects relations between East Asia today…politically.  We have seen major strives in relations via pop culture but still, there is a lot of pain that still remains in East Asia because of the past.

For many of you, these issues are probably nil and won’t affect or even disturb you.

But I will say that if you are wanting a serious anime on Blu-ray or DVD, you can’t go wrong with “Night Raid 1931”.  You get 13 episodes plus the special and two OVA’s and it’s a very good series overall.  Taking the series for what it is, the story from beginning to how it ends,  it works.

While I can’t comment on the differences between the DVD or Blu-ray in terms of how much better the Blu-ray is picture quality or via lossless, I will say that the DVD is a solid buy for those wanting something different from the norm.  It’s actually quite refreshing to see an anime like this released in the US and sometimes, these type of series don’t get released in the US.

Overall, if you are wanting something different when it comes to anime series, “Night Raid 1931” is recommended.

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