Anime Review: “Night Raid 1931” – Ian Flemming meets X-Men

Written by Alex Bowman July 16, 2014

night raid 1931

If there is one genre that I have a serious love-hate relationship with, it’s espionage; I’m sorry, but there is only so much attention I can give to a James Bond movie before I start to lose my patience. A good espionage story has to hook me, and provide a new and interesting way of examining the genre. This is also a great exercise in seeing what can be done in order to keep the genre alive and fresh. The world of anime has delivered on that end with a really interesting series called “Night Raid 1931.” It has all the necessary requirements of a show about espionage, but it also adds a really neat flavor that is sure to keep you engaged throughout the entire series.

The Incident

Our story is set in Shanghai, China during the year 1931. Basically, China is in a state of turmoil due to the events of The First Shino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War, and World War I. A military spy organization, called Sakurai, is tasked with combating enemy threats from the shadows while also exploring the emergence of Chinese soldiers with unexplained psychic abilities. The team consists of Aoi, a telekinetic; Kazura, a teleporter; Natsume, a clairvoyant; and Yukina, a telepath. Together, this ragtag group attempts to keep the peace within Shanghai while also completing their own secret agendas.

night raid 1931

East is East

This show is, by far, one of my favorites, and is quite a classic. I highly recommend this show to anyone with a passing interest in anime. It is only 14 episodes long, which is kind of a like an anime equivalent to a mini-series, so it’s not exceedingly long. “Night Raid 1931” has a lot going for it in the story department. Each of our four main protagonists is written very well, and each one has a very unique defining trait about them which helps us to relate to them more. I won’t go into too much detail because some episodes do a really great job of delving into the motivations of each character while also refusing to take the spotlight away from the overarching plot.

night raid 1931

I also really like how the creators of this show put a unique spin on the formula of the genre. “Night Raid 1931” does a really great job of maintaining an espionage thriller with ties to classic noir pulps while creating something new and exciting with the addition of supernatural elements in the way of psychic abilities. Even though this seems kind of like a cop out, the writing does a really good job of showcasing how a spy organization would take advantage of this, and how it would be practiced in the field; the anime even goes as far as making the different powers have strengths and weaknesses which can really create some griping final climaxes. Any history fan worth their salt will also find something to enjoy about this show because it has a lot of episodes grounded in reality considering certain episodes are set around events like Comintern, post-war Pan-Asianism, the Mukden Incident, Manchuria. and the February 26th Incident.

night raid 1931

An Ominous Night

There are a few criticisms I have with the show, but this is just a bit of nitpicking. I feel that some things could have been fixed given more time and attention. First, the song played during the introduction is a really bad design choice. It immediately breaks the pacing of “Night Raid 1931”, and has literally nothing to do with the events or scenarios. Sure, you can argue that the song is catchy but, then again, so are STIs. Also, the show does feel a bit rushed. Honestly, 14 episodes is not enough time to explore all of the issues that this show seems to want to bring up and analyze. Yes, you will learn some things you may have not learned before, but it’s rushed through due to a half-hour run time; it becomes the equivalent of a drive-by history lesson. One episode is not enough time spent discussing the near invasion of China by Japanese forces. The writing is, by far, the greatest I have ever seen in a spy-themed anime, but I just felt it needed more time to examine certain things.

night raid 1931

Prediction

I think that, if you give “Night Raid 1931” a chance, you will not be disappointed. Very rarely do you get the chance to watch an entertaining espionage show that tries to teach you something without putting you to sleep; I give credit to the great writing, and the interesting spin that the creators put on a classical genre. I highly recommend this show despite its condensed run-time and it’s really crappy intro.

My Rating: 8/10

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