Night Raid 1931 (aka Senkō no Night Raid) was not something I normally watch, from the cover art it looked like it was set in the past and like the title denotes it does. This 13 episode anime from A-1 Pictures and Aniplex is directed by Jun Matsumoto features great music, fancy hats and lots of action. Set in 1931, we start off in Shanghai, China. The Imperial Japanese Army has been dispatched and World War I is currently happening. Amongst all of these happenings is a special military spy organization called ‘Sakurai Kikan’ and we see their actions unfold which affect history.
The series begins with the the first episode taking place on a ship, where a film crew are doing auditions for a film and actually filming on location. The alarm bells begin to arise when the crew ask normal female passengers to audition and you hear some back story of missing girls who boarded that boat and never return. Sakurai Kikan are also on board the ship, trying to find the leader of the prostitution ring behind the film audition facade. Rather than being standard run-of-the-mill spies, we later find out that they all have special abilities that they use in their missions.
In the group, we have Kazura, who can teleport himself instantly, Yukina, gifted with the ability to read minds, Natsume and his X-ray eyes, along with Aoi, who uses telekinesis to move things just by thinking it. Not a bad rag-tag bunch at all!
The first few episode are centered around the various missions the team go on, providing a relaxed look at what the Sakurai get up to while in Shanghai. This varies from things like averting a bomb threat to chasing a stray cat around town. These early episodes may not really give a lot of info on the overarching plot of the series, but each one seemed to highlight certain characters and give us an insight into their personalities during the missions. Compared to the later episodes, these deliver a nice mixture of action and comedy which I liked and made them them the most most interesting to watch overall from my perspective.
Once the story starts to get going and moves past the short, self contained mission episodes, the main antagonist is revealed as Takachiho Isao, who also happens to be Yukina’s older brother. The bulk of the episodes focus on how the Sakurai attempt to thawrt the plans set into motion by Isao. There isn’t much build up for the main plot of the series and can be forgotten quite easily. I guess this is partly due to Isao’s character of being a incredibly disappointing villain; he hardly gets screen time. Also the show is too busy focusing on the background of the true history of China and Asia during the 1930s which can become a bit boring after a while.
Overall, I felt the main story line was a bit too vague and I was a little bored while the whole ting slowly unfolded over the course of the later half of the collection. I also felt there a great deal of connections between the characters and I personally found it hard to relate to the main female protagonist, Yukina.
This anime isn’t life changing or acclaimed in any genre however it is memorable for it’s visual aspects for period setting and characters outfits. I tried out both the English and Japanese dialogue tracks, and both seemed well-done (none of the American voices struck me as overtly comical in their delivery).