Home > Episode Reviews, Senkou no Night Raid > Senkou no Nightraid Episode 2 – Memories, Music, and Melancholy

Senkou no Nightraid Episode 2 – Memories, Music, and Melancholy

Well, this is the third show I’ve taken over from bear, but the first one where I don’t have any disagreements with his initial take. The first episode showed considerable promise: intelligent and subtle use of superpowers, a solid espionage story, and a blithe indifference to its incredibly controversial subject matter, a move that was probably for the best. It ended, however, without really selling the characters to the audience, which is unfortunate because that left us with no real reason to care about it all.

This time the writers are clearly trying to make up for that lack, but not always in an effective manner. I left this episode with a better feel for our heroes, and even sympathy for them, but this was a far worse episode with regard to pacing and style. It didn’t help that the action was more or less non-existent this time around and, with one notable exception, the superpowers didn’t get their due either. Night Raid really should be a good enough show to do more than one thing at a time, but I’m not quite seeing it yet.

The Japanese voice cast is as skilled at mangling Russian as they are at mangling Chinese

The plot for this episode is simple: The famous violinist Sergei Krainev is visiting from Europe, but he is also suspected of stealing important research of an unspecified nature from the home of a dead scientist formerly employed by the Japanese. Our team first has to confirm that he did get the information, and figure out how he intends to smuggle it out to his superiors and stop him. Aoi and Yukina pose as brother and violin-playing sister (a move which brings back unpleasant memories for the former), to ascertain that Krainev is in fact a spy.

Krainev is on to them, however, and the team is thrown off track by a decoy, pretending to be taking the notes out in a violin case. Reading the patsy’s mind, they discover that the information is encoded into the piece of music he will be playing at the concert hall and broadcast via radio to his handlers. Through clever use of their superpowers (Natsume’s clairvoyance being gifted to the telekinetic Aoi by the telepathic Yukina, letting Aoi see the circuit breaker to shut it off), they cut power to the hall, keeping the broadcast from going out. Krainev, knowing that his attempt has failed, finishes the concert all the same, this time for the love of music, without any taint of espionage. He later commits suicide to avoid capture.

This may look like a one-handed conga line, but it’s actually sort of cool in context.

All that could have happened in ten minutes or less if the writers were so inclined. Instead the episode is padded out to normal length by repeated flashbacks to the lives of the various protagonists: We see Aoi interacting with either a girlfriend or a sister, whom he loves even though she’s a far better violinist than him. (It’s heavily implied she’s dead now.) We see Yukina and Natsume as a rich girl and her family manservant, respectively, interacting with her brother, who leaves for the military and then disappears with the entire unit under his command, apparently going rogue. We see Kazura get scolded by his grandmother about always acting honorably, and then forcibly recruited into the intelligence service—instead of the military, where he wants to be—because of his ability.

Each of these flashbacks is technically inserted at appropriate times, either triggered by events of the story (Aoi hearing a violin playing) or at thematically appropriate moments. But their placement throughout the episode is clumsy, and there are enough of them this episode that as a whole they do more to muck up the pace of the show than to provide needed character development. Utilizing multiple flashbacks without ruining the narrative flow is rarely achieved in TV shows, and Night Raid certainly doesn’t succeed here.

Visiting graves in flashbacks must always happen in the rain. There’s a rule somewhere

I should admit right now that the main reason I’m interested in this show is out of a perverse desire to see what a charlie foxtrot the writers make of the historical record, given the inability of the Japanese to come to terms with their actions in World War II and the times immediately prior. Thus far I’ve been pleasantly disappointed; while there’s been little on the Japanese side, recent events in Germany are given mention. Krainev is a Russian Jew whose family fled to Germany to escape persecution under the Tsars, and now an anti-Semitic party is gaining ground in Germany (the Nazi party, not mentioned by name, become the lead minority party in 1930 and would be invited to lead a coalition government three years later). It’s implied that he became a spy to protect himself from his own government—although whether he was working for the Russians (he speaks Russian throughout the episode) or the Germans is never clear.

This actually shows a greater sensitivity to the historical situation than I would have expected. The thirties, when many people still believed the Nazis could be reasoned with, would be the time when Jews would be wary of their position but still thinking they could prove their loyalty. Krainev is treated as a tragic figure in a very unenviable position (doubly so since he’s had to compromise his music to work as a spy), and is a far cry from the cannon fodder Chinese communists and the unscrupulous Japanese industrialist presented in the prior episode.

A brief opening narration is the closest we get to an admission that the Japanese have already occupied parts of China

Another theme that seems in development is the price of power. We learned last episode that there is a limit to the length of time Aoi can employ his power—which appears to be full-fledged telekinesis, and not just metal control—and this episode we learn that Yukina’s telepathy is strengthened and possibly dependent on her touching or smelling flowers. I would be very surprised if similar restrictions weren’t placed on the powers of the other teammates.

But power has other prices too. Kazura’s hope for an honorable military career (again, keep what we the audience know of the Imperial Japanese Army’s “honor” out of sight for a moment) was destroyed because of his ability, and he notes with no small amount of sympathy that Krainev’s ability to memorize texts (which is how he could conceal the information in an impromtu music performance) was likely what got him “recruited” into intelligence.

The group’s handler always has a smile on his face, even when ruining a young soldier’s life. I want to smack him already

Anyway, the next episode preview indicates that Yukina’s brother might be making an appearance soon, which (we can hope) will allow for character development that won’t require awkward flashbacks. Night Raid is continuing with its original promise to be an action show for adults, even if it occasionally needs a reminder on the whole “action show” part, but a few more episodes of this and I might take up a show with faster pacing. Like Five Leaves.

You can watch this episode here.

Aoi and Natsume are living with a cutesy Chinese girl for no discernible reason. I’m including a pic for novelty’s sake

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