Home > Episode Reviews, Senkou no Night Raid > Senkou no Night Raid Episode 5 – Useful Idiots

Senkou no Night Raid Episode 5 – Useful Idiots

I argued before that the previous episode was a failure. It didn’t tell the audience anything not already known, it was direct to the point of insulting in getting its point across, and the humor it tried to incorporate both didn’t fit in with the tone of the series and failed on its own merits. This episode, even as it continues the trend of character development plots, could not be more different, to the point where it’s almost as if the writers were aiming for a mirror image. What was said outright is now implied, what was a retread of established facts is now a surprising revelation, and what was humor is now deadly serious.

The plot of the episode begins with Kazura spots a familiar face, Nishio, in a photo Aoi took. For reasons never fully explained, he feels it important enough to drop what he is doing and try to track down this man, who apparently is a childhood friend. While he eventually confirms that Nishio was in the area, he hits a dead-end in his search.

For someone who is supposed to be charismatic, you would think they would have given Nishio a more handsome character design

When walking back, however, he realizes he is being tailed by a Chinese woman, and confronts her only to have her run off. This is a mistake on her part, as she gets grabbed by a collection of goons, and Kazura winds up being captured as well. The goons are KMT, and it turns out Nishio and the woman are communists. Kazura gets beaten up for a bit in a series of pointless interrogations before Mr. Sakurai can intervene and get him freed.

Mr. Sakurai doesn’t seem too upset at having to free his subordinate, although it does mean that he had to help the KMT out by revealing where the Chinese Communists are about to do a weapons exchange with Comintern, with Nishio being a likely representative. Mr. Sakurai orders Kazura to stay out of it, and one would think that would be enough to keep the straight-laced, by-the-book agent away.

Fuu Lan is actually the one who tips off Aoi and company that Kazura is in trouble. That she does something useful is another first for the series

Of course, it’s not, and he tracks down the woman, Ai Lin, who was taken with him. Released, but almost certainly under watch by the KMT in the hope of catching Nishio, she kindly relates the story of how she met Nishio, where he helped her in a car accident, and eventually converted her to the communist cause.

Kazura suggests that it might all have been an act, right down to when he deliberately injured himself in order to show he empathized with her wounds. She acknowledges the possibility, but doesn’t seem to care. She knows that everything he’s done, including living with her the past five years, might have been just to use her, and that he’s never coming back regardless. But she still believes in communism, and him, all the same, and so she waits.

When you’ve been wounded that badly, it makes sense you’d look for someone to save you

The weapons deal takes place later that night, and the KMT actually prove competent for once and put a halt to it. Nishio, however, successfully escapes by diving into the river, swimming to the opposite shore. When he arrives, however, Kazura is waiting for him. Kazura doesn’t seek to interfere with his old friend’s escape, or do anything other than just speak with him for a few moments, briefly reminding him of old times, and also of Ai Lin, who is still waiting for him. Nishio coolly responds that he has no further use for the girl, declines to reminisce further, and leaves. Those are the only words he says in the episode.

Later, just after seeing Ai Lin still waiting for him, the audience sees him shot to death in a bath house. Which faction is responsible for the death is not revealed, and the episode ends with a close up of a scar on his foot, a scar smaller but yet very similar to one shown on Kazura’s foot at the beginning of the episode.

It’s not quite a “Rosebud,” but it’s still a good way to cap things off

So what does this all mean? We aren’t told. It seems likely that Nishio pulled his “injure myself to show you I care about your pain” trick on Kazura as well, but was it a trick then? Was Kazura, at one point, betrayed by Nishio as Ai Lin was? We aren’t shown any flashbacks to Kazura’s childhood, so we can’t know for sure.

We do know, however, that Kazura still feels some connection to Nishio, even if it is not reciprocated. You don’t up and chase after a man in a photograph, enduring beatings and defying the will of your superiors, just to meet a guy you knew once in childhood. While Kazura’s words to Nishio, directing him back to the forsaken Ai Lin, show that he’s more over him that she is, something still compelled him to meet with Nishio himself, no doubt knowing that he would get as much of a brush-off as Ai Lin does.

I think it’s also meaningful that the most important part of the conversation isn’t done while they’re facing each other

On a more symbolic level, Nishio could be seen as embodying the allure of radical idealistic movements, which promise a world of solidarity and love but wind up using and ultimately devouring their followers. Ai Lin describes Nishio as like summer—intense and even exhausting, but also warm and easily missed—but what little screen time he actually gets shows him cold and self-centered. Did Kazura have these feelings, toward Nishio or communism, at one point? Is his present devotion to order and honor and the state the result of a failed youthful rebellion?

The beauty of this episode is that, while it allows for interpretations like this, it doesn’t force them on the viewer. The last episode offered the pretense of character development, but for the most part it was almost like a recap, making sure the audience had taken away right revelations of prior events by force feeding the point down their throats. This one, by contrast, develops Kazura in new and remarkably interesting ways, possibly saying some pointed things about political idealism in the process—and it does so without a single flashback and almost no discussion of his past. It’s a remarkable exercise in subtlety and moral ambivalence, presented more in the style of John Le Carré than Ian Fleming. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You can watch this episode here.

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