Home > Episode Reviews, Senkou no Night Raid > Senkou no Night Raid Episodes 7 – To Tell the Truth

Senkou no Night Raid Episodes 7 – To Tell the Truth

First off, after a long break, I’m happy to report that Night Raid will be getting some love again. Second, the title for the post is not a typo: There are two episode sevens for the show. The first, the one that aired on Japanese TV, is really just a recap episode, with a few new scenes tossed in at the end to keep the plot semi-continuous. The second, aired online only (although I suspect it will also be on the DVDs), goes more in depth over the Mukden Incident (often referred to as the Manchurian Incident), which remains an extraordinarily controversial topic in Japan.

This is the elephant in the room, as every historically informed viewer of the show would be curious (or perhaps worried) about how it chose to depict those events. Keep in mind that most Japanese history textbooks, to this day, blame the bombing on Chinese militias, rather than on Japanese army officers trying to start of war by blaming Chinese militias. I suspect that the “real” episode seven was streamed rather than aired precisely to avoid controversy.

What precisely happened on the ship to Shanghai isn’t revealed, but it involved more than Aoi flirting with Yukina

I’ll start with the recap episode. While touching on certain themes of the show, and taking the opportunity to reintroduce the cast, it does have a few additions. The first are a set of interspersed clips from an as yet untold story of how the team met on the boat to Shanghai (later related in full in a DVD only episode, which may or may not be covered here). The second is the ending for the episode, which covers the basics of the Mukden Incident. Specifically, it makes it clear that the Japanese Army was responsible.

One would think this would be the only controversy worth mentioning in the grand scheme of things, or at least the only one the Japanese would care about. But another is slightly hinted at in their particular interpretation of why the Army officers acted as they did. In the special episode, we do see Aoi’s presumed dead and still unnamed girlfriend (who is explicitly stated to have died, even though she’s up and moving around) confronting the officers deciding on how to implement the incident and cryptically warning them that their actions will be momentous.

Her words are treated as those of a “prophet” but I wasn’t aware that the Japanese even believed in such things

In the full-length version of the story, however, the events play out a bit more favorably toward the Japanese side. There, the full meeting is about to conclude with the cabal deciding against carrying out the plan (making the decision, in fact, on the equivalent of a coin flip). With the appearance of the so-called prophet, who pointed tells them that she won’t tell them what they should do, they decide that since they are in a position to change history, they therefore should change history, and carry out the plan.

While the idea of her appearance, like that of the witches to Macbeth, creating some form of self-fulfilling prophecy is sort of neat, it still seems in my mind to remove some element of responsibility from the Kwantang Army. If they did what they did only after being goaded into it by an outside source, that’s not too much different than if the Chinese had blown up the rail themselves, although at least in this case it is still a flaw on their parts (pride), that motivates them to take the act.

Yes, they are about to decided the fate of nations on the fall of a chopstick. Which writer thought this was a good idea?

It’s not as if the show is shy of depicting other historical actors in the story, or of assigning blame where blame is due. Seishirō Itagaki and Kanji Ishiwara both are prominently featured, as is the visit by Yoshitsugu Tatekawa, who is somewhat aware of what the Kwantang Army is planning but doesn’t stop them. (Again, this is quasi-attributed to a cryptic message received from the prophet.) There are references to how the Japanese forcibly extended the lease on their holdings in Manchuria, how they had assassinated General Zoulin Zhang three years back, and how their primary interests for the region were for resource exploitation and for an outright colonialist takeover.

As the standard cast is completely absent for this episode, a good chunk of the story is picked up by two muckraking Japanese journalists, who go about collecting examples of Chinese reaction to increasing Japanese encroachment. We learn as much about Japanese malfeasance from them as we do about Chinese resentment, but they are committed to portraying all such actions from the “Japanese” perspective, in order to please their reader base.

These guys are journalists of the Hearst mode. Which is to say, they aren’t

I don’t mind that the show depicts the government back in Japan as being opposed or at least wary of what the Kwantang army was doing, as such a depiction does have serious scholarly support. (There are some scholars who believe that the Mukden Incident was supported by the emperor himself, but that is a minority opinion.) But I do find it very curious that, having gone to the trouble to admit all the rather unpleasant things that Japan did in the run-up to the incident, they balk at fully laying the blame where it should be.

I’m also just annoyed at the mere existence of a “prophet” who is supposedly part of a greater scheme that had been manipulating events behind the scene for ages untold, and how everyone just seems to know and accept who she is. She also seems to have some form of supernatural aura (or a specific superpower to short out electric circuits), but then blows her entire air of mystery by botching her “inexplicably disappear” act. When we’re about to depict the start of what will become the entire Pacific front in World War II, we don’t need lame attempts at comedy.

One would think that her accidentally locking herself in would hurt her credibility just a little

I suppose I should be happy for what we got, however. Given Japanese intransigence on the subject, just having the show come out and say, “Yes, the Kwantang Army was responsible” was a major step in the right direction, and one I wasn’t really expecting when I started watching this show. I do find it ironic, however, that the supposedly less controversial television broadcast gave a much more straightforward portrayal of Japanese culpability than the streaming episode. I’m almost suspicious that the Japanese audience wasn’t whom they were trying to keep from watching it.

Anyway, next time the four protagonists will be back in force, so we’ll get to see what they think of all this. How they, Yukina’s brother Isao, and the supposed prophet lady all will factor in to the second half of the show will be interesting to watch. But I think any pretense to historical accuracy will end after this episode.

You can watch (one of) these episodes here.

Seishirō Itagaki
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