Senkou no Night Raid Episode 9 – Empire Building
What is the cost of empire? Of leading a nation down the “right path”? The latest episode of Senkou no Night Raid is far too wrapped up its own alternative history to devote the necessary amount of time to treat these questions seriously, but it manages to touch on them enough to get the audience thinking. Which is about all one can reasonably expect.
Since the team split up last episode, I’ll have to take the plots individually. Yukina and Natsume are still following Mr. Sakurai’s orders to locate the rogue physicist working for Isao, only to realize that Isao is, as usual, one step ahead of them, as he drops in on Yukina during her meal.
Isao remains cryptic about his motives, but offers Yukina a chance to read his mind to find out, even as he warns her against it. Doing so, she has a vision of a nuclear device going off in a populated area, although whether this is from Isao’s memory or his premonition of the future is left completely open. Regardless, it’s a horrifying sight, which renders her unconscious. Isao leaves Yukina in Natsume’s care.
Aoi, meanwhile, is still shadowing the group guarding his former love. After figuring out they entered an underground tunnel system the Japanese are building under Manchukou for their military (which is, recall, ostensibly an independent country), he sneaks his way in and locates the facility where she is staying. Kazura is familiar with his infiltration methods, however, and confronts him.
However, Kazura hesitates in trying to apprehend him, either out of consideration for their friendship or to keep Sakurai’s unit from getting more bad press. Aoi successfully evades him and makes off with Shizune, which earns Kazura a serious rebuke when Mr. Sakurai arrives and learns what happened.
For his part, Aoi doesn’t have much luck with Shizune either: She still clearly loves him, and admits that she faked her death in order to keep him from following after her, but she seems committed to the role of a prophet that she has inherited. How did she inherit it? Why does everyone in the know just seem to accept her existence? These are still unanswered questions.
For that matter, it’s still not clear exactly who she is working for and what she is expecting to accomplish. It seems she serves the Japanese government, but that didn’t keep her from moving unescorted to speak with the Kwantang army heads and others. And while it seems she shares many of Aoi’s ideals, at least from what little conversation they’ve had, every concrete action she’s taken has only seemed to increase the militarist and imperialist influences in Japan. If she’s trying to stave off the looming disaster of World War II, she isn’t doing very well.
Staving off Aoi comes a little easier, at least temporarily, as she refuses his offer to flee with him and returns back to the Japanese forces. Her duty to her country, she feels, is more important than her happiness. For Aoi, who has just abandoned his duty for her happiness (and his own), this does not bode well. I doubt this is the last we’ll hear of this particular plot line, but for the moment Aoi needs to survive the consequences of his actions.
The show manages to keep some attention on real historical events even when pursuing a dubious counter-history. Fuu Lan makes an appearance in Mukden to make sure that she gets her requisite Chinese-accented lines and silly behavior (those wacky Chinese!), but she also is there to put a personal face on the First Shanghai Incident, which burned down her restaurant and forced her relocation. Again, that the incident was instigated as by the Japanese as a cassus belli is freely admitted.
That the Japanese have turned Mukden into their own personal playground is also evident. Japanese construction companies are getting the economic benefits from building the new capital, and the Kwantang Army itself is building a sumptuous new headquarters that Aoi disparagingly compares to a castle. That’s not to mention the tunnel system for the exclusive use of the Japanese military. One wonders why Fuu Lan would choose to relocate to a place so obviously dominated by the hated occupiers.
The increasing division within Sakurai’s team continues to be a theme. Obviously, Kazura and Aoi are increasingly working at cross purposes, with the former unlikely to show as much leniency toward the latter the next time they conflict, particularly after Mr. Sakurai berates him for it. But the seemingly rock solid relationship between Yukina and Natsume is also called into question, with Yukina deploring the idea of a war, and Natsume countering that a strong Japan could save more lives in the long term. Both Natsume’s and Kazura’s idealism has been clearly disproven to the audience by now, but one can still understand why they would believe it.
I don’t honestly see the latter two coming into direct conflict, particularly with Isao (whom Natsume still seems to respect) telling him to keep caring for her. But its interesting how the ideological breakdown in response to Japanese imperialism continues to drive the team further apart. I also like that Yukina is still defensive about her abilities even now; I hope that will mean she is given a chance to prove herself as the show reaches its finale.
If the first half of the show was all about showing what our heroes could do while working together, the second half has so far been showing how vulnerable they are when working individually. Ironically, it’s the strengthening of Japan’s position in the world stage that is weakening their bonds of loyalty. While the show has not hidden the other costs of Japanese imperialism, the one most pressing on the plot is the most personal one.
You can watch this episode here.