Senkou no Night Raid Episode 11 – Double and Triple Crosses
The departure of Kazura for the other side spoiled the otherwise strong feelings of camaraderie generated last episode, but since this is an espionage drama rather than a buddy movie, that’s hardly a bad thing. Apparently Mr. Sakurai feels the same way, because he appears completely unmoved by Kazura’s betrayal. He notes that Kazura was never really cut out for this sort of work and that such an action was expectable. Aoi bitterly notes that Sakurai shouldn’t have recruited him in the first place if he knew that to be the case.
Of course, working at cross-purposes with his boss is something Aoi specializes in, so while Sakurai tells them all to ignore this latest development, Aoi already has other plans. Using some information he concealed from his boss. Aoi figures out that Isao’s base must be in close proximity to a particular factory (which is providing them with electricity), and between that knowledge and Natsume’s clairvoyance they locate the facility where Isao is keeping his bomb.
Isao is tipped off about this in advance, however, but rather than try to fight the intruders he just has the entire facility evacuated. Natsume and Aoi arrive just at they are finishing, catching up with Isao and Kazura in time to see another ally of Isao—Shizune.
That Shizune is working with Isao makes quite a bit of sense in retrospect, as both Isao and the Kwantang Army that Shizune encouraged are doing their best to make Japan an equal of the European Powers, but there are some lingering issues about her defection that don’t make sense. Obviously, she must have left for Isao after having ditched Aoi (whose attempted rescue inadvertently helped her to get past her own guard detail) but Sakurai didn’t report that her detail has lost her, only that she didn’t meet with the puppet emperor. Sakurai, in fact, seemed remarkably unfazed by Aoi’s actions, just as he was unfazed by Kazura’s betrayal.
Of course, the reason for that is that Sakurai has been working with Isao all along, and was the one who tipped him off about Aoi’s planned infiltration. After triggering a series of explosions that destroy the base and allow them to make their getaway, Isao takes Kazura to a secondary location, where Sakurai is waiting, fake smile and all.
Sakurai’s motivations have been unclear throughout the entire series, although for the most part he seemed like a ruthless ladder-climber viewing his team as the pawns for his own advancement. That he viewed the team as pawns seems accurate still, but in a far different way. As their only contact with the Japanese government, he could manipulate the flow of information both ways.
Did he arrange for Aoi to see Shizune and thus be driven to break her out? Did he place Kazura as a guard because he knew he’s go easy on Aoi? Did he recruit Kazura expecting from the very beginning that he’d switch sides later on? There are so many ways he could have abused his position, and probably only a dedicated rewatching would reveal all of them.
Regardless, I doubt Sakurai’s action have ever been other than what he thinks is in his own best interest, which makes him quite different from Isao and Shizune. Both of the latter are aware of the coming war with the United States and that Japan will need an edge to win, which is why they are (obstensibly) unified in decolonizing Asia through the threat of a nuclear attack. For all their outward collaboration, however, they might be working at cross purposes.
Isao himself was romantically involved with the previous prophet, who apparently died for being too specific in revealing the future (whether by her own hand or another is unclear), so he’s quite aware of the coming storm. I’m not quite sure his actions make sense, however: America’s strength doesn’t come from a colonial empire, and Japan wouldn’t benefit from decolonization unless it fills the gap that Europe leaves. But Isao hasn’t spoken in favor of Japan dominating Asia at all; quite the opposite. So why does he think decolonization will help?
Shizune, by contrast, indirectly encouraged the Kwantang Army to take over Manchuria and start Japanese colonization, which stands in opposition both to Isao’s stated ideals and to any hope of halting the oncoming war. She also led Yukina to the independence movement conference in episode six, nearly disrupting the proceedings as a result; we the audience don’t know the reasoning behind her actions. Isao claims he does, but doesn’t elaborate, so it’s possible she’s pulling a long con on him. When you can see the future, manipulating people takes on a certain ease.
Which leads us back to Kazura. He’s been seduced by Isao’s ideals and possibly set up by Sakurai and/or Shizune from the beginning to take the path he is on now. He’s found the purpose he’s always thought he wanted. But, as Natsume and Aoi confront him before fire and debris forcibly separate them, Natsume returns a notebook with a picture of Kazura’s ultra-honorable grandmother.
I said last time that Kazura’s failing was that he was committed to an idea rather than to individual people. If this event proves to have any importance at all, it might remind Kazura of the one person who can point him away from his folly. Natsume, who has served as the glue to hold this team together, might be the best manipulator of them all—for the precise reason that he’s trying to help, and not control. Wouldn’t it be something if he proves the true hero of the show?
You can watch this episode here.