Senkou no Night Raid Episode 12 – Mutually Assured Destruction
It’s been three months since the team lost sight of Kazura, and Mr. Sakurai’s disappearance confirms that he too was working with Isao. With little to do and no leads to follow, Aoi, Natsume, and Yukina stick to following Puyi around, expecting some trouble to emerge in the run-up to his coronation as Emperor of Manchukuo. As it turns out, they’re right.
Kazura, meanwhile, has his own frustrations ahead of him, as his joining Isao was based on certain misconceptions. First off, he thought Isao had a working bomb, but he doesn’t; the explosion in the desert was an illusion. His scientist still hasn’t quite figured out the formula, and is need of more help from the prophet to crack it.
Second, Isao does plan to use a bomb, as soon as he gets one, on Shanghai to show the colonial powers what happens if they don’t agree to his demands. While Shanghai makes a certain degree of sense as a target (all the colonial powers have assets there, it’s close and well populated, etc.), it would still entail the deaths of Japanese, not to mention an excessive number of civilians. It’s an act of terrorism on an historically unprecedented scale, and Kazura is clearly uncomfortable with the idea.
Third, he has to put up with Sakurai, who has been working with Isao all along. The entire idea behind making his team was to have a group he controlled searching for Isao, thus ensuring no one found him—or worse, the brigade that defected with him. He also managed to get several “talented” people to learn of Isao’s ideals, which allowed them to recruit the most ideologically similar of them. Sakurai points out that Kazura shouldn’t mind, but again, clearly, he does.
Isao has a plan to deal with all his problems, however. The time for the next prophecy is coming, and the newly constructed capital of Manchukou, built along Feng Shui principles, provides a perfect place to amplify her powers. He can sneak her in even as he hijacks the coronation ceremony, publicly announcing his presence to the world, showing off his power, and getting the last piece of the puzzle he needs to make the bomb in fell swoop.
Until now, Night Raid has always toed the historical line, if only just. Even the bombing in episode three, while ahistorical, could at least be chalked up as not important enough to report. This episode finally puts Night Raid firmly into the territory of alternate history, not historical fiction; there’s no way a military incursion on Puyi’s inauguration could be covered up by the Japanese government or just plain ignored.
That also means that the ending of Night Raid is, perhaps, a bit more open than might otherwise be thought. If Night Raid is willing to openly violate the historical record in this way, there’s no reason why it can’t provide an alternate ending to the period as a whole. Given Isao’s troops are opposing the Kwantang Army at this point, it’s possible that the ensuing fight will weaken them such that they have to withdraw, or, if the army defeats them, it gains the prestige among the colonial powers to keep doing what it wants.
I don’t think Isao is going to win, as I doubt that the writers will let Shanghai get nuked. The prospect of letting Japan enter into a cold war status with the West (Isao expects someone to develop the weapon shortly after he does, thus leading to a balance of power that keeps Japan in peace) might be tempting from the standpoint of a personal fantasy, but the show has been critical enough of Japanese imperialism that I don’t think it will just permit Japan to run its merry East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere either. (It might create a history, however, where Japan gets a do over by pulling out of China.)
Besides, if the show believes, as Isao does, that having two equally strong, nuclear-armed powers will lead to lasting peace, it has an odd way of showing it. As mentioned above, the heroes are present when Isao makes his move, and manage to locate where he is (escorting the prophet to her assigned location). On route, however, the group slowly splits up, as Natsume stops to deal with Isao’s pesky lieutenant, and Aoi finds himself facing Kazura.
Thus, the end of this episode has two standoffs between super powered foes and will likely have Yukina facing off against her brother before the end of the finale. In geopolitics equal powers means stalemate, but in drama equal powers means a tense climax. It remains to be seen if either Aoi or Yukina will talk sense into their respective opponents—or Shizune, for that matter—but I’m expecting we’ll have a fight either way.
Still, there are enough narrative hints to suggest that the alliance of Isao, Shizune, and Kazura might be falling apart: Kazura is too honorable and too nationalistic to sit easily with Isao’s independence-minded terrorism, and Shizune’s actions are just plain inscrutable. Add in the easy aura of betrayal Sakurai exudes just by existing, and I’m guessing someone besides our heroes will turn on Isao before the day is done. By endorsing the use of violence and deceit in support of his revolutionary ideals, Isao has invited those who oppose those ideals to use violence and deceit against him. The only question is who will die in the process.
You can watch this episode here.