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More Raiding in the Night

April 8, 2010

Once I started to reply to the posts on the original Night Raid post I realized I had a lot more to say, so let’s get dive into Senko no Night Raid a little more.

The fact that Senko no Night Raid is covering touchy historical territory doesn’t bother me in the least. So long as the series doesn’t try to play historical revisionist and rewrite atrocities into heroics, the series’ setting isn’t going to phase me one bit.

First off, the first episode does a good job of making the Japanese come off as being shady at best and downright nasty at worst. The Japanese businessman is an opportunistic scumbag who sells weapons to his captors in order to save his own ass. If this is going to be some nationalistic propaganda-fest, are they going to paint a corporate leader, the backbone of Japan’s “modernization” efforts during that era, as someone worthy of the audience’s scorn?

Then there’s the guy that I’m assuming is the group’s liason with the government. Look at him. Doesn’t he look like an Asian version of Toht from Raiders of the Lost Ark? Yeah, this guy is a sleazeball. The confident, “you can’t touch me” attitude he has doesn’t paint him as a hero. He’s a bureaucrat. He’s a politician. He’s a villain. There’s no other way to view him.

So we have a businessman and a politician presented as less-than ideal individuals. That should go a long way towards easing people’s fears that this will paint Japan’s actions in a positive light. And while the “Night Raiders” (It’s what I’m going to call them until I get a “proper” name.) seem like a decent group of people on an individual basis, they’re just government/military/whatever lap-dogs at the moment. They do what they’re told because that’s what they apparently exist to do. They were given powers by the powers-that-be and they use said powers to execute the orders of said powers-that-be. Their actions aren’t the least bit heroic either. They’re just following orders.

Night Raid’s vibe in the first episode is thoroughly amoral in the sense that nothing is presented in any sort of positive or negative manner. We assume that we’re supposed to root for these guys because we’re following their actions, but there’s nothing about what they’re doing or who they’re working for that suggests that the Night Raiders are “good guys.” As people they may be good, since we’re given no reason to view them as “bad guys” either, but there’s no real supporting evidence that they’re heroes.

Anyone that’s still worrying about this being some sort of pro-Japanese revisionist/traditionalist/whatever anime after watching the first episode needs to be slapped upside the head, since the only logical reason why one would still feel that way is because they made up their mind long before the episode aired and are struggling to find ways to prove their absolute assumptions to be true.

Much like how I’m doing my best to prove my absolute assumptions about Night Raid’s nature to be true. The difference is that my absolute assumptions are right and theirs are wrong.

I also want to talk about the powers that the characters possess. I already mentioned that I like how their powers go mostly unexplained in the first episode, but I didn’t mention that I also dig how their powers synergize very well. We have two support characters, one of whom has clairvoyant/sensory powers and another who has telepathic abilities. I like how they have to work as a team to convey sufficient recon for the two combatants. One can see the battlefield with accuracy that may outclass the best of modern surveillance equipment, but he has no way to convey that information on his own without modern-day communications technology. This is where the telepath girl comes in. She’s somehow able to “tap” into the clairvoyant’s abilities and see what he sees, and it’s up to her to interpret what the man sees and deliver that intel to the other two Night Raiders.

This creates the possibility for miscommunication. The telepath girl could easily misinterpret what she sees, or she could not notice something despite having access to the clairvoyant’s abilities. Also, with everything that she has to keep track of, she can easily make other mistakes. We saw this in the first episode when her count of the main dude’s “timer” was a few seconds delayed. I really like the inaccuracy of their psychic tandem. Yeah, it gives them a significant advantage in the field compared to everyone else who doesn’t have access to powers or technology that’s equivalent, but it’s still fallible. I hope they play that up more throughout the series.

I also like the subtlety of the powers. Most action series that go down the “power” route tend to go for flashy powers that look good when animated. In Night Raid, the one person with a genuinely flashy power, the dude who teleports, does his best to not depend on his power. While I didn’t care much for the way his refusal to use it was played up (It just didn’t feel natural.), I like that they’re de-emphasizing the “super” part of their super powers my making their powers come off as less than dramatic. The powers are there, the Night Raiders use them, but the powers are presented in a very functional, utilitarian manner. Even the main dude’s telekinesis is used more to enhance his martial arts than it is to throw stuff around X-Men style. That’s a pretty cool stylistic choice.

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