The second anime series from Anime no Chikara (see So Ra No Woto), Senkou no Night Raid (English title Night Raid 1931) is a 2010 anime set in China in 1931. It tells the story of a covert unit of the Imperial Japanese Army, the Sakurai Kikan, who use their various super-powers to protect Japanese interests. Intrigue abounds, both political and personal, since it seems everyone has their own reasons for being there. The team consists of Sonogi Yukina and her manservant Kagiya Natsume, who are in China to look for Yukina's brother, who disappeared after seemingly defecting from the Imperial Army; plus stern Military Brat Iha Kazura, and laid back hero Miyoshi Aoi.
Big Damn Heroes: Aoi in the epilogue episode where he saved Kazura from the Kempentatai
Bittersweet Ending: The series. So the gang manages to avert the imminent danger of first Isao then Sakurai using the A-bomb, but Natsume dies, Aoi disappears, Manchukuo is established and history goes on... and of course we all know what happened at the end of the war.
The OVA epilogue Panther in the Snow as well, bordering on Downer Ending. Turns out Aoi is alive and is happily married to the love of his life, but Natsume's relatives are suffering from poverty, Yukina is lonely and Kazura's life is empty and aimless... until he ends up joining a rebellion that eventually gets crushed. We never learn if he survived or not.
Blessed with Suck: Shizune. Having powers to see the future caused her to abandon her normal life and leave Aoi heartbroken. Said powers also drove her predecessor Towa (Isao's fiancee) to suicide after she foresaw what would happen 14 years later.
Breaking the Fourth Wall: In the picture drama Natsume and Yukina lampshade how easily identifiable they are (Natsume with his height and peculiar hair, and Yukina with her beauty marks), and Yukina wonders what good they are as spies.
Code Name: The names of the main characters are all pseudonyms. Their real names are mentioned every now and then. (The real names: Aoi: Ono Souichirou, Kazura: Kishida Takuma, Yukina: Takachiho Setsuko, Natsume: Tanaka Kichizou.) Yukina's closing narration reveals that she was never sure if she even knew Kazura's real name.
Design Student's Orgasm: The opening, which includes (among other things) the names of the cast and crew being decrypted (in Roman Letters)from a numeric substitution cipher over a background of Hiragana typewriter keys.
Doing It for the Art: Fictional example. A master violinist has been convinced to do spy work and forward information by encoding it in his music. Once the broadcast of his performance has been cut, he keeps playing anyway, for the music's sake.
Dramatic Irony: Used to great effect. Pretty much everyone's ideals get trampled on by history.
The point gets hammered home when Kazura, in a fit of optimism, tells Aoi that the vision of the future seen by Shizune is perhaps just one of many possibilities, and only time will tell if it comes true or not. It will come true.
Dreadful Musician: Aoi really sucks at playing the violin, but that doesn't stop him from playing it. He probably doesn't realize how awful he is.
Faux Fluency: Every foreign language that appears, especially on part of the main characters. (Natsume's Chinese is pretty good, though.) Averted in case of most native non-Japanese speakers (except for Fuu Lan), most of whom get to be voiced by native speakers of their language, even Chinese walla.
At least they put some effort in it: the credits show that they had Chinese and English/German speech coaches.
Flash Back: Used to reveal the characters' back stories and motivations.
Food Porn: Episode 4, in which Aoi and Kazura spend a lot of time photographing delicious-looking Chinese food.
On the other hand, they had real foreigners (often native speakers) voicing most European characters, and also had native Chinese speakers voice native Chinese characters (except for Fuu Lan). Though why they are speaking Mandarin rather than Shanghainese is still a mystery.
One should note that in context they're often doing a good job, as the characters are speaking foreign languages and it's natural that they have thick accents (although as spies, the main characters are supposed to be good at Chinese enough to blend in seamlessly). The only egregious example is Fuu Lan who is supposed to be a native but plays this trope straight. Apparently it's easier to have a Japanese VA fake Chinese accented Japanese than train Chinese VA's to do Japanese lines and have the accent come naturally.
The DVDs and Blu Rays feature a "dubbed" version of the show as an extra, where all scenes where originally foreign languages were used are dubbed over in Japanese.
Historical Domain Character: By episode 7 and 8, important figures such the perpetrators of the Mukden Incident (Kanji Ishiwara and Seishirou Itagaki),Yoshitsugu Tatekawa (who failed to stop the invasion of Manchuria), Emperor Puyi and British diplomat Victor Bulwer-Lytton, appeared. Isao and Shizune are the only characters who get to interact some of them.
I Just Want to Be Normal: Kazura and Shizune. For Kazura, he resents using his powers because they are the reason why he didn't get a chance to join the Imperial Army after his graduation. For Shizune, her powers and role forced her to fake her death and leave Aoi. She gets reunited with him in the epilogue, but the price is the loss of nearly all of her memories.
Nice Hat: Yukina nearly always has a nice hat. Her favorite is virtually her trademark. It's telling that she never wears it in the epilogue.
Nuclear Weapons Taboo: Subverted. The name of the weapon is never mentioned (mostly because most characters don't know exactly what it is, except for being a "new type of bomb"), but it is made clear in the context that they are talking about the A-bomb.
Oh Crap: Aoi and Kazura's reaction in episode 4 when they found out that a cat stole the bag of films.
One-Man Army: Kazura, when he's not using his powers. Look at the prologue episode where he single-handedly defeated all the mooks including the Dragon Lady. But again, he did had some help from Aoi's powers.
Photo Montage: The ending credits is composed of displaying four pictures framed on walls one by one in slow motion; the first is a shot of a railway tracknote presumably the South Manchuria Railway, the second is Kazura's graduation photograph from the military school, the third is a group photograph of Yukina, Isao, Towa (Isao's fiancee) and Natsume and the fourth is a photograph of Aoi and Shizune in wedding attire.
Mind Over Matter - Aoi's power, though his usage has some kind of time limitation.
Telepathy - Yukina's power. She reads minds and coordinates the team by projecting her thoughts to them and moving bits of information from head to head. She also seems to have some small measure of psychometric abilities.
As it turns out, the power runs in the family: Isao has something similar as well.
Shanghai: The first part of the series takes place here.
Sharp Dressed Man: Kazura, when he's not on disguise. Isao alsos look good in a suit. Aoi is an aversion, he almost always appears with a loose tie, open collar, and rolled sleeves.
Shout Out: In episode 00, The Shipboard Shoot's Conclusion, an actor trying to remember his lines begins reciting the nursery rhyme Solomon Grundy, which is also probably a shout out to the DC comics character of the same name.
Shown Their Work: The staff did some fine research on the historical events most especially the Mukden Incident and February 26 incident while ignoring what historical revisionism. But of course, there are some mistakes as well.
Taking the Bullet: Isao takes one in the final episode to protect Yukina from Sakurai. Sakurai even claims that he deliberately aimed at Yukina assuming Isao would take the bullet for his little sister.
Theme Naming: The Sakurai Kikan members are named after various plants. Aoi: hollyhock, Kazura: kudzu, Yukina: a kind of vegetable, Natsume: jujube, Sakurai: cherry blossom.
With Catlike Tread: Involving an actual cat, at that. Aoi and Kazura are preparing to infiltrate a gang hideout when Aoi steps on the tail of a nearby cat, who causes a ruckus by screeching and running down the alley (knocking over several things in its way) right into the hideout.