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 looking for Yukina's brother who disappeared after seemingly defecting from the Imperial Army; stern Military Brat Iha Kazura, and laid back hero Miyoshi Aoi.
Artifact Title: The English title Night Raid 1931 becomes this after episode 7 as the second half of the show takes place in 1932. The final scene of the last episode is in 1934, and the Panther in the Snow epilogue OVA is in 1936.
Artistic License - Nuclear Physics: It took the world's largest industrial economy three years, billions of dollars and the efforts of over 100,000 people to create the first atomic bomb. Apparently they could have shortcut the process by hiring the one guy capable of doing it on his own.
Attempted Rape: In the prologue episode, Yukina almost got raped by a drunk movie producer who is also one of the ringleaders of a human trafficking group
Backstory: all main characters have one, revealed through flashbacks.
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 she's lost all memories of their past together. 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 of junior officers that eventually gets crushed. We never learn if he survived or not. Considering how this rebellion ended in real life, probably 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.
City of Spies: Shanghai, which is Truth in Television. Our protagonists are Japanese spies, and throughout the course of the story, come across Russian, British, & American spies, as well as Chinese spies from the Nationalist Party and Communist Party.
Code Name: The names of the main characters are all pseudonyms. Their real names are mentioned every now and then: Ono Souichirou (Aoi), Kishida Takuma (Kazura), Takachiho Setsuko (Yukina), & Tanaka Kichizou (Natsume). Yukina's closing narration reveals that she was never sure if she even knew Kazura's real name, since it never appeared on the list of February 26 conspirators.
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.
Failed Dramatic Exit: Shizune appears in front of a group of soldiers to give them a gravely serious warning about the future during a blackout. When the lights went back on, they all assume that she magically disappeared; only to watch her have trouble opening the door.
Yukina is almost always depicted wearing sexy qipaos in official art. She never wears one in the series itself.
Faux Fluency: Every foreign language that appears, especially on part of the main characters. (Natsume's Chinese is pretty good, though.) Averted in the case of most native non-Japanese speakers (except for Fuu Lan), most of whom got 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.
The Fellowship Has Ended: After Natsume's death and Sakurai Kikan dissolved, the remaining members (sans Aoi who is recovering from his injuries at the end of the last episode) broke up. When Yukina met Kazura again in 1936 and tries to reconnect with him, Kazura brushes it off and reminds her that they need to move on. They met again near the end with Aoi, who saved Kazura's life from the Kempentai. But Kazura has to break up from them again to join the rebellion.
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.
Hidden Depths: The picture drama shows that Kazura has a sweet tooth.
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. 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 cloche is virtually her trademark. (It also serves as a convenient shorthand for the early thirties setting.) 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.
Recap Episode: In place of episode 7 which depicts the Mukden Incident and as such wasn't allowed to air on TV. Though the end of the recap episode show parts of the episode 7 where they revealed the perpetrators of the said incident. (Episode 7 was streamed online instead.)
Shanghai: The first part of the series takes place here.
Sharp-Dressed Man: Kazura, when he's not in disguise. Isao also look good in a suit. Aoi is an aversion, he almost always appears with a loose tie, open collar, and rolled sleeves.
Shown Their Work: The staff did some fine research on the historical events of the period, especially the Mukden Incident and the February 26 incident while ignoring the revisionist viewpoints favored by Japanese right-wing extremists. However, there are still some minor mistakes, such as Kazura claiming to have read The Little Prince (published in 1943) when he was a young boy.
The Smurfette Principle; Yukina is the sole female in Sakurai Kikan while Shizune is the sole female member of Isao's faction.
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.