Review by: Ai Kano
Publisher: Sentai Filmworks
MSRP: $69.98 US
Running Time: 400 minutes
Rating: TV MA
Release Date: Available Now
Welcome to Shanghai in the beginning of its darkest days.
I have to admit that I have a fondness for anime that takes fascinating historical elements and offers an alternative take with elements you wouldn’t normally associate with them such as people with powers. The Complete Collection of Night Raid 1931 is a series like that as it takes a moment in Asian history before the Second World War when things are starting to look bleak and the heroes that rise from this era are not your garden-variety heroes. Trust me when I say that this is one of the smartest, different and most entertaining pre-World War II anime series to come along in a long time and on Blu-ray, no less.
Spanning 14-epsiodes (plus OVA episodes), Night Raid 1931 spins a complex yet exciting tale with an intriguing setup. The year is 1931 as Shanghai is about to experience the first taste of a conflict that is about to set the world ablaze. One region in particular is most worrisome as the great expanse to the northeast of China bordering Russia – called Manchuria – has a Japanese garrison stationed there and nobody is happy about it. It is becoming obvious that this uneasiness on all sides of this situation will soon become something too dangerous to contain.
Before things get too out of hand, however, a man named Shinichiro Sakurai has just obtained the services of a young woman named Yukina Sonagi and her servant named Natsume and puts both of them to a test, of sorts. You see, aboard the SS Nagasaki, young women keep disappearing during the voyage and Sakurai believes they are being lured in by a fake movie company and sold as sex slaves in Shanghai. While Yukina and Natsume seem harmless enough, they both have a secret. You see, Yukina is telepath of the X-Men’s Professor Xavier variety (she can communicate with anyone telepathically) while Natsume is a clairvoyant with the ability to see beyond objects.
Both Yukina and Natsume not only uncover the truth behind the movie film crew and the missing girls but they also meet two other members of what will be part of their team working under the mysterious Mr. Sakurai. We meet Aoi Miyoshi (a reckless young man gifted with telekinesis) and Kazura Iha who is a talented operative who much rather not use his line-of-sight teleportation powers unless it’s absolutely necessary. All four take on missions to not only protect Shanghai from various threats but also to uncover the mastermind behind a dangerous new movement.
Working together, the four operatives learn about each another’s strengths and weaknesses as little by little they start acting like a team. This is a good thing seeing as Shanghai is experiencing a number of events seemingly connected to or is a result of the Manchurian Incident that happened that year. Yukina and her team find themselves dealing with interesting cases such as a famous Russian violin player who might actually also be moonlighting as a spy or the kidnapping of the head of a major conglomerate.
In another mission, somebody is setting off explosives in Shanghai’s most popular department stores and they are tasked with stopping the bombs from going off as well as discover who is behind the terrorist acts. As it turns out, the person setting off the bombs is a soldier with powers similar to Kazura but the most shocking revelation is that he is connected to a man named Isao Takachiho … who just so happens to be the older brother of one of the four.
With Isao clearly being the man leading a group of soldiers in his own revolution, the others try to hunt the man down. As it turns out, however, Isao has assembled people with powers such as his teleported subordinate and a young girl who can predict things to come known as the Prophetess. Together, this group desperately wishes to change Japan’s future and avoid the aftermath that will result from unavoidable World War II. On top of that, the Prophetess happens to be the former girlfriend of one of the four.
Things get even more interesting when Isao shows Yukina and the others what will happen to Japan thanks to a new kind of bomb capable of destroying entire cities. Isao’s plan is finally revealed and his plan sounds noble enough that it has one of them change sides. All of this leads to a climactic finale that is actually quite fitting to a series that manages to surprise.
Night Raid 1931 adds plenty of super powered action to the intelligently well-written series and adds some good humor as well. The characters are fleshed out enough that we actually do come to care about them enough that the final episode makes quite an impact. Even the two OVA episodes are great as one of them involves Yukina and a little girl sold to an opium den and another one that takes place after the events of the last episode.
The Complete Collection of Night Right 1931 is a thrilling and downright intriguing series that adds a refreshing spin to a real historical event. Filled with great characters and cool super powered action, the series has a lot to offer and does not disappoint in the very least when it comes to bringing us a series that keep things interesting but still manages to be loads of fun to watch. That said, missing out on this one would be a real shame so consider this one on our Highly Recommended list.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
In 1930s Shanghai, a group of four young operatives with special powers takes on a series of missions for the mysterious Mr. Sakurai who will have them going up against a group that is plotting a troublesome and very dangerous plan that will threaten the world. Along the way, they encounter a plot that involves a new kind of bomb capable of destroying entire cities so they set out to stop a man who has seen the future and wishes to change it … even if it means killing millions.
VIDEO QUALITY: A+
The animation is what you might imagine from Aniplex so expect some impressive visual effects, beautiful backgrounds and striking action sequences. Better yet, the series looks even more stunning on Blu-ray so this is the perfect way to watch this series.
AUDIO QUALITY: A+
The original Japanese voice actors pull off some great performances but, then again, so does the English dub voice cast with great work from Greg Ayres as Aoi, Brittney Karbowski as Yukina and John Gremillion as Kazura just to name a few of the stand out talents. The music in the series is beyond beautiful and the opening and closing theme songs are just right.
Sentai Filmworks brings out the juicy extras for the Complete Collection set and that just doesn’t include some trailers, credits and the clean closing animations either. We’re talking the two OVA episodes that add to the main story and the Special Episode titled Prophecy that recaps the series with its original Japanese voice cast as well as adds some insight on the story.
An ambitious, thought-provoking and riveting series with a lot to offer, Night Raid 1931 is a pitch-perfect series with enough action, intrigue and alternate historic goodness to please fans of the genre. It weaves a complex tale, sure, but it’s one that is smartly written and exciting enough to really get into so you will definitely want to check this one out if you’re looking for something interesting and downright exciting.
Review copy provided by Sentai Filmworks