Members of the Sakurai Kikan agency board a ship bound for Shanghai. Their first assignment is to investigate a movie company led by Senzo Kakinuma: a man believed to have ties to the criminal organization known as the Green Gang. Women who were scouted to be new actresses for the company have been mysteriously disappearing, and it’s up to Sakurai Kikan’s agents to figure out why.
The makers of Night Raid 1931 decided to create an interesting way of introducing us to the characters in the series, keeping us in the dark just as they did the characters themselves. Story - 7/10 It's surprising that this was a DVD special, as it works well as your typical introductory episode, or pilot, that's generally just added to the series. Two of the Japanese military's newest spies are sent out aboard a steamer ship for their first mission, stopping the human smuggling ring of a Chinese crime organization. In doing so they must pose as a young actress and her security, so they can connive their way into the production of a film being shot on the boat, a film that is merely a front for tricking young actresses. Through their hard work, and with the help of two other spies that are working independently of them, they eventually catch the smugglers and bring them to justice. On top of a pretty good, albeit somewhat unoriginal story, I liked the attention to detail the writers took when dealing with the movie itself. I'm sure it's just me, as I come from a film production background, but the little inside terms and actions just made me feel the writers actually cared to research some of what they were writing, which could prove to help other story lines throughout the series. Animation - 7/10 It's hard to ever fault A-1 pictures for their animation work. Be it faeries, demonic monsters or series like Night Raid, where things are meant to like realistic, they always do a cracking job. I thought they did great mixing in all the unorthodox elements, such as the steam ship, the film set and just the nineteen thirties in general. They may not pull a top prize with a show like Night Raid, but sometimes consistency is all you're really looking for when you want great animation to go along with a great story. Sound - 5/10 I wasn't too crazy about the opening or closing themes. They weren't very catchy and didn't connect to the show in any way (such as a style popular in the thirties.) Similarly the music used throughout the episode was your run of the mill background anime tunes. The voices were also nothing special. The V.O. artist used were very good, but they were what you'd expect for the characters you see, which I can actually say I enjoy in a serious series such as this. Like with the animation it looks as if the creators, err dubbers, went with flat out good actors, not trying to rock the boat with something wacky. Characters - 6/10 Unfortunatly we only learn about a few of the characters, as others are kept a mystery until the end. They aren't the deepest or most thought out characters, your usual paired up cute girl and her hulking male protector, but they are likable. One problem that does arise is how we're thrown off right at the very end, learning that these aren't just spies for a secret division of the Japanese military, but also people with special powers that help them with their work, something that can be very confusing, as this seemingly normal show suddenly has superheros running around for the last thirty seconds. Overall - 7/10 A fun little introduction, but still more or less a single episode within the entire series itself.
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