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May 17th, 2010

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12:55 am - Anime skating on thin controversial ice. Good? Bad?
Ok, so I was browsing through some anime looking for something new to watch when I came across this one;

Title is Senko no Night Raid  and the official summary is: 
"The story is set in Shanghai in 1931, when the Imperial Japanese Army has been dispatched to mainland China due to the relatively recent First Sino-Japanese War, Russo-Japanese War, and World War I. In this cosmopolitan city of intrigue, there is a special military spy organization called "Sakurai Kikan" that has since been buried in history."

My first reaction was a bit of a ".....what the hell?  Are you serious?".  Then I thought, well it's just an anime right?  So maybe they won't touch the super controversial stuff and just have a plot based in that time.  Then I go on wiki and find out that episode 7 will not be aired on tv and only streamed on the internet, in its place a "summary" episode (7.5) will be aired on tv.  Why?  Well it doesn't specifically say but my guess is because of the contents of episode 7:

"This episode will be streamed exclusively online. It will depict the point of view of the Japanese in Manchuria during the events leading up to the Mukden Incident." (Summary from wiki.)

The Mukden Incident which led to the invasion of Manchuria by the Japanese was, according to wikipedia:

"On September 18, 1931, near Mukden (now Shenyang) in southern Manchuria, a section of railroad owned by Japan's South Manchuria Railway was dynamited.  The Imperial Japanese Army, accusing Chinese dissidents of the act, responded with the invasion of Manchuria, leading to the establishment of Manchukuo the following year."  (Who exactly dynamited the railway is still a topic of controversy to this day.)

So...I get artistic licence and often good art is controversial and all that good stuff, and the anime has a disclaimer stuck in there that it's a work of fiction...but...just....seriously, why would you jab a knife into peoples' wounds that have just begun to heal?  Yeah, some say the Chinese are too nagging and they should learn to move on, heal that wound faster, but the fact remains that some haven't, either by choice or because they can't for whatever reason.  What they SHOULD do according to some people has no relevance on what they ARE doing,  rightly or wrongly.  When I debate about the invasions of China by various countries in the past century my temper flares when usually in debates I can remain calm.  Why? I honestly don't know.  Is it because of my being born a Chinese? Is it because of my parents' teachings?  As a matter of fact it confuses me to no end since I left the country at a very young age and can barely remember the time I spent there, so logically I have no clue why I feel so attached to that piece of land and the people there.  The fact, however, remains that for whatever reason it is I react more passionately where China's concerned.  For those people that some accuse of being unable to let go of the past, possibly myself included, I would presume it's the same thing.  They/We can't always put into words why they/we can't move on, but something is blocking that path.  Maybe it'll take longer time, maybe they/we are seeking something to close that chapter in China's history and they/we have yet to find it.  Some people point to Germany and say that the Western countries don't begrudge Germany like how China tends to begrudge Japan, so why can't  the Chinese give it a rest already?  Well, maybe in the West the people have found their closure, be it in the form of pointing all the blame on the Nazi party and thus, finding closure when it fell or the fact that Germany never denied the Holocaust and paid for it (however, when the occasional loony denies the Holocaust one will notice the violent backlash against him/her).  I don't know, but I know that just because the Western countries have made peace with Germany doesn't mean that that should be the standard response expected of other states who went through tragic times in history.  The people of different countries are different.  They react to things differently be it due to circumstances, culture, history and many other variables.

Anyway, back to the anime.  A quick google on "Senko no Night Raid discussion" brought back forum after forum of heated debates and some peoples' tempers are flaring like crazy (like here, here, here, and here).  More importantly, I think, not only are tempers flaring, but wounds are getting opened.  Granted Sino-Japanese relations are getting better these days and for everyone's sake I hope it continues to progress forward, but by no means are anti-Japanese sentiments in China completely quelled or even close to it.  There are still survivors from that generation that experienced those tragic times first hand, and the generation after that grew up hearing those stories from their parents.  This anime, and particularly that episode 7, aren't exactly helping to mend the situation I don't think.  I wonder what's next?  An anime on the Nanjing Massacre?  (Actually, morbid curiosity makes me wish they would make one on that because I'd want to see how they depict that one.  The political streak in me has some morbid tendencies I guess.)

*Sigh* On one hand it is just an anime, meant for entertainment, but on the other...it's hard not to react.  I think it'd be like if Osama Bin Laden made a movie on 9/11 to depict his side of the story and Afghanistan broadcasted it internationally.  I think even if a disclaimer was stuck on there that the movie is a work of fiction...I don't think it'd be much comfort to Americans.

[EDIT]: On a happier topic, I found a great website for downloading anime directly instead of off torrents;


Navigate the site using the top bar, you can browse through their database for anime, dramas and mangas or use the search to find a specific series.  They have a lot of older series as well as the newest series this season and it's all free direct download, no need to sign up or anything.  The speed is also really good, at least from my internet connection.

(12 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:May 16th, 2010 04:54 pm (UTC)
I think a lot of the complaints are coming from people who haven't watched the show. I mean, there are legitimate things to complain about, like the butchery of Chinese accents and the pacing issues, but as far as the actual story... I was expecting a lot of typical revisionism and I've been surprised. The "villain" is definitely the Japanese Army... which seems to be pissing off a lot of conservatives in Japan (at least on 2ch), as they would prefer to sweep things like the Mukden Incident under the rug and never speak of it being a Japanese plot. It's kind of scary what today's Japanese high schoolers don't know about WWII and the invasion of China. Nanjing Massacre? They don't even know what that is. In a sense, maybe it's good that an anime can touch that time period. In Germany, people have not been allowed to forget what the Nazis did. In Japan, the truth is being allowed to disappear from society's consciousness. Not that one anime can fix that, but... maybe the willingness to make the anime at all shows that some attitudes are changing.

I'm going to reserve judgment on Night Raid until I see how it handles episode 7, but so far I think the message from the main character has been to question nationalism and revisionism. I don't think the anime will be able to weasel out of the issue with the usual "oh, we didn't know what was going on back then, we were just following orders, sorry about murdering loads of people" excuse.

But anyway, Night Raid doesn't have the feel of Japanese propaganda, and I've seen/heard some Japanese propaganda that makes me sick. It's not groundbreaking anti-propaganda work, either... the scenes where characters worry that the Japanese army is being taken over by manipulative extremists are buried in silly episodes about chasing cats through Shanghai and things like that. It's been disappointingly cautious about mentioning Sino-Japanese relations at all.
[User Picture]
Date:May 16th, 2010 10:58 pm (UTC)
I agree with sanada. I would reserve judgment on the content of the anime and how it presents Sino-Japanese relations until at least watching it. In college, I took a class on post-WWII Japan, and actually, a lot of the BEST scholarship regarding the many numbers of terrible incidents perpetuated by the Imperial Japanese Army (which should be kept separate from "Japan", as the Japanese common people probably had nothing to do with it, or no knowledge of it at all) actually comes from Japanese scholars. However, there are also super-conservative scholars who do the whole revisionist history thing, and they were able to gain more influence in post-WWII Japan.

And of course, this is all complicated by the US's involvement/occupation in Japan post-WWII. In essence, because of the US's presence, the US was the one who mainly swept a lot of Japanese actions beneath the rug, especially because the Communists were taking power in China (1945-1949), and the US was not going to play nice for the Communists, and might have been in essence trying to turn Japan into an ally already against any coming conflicts with China. So yes, no high-profile Nuremberg-type trial for Japan and for ghosts to be laid to rest.

Moral of the story: it's complicated. And you can blame the US.
[User Picture]
Date:May 16th, 2010 11:01 pm (UTC)
Also, for nationalist/political purposes, people from China also do not know of or believe that there might POSSIBLY be people in Japan who know of Japanese actions and do not approve of them, and have written extensively on the subject.

So it's really both sides who are to blame, as it's not like Chinese people have read the Japanese scholars who have given a fair treatment of the issue. So the issue becomes China (nevermind that China is made up of 1 billion distinct people) hates Japan (nevermind that Japan is also made up of many distinct people), and nobody cares that these are just generalizations.
[User Picture]
Date:May 17th, 2010 02:32 pm (UTC)
Really? I don't think the Chinese are as blind as you might think, nor are the Japanese. I think if you ask them more often than not you'll find that the general public understands that the radicals of either side are a minority. I've talked to some of my students here and I've talked to Chinese friends and family and so far everyone I've talked to have admitted to that. It doesn't negate that they get irritated when they hear of the stunts or propagandas pushed by the extremists of the opposite side, but they are aware that those extremists are not the majorities in either country. Often, however, knee-jerk reactions make us think that they're unaware because they don't usually respond unless they get poked.
[User Picture]
Date:May 17th, 2010 08:32 pm (UTC)
I've found that more often than not, you have to kind of forcibly remind them that the acts were done by the Japanese Imperial Army, and not by the Japanese people, per se. Like, you kinda have to shake them out of their "RAWR I HATE JAPANESE BECAUSE THEY'RE EVIL!" mode.
[User Picture]
Date:May 18th, 2010 01:09 am (UTC)
It depends on who you talk to. Again, I think those who have that mindset are the radical minority in China. Out of all my Chinese friends and family members and other Chinese people I spoke to when I went back there a few years back, only 1 I've come across has that mind set at all. The others don't like what happened in WWII, nor do they particularly care for the re-writing of history in the Japanese textbooks, but they don't have the "RAWR I HATE JAPANESE BECAUSE THEY'RE EVIL!" reaction at all.
Date:May 17th, 2010 03:20 am (UTC)
I welcome anything that would actually open the Japanese people's eyes to the awful things they did to the Chinese people. Japan has too long been a nation in denial.
[User Picture]
Date:May 18th, 2010 12:09 pm (UTC)
Hmmm, a bit wanky. D: D: D: D:

Then again, I think it raises awareness, among the younger generation. Hopefully anyways. As I was surprised when most of my Japanese classmates were unaware of the infamous things Japan did to China during the war. :/
[User Picture]
Date:May 28th, 2010 04:24 am (UTC)
I've watched the raw version of episode thanks to tsubasalover and that Phantom subs will subbing the recap and the streamed version. But it will take a while since episode 7 contains a lot of historical facts and you really need deep knowledge on the events of the 1930's. Now, I don't want to spoil you but you check out Divine's review on Random Curiosity if you want.

I doubt they'll show the Nanjing Massacre because it happened 6 years later on unless they do a time skip. There are a lot of other events that occured in 1931 and in 1932 such as <url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/lytton_report>the Lytton Report,(which was shown in episode 8).

Anyway, the controversy behind the Mukden Incident is not because the blaming of the Chinese. The real issue is whether the Japanese army officials did it on their own or upon orders of the Japanese government.

But so far, it's not really Japanese propaganda since they mixed it with the main characters having supernatural powers together with a sub plot on Yukina's brother and Aoi's lover.

BTW, after every end of the episode there's always a disclaimer that the story is just fiction.
[User Picture]
Date:May 28th, 2010 02:07 pm (UTC)
I wasn't implying that they would show the Nanjing Massacre in this anime, it was really a rhetorical question.

Also, the real controversy of the incident is not simply whether the Japanese military or government was behind it but whether it was done by the Chinese who were opposed to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria or by the Japanese (military or government supported) as an excused to enter Manchuria. That's the root controversy since depending on which side you take it can alter whether one believes the invasion was justified or not.

I realize there's a disclaimed at the end of the episode, I had mentioned it in my original post. Clearly there didn't exist humans with supernatural powers in WWII or at any other point in recent history, but my problem is when you make a work of fiction based on real history some of it WILL in fact be true and where that line is drawn is going to get blurred, especially when it's based on a historical event that is still heatedly debated.
[User Picture]
Date:May 28th, 2010 11:57 pm (UTC)
"Also, the real controversy of the incident is not simply whether the Japanese military or government was behind it but whether it was done by the Chinese who were opposed to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria or by the Japanese (military or government supported) as an excused to enter Manchuria. That's the root controversy since depending on which side you take it can alter whether one believes the invasion was justified or not."

That's the root controversy but post-war research says otherwise. But it's still debtable among historians whether the Kwantung Army did on their own or upon orders. And so far, I haven't heard any news if the anime is banned in China yet. Anyway, let's just see what the Sakurai Kikan members are going to do on how they will fit on the events that occured.

"but my problem is when you make a work of fiction based on real history some of it WILL in fact be true and where that line is drawn is going to get blurred, especially when it's based on a historical event that is still heatedly debated."

Well, the staff are making a risk here. BTW, I don't know if you have seen or read The Adventures of Tintin: The Blue Lotus where Tintin saw the Kwantung Army blowing up the railway.

Let's just enjoy the show and main character's speaking butchered Engrish and Chinese. It seems that the main focus now is Yukina's brother, trying to achieve his own ideals on Pan-Asianism, and Aoi's lover, who the Japanese officers believe to be the prophet.
[User Picture]
Date:May 29th, 2010 01:57 pm (UTC)
Well clearly whether one wishes to take the anime as simply a piece of entertainment then that's fine, everyone has the freedom to choose to do so. The intent of my post was that by choosing to make an anime based on such a controversial and still somewhat sensitive time in history to many, it's going to cause debates, as can be seen already on the forums which I linked. Anything related to history in any way shape or form will inevitably stir attention, much less a part of history as contemporary as when this particular anime is set in. If you find the anime to be just another anime then hey, no problem. I think the majority of people who watches it will simply take it as is, the reason it caught my special attention was due to my background as being a Chinese (though raised in North America) and the fact that Chinese politics interests me heavily.

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