Also: a brief overview of the historical situation in China in 1931.
So you think you know your history. Or you think you don’t. Actually, a lot of bloggers/viewers/whomever have admitted as much recently when considering Senkou no Night Raid and its setting – Shanghai in 1931. However, most of us know some very basic facts – Japan was in China… and they realllly wanted to be more in China. And, eventually, this kind of led (among other things) to the Pacific Theater of World War II.
I’ll be the first to admit that when I read the premise of Senkou no Night Raid, I felt a bit leery. And that continued as I was watching the first episode as well, decent Mandarin notwithstanding (as it does stand to reason that Japanese agents would probably not have the best Mandarin skills in the universe). Japan merrily committed an astounding amount of atrocities in its campaign in China, and so the thought of setting a series in China right on the eve of all of this is, well, unsettling, particularly when you consider the revision of Japanese history textbooks over the last decade and the fact that this is a Japanese studio handling the effort. On paper, it looks pretty sketchy.
However, in watching the first episode, a bit of dialogue snagged my eye:
Now, if you’re like jpmeyer, your immediate thought is that we’re looking at some prime sugarcoating here. Actually, in jpmeyer’s defense, most people probably thought the same thing. But this ignores a vital fact – ultimately, World War II, in both Europe and Asia, had a lot to do with racism.
Let me explain a bit. Hitler was extremely racist. Duh. Part of that racism was thinking that the Germans, as the master race, deserved the best, and needed “living space”. So Hitler wanted to expand east into countries such as Poland the Russia, because they had land and the people there (Slavs) were racially inferior. Destroying Slavs for the benefit of Germans was a moral end in such a paradigm. Japan operated under a similar mindset, although in this case, obviously, it was the Japanese as master race. So moving into East Asia, killing all the inferior people there, and then reordering it all with the Japanese now as the ruling classes was, in this view, the morally correct thing to do.
So when the guy above claims an ideal of stability and prosperity for East Asia, he’s not just blowing hot air or saying pretty words. He actually believes it. And so did most of the ruling elite in Japan at the time. The key here is that he’s talking about East Asia, not East Asians. It is a very important distinction.
Now, of course, this may not be at all intentional – the irony here is that A-1 might be inadvertently mixing up Koolaid to try to rewrite the past but actually be falling in fairly close line with it. This is entirely possible. However, at the moment, the fact remains that, so far, Senkou no Night Raid isn’t exactly committing true revisionism. The Japanese were convinced that what they were doing was the right thing to do; to them, it was the same as spraying down a house to get rid of termites so people can live in the house again. They were just saving Asia from itself.
Knowing this, I’m curious to see where we go from here, although I am anticipating a full-hearted embrace of gloss over the fact that Japan raped and pillaged and murdered millions of Chinese people (not to mention Fillipinos, Koreans, etc.) during the 1930’s and 40’s. On the other hand, it could go the disillusioned route – our four characters work for what they think is a noble end and then realize how they’ve actually been tools in a truly horrific effort, but are wholly powerless to do anything about it.
Yeah, I’m not really expecting the second option.
Anyway, now I’m just gonna move into a very basic history lesson for those of you unfamiliar with the Chinese civil war and Japan’s involvement in it. For a Western audience, it is admittedly pretty obscure – I myself can only do this because I’m in a history course which just went over this two weeks ago.
The last Chinese dynasty collapsed in 1911; in its wake, warlords gained control over various parts of Chine – there was no central government. The Chinese Civil War started in 1927. It was fought between the Kuomintang (KMT) and the Communist Party of China, both of whom wanted control over the entirety of the nation. The KMT were the nationalists, a.k.a. the folks who ended up in Taiwan (essentially). The warlords farting around China weren’t exactly aligned with anyone; they just went with whoever would pay them the most or whoever looked like the most likely to win. Japan looked over at China and thought, “Awesome.” since this all seemed to present quite an opportunity.
Then, the Mukden Incident occurred (although the Japanese call it the Manchurian Incident and the Chinese call it the September 18th Incident). Japan had had a lot of elements hanging around China for years, and this incident involved the bombing of a portion of a Japanese-owned railroad. So Japan got mad, blamed the Chinese, and hopped across the sea into Manchuria, the northern part of China, which they then dubbed ‘Manchukuo’ and took over.
The Mukden Incident hasn’t occurred yet in Senkou no Night Raid – its possible that this is what is being built toward in the show.
Long-term, but not exactly relevant to the show – Japan didn’t really begin its full-out war in China until 1937. At this time, the KMT and the commies grudgingly joined forces to try to drive the Japanese out. After World War II, they started their own fighting up again. Essentially, the communists won in 1950, although a treaty was never signed. Taiwan decided in 1991 that the war was over, although China wouldn’t quite agree on that one.