It’s the past. (The past? How did that happen? Anime is about the future!) The year is 1931 and we find ourselves in Shanghai. There is a great build-up of forces from Japan, which threatens to engulf the area in war, as the need for conquest and land acquisition looms. Into this volatile mix is flung a group of people, collectively known as the Sakurai Agency, but they really are a spy ring. But they are more than they seem. They are, from left to right:
Aoi Miyoshi, Kazura Iha, Yukina Sonogi and Natsumi Kayiga. Not pictured is their boss, Shin’ichirou Sakurai. But these people are no ordinary spies; they have special abilities that aid them in their investigations. Their powers are, respectively, telekinesis, teleportation, telepathy and tele-clairvoyance. (OK, I couldn’t help myself). He is also an excellent sniper.
Together, they battle the Kwangtung army and its mysterious leader, Isao Takachiho, who is bent on the idea of Pan-Asianism, and will use any and all means to achieve it.
Now, if you put aside the special abilities folks seem to have, this is a series with loads of intrigue, from the era of pulp novels and detective work. It is a very good-looking series, as you really get a feel for Shanghai of the 30s. The fact that we know the eventual outcome for all of this does not detract from the agency’s attempt to prevent it. Oh, and don’t let that little piece of female flirtiness distract you; this is the 30s and women were not allowed to have breasts (that came after WWII). This is a show that has, really, zero fan service. And this is good, for it would pull your attention away from both the plotting and the rivalry between the characters.
Now, if you want to watch this on Hulu (which I did), make certain that you see “The Shipboard Shoot’s Conclusion” first. Hulu has it lined up that you see Episode 1 first, when you should see episode 00 first. The reason is the episode is a kind of prologue, so you see these folks in action before they knew of one another. Otherwise, you get a backtrack problem and worry that it might be the Haruhi Syndrome (what IS the order of this show?)
Although things got a little bit hard to take near the latter part of the show in how Japan hopes to obtain this super might (I can’t really explain it, as it is a critical plot point), one gets a good feel for the politics of the time, even if it is not wholly historically accurate, but we are taking a bit of liberties with things. Also, it really is a 16-episode run, as you have three shows that were not included in the original run, but you get when you go after the DVD (or catch it all on Hulu – this is not a plug for them, just a statement of fact). Aside from the aforementioned prologue, you also have an epilogue and an odd one in the middle.
I would recommend this show, more as a real change of pace from either squealing school girls or giant fighting robots, even though there is a good story line behind it. It does get a little deus ex machina at the end, but I was willing to let that slide for some robust story telling. If you like spies or pulp or anything from the 30s, you will have a good time.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 8 (Good character design)
Plot 8 (Does go a bit zig-zag)
Pacing 8 (Action sequences are handled well)
Effectiveness 9 (Despite the historical presumptiveness)
Conclusion 8 (It ends, but it gets to a coupler point, should they wish to go on)
Fan Service 0 (A similar show would be “Honey and Clover”)
Overall 7 (The experiment continues)
And remember, it’s first run until you see it. Here, have a free baozi.