My first review of anime on MAL so here it goes.
Senkou no Night Raid is about the Sakurai Agency, a fictional organizations that leads covert missions with superhuman agents to carry out the interests of Imperial Japan.
Now why did I give this anime such a high rating? My reason is because I love Asian history and know a lot about it especially the late 1800 to the early 1900 era. With this in mind, I had a pretty good idea of what was going on in the story. It sounds smug and biased, but this anime does require a bit of background knowledge to fully appreciate it. Let's got down to the actual rating.
(7)Art: I also liked the fact it was historical fiction, ACCURATE historical fiction in which the creators of the anime and story did their best to portray the setting and people during the turmoil of East Asia of the 1930's. The settings portrayed in the anime of China really reflect the changing times of the 1930's, a clash between traditional and Western can clearly be seen and the producers of the anime have done a very good job producing the backdrop and the ensemble.
(9) Character: I really liked how the characters expressed the changing attitudes of the times in parallel to the setting in which their action takes place in. Kazura showing his conflicted between upholding his loyalty to Japan as an agent or taking a revolutionary stand in his romantic, utopian belief in "Asia for Asians" (which was a real philosophy back that Japan used to justify their colonization of East Asia), Aoi showing the new, relaxed European attitudes toward living in contrast to the traditional, rigid Asian customs that defined Asia at the time, and Natsume with his understanding and empathy towards the plight and exploitation of the peasant class during the rapid expansion of Imperial Japan (which was horrible: anyone poor or traditional was considered "filthy" in Japan and were expelled to countries, like Korea and China [who were considered even dirtier and did not deserve any human rights], to farm for Japan from land seized from the natives). Yukina is the only character, I believe, that sticks to the usual anime mold rather than the historical one set here, (which is a bit of a disappointment, but not a turnoff). Again I really liked the character representations, but they were indeed stiff and seemed a bit like robots at different times. Overall I give character good rating because of excessive symbolism that only a nerdy historian (me :P!) could really pick up on and enjoy.
(8) Sound: I enjoyed the sound track, especially the emotional pieces on violin and piano. I'm not an anime music aficionado (not yet at least), so I cannot give a critical review like I did with the other two sections, but I can say I did like it and it did not detract from my enjoyment of the series.
(6) Story: The story itself was not very well constructed. I don't think there was necessarily a structured plot that drove the entire series, but rather the development of character and the stress on the changing attitudes of the new world. Again, knowing the history will allow you to enjoy this anime a lot more than if you were to watch it without prior knowledge.
(9) Enjoyment: The Manchu Incident, the Chinese Civil War, the Opium Wars, all of these events during the 1930's era that were included in the anime really give it a realistic aspect that I can really sink my teeth into. It's obvious that the producers are skirting around the pond, they are avoiding heavy issues, such as the Nanking Massacre, that would spur on controversy and arguments between Japan and its neighbors and would have dirtied the name of this anime. I applaud the producers to take such daring steps (even if those steps are baby steps) to create anime that takes place in one of the most hotly debated eras in East Asia of all time. Using the "fiction" naming ploy, I believe the producers have cleverly avoided confrontation with political entities while at the same time, piquing viewers interest in Asian history.
(7) Overall: Again, to fully appreciate this anime, you should know your history. The anime is enjoyable on its own, but having the background knowledge of what's going on can enhance the entire experience of the anime being watched. I would recommend it to people who have a keen interest of the history of this era.