Monday, February 20, 2012

WO Reviews: Sengoku Basara Season 1

Sengoku Basara had been collecting dust on my shelf for over a year, and had been one of my least favorite purchases. Why did I buy a show based off of a fighting series that I have never played, or never had any intention of playing? With the release of Season 2, I decided to set aside the biases that I had developed, and actually give the show a watch. To say the least, I was quite surprised.

 Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings is a period anime based in the Sengoku period of Japanese history; a chaotic time in Japanese history during which power struggles dominated the country. The basic premise of the show reflects the chaotic nature of the time, as warlords battle over control of Japan, and against the “Devil King” Oda Nobunaga. As Nobunaga attempts to unify Japan underneath his rule, other warriors take up arms against him. Two of the warriors develop an intense rivalry that must deal with while trying to take the Devil King's head. 


One of the things that I really enjoyed about Basara was the stylization of it all. Fight scenes are as flashy as possible; bouts between Yukimura and Date Masamune typically take to the skies in red and blue streaks of energy. Takeda Shingen wisks enemies away with a swing of his giant fan-shaped axe, and Date Masamune’s six swords (Take that, Zoro) often glow with electricity.

If there’s one thing that I think the stylization proves, it’s that Basara doesn’t take itself too seriously, in a good way. It’s over the top, but it’s still identifiably a period anime. Elaborate costumes, crazy weapons, electrically charged blades, and motorcycle-inspired horses all feel natural. It’s exciting to see the elaborately clad warriors step onto the battlefield and get straight into fierce fights.


In terms of presentation, Basara is definitely beautiful. I know it sounds weird, but during some scenes on the battlefield, my eyes get caught on the landscape. I keep getting distracted by how bright, detailed, and crisp the world is, and by how green and blue the grass and sky are. The soundtrack of the series is another success, as the scores are as good as they are varied. There’s an interesting chemistry between the scores that allows menacing opera, period-inspired themes, grand orchestral scores, and modern beats to play back-to-back. Fans with blu-ray and surround sound capabilities are definitely the winners in this situation.

There is probably only one thing that I have a problem with in Basara, and it would be related to the characters. The characters themselves are very distinct due to their costumes, so even for a fan that is as bad with names as I am, it’s pretty easy to pick out each character. But the show will often go into strategic monologues, in which character names are rattled off one by one, and I typically get lost in the barrage of names. It’s my only problem with the series, because those strategic monologues are the ones that I’m just waiting to get through, despite the fact that I’m a sucker for a good strategy.

Last but not least (because extras are a big deal to me), Sengoku Basara has a 7 episode “extra” series that is basically Chibi-Sengoku Basara. From what I’ve seen, it’s two chibi versions of the characters that are left out until episode 13. The series of short episodes mostly references the full show from what I’ve seen. It’s not really my cup of tea, but an extra is an extra, and I’m sure some fan loves it to death.

I'm glad to say Sengoku Basara: Season 1 is no longer one of my least favorite purchases, and is a good addition to any action fan’s collection. If big fights are your thing, then give your big-name shonen a break and watch some Samurai wipe the battlefield with each other. Basara’s high budget presentation, cool fights, and interesting characters are definitely worth the sticker price.

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