The Iga and Kouga clans are locked in a fight to the death. Ieyssu Tokugawa has ruled that the next Shogun will be determined in a battle for 10 by 10 between the two clans. Both leaders die before they can pass on news of the declaration. The Iga ninjas obtain the scroll which lists the combatants names. Caught up in this are Gennosuke and Oboro who are both deeply in love with each other, but sadly belong to different clans.
The world of Basilisk is pretty grim, as you'd expect since every characters life is pretty much on the line. The existence of the scroll provides the catalyst, since this series is all about the fighting. Most fights end up with a death, though to it's credit it's not always easy to predict the winner. The action is extremely bloody and there's a large amount of nudity. For example the female ninja Okoi can absorb blood through her skin, taking advantage of her opponent grabbing hold of her she's able to suck him dry. Since she can't retain the blood she then has to regurgitate large quantities of it. Most of the characters are gifted with unique skills which seemed inherited rather than learnt.
The character designs are a strong point to the manga, each character is recognisable even if at this point it's still hard to remember the names. Perhaps realising this when a character makes a first appearance in the volume their name and clan is written next to them. With fifteen ninjas alive at this point it's extremely helpful.. What lets the title down is the toning, it seems almost everything is toned making the entire title look grey. It also seems to have been done digitally given the way that it is shaded and how real photographs are used in blur. It's a shame since the line art is generally well executed, and would have been far easier to follow had it not been shaded so much.
Basilisk is extremely difficult to get into, it took several attempts before I finally read it. The plot is spread thinly across a volume largely comprised of bloody Ninja battles, which are well drawn . It's very hard to get to know the characters well when any one of them could be gone the next moment. Really what Basilisk amounts to is a gory feudal game of capture the flag.