English Dolby Digital 5.1
Japanese 2.0 Stereo
In the bloody Warring States period of feudal Japan, many generals fought in an endless struggle for power, but one man proved to be too big a threat - The dark lord Oda Nobunaga. Sanada Yukimura and Date Masamune, two young warriors from different regions who become heated rivals, begin to form an unlikely alliance with the rest of the generals to take down the Devil King.
I won't pretend to know what the hell the justification behind some of the characters of Sengoku Basara is. I know near next to nothing about the Warring States Period of Japanese history in which it's set. All I can say is the minute I noticed that one of the leads talked enthusiastically with his boss while being punched into walls and the other lead has no right eye but has six swords which he can hold all at once and rides while cross armed, I was hooked. Oh, and his horse has handlebars for reins and exhaust pipes built in the saddle.
Ho-ho, this will be good.
Sengoku Basara is one of the most funny and razor sharp action adventures I've watched in a while. It's not slapsticky funny but the sort of the stuff you wet yourself laughing at and then it's back to our regular programming. This is what I want out of a action anime show: ordinary people with extraordinary gifts kicking Übermensch arse, all while armies march on either side beat the snot out of one another. While I'm ignorant of the Warring States minutiae, I know that it revolved for some of the time around Oda Nobunaga, a warlord who lived in the 16th century at a time of political and military unrest and civil disorder. During that time, there were wars, incidents and insurrections. In the end, Nobunaga won but fell on the last hurdle, so to speak. His generals took over and won the war for him and ruled over a unified Japan (it's up to you to decide if they were successful). Of course, nobody knows what happened on a day to day basis during that time. So writers in Japan since the 50's, at least, have made up all kinds of crazy things about Nobunaga and his generals. Most of these tales in anime/manga/games/books make him out to be a kind of Übermensch with ungodly powers and a deal with Faustian angles, in some versions, thrown in for good measure. In Sengoku Basara, Nobunaga is a Northern warlord, a Demon of the Six Winds, with a cadre of followers who are crushing everything and everybody in sight and now he's set his sights on Takeda Shingen the Daimyo (Warlord) of Kai Province (in modern day Honshū) and Uesugi Kenshin of the Uesugi clan, the two most powerful clans in Honshū. Shingen and Uesugi decide to put aside their differences to defeat Nobunaga. Along the way they tackle the real life figure of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who in this anime has allied himself with Nobunaga (in real life Ieyasu was one of Nobunaga's generals and outlived him) and the troublesome Date Masamune (another real life figure) the aforementioned eye-patched crazy swordsman, and his army of crazy loners. On top of that, they have to deal with betrayals, assassins and double crosses.
So now, I can tell you that if you have never seen anything from the Warring States period, then Sengoku Basara is for you. It gives you its info dump, which is largely fictional, and then throws you into the action. The series main antagonist, Nobunaga, isn't seen until the second episode, properly but his plans and plots rule the actions of the other characters, both his allies and his enemies. But you'd never know this from the slapstick titillation between Uesugi and Kasuga, his retainer ninja (who possesses the most plunging V-midriff I've ever seen in an anime). Every time he comes near her, she swoons. Then when she's in ninja mode, Kasuga kills people without a second thought to protect Uesugi. Now if this kind of er-em, feminine reaction (?) had been in, say, a harem show, I would probably have rolled my eyes. But in the middle of of an action adventure series, it's absurd and hilarious. Initially, I had a hard time figuring out the tone of the series, with its satisfying action, intrigue and comedy bits. Then I remembered that this is adapted from a video game so the variety mix of genres makes sense if you think about it. But when the real story gets going around the halfway point in the series, all jokes are cast aside and we are treated to a really good story.
The two main leads, Date and Sanada Yukimura (one of Shingen's loyalest generals), are on opposite scales in temperament. Date, as a loner, is more daring in his strategy, yes, but in physical combat he waits out his opponents. Sanada is unsure of how to proceed in the intrigues of clan warfare but in combat he charges into battle without care or concern for himself. But there are similarities between the two young men. They'd do anything for the men under their command. In Sanada's case, he also is totally devoted to his lord, Shingen, and their conversations descend into "Yukimura!" "Boss!" "Yukimura!" "Boss!" and usually a punch follows. But as the series unfolds Sanada becomes a better warrior and Date learns to work with outsiders. The rest of the cast are a great heroes and rogues gallery. Kai's retainer ninja, Sasuke, is a wise-cracking idiot who's constantly trying it on with Kasuga but he doesn't mean anything by it. Kasuga has a serious backstory but we're not told about it. Date's right hand man, Katakura, is an excellent foil to Date: dependable, honorable with a self-deprecating sense of humour. I love the story of Nobunaga's sister and her husband and it's delicious to watch a good scriptwriter in action with the tragedy unfold between them and you just know how it'll all turn out for the two lovers. In many respects, Sengoku Basara feels like it has more in common with sci-fi mecha shows from the seventies. They were wacky concept shows with comedic elements to them but at its heart is a tragedy at the losses humans have to go through to achieve peace.
Cast wise, Date is portrayed by Kazuya Nakai and in English by Robert McCollum. I swear your mind will be blown when you hear Nakai shout in pidgin English, for no good reason save that he could, "ALRIGHT, ARE YOU READY GUYS!!? OK!!! LET'S PARTY!!". Johnny Yong Bosch attempts and mostly succeeds in not annoying me as Sanada Yukimura while Souichiro Hoshi provides an excellent performance in Japanese as the same. Hands down my favourite Japanese seiyu cast member has to be voice God himself Norio Wakamoto as Oda Nobunaga, he just nails the role, he's that good. Chris Ayres/Tesshô Genda do a good job as Takeda Shingen while I noticed Greg Ayres and Vic Mignogna in the back doing their thing. All in all, a good turnout on both sides.
Wooden mecha, multicoloured sword fights, bare midriff ninja's, evil henchmen, explosions and more await you in Sengoku Basara. I cannot figure out why it took me so long to watch this. I think I thought it was something like Basilisk and the Kouga Ninja Scroll stories. It's nothing of the sort. It's fun, skin-thin, canyon deep, serious, crazy and everything in between. It's thirteen episodes long and great news: they made more of it! Check it out!