English Dolby Digital 5.1
Japanese 2.0 Stereo
Japan's toughest warlords are on the move, leading massive armies against their rivals in a thrilling quest for total domination. Wielding insane weaponry and unleashing the elements to boost their already awesome power, these warrior generals roar into the fray atop turbo-charged stallions, slicing through the enemy with six blades at once.
It is the (Sengoku) Warring States period of Japan. The Demon King of the Six Winds, Lord Oda Nobunaga, has been defeated and his retainers have either been killed or scattered to the winds. Months later, the two largest groups that opposed Nobunaga, the Takeda and Uesugi clans, are trying to settle their differences on the field of battle with the Date clan nearby waiting to destroy the winner of the first fight. It is during this battle that a new warlord, every bit as powerful and terrible as Nobunaga, called Hideyoshi Toyotomi (a goddamned mountain of a man, at times 8 feet tall and at others, 35 feet tall) comes to the stage and starts crushing everything in sight. With Takeda and Uesugi free wheeling to deal with this new character, both the leader of the Date clan, Masamune and the right hand man of the Takeda clan, Sanada Yukimura find themselves fighting desperately to simply stay alive.
If you'd like a better introduction to the series, check back with our review of the first season. It goes into more detail as to who the characters are and the setup of the story. For those who've already read that review, let us proceed.
This season the tone of the series is more serious than the first. The previous story had the humor running alongside the serious. But Sanada and Date spend a lot of time thinking amongst themselves and this means that laugh out moments wouldn't really work. The most silly things become are Kasuga and Uesugi flirtatious interactions. It's almost as if, because their peace was shattered by Nobunaga, they don't want to be relaxed. Relaxed almost got them killed last time. More than anything, this series has a focus on the cost of war as Sanada sees the people left behind. This makes him doubt even the highest ideals he holds. I genuinely feel for the boy as he struggles with the most basic of problems that all soldiers face in times of war and strife. And as for Date, he loses the one thing he needs more than his six blades. It throws him off balance and he spends a while trying desperately to keep his men and he alive. His usual tactic of rushing the enemy isn't working because Toyotomi keeps throwing everyone and everything in his way. This causes him to consider alliances and strategy that he hadn't before this.
The other characters who were left alive after the Nobunaga campaign all come back including some who I thought were dead. One person who becomes very important is Keiji from the Maeda clan. Keiji was a peacemaker for the allies as he managed to convince his uncle and aunt-in-law to side against their former ally, Nobunaga, and help defeat him. Here, he's caught again by the same problem but this time it's personal as he loves his family and doesn't want to see them get hurt but at the same time, he used to be fast and firm friends with Toyotomi. It really grieves him to see his former friend want nothing more than to crush all opposition to his rule. The one person who becomes a better bad guy as time goes on this time around is Takenaka Hanbei. Hanbei is Toyotomi's advisor and second in command and he is utterly devoted to his friend. At first, I thought he'd be like Akechi Mitsuhide (sub-commander to Oda Nobunaga) and want to betray his master for the power and glory, blah, blah, blah. But no, he sticks with his friend all the way to the end. All the while he continues to plot and watch what the allies do and has backup plans for his backup plans. Hanbei himself is living on borrowed time and he knows this. Toyotomi suspects as much but doesn't make it an issue. On the allied side, Mori Motonari who once fought alongside the forces against Nobunaga comes into the fight on Toyotomi's side and this causes a huge fallout in the Shikoku area where Mori rules. This means that now the allies have a war on two fronts to fight.
Where Sengoku Basara is truly badass is the complexity that goes into the theater of war angle they've constructed. People fight, die or get injured, they plot, council their soldiers, work together, seek solace, seek absolution and ultimately wonder just why the hell they are doing all this for? Some have absolutely no doubts especially those that brutalise others to gain political and military purchase. Others really struggle with the fact that they agree with Toyotomi's idea of a united Japan but do not like his, frankly, brutal methods. Sanada's arc is impressive to watch and so is Date's. But Date's is more to do with how to behave without full strength and how to overcome this loss of strength. Sanada really does grow up over the course of the season. More than Shingen and Uesugi leading the charge, this time round the younger guys have to do all the heavy lifting and it's nice to see this tempered with the idea that they understand, finally, that their actions have consequences that can't be seen, only felt.
Overall, I would say that this series keeps up the action quotient quite well. Blazing sword fights, insane flowing animation and breakneck pacing make this one of the best TV series in anime today. In keeping with its game origins, both Sanada and Date shout out their special moves before they use them, and it's a nice touch. Things explode after being punched and as it turns out, rock turn out to be a flammable material. Who knew? When Toyotomi fights, the Earth literally shakes as he unloads a fistful of boomstick on his opponents. Hanbei's sword turns into a whip and he has a great fight with Kojuro (Date's lieutenant). All the while, main characters send the poor enlisted guys into the air, into whirlwinds or just plain knock ‘em out. Character designs from the first season carry over and nothing changes there but the new characters have great designs with Toyotomi's gull wings on his shoulders being distinct without being ridiculous. I dare you to say to his face that he looks like a doofus. Music in this season is amazing. Erin Finnegan had made special mention of the score being excellent with a full orchestra but it really is a good score, full of chanting choirs singing in English and the original theme music from Season One being redone properly.
Voice cast wise, my original statements for season one still stand with the actor's for Sanada having the most work to do. Souichiro Hoshi and Johnny Yong Bosch do a good job with the amount of soul-searching the character has to do. And yes, Shingen and Sanada's "YUKIMURA!!!" "MY LORD!!!", "YUKIMURA!!!" "MY LORD!!!" double act is still here. I'm still not buying an Eyeshine CD, though. Date's English VA Robert McCollum is great but hands down, Kazuya Nakai as Date is still amazing with his broken English, screaming at his troops "OK, ARE YOU READY, A-GUYS!!? LET'S PARTY!!!".
Extras wise, we are still having to deal with Funimation's dogged insistence on doing these rather ridiculous commentary tracks where everybody gladhands (and I really mean gladhands) each other for being voice actors and dub directors continue to state that they wrote these episodes. Also, the chibi OVA's from the first serious are ported over and some trailers.
With a movie supposedly wrapping up the Sengoku Basara universe on the calender after being licensed by Funimation to look forward to, season two finishes out as strong, if not stronger than the first season. Yeah, you need to know Japanese geography to cover where the cast are at times and yes, the show takes massive liberties with history but overall this is the best show in its genre at the moment. Manga UK have also released a complete Season One and Two boxset but for those who've already bought Season One, please enjoy.