Basilisk Vol. #1 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: MVM Entertainment
  • MSRP: 19.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Basilisk

Basilisk Vol. #1

By Bryan Morton     August 10, 2007
Release Date: June 18, 2007

Basilisk Vol. #1
© MVM Entertainment

What They Say
Power struggles and forbidden love unleash a ninja slaughter!

Reared from birth as sworn enemies, two lovers stand with hands entwined. As they seek to break the shackles of darkness and heal the wounds of the past, fate denies their quest and thrusts them into war.

Four hundred years have passed, four centuries of enforced peace which have failed to soften the hatred between the Kouga and Iga clans. Misfortune written in the heavens, one cruel day breaks the treaty binding these fearsome foes. Pitted one against the other in a deadly fight for Shogun, the terms have been set. Two lists seal their destinies, two lists from which a name can only be crossed out in blood. No mercy will be spared to the enemy.

Episodes Comprise
1 " Destiny
2 " Last Renezvous
3 " The Onslaught of War
4 " The Horned Owl

The Review!
Ninja with strange powers, a centuries-old blood feud, a Shogun who needs to decide on an heir, and the love between a man and woman on separate sides of the divide. Take one part Romeo & Juliet, one part Ninja Scroll, mix well, and you've got the basic idea of Basilisk. Expect bloodshed...

Audio is provided in English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0 versions " I listened to the Japanese track for this review. It's a decent stereo mix, with good use made of the available channels to properly place dialogue and effects " particularly useful as there's usually quite a bit going on on-screen. There were no obvious problems.

Presented in its original 1.78:1 widescreen aspect, the picture quality on this release is pretty good. There's heavy use made of dark colours, with a lot of the scenes being set at night or in darkened forests, but it's still usually quite easy to pick out the detail in the scenes. Daytime scenes are bright and colourful. There's some visible banding on colour gradients in places (usually during the darker sequences), but that's about all that can be criticised.

No packaging was provided with our review copy.

In keeping with MVM's usual style nowadays, the menu is a simple affair, providing direct access to the episodes from the main screen with submenus for language selection and extras. Gennosuke features on the main screen, off to one side with his sword ready and butterflies fluttering around him while a piece of the show's background music plays. There are no transition animations, so it's all quick and easy to use.

There's a reasonable selection here. Along with the usual creditless songs, there's a text extra explaining the history of the ninja I Japan, and a commentary track by the English ADR director.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
It's 1614, and the Tokugawa Shogunate is facing a succession crisis - two of the Shogun's sons are vying for power, each commanding the loyalty of sufficiently large factions that conflict seems certain. In an attempt to keep the peace, the Shogun has come up with a solution: a battle between ninja clans representing each faction, historical rivals the Touga & Iga clans, will decide the succession. The leaders of the two camps are more than happy to return to war after years of enforced peace, but there's an issue between them that may complicate matters a bit " the heirs to each clan, Gennosuke of the Touga clan and Oboro of the Iga, are very much in love and on the verge of marrying, thereby ending the centuries-old feud. Will true love win the day, or will Gennosuke and Oboro get caught up in the whirlwind of violence that soon begins developing around them..?

On one level, Basilisk is a historical drama looking at the long-running and extremely violent rivalry between two clans " there are a number of scenes throughout these episodes that show just how much blood has been shed between them over the years, so it's clear this is no simple feud but something much larger and harder to control. Ironically, Gennosuke and Oboro's relationship isn't the first time the clans have almost come together " years previously, the current heads of the clans, Danjou and Ogen, were in a similar position until a bloody raid by the Kouga on the Iga village put an end to their dalliance. Even now, the feelings are still there, but there's just too much bad blood elsewhere for them to be the ones to bring the peace " they had been hoping their grandchildren would be able to do what they hadn't, but the Shogun's intervention puts an end to that hope, too.

As the central characters in the series, Gennosuke and Oboro are people you need to be able to connect to, and up to a point you can. Gennsouke is the strong, powerful yet honourable type, filling the stereotype of the ninja that's been seen in anime so many times before. Oboro, unlike most in her clan, hasn't been trained as a ninja and has turned out as a sweet and beautiful young woman " although she's able to be firm when she needs to be, and has a unique ability: one look from her steely eyes, and a ninja will lose their abilities.

"Their abilities?", you ask " which brings me neatly to probably my biggest gripe about Basilisk. The ninja of the Kouga and Iga clans aren't your typical ninja, fighting with guile and human physical ability " instead, each has their own mystical ability that makes them a formidable fighting machine and often gives them aspects of animals or some other physical deformation " from the man who looks more like a spider and who can trap his opponent in webs shot from his mouth, to another who appears heavily overweight but has most of the properties of a high-bounce rubber ball, very few of the fighters on show are what I'd call "normal". It's a gimmick that's used quite often in ninja shows, presumably to liven the battles up a bit so that there's more possibility to make them different or more exciting, but it's an idea that's never really worked for me. Your own mileage may vary, but it's such a central part of the series that if you don't appreciate that style of fighting scene, then it's going to affect your enjoyment of the show.

The fighting " and the scheming that goes on around it " also takes up so much of the available time that there's very little left for developing the characters. Gennosuke and Oboro get enough screentime that you're able to pick op on their basic personalities, but nothing more than that. The rest of the cast seem to be there simply to fight, and have cardboard-thin personalities, with little more than an aura of just how evil they are to differentiate them (beyond Gennosuke and Oboro, pretty much everyone in Basilisk seems to be portrayed as evil to some extent or another).

I can see the appeal of Basilisk, and can appreciate that there's a large chunk of fandom out there who will lap the series up, but personally I'd like to see more of an emphasis on the characters, less on the fighting, and more depth to the story. On the plus side, it's very well presented, with very nicely detailed animation and character designs, and some very nice pieces of music used at points. It could easily have been much better, though.

In summary:
With its heavy reliance on fighting and violence, Basilisk is squarely targeted at a particular section of anime fans. If you're looking for something that's more plot- or character-based, this volume doesn't really provide that, although there are some hooks here that could be used to bring a less action-oriented side into the show later on, and I hope that happens. In the meantime, though, Basilisk is great for action fans, less so if you want something more.

Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 5.1,English Subtitles,History of the Ninja,Cast Auditions,Actor/Director Commentary,Creditless Opening & Closing Songs

Review Equipment
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.


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