Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings Complete Series (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, December 16, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, October 12, 2010
In a time of honor and valor, the Demon King General Oda Nobunaga dares to spit in the face of those around him and take over neighboring lands through deceit and betrayal. Now the remaining nations must form an unlikely alliance or face utter annihilation at the hands of the Demon King himself.
What They Say
Based on the world created by the masters at Capcom. Sengoku Basara drops you directly into the burning battlefields of feudal Japan, where rival warlords hack and slash their way to total domination. Each conqueror wields a special attack that boosts their power of devastation, and each commands a horde of relentless warriors. But when a supreme evil—the Devil King—threatens the land, these fierce generals launch a co-op campaign of annihilation and build an army of armies to obliterate their common foe. As the front line grows crowded with gun-toting, mechanized samurai and mystical ninja, some will say that war is hell—Sengoku Basara proves it can also be kick-ass.
Per usual, Sengoku Basara comes in two language, one Japanese track, and one English Track. In this release, the English is presented in 5.1 surround sound. The audio is crisp and clear, and the is music wonderfully mixed so that it almost drowns out everything else (which, in this case, is a good thing). The Japanese track doesn’t fare quite as well, however, as it is only presented in stereo. It doesn’t sound terrible, but when compared to the wonderful English mixing, it just doesn’t quite hold up. In a series so dependent on action and booming sounds, some of the impact is lost.
This series is presented in its native 16:9 format, and it’s quite the sight to behold. It’s a crystal clean transfer and is wonderful to see in motion, especially during the fight scenes. Colors are bright and varied, and I never found myself distracted by any video flaws of any sort.
Per FUNimation’s usual packaging as of late, this release consists of a cardboard box and two thin plastic DVD cases.
The front of the cardboard has a red and blue color scheme with Sanada in the upper right hand corner and Date at the bottom left. The image of Oda Nobunaga can vaguely be seen in the background, and the title of the series sits nicely in the middle. Though it is a nice image, the lack of bordering gives it a cheap, almost unprofessional feel to it. At the bottom are the labels “Complete 1st Season” and “13 episodes on 2 DVDs” along with the logos of the three main companies involved in this release.
The back of the box shows all the main characters crowded on the left and the synopsis on the right. Up top is a red brush-stroke of ink with the tagline “The only thing better than a battle is a war” in a paintbrush-type font. The bottom right of the box has nine pictures from the series and a quick rundown of the extra features available in the release.
The DVD cases are character-themed, the first case being a Date Masamune theme, and the second being a Sanada Yukimura theme. The front of the cases have an action pose of the designated character with their crest in the background. The show title sits at the bottom. The back of each case has a full body view of the front and back of the respective character and a dark, almost silhouetted view of the their heads looming in the background. On the right side is the list of episodes present on the disc.
The insides of each case merely have the show title on the left and the disc on the right. The disc label is a replication of the image on the front of the respective case on a slightly different background.
Overall, a decent package, but it’s nothing to write home about.
The menu theme for Sengoku Basara, like the DVD case, is character-based. In the main menu of each is a picture of the respective character on a patterned red and cream background. It’s not bad, but to be honest, is incredibly flat in appearance and ultimately static. The most interesting background is the one in the setup menu, which is slanted and patterned with bodies falling down a cliff. As expected, music is playing in the background in each menu.
Practical, but a bit lacking, especially when compared to the animation quality of the series.
The extras in this release are mixture of standard and new. Of course, there are the typical textless openings and trailers. Along with that, however, is a little mini-series of sorts labeled Sengoku Basara Chosokabe Motochika-kun and Mori-kun. These mini episodes present two of the lesser-seen characters of the main series in chibi form as they eagerly await the airing of Sengoku Basara in the hopes of seeing themselves on TV. It’s cute and entertaining if you’re into that sort of thing, but the episodes do a run a bit too long and over time, lose their novelty. All the same, it is a shame that FUNimation was only able to fit in three of the seven episodes in the DVD release (the rest are available in the Blu-ray version).
Also available in this release is episode 13, which is an OVA episode that follows the character Maeda and his journey to gather the western allies who eventually make their way to the final battle shown in episode 12. It’s a nice episode, and I do wish it were threaded into the main series instead of just tacked on at the end, as it does flesh out show a bit more. Late better than never, I suppose.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When faced with an anime based on a really shallow video game whose core gameplay consists of pressing two buttons that, in turn, sends dozens of enemies flying, one doesn’t really expect a whole lot of quality to come out of it. Sure, the series can take the extra time to develop characters when necessary, but with the source material as over-the-top as it is, only so much can be expected. Luckily, the creative gurus over at Production I.G. understood this as well and, rather than trying to turn the series into something serious and meaningful, decided to loyally adhere the tone of the game and deliver a fun anime that embraces its testosterone-fueled roots.
As the title suggests, the series takes place during Japan’s historical Sengoku period, a time when Japan was in a constant state of military conflict. Amid the constant chaos are two young warriors, Sanada Yukimura and Date Masamune, who clash in an epic fight that shakes the battlefield around them. It’s practically a match made in heaven, and the two quickly become sworn rivals, promising one day to have a rematch.
Unfortunately their rematch must wait, as there is a dark lord on the loose in the form of the Demon King Oda Nobunaga, whose forces are quickly enveloping the lands around them. Date, Sanada, and the remaining nations around them soon realize that if they want to fight over the land, they must first save it. And thus an unlikely truce is formed, and as nations around them fall, it quickly becomes apparent that this truce may very well be the last hope for Japan.
With a series like this, expectations are everything. As mentioned earlier, going into this, I hadn’t expected a lot. What I hoped for, however, was a self-conscious show that knew how to let go and have fun, and if that’s what you’re looking for in a series, that’s what you’ll get here. The stakes and battles are Shakespearean in magnitude, and as long as the characters are shouting and the music is booming, I find this to be quite the enjoyable series. I felt the pain of Tokugawa Ieyasu who, despite his better judgment, chose to honor his alliance with Demon King, even when the man’s boorish actions went against everything he stood for. I felt the genuine respect that generals Takeda Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin had for each other, and it’s this exaggerated emphasis on honor that’s helpful in setting the villain apart, who has no honor to speak of and a heart that’s evil to the core. I felt myself loving these huge characters and hating Oda Nobunaga for interrupting their heroic lives. I even felt myself cheering for their success and eagerly awaiting the climax of the series.
The animation is fluid and pristine. With a show as chock full of battles as this, it’s nice to see that Production I.G. put the money where it mattered: in the animation budget. The character designs are both fun and ridiculous; often they are a mixture of armor that is reminiscent of the time period and what is considered cool to a modern audience. One good example is Date Masamune, who sports an eye patch, six swords, and handles on his horse that make it look like he’s the leader of a chopper gang rather than a standard Japanese army. The score of the series is another huge strong point. Whenever the main theme came on, it told me so much about the series that even the visuals or script couldn't get across. And as Date and Sanada made their way into the final battle, I felt a chill down my spine that I know had more to do with the score than with the story, which is a bit of a problem for the series in a way.
Whenever the music stops and the show slows down for even a second, its flaws become glaringly apparent. The dialogue is stiff, stupid, and sometimes downright annoying. The characters are about as shallow as characters can get, falling easily into various archetypes: the enthusiastic youth (Sanada), the badass rebel (Date), the wise and good-hearted sidekick (Koujuro), the smart aleck ninja (Sasuke), the aging-yet-still-strong leader (Takeda), the pure evil villain (Oda), and the sadistic right hand man of said evil villain (Akechi). It’s all there and followed to a tee, and while this works in the context of the series, it really did leave me wanting a bit more substance to keep my interested in the slower sections of the show. Because of this lack of substance, I found myself reluctant to continue on at the end of each episode, even in the best of moments.
The beginning of the series is also something that is quite the hurdle to jump. Not only does the audience have to adapt to such an over-the-top show, but they also have to keep track of all the different characters introduced in the first three minutes, try to understand their relationships with one another, and do their best to get a grasp on where these military powers are geographically to each other. It’s by no means impossible, for, given time, you grow to know who each of these characters are (even if you can’t quite remember their names). It’s just a shame that a series that has a lot of fun to offer an audience has such a steep learning curve. It’s enough to drive off the casual viewers, despite its copious amount of action in the first two episodes.
Shallow fun is the best way to describe Sengoku Basara. As long as the music keeps on playing, the action keeps on flowing, and the characters cry out bold proclamations, you’re practically guaranteed to have a good time. You may even find the interest to look into Japanese history a bit more and check to see which aspects of the series were true and which were fabricated. But at the end of the day, the experience is ultimately forgettable and the epitome of stereotypical Japanese animation.
Japanese Language Stereo, English Dolby Surround Sound 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Sengoku Basara Chosokabe Motochika-kun and Mori-kun (First 3 episodes), Textless Opening and Closing, FUNimation Trailers
Sony KDL-40EX400 BRAVIA EX400 LCD hdtv 40 inch. Sony SLV-D370P DVD Player. Electrohome ELE-HTB920E 5.1 Channel Surround Sound Home Theater Speaker System
Mania Grade: B-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 14 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
Running time: 325
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Sengoku Basara