Basilisk Vol. #3 (also w/limited edition) (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, November 14, 2006
What They Say
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 as name can only be crossed out in blood. No mercy will be spared to the enemy.
Contains episodes 9-12:
On Their Own
With both sides now fully aware of what's going on, the battles start becoming more intense as Gennosuke finally gets properly involved.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The included stereo mix is pretty solid with a fair amount of directionality across the forward soundstage both in action effects and dialogue as there is a lot of movement by the characters all over the screen. The mix deals with the content well and between that and the opening and closing songs it's pretty strong. The English mix is done both in stereo and a 5.1 mix which manages to provide a touch more clarity and oomph to things overall. We had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback on either language track.
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Being of such a recent vintage and filled with a lot of lush colors and plenty of dark sequences, I had good hopes for this release but found a lot of key scenes to be pretty disappointing. Several of the episodes feature a black and white sequence that highlights some of the past involved with the show and ends with a mixture of blood red in it and these scenes are blocky and filled with movement when there should be none. This also happens during a number of dark blue sky sequences and some of the foggier scenes have less than a smooth feeling to them because of the blocking. In general, the colors look good and some of the vibrant pieces are gorgeous and some of the blacks hold up well and the scenes with elements such as the water are gorgeous, but some parts of the blocking seem to mingle into a lot of it. Characters tend to look good though and maintain a mostly solid feel but there's a touch of mosquito noise to a lot of it. Bringing the resolution down to 480p reduced the blocking throughout the show but not by a lot, leaving it very noticeable and distracting.
We went with the regular release for this volume which is in a standard keepcase. The cover art for it is simply beautiful, hauntingly so and plenty dark. With the main background image being of Akeginu while Koshiro is in the foreground with his weapons out, it has a strong sense of darkness to it but the designs used on Akeginu's outfit look spectacular, especially the way it is folded into her hair. There's some great detail here and it shines through even as murky as some of the cover gets. The back cover is more traditional with a strip of shots down a scroll design on the left while to the right is a brief summary of what to expect along with episode numbers and titles and the discs extras. The squished technical grid covers the basics of the features and is above the small print production info. No insert is included with this release.
The menu layout for the release is very slick as it incorporates a lot of good looking traditional artwork into it in a banded fashion, almost like faux letterboxing, with lots of dark reds in the flowers and designs. The menu for this volume has a solid shot of Akeginu from the cover as with his cords extended while the selections are lined along the left of him while a brief bit of instrumental music plays along to it. Access times are nice and fast and the layout is very easy to navigate and in-theme. The disc didn't read our players' language presets though which seems to be a norm for FUNimation discs, in that they can't handle some very basic DVD authoring tricks, and defaulted to English with sign/song subtitles.
The extras continue to be pretty good here, as the Behind the Scenes of Basilisk section features a pair of the "First Press" extras from Japan that deal with the cast talking about the show in their over the top exuberant voices. The first one runs about thirty minutes while the second runs just about thirty three minutes. Unfortunately, just like the previous disc bad authoring comes in to play again and you can't skip through it or even skip to the end of it. You either have to menu out or fast forward. Also included once again to my delight is the clean opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Now at the halfway point in the series, Basilisk finally starts to appeal a bit more but not before it has to deal with a recap episode. While the show certainly hasn't been a slow starter by any stretch of the imagination, there is a definite change in how this show feels now that both sides are fully aware of the war that's now happening.
As the small battles have been carried out and Tenzen has managed to lead the Iga side to some quick victories, there was a definite slowdown when it came to watching the scenes with Gennosuke in the Iga stronghold. Tenzen's attempt to keep things from Oboro and therefore Gennosuke worked for awhile but as we saw in the last volume that lasted only so long. A price has certainly been paid and it has set the stage for some very specific moments of revenge that will now need to be played out, but Gennosuke has managed to retain his composure upon reading the scroll and knows simply what he must do at that point. The calm he exudes puts Tenzen in a real position of caution though, something the others don't really realize quickly enough, and we finally see the true nature of Gennosuke's power. It's a quick but effectively chilling moment that suddenly makes you realize this won't be quite as straightforward as you once thought.
Just as things really seem ready to explode in a larger way, the show shifts to a recap episode. Similar to some of the better recap episodes, it's focused around certain characters that are watching this from a different place, such as Hattori, being briefed on what has happened so far and its ramifications. It is just a recap overall though and nothing new is provided but it at least is a bit more watchable than straight recap material. The energy that was building up in the episode before it is fairly well lost though and it looks to be more by intent when you get into the next few episodes since it has a bit more of a laid back feel to them. Gennosuke's plan is certainly one that requires some effort and isn't afraid to do battle, but with how he left the Iga stronghold you almost expect him to come right back and wreck havoc.
The sense of revenge that starts creeping into the show a bit more now that both sides are aware and realize who has been killed so far starts to add nicely to the feel of things. It takes on a more active game of stalking now as Gennosuke has laid their route clear to the Iga and knows full well, that even as cautious as Tenzen is because of his powers, he'll follow him and try to eliminate them all. This does give Gennosuke the advantage of marking out where the battles will take place and using the terrain to his advantage, but sometimes that doesn't work out as much as one would want. The other advantage that comes into the show at this point is that because the cast has been paired down a fair bit, we're able to get to know the characters a bit more and their storylines aren't over quite so quickly. The early episodes featured what are still basically little more than nameless ninjas that were fairly quickly eliminated. The recap helps to give them life a bit more but in the end they have little impact.
The extra time to know the characters has definitely helped the lesser known characters but we also get to know more about some of those that are a bit more known, such as Oboro. She doesn't exactly get to shine here but the position she's been put in because of all of this is now much more interesting. Her past starts to become more relevant now and we see some interesting things about her in how she has been the only unskilled person in the Iga clan. Oboro has been the weakest character in general but now that we get a better idea of what's really behind her and her place in this, she becomes just as critical to things as Gennosuke is and finally earns herself a place in this series that isn't just being a pretty face.
Basilisk manages to pick up the pace here in the third volume pretty well but the inclusion of a recap so early in a standard length series really throws the pacing off and causes the show to lose some of its energy. Once it gets back underway though, the characters and action are solid and it's becoming more of an enjoyable series. There isn't a lot of depth to it but the character interactions and relationships, which become strained and violent because of certain deaths, are more engaging as well. Killing for the sake of killing is one thing, but when there are more motivations behind it beyond simply eliminating your enemies it's a lot more engaging.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Textless Songs,Behind the Scenes of Basilisk Part 5 and Part 6
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B-
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: TV MA
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2