Basilisk Vol. #2 (Viridian Collection) (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Saturday, July 28, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, October 30, 2007
What They Say
The passions of the past quickly reignite as one scroll seeks to undo two powerful tribes. Dead is on the wind, and the storm continues unabated.
The Iga set out to rewrite the rules of deceit, made possible by deepest affection, as Gennosuke and Oboro stand facing one another across a river of animosity. But as reason is lost to hatred, ambition tips the hand of the treacherous.
Kouga warriors in disguise delve deep within the enemy stronghold to unearth the truth, revealing both innocence taken and innocence lost. As the darkness pervading the sky seeps into the souls of men, blood lingers in the rain and the flood is unlashed. No mercy will be spared to the enemy.
Contains episodes 5-8:
The Surprise Attack
Longing in the Rain
The Bloodsucking Seductress
Cage of Blood
The war goes on between the two sides though the leaders of each still have no idea what's going on with those who serve.
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.
The cover art for it is simply beautiful, hauntingly so and plenty dark. With the main background image being of Hotarubi while Yashamaru is in the foreground with his cords out, it has a strong sense of darkness to it but the designs used on Hotarubi'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 greens in the flowers and designs. The menu for this volume has a solid shot of Yashamaru 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. Amusingly, if the English voice actors acted the same way I can imagine fans of the Japanese track vilifying them for it. The first one runs about twenty three minutes while the second is just over thirty. Unfortunately, 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)
The opening volume of Basilisk introduced us to the war that the Kouga and Iga ninja families are now engaged in and some of the first rounds of bloody violence that ensued. A lot of this violence has been somewhat one-sided as only the Iga have really managed to get a hold of the roster. But at the same time, neither side is really playing on anything near a level playing field because both leaders are being kept out of the loop. And it's getting increasingly difficult to do so since both of them are together, and in love, at the Iga compound.
This volume brings four more episodes out to play as the blood is flowing enough now that the Kouga are aware that something is up. While Yashamaru continues to race back to tell of what's happened, Manjidani is under attack by Tenzen and his crowd. The bloow flows freely during a lot of this but it's an attack that Tenzen made too soon as he's unable to carry the plan forward too far before being discovered. It does lead to some exciting action sequences though as the warriors on each side have some formidable powers but there's also the fun of watching a single member of the elite take on a group of the regulars who have no powers.
While there is a fair bit of this back and forth play across the volume, the show does settle down to telling a few more specific incidents going on rather than just seemingly random violence across the countryside. Though we don't get too much real background on them, a good bit of the focus is on the Kouga ninjas of Okoi and Saemon. A brother and sister pair, Okoi is a scout for the Kouga and her brother has sent her off to the Iga compound to figure out what's going on. Okoi's quite the sexpot and a natural for a scout but she ends up going up against Tenzen's crowd much too early and finds herself being captured and held to torture for information. Okoi brings some much needed sauce to the show as she's crafty, defiant and fully aware of how to take advantage of men without them realizing it. Saemon gets involved as well once he uses his abilities of disguise to figure out what's going on when he comes across Yashumaru and this is key for getting something of a balance between the two sides so that everyone that's fighting knows exactly why.
Where the weakness lays in this volume is in dealing with Gennosuke and Oboro. Both of them are very much relegated to the background for much of these episodes and even when they are on screen they're often not together. Their romance was been the one thing binding them two clans together but it gets little notice this time around. They do get some good moments though as Tenzen has decided it's time to bring her into the reality of what's going on and you can see the kind of relationships the underlings have towards her. The same can be said of Gennosuke in a sense though he has far fewer people around him from his side to be able to display it properly. With the lack of the connection between these two really being present, we're left to watching a lot of violent action scenes play out. Some of them are quite good, such as what Okoi and Saemon are up to, but for four episodes I expected a bit more progress in the show. .
So far much of what I feel about Basilisk is the same as the first volume; it's a series that I unfortunately went into with some expectations. These expectations were dashed by the realization that I wasn't getting a realistic ninja clan war but rather one filled with over the top supernaturally powered ninjas. This I've seen numerous times over the years and it's lost its impact, whereas something more grounded in reality would be far more appealing. That said, the further I get into it I'm starting to lessen that particular aspect of my expectations and moving more towards enjoying the show for what it is. It's one that needs to be watched in close succession of other volumes so that it flows much smoother and so that the sizeable cast that uses disguises is less prone to being mistaken for someone else. Basilisk has a lot going for it with its target audience but I'm not sure how much of a crossover title it can be at this point.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Textless Songs,Behind the Scenes of Basilisk Part 3 and Part 4
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Samsung BD-P1000 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