Basilisk Vol. #6 (Viridian Collection) (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, January 22, 2008
What They Say
As this bitter war draws to a close, those that seek to see it through dwindle in number. The cost of hatred weighs heavily on the remnants of both tribes.
Confrontation in the night reveals Gennosuke's true intentions, as the hand of reconciliation is extended to the enemy. But death litters the road traveled by ninja feet. Impatience goads political intrigue to seek a more active role in this annihilation of two tribes, and the unseen finally comes to light as those that remain learn of the wager which unleashed this war upon them. But too much has been lost for either side to turn back. No mercy will be spared to the enemy.
Contains episodes 17-20:
A Dawn Without Light
River of Mercy
The final confrontations fall into place as the few remaining members of each side must perform their duty.
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 series closes out with some solid looking artwork as it takes two generations of the clans and works the symbolism nicely. Having Gennosuke and Oboro in the foreground while the older relationship is in the background sets the tone right for just how long all of this has really been going on. 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 grays and blacks in the flowers and designs. The menu for this volume has a solid shot of Oboro from the front cover 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. Unfortunately, just like the previous releases, 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. The first one runs about thirty two minutes while the second and final one runs about thirty eight minutes. That effectively puts this show at over six "episodes" on the disc which helps explain some of the low bitrates and low quality at times. 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 end of Basilisk has left us feeling like we did in the previous volume in that it's definitely improved once the expectations of what the series would be like fell away. The last four episodes of it don't provide any real surprises however as it plays out like a traditional ninja anime series should and used to when they were made into OVAs frequently.
The ten on each side have been pared down a good deal over the course of the ten days that this renewed feud has been going on. At the end, we're left with barely a handful of members left from each side and the fighting has gotten intense. Particularly bad for the Kouga side is that no matter how many times they seem to kill Tenzen he keeps coming back. That's put them in an awkward position but more specifically a really bad position for Saemon. His using Tenzen's appearance has made it easier for him to be setup when Tenzen returns to life and begins to clean up what's gone wrong. Tenzen does seem to become more unhinged however as this goes on as he's become even more brutal and callous about what's going on.
When Tenzen finally catches up with Ofuku he sets things in motion for dealing with Gennosuke once and for all. Taking advantage of Kagero, he's able to lure her in and use her as bait while he awaits Gennosuke's arrival. Tenzen is completely brutal in how he passes his time with Kagero and then with Oboro. His sadistic nature was clear before but he really goes all out with it this time as he tortures Kagero directly and then by intending to rape Oboro in front of her. Tenzen's brutality is something that fits in perfectly with his mindset and with how the two clans have warred over the years but his methods do seem to disgust others. His strength is too much though which means nobody objects.
As it all comes together there is a real sense of emotion and connection with these characters. While Tenzen is easy to write off and ignore for the most part as he is supposed to be just a brutal killer, others like Kagero really shine. Her love for Gennosuke which can never be fulfilled is really well done here as she does whatever she can to please him in any way she can. Unfortunately, I don't think Stephanie Young pulls off enough of a convincing performance in comparison to Risa Hayamizu for these scenes. Be it the quiet moments where she's tender with the blinded Gennosuke or the brutal moments of being taken by Tenzen and then later tortured, it doesn't have the same kind of impact and lessens those scenes.
With many shows trying to have an ending where almost everyone comes away happy, I was really pleased to see that Basilisk did not try to do that. The series ends in the only way something like this should end. These characters all have a lot on the line, from their lives to their loves as well as the existence of their very clan. There can be no truce at the end to reset things and Basilisk does not shy away from it. With the involvement of Ofuku and the Hanzo's towards the end, it's all given the official seal of approval as the events play out.
Basilisk was a series that I had been anticipating from what little I had seen about it. It then proved to be a disappointment and a bit of a challenge as it went to the realm of the fantastic early on when I was expecting a more realistic portrayal. Once past that though, and as the cast got pared down, it picked up steam and proved to be a brutal yet interesting ride. Though the second half doesn't redeem the first half for me, it's definitely been more interesting to watch as it went along than I would have guessed from the start. There are some good moments throughout but depending on expectations as well as dealing with some of the video issues this is a real mixed bag.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Behind the Scenes,Clean Opening,Clean Closing
Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: C+
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