Violent ninja anime is nothing new to the world. The genre exploded when Jubei tackled the eight devils of Kimon in Ninja Scroll. Since then publishers everywhere have scurried to portray bloody ninja exploits and a mystical Tokugawa era Japan. The latest of which is FUNimation and GONZO's Basilisk. Based upon the five volume manga by Masaki Segawa, this latest gore-fest show takes place in a world ripe with ninja magic, demons of some variety, and ancient blood feuds.
With the ultimate goal of finding the next shogun at the forefront two ninja clans continue to wage war against each other and kill indiscriminately. A peace between the two clans has been bartered, but to say that peace is shaky would be a gross understatement. The two heads of the clans met with Hattori Hanzo the second to display their prowess and potentially work out a peaceful accord. Let's just say that things didn't go exactly as planned.
Instead of being offered a peace treaty the two clans are told to select ten members for a ninpou battle where the winner will be able to decide upon the next heir to Ieyasu Tokugawa. Ogen of the Iga clan and Danjo of the Kouga clan are the first to get things started by killing each other. Before they off one another they muse over their ill-fated grandchildren's love and about how peace isn't going to happen in their lifetime.
You see, the whole peace movement between the two clans came about when Kouga Gennosuke and Iga Oboro fell in love with each other. Being the leaders of their clans, behind their grandparents anyway, the two have worked hard to bring their families together. Tragically both clans are at war once again and each episode sees the scales tipping this way and that.
The last time I checked out Basilisk was when the first volume came out. It was basically an introduction to this violent world and brought some interesting warriors into the light. When the volume ended it was the Iga who had drawn first blood and they did so with dominance. I didn't get the opportunity to see the second volume though so I can't say specifically what happened between the first and this third installment.
In volume number three things presumably pick up right where the left off. A trio of Kouga including Gennosuke are standing firm in front of a mob of Iga. Tenzen (the military leader of the Iga) holds his men at bay though because apparently up to this point nobody has seen Gennosuke's powers. Well, some of the ninja get a little antsy and charge ahead; that's when all hell breaks loose. It would appear that the Kouga leader's powers are that of mind control. Anybody who wishes him ill will targets themselves instead, effectively committing some ultra painful seppuku.
Fearful of this power the Iga let the Kouga pass though there is a small skirmish on the way that involves Oboro trying to put an end to things. She essentially betrays her clan despite the fact that she's the only one who can stave off Gennosuke's power. The end of the first episode sees a dramatic shift in things and was really something that I didn't see coming. Considering I didn't see the second volume I thought the following episode was good in regards to filling in the blanks but I'm sure it would tick off someone with aspirations to collect the series. The tenth episode in Basilisk is little more than a recap of the battles and what the score currently is.
Things get right back into the action after that throw away episode. Gennosuke has essentially called out the Iga and though he states that he desires no fighting you just know that his enemies aren't going to oblige. Tenzen sends a couple of scouts out to locate the Kouga and put an end to their existence. We also learn what Oboro did to herself and the ramifications of her actions.
The third volume of Basilisk continues the bloody ninja war and does a good job of developing the plot and characters. If it wasn't for the recap episode this would have been an entirely strong volume. As it stands 3 out of 4 episodes are worthwhile. With Gennosuke's power out in the open and what happens to he and Oboro I'm definitely looking forward to the fourth volume. The ninja/demon genre may be horrendously cliché in the world of anime but this show has enough meat in between the gore to satisfy.
With a recent production date Basilisk is presented on DVD with an anamorphic widescreen presentation. The image quality is pretty good but not nearly as clean as one would hope. There are some points where the video became pixilated and other times when some noticeable grain appeared in the transfer. Being a show that seems to take place mostly at night these elements were more noticeable due to the darker tones. Even so this is a good looking show with a strong presentation.
With two stereo tracks (English and Japanese) and a 5.1 surround track (English) Basilisk gets the audio segment down right. The quality is very crisp with some nice use of the soundstage, though the directionality present in the 5.1 is more on the subtle side. It kicks in well enough during the action sequences but otherwise it's there for atmospheric sounds. Both language dubbings prove to be good though I felt quality-wise the Japanese track was the better of the two.
While some trailers and textless songs are available on this disc there is actually a feature that was very enjoyable. One of the original Japanese DVD features makes its way to the third volume and features a behind the scenes look at the show with some of the cast. They sit around a table and discuss various things about the show and what its like to work on it. They were a fun bunch and really had some good chemistry. In all there are two episodes of the feature presented here.
I may have missed the second disc of Basilisk but the third volume was easy to get into thanks to the recap. That's kind of ironic because I really don't like how some shows waste time in a release to show someone who has already been watching what has happened. Fortunately the rest of the disc is solid with a lot of action and quite a lot of development. This is a comfortable recommendation to say the least but you have to enjoy seeing ninja killing ninja and gallons of blood.
Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!