If you love seeing bands of ninja go after each other's throats then Basilisk is a series that should be high on your list. When Ninja Scroll came out it popularized the ninja genre, or more to the point, ninja genre with demon-powered warriors. Who can forget Jubei's bout with the eight devils of Kimon? I know I can't. Since the famed movie came out though the genre has boomed and to be honest it has become over saturated.
Originally a manga by Masaki Segawa and based on the novel "The Kouga Ninja Scrolls" by Futaro Yamada, Basilisk is a fast and furious show that offers up more action than plot.
Back in the Tokugawa era of Japan two ninja clans wage war against each other to seek the dominant position. While both are vying for the top seat there is a rift forming down the center thanks to the complex emotion of love that remains perseverant. At the beginning of the show we see two elderly ninja, heads of their clans, kill each other. In truth the two were sworn blood enemies and lovers at the same time. The same fate has befallen their grandchildren (Gennosuke and Oboro) despite their attempts to attain a peace accord.
Each clan has selected ten warriors for a ninpou battle where the winner will be able to decide upon the next heir to Ieyasu Tokugawa. As the episodes progressed through the early parts of the series we saw a fantastic display of ninja skill and gallons of spilt bloods. The members of both clans possess some supernatural ability or whatnot and seeing them exercise that power was a treat.
The last time around the Kouga took down Tenzen, the immortal, though if you have been following the show up to this point you know that he's not really dead. The biggest move in the plot though had to do with Hyouma's death at the hands of Koshiro. Hyouma was an important person in Gennosuke's life and we catch a glimpse at past events where the two trained together. Saemon also confronted Tenzen which is where we catch up with the show in the sixth and final volume.
With Saemon being killed on the spot, the Kouga have lost yet another ninja from their family. At the rate with which these characters are dropping like flies I started wondering if there was going to be anybody left when the dust settled. As things head for the climactic ending there are only two of each ninja clan left alive. Hoping to fool the Iga, Kagero pretends to switch sides and seeks out Saemon who she believes is Tenzen.
I hate to cut things short but I don't really want to spoil what happens after that because it is the end of the show after all. There are a few surprises in store if you have been enjoying the series and I found each episode here riveting to the last. The last volume kind of fizzled in a few spots but this one moves forward at the right pace with a blend of action and storytelling. The ending was depressing for sure but ultimately it was the appropriate one for such a show. This is a series that has been a hoot from start to finish and though I personally missed two volumes in between I enjoyed every minute of what I have watched.
With a recent production date (2005) 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 an abundance of grain appeared in the transfer. Being a show that takes 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 and offers a fair amount of immersion with atmospheric effects and clutter. During the flow of the show the effect is more subdued with dialogue and music filtering through at key moments. Both language dubbings prove to be good though I still felt quality-wise the Japanese track was the better of the two.
As you'd expect there are some trailers for other FUNimation products available through the extras menu as well as textless animation. Another pair of "First-Press" extras is included on this disc as well. For those of you counting they are installments eleven and twelve. Some familiar faces from previous episodes chime in for more discussion about the show. Once again the Japanese voice actors talk about a variety of topics and joke around quite a bit. It's too bad that more series don't have features quite like this one because they have proven to be a lot of fun.
When it comes to the saturated ninja/demon genre it can be difficult to sort out the good from the bad. Let me make it easy on you. Basilisk = Good.
From start to finish this show was packed with intensity thanks to the abundance of action and range of emotion. This is a tale about love, loss, and kicking some butt along the way. The show ends on a depressing, yet inevitable note and right up to the end I found myself on the edge of my seat. This is another solid series in the FUNimation catalog that is worth checking out.
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!