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. Unfortunately I haven't had the opportunity to check out the show since the third volume. Therefore when I stepped into the fifth volume I merely had rudimentary knowledge regarding what was going on up to this point.
Gennosuke and some of his Kouga brethren begin this volume by traveling the countryside at night (always a smart idea). The fearless leader's eyes are still shut after being closed by a poison and to make matters worse Tenzen (Iga's military mastermind) is hunting for them. More blood is spilt but we get a glimpse a scene involving Iga Oboro getting a bath and a brief flashback to an event with Tenzen from a previous volume. For those just joining the show it would seem that they are "betrothed" now.
In the following episode even more ninja blood is splattered all over the place as Hyouma (Gennosuke's uncle who possesses the same Dojutsu Eye Technique) has a one on one with Iga Koshiro (the scythe wielding, air-sucking guy). This battle was one of the most interesting that I have yet to see from Basilisk because both ninja are unable to see. Well, that's not entirely true, Hyouma can see but his Dojutsu Eye Technique is always on so it's his choice to keep his peepers shut. In between the fighting and the killing the episode showcases a younger Hyouma training his esteemed nephew. It adds a layer of depth to his character that most viewers will appreciate.
The second half of this installment keeps the pacing moving with some more death being handed out to the cast. I swear these characters are all dropping like flies but learning about them is one of the real treats from this show because they are mostly all well developed. I didn't have to see volume four to understand what was going on here but it certainly would have helped with the flow of the plot.
If you haven't checked out Basilisk yet then you're missing out on an action packed, intriguing, and downright bloody ninja adventure. The tale of love, betrayal, and hatred has ties all the way back to Romeo and Juliet but the story has never been this gory. The ninja/demon genre may be crowded beyond reason in the world of anime but this show has enough meat in between the bloody battles to satisfy and stand out as being unique.
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. I always love it when bonus content from the original release in Japan comes to America. It's a rare event when it happens but is something that truly captures the passion that the crew had for the project while the show was reaching fans for the first time. In this installment of Basilisk there are two "First-Press Events" that feature some of the Japanese voice actors sitting roundtable and discussing topics both personal and related to the show.
Basilisk's run is coming to a close and though I haven't seen it all, I have caught the majority of it. If you enjoy seeing ninja kill each other with supernatural talent then you'll absolutely love this series. It has a good balance between action and storytelling plus this volume introduces a fair amount of background. Everything is left up in the air for how the series is going to end but it is certainly one that I'm looking forward to. Basilisk is without a doubt, the definition of guilty pleasure anime. Recommended