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Sengoku Basara: Complete Series - Season 1 & 2
Sengoku Basara is an anime adaptation of a video game. If that instantly brings to mind a series that focuses more on creating "intense" action sequences over telling an absorbing story then that's probably because this is the general indication of what it means to bring video game characters into other artistic forms. Most viewers aren't going to tune in expecting to find mind-boggling poetry. This element rang true regarding the first season of Sengoku Basara but isn't necessarily the end result of the second season outing entirely. The series doesn't change drastically but it does make enough attempts towards refining the storytelling that the overall experience is decently improved in the second-half of the first two season outings, which are both collected here with this Season 1 and Season 2 Blu-ray/DVD Combo pack release.
The basic setup of Sengoku Basara features opposing samurai-warriors on different sidelines of war with various group attempts to overthrow the others. Many are fighting for peace in the waging battles. Some are merely fighting to fight. The end-result is utter chaos in a war-zone filled with many casualties. Loyalties are formed. Companionships tested. The samurai warriors in Sengoku Basara are faced with learning to understand the reasons behind the samurai codes and what the purpose is of being a warrior. In other words, the series has the characters ask an overarching question of "what am I fighting for"? It leads to some fascinating philosophical ponderings, in theory at least, even if the series attempts at expansion in depth aren't ever fully realized.
The best thing about Sengoku Basara remains consistent throughout both the first and second seasons: incredible visuals and undeniably high production values throughout. The animation is sleek and sophisticated. Backgrounds are not perfectly developed, but there's great texture with bold colors and interesting designs that this isn't a detriment. The shows stylized uniquely and it will appeal to anyone hoping to experience a colorful animated epic. The big issue with the show is that even in the second season, after the mixed-results found within the first outing; Sengoku Basara still represents a style over substance approach despite dealing with historical issues. There's no question that this show doesn't ever manage to provide enough characterization to make the entire show entirely successful from start to finish. Maybe this won't aggravate everyone but it was certainly unfortunate that even over two years of samurai fighting and an expanding cast of characters, this is a series that remained one with action-oriented ambitions that never wanted to become something more with regards to true character development and substance. . Sengoku Basara was more concerned in each episode with it's own flashiness than with depth: this is the end result of season one entirely and the same thing ultimately holds true for the second season, despite some improvements in overall storytelling methods, which were slightly more interesting, if still an element underdeveloped and sidelined for more battle sequences and more stunning visual imagery (clearly the show's number one priority artistically). The animation really is wonderful to behold and it never disappointed me in regards to the art but that's the best praise this show can receive.
The basic point is that the show is simple. It wasn't complex. The show is probably complex to make (it does feature great animation at each turn) but that doesn't make it a serious storytelling effort at all. It hardly even feels like a minor accomplishment when it comes down to the writing and the characterizations. Keep this in mind if you seem convinced that you "absolutely-must" check out the show. Remember this: It isn't complex. It's a show aimed only to entertain visually with the animation and action sequences. Action anime fans will be more pleased with the results than just about anyone else. Viewers who enjoy this show will because they remember that it is simply a show with a lot of samurai action to offer up in spades. The historical aspects are really just the icing on the cake, but not the kind of icing that tastes very good.
Sengoku Basara's first season outing was occasionally interesting in segments but it ended up feeling mostly average and somewhat mediocre. The series had a solid premise that was not entirely delivered upon during its debut year of episodes.
The second season of Sengoku Basara is, unfortunately, essentially more of the same that was found in abundance during the first year of the show: it remains extremely formulaic, action-heavy, and with emphasis on the visuals over the story. It might be better than the first season (in fact it definitely managed to be a bit better than the first year go), however, that doesn't mean it's some form of operatic masterpiece. Not at all.
The series blends together elements of actual history with fiction. It portrays real historical figures from Japanese legends (the kind of history backdrops that won't be as familiar to a huge percentage of the viewing audience in North America) as well as places that really do exist, where massive war-related events occurred. The good thing about this aspect of the series is that it dutifully attempts to bring some form of historical perspective to the table. The downside is that it really doesn't expand upon these ideas. Having it set in a historical perspective seems to mainly exist to serve a fundamentally needed backdrop of the story, and that element of the show disappoints.
There are so many side-characters introduced in the course of the show that it takes away time from the central characters as well. This becomes a problem because viewers aren't acquainted enough with the main leads to feel entirely involved in their stories and that brings the entire experience down a few notches in quality as well.
The show can easily become confusing at times. There is a certain element of the show that doesn't seem to feel emphasized correctly in the way any well-told story should be. When a viewer is continually made to feel uncertain of a number of events or characters then there might be a good chance that the storytelling has not been streamlined enough to be well understood by the overall viewing audience. With Sengoku Basara, It's an issue because of how many times the series jumps back and forth between different characters and the story revolves on a frequent basis. This could work better with better writing. It merely never manages to reach all of the ideas the writers attempt to relay to the audience.
The main reason I can see anyone thoroughly enjoying Sengoku Basara's second season is if they can manage to tune out these storytelling problems and focus only on the lushness of the beauty found in the animation. If you can manage to overlook story flaws this series might be worth seeing for some. You'd also have to ignore the fact that characters can feel flat or underdeveloped and that story is always considered second-fiddle to action or philosophical tones. The biggest issue I had with the philosophical aspect is that these moments seemed to feel as though the words came from the script-writers instead of from these characters.
Sengoku Basara will primarily appeal to action-anime fans looking for something just a wee bit different from the typical action-fare. If for some reason Sengoku Basara turns out to be a show that sounds especially interesting then by all means give it a rental. It sort of seems like this series is made with that particularly action-heavy anime fan-base in mind that is at least partially a result of its video-game roots.
However, saying that the show isn't good because it's based on a video-game isn't entirely accurate (if one watches Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within one will know brilliant filmmaking can be achieved in correlation to a game franchise) but it's not significantly far from the baseline idea that most video games don't make great movies. Apparently stellar TV series also fits the description. There are exceptions, of course, but this particular series doesn't make the short list. It's got more ambition and technical artistry than most other efforts but this doesn't change the fact that it's ultimately a run-of-the-mill action show without great intentions beyond entertaining fans of samurai sequences. Sounds good? Why not experience this series and see if it seems enjoyable. Sounds aggravating? Consider skipping out on this series. It's more about the spectacle of the animation and elaborate samurai sequences than it is anything resembling the storytelling goods some viewers might hope to find.
Sengoku Basara arrives rife with storytelling flaws but that isn't an indicator that the entire series isn't unique or ambitious. There is at least a decent degree of merit behind Sengoku Basara's underwhelming videogame based approach to stylistic action anime, and some viewers may enjoy it more than others if they can tune out of the story and simply marvel at the production merits that are constantly on full display.
Sengoku Basara is presented in the broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78.1 widescreen, and with native 1080p High Definition picture quality that is well-reproduced utilizing the great possibilities presented by using the Blu-ray format.
This is an incredible Blu-ray release on the technical side of things. The image quality throughout both Season 1 and Season 2 left me feeling speechless. The colors are outstanding and the sheer level of detail and clarity impresses. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons the show works as well as it does.
Sengoku Basara: Season 1 and Season 2 features a Grade A presentation from start to finish. It doesn't even come close to disappointing. Sengoku Basara fans will undoubtedly feel satisfied by the experience and will recognize that Funimation has excelled again with an impressive release that matches the high-quality expectations created from the first season of the series arriving on Blu-ray).
Funimation continues to offer two audio choices to viewers: an original language Japanese dub (with English subtitles) and an English language dub. Both choices are presented with notable lossless high definition audio encodings featuring Dolby TrueHD codecs. For those who choose the English version there is a decent 5.1 surround sound track. The Japanese track is available with only 2.0 audio but it remains equally strong in clarity by utilizing a lossless format.
The images featured in this review of Sengoku Basara: Season 1 and Season 2 are from the DVD discs included in this Blu-ray/DVD combo pack release.
Funimation has also included text-less opening/ending songs, and trailers promoting other anime series released by the studio.
Staff Commentaries are included on Episodes 6 and 12 of Sengoku Basara: Season 2. These might appeal to fans of the English-language voice actors but these supplemental features remain inconsistent as commentaries containing a
Funimation has also included text-less opening/ending songs, and trailers promoting other anime series released by the studio.
Sengoku Basara was a decidedly uneven program from the debut episode of season one to the last episode of season two. It's never quite as fulfilling as you want it to be considering it's a series hoping to integrate some historical aspects of Japanese culture into its samurai story. However, it's probably at least somewhat above average for a video game adaptation (keep in mind that this is a series based on a Capcom game), but that isn't necessarily the highest praise one could hope for in a show. The show has tremendous visuals with stellar animation and is clearly an ambitious show visually speaking, but it lacks any real emotional connection and is merely average as a result. If you tune in for the animation and fight scenes only you'll have a blast with this show, probably, but anyone hoping for a series with greater characters and storytelling to match the production style, it's a bit underwhelming and not worth much more than a rental for casual viewers.
Established fans of the series should be pleased, though. If you've already seen the show and know you want to own it in some form, this collection offers both season 1 and season 2 on Blu-ray and DVD with a quality Blu-ray sized package-design and it comes with a nice slipcover. Collector's of samurai action anime and fans of the show who just want some action-anime to sit back and relax to will be pleased with the PQ/AQ, extras, and the low price for both seasons in this one well-put-together set. But most anime fans should give it a test-run first.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.