Given that I reviewed the Sengoku Basara game, it was only a matter of time before I got to the anime.
In the Warring States period of Japan, countless lords fight to take control of the country. But one lord, Oda Nobunaga, the Devil King of the Sixth Heaven, cares nothing for conquest and seeks only to destroy everything. No single samurai can stand up to the Devil King’s strength, so if he is to be defeated, rivalries must be put aside and enemies must become allies.
At first glance, Sengoku Basara does little to really distinguish itself from other series of its kind. It’s a simple story about samurai banding together to defeat a powerful enemy. It even uses Oda Nobunaga, a historical figure that Japanese entertainment media frequently uses as a villain. What makes Sengoku Basara stand out is the approach it takes to walking this beaten path, which is sheer, over the top, hot-blooded action. Sengoku Basara takes such a fervent, over the top approach to telling its story that it’s impossible not to get pulled in. It’s sort of like Gurren Lagann in that sense. What you’re watching isn’t necessarily anything new or some piece of amazing storytelling, but it’s so exciting and fun that it doesn’t matter. It just has sheer entertainment from start to finish.
This is best exemplified by the fight scenes throughout the series. While the fight scenes are intense, the emphasis isn’t on long, choreographed fights like you would expect. Most of the fights are over fairly quickly. Instead the emphasis is on quick and brutal bouts of strength, filled with manly shouting and random explosions. This kind of thing normally comes off as stupid and silly, but, again, Sengoku Basara carries itself in such a way that it draws you in. The creators knew they were making something silly and over the top, so they just had fun with it. It’s impossible to not get pulled in and have fun when you’re watching a guy swing six swords around at once.
Sengoku Basara‘s character designs are equally as over the top as everything else in the show. Yukimura’s flaming-pants and permanently displayed bare chest, as well as Masamune’s helmet that you could impale a man on, seem almost normal when compared to someone like Tadakatsu. This particular robot/samurai… thing, is at least 10 feet tall, clad in armour that makes him look like a small mecha, complete with jet pack and shoulder mounted cannons. Keep in mind that this is supposed to take place during the 16th century Sengoku period. Even Oda Nobunaga, classic Japanese villain that he is, goes into battle wielding a double barrelled shotgun.
The soundtrack for the series is very fitting, with a mix of genres to match some of the characters. Masamune, who seems more like a gang leader than a samurai, has some rap elements mixed into some of his themes, and it works well for the character. Yukimura, who is more of a traditional hot-blooded samurai, has more rock themed songs that complement his hot-blooded temperament quite well. The entire soundtrack is filled with songs that carry the excitement and fun of the series, and will make you want to punch someone in the face, but in a good way.
Funimation went in an entirely different direction with their dub of the series than what was done for the recent game. It’s a great deal less subdued, as is the script in general. The game did have the same kind of over the top elements as the anime, but to a lesser degree, and the dub reflected that. This time around they decided to just let loose and the dub is filled with more hammy lines, which worked well here due to the anime just being a hell of a lot crazier than the game. I don’t recall the game featuring anything quite as amazing as Yukimura shouting something like, “Under whose flag do you wield such western weaponry woman?!”
What makes the dub interesting though is the use of actors who don’t normally do work for Funimation. Namely Liam O’Brien and Sam Riegel, two California based actors who reprise their roles as Ieyasu Tokugawa and Mori Motonari respectively. These weren’t small parts either, as both characters feature heavily in at least one episode each. It was nice to see Funimation bring different actors in to do work instead of just relying on the same group like they tend to do.
In what has become a rarity these days, Sengoku Basara actually has extras aside from trailers and textless opening/closing. The more important extra it features is the thirteenth episode that wasn’t part of the original broadcast. It takes place before episode twelve, and features Keiji Maeda attempting to get Chosokabe and Mori to form a temporary alliance and join the fight against Nobunaga. The other extra is Mini Sengoku Basara: Chosokabe-kun and Mori-kun, a seven episode series of short animations featuring chibi versions of Chosokabe and Mori doing stuff. The extra episode is dubbed, which is to be expected since it’s just presented as episode thirteen and not as an extra, while the Mini Sengoku Basara shorts are sub-only. The shorts aren’t all that great. They’re funny some of the time, but for the most part they’re just kind of dull. It’s still nice to have some actual extras though.
With all its over the top fun and excitement, Sengoku Basara is easily one of the best anime series of recent years. It features fast and intense action, great characters, and a new approach to a story that we’ve seen done plenty of times before that allows it to stay interesting. It’s definitely a must watch for anyone who likes hot blooded action, or fun in general.