Monday, June 11, 2012

Anime Review: Sengoku Basara - Samurai Kings

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed an anime. It’s not that I haven’t been watching any, it’s that the anime I have been watching took me forever to finish despite the fact it was only thirteen episodes. I’ve finally, finally, watched the last episode of what was easily the most exhausting series I’ve watched to date.
  
Sengoku Basara is a series of action video games developed by Capcom that is widely considered a “rip-off” of Samurai Warriors, which has an identical setting (Feudal Japan’s Warring States Period) and is itself a spin-off of the popular Dynasty Warriors games. Now I’m a pretty big Dynasty Warriors fan but I haven’t played much Samurai Warriors. What little I’ve played leads me to believe that Capcom saw the game and said “That’s not nearly insane enough. I say we remake the game and make at least 50 times crazier and 50 times less historically accurate.” And thus Sengoku Basara was born. And wouldn’t you know it; it turns out Capcom was on to something because the game became very popular, beating out its rival. Like many popular properties in Japan it was just a matter of time before it was turned into an anime, which brings us to today.

Tilted Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings in the translation the show was produced by Production I.G (Who also did Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, and Eden of the East) in 2009 and licensed by FUNimation Entertainment. Interestingly this show kind of bumped itself to the top of my list; originally I was supposed to be watching Princess Tutu (Which actually might have an English dub so bad that I may be unable to watch it on Netflix) but the first episode of this show got me so excited that I decided to go through this instead. That was a mistake.

Full review after the jump.

 


I hope you left your brain at home
During Japan’s Sengoku Period many generals and lords are fighting bitterly over control of the land. One such general is Takeda Shingen who is famous for his rivalry with Uesugi Kenshin. Takeda’s trusted vassal Sanada Yukimura, a hot blooded young warrior who dual-wields two spears, has himself just begun a rivalry with equally hot blooded Date Masamune, another warlord who fights with six swords…at the same time. However their battle is interrupted by the arrival of Oda Nobunaga, the self-titled “Demon King.” Oda’s army threaten the land with his own brand of evil and all the other lords must unite in order to stop him before it’s too late.

The thing you have to remember about this show, like the game it’s based on, is extremely over the top. From the character design to the fighting style of the characters to their weapons; this is one of the most stylized anime I’ve ever seen. The show is like a cross between Gurren Lagaan, Dragon Ball Z and Samurai 7. The fights are very Shonen Manga-like in execution and even include characters flying around shooting blasts of chi or whatever at each other. Date Masamune decks out his horse like it’s a motorcycle and has his followers dress like 20th Century hooligans. One of the characters is a goddamn Gundam. Seriously!

Cast in the name of God! Ye not the guilty!
WE HAVE CAME TO TEAM! BIG-O HONDA!
This is likely the show’s greatest strength. It can appeal to baser instincts because it lives and breathes BECAUSE IT’S COOL, throwing logic out the window. In theory if you liked Gurren Lagaan for that reason Sengoku Basara may be trying to appeal to you. Unfortunately it’s also this show’s biggest weakness because beneath the surface there’s much else there aside from that. It’s not style over substance; it’s style with no substance at all. After a while all that over the top action just become painfully boring to have to watch.

First of all the plot is pretty much “Let’s all stop fighting and go fight Nobunaga” which is fine but its straight forward nature is a bit dull. There were no surprises and nothing that really required you to be paying 100% attention, which is a bit annoying. The characters are all flat. The most successful ones are at best two dimensional clichés that spout off stock phrases that you’ve heard a million times before in anime, especially anime where’s there is fighting. Sanada Yukimura and Date Masamune are both protagonists I’ve seen in shows better executed than this one so why should I watch them here? Yukimaru is the more annoying of the two since he will not stop yelling. Ever.

Of course Oda Nobunaga is the worst offender since he lacks any dimension at all. He’s the Evil Overlord archetype at its most basic and disgustingly obvious  making him one of the least interesting villains I’ve ever seen in an anime. Aside from that there are way too many characters to keep track of and we don’t have time to care about any of them all that much. Also did we really need that running gag where Kasuga basically has an orgasm every time Uesugi Kenshin says anything romantic to her? It’s really weird.

"Subtlety is for wankers"
So with a basic plot, a basic villain and lacking particularly interesting protagonists the issue with the over stylization of the rest of the show pretty much makes everything very hard to watch. Animation wise things are alright. There are some moments when the art takes a bit of a nose dive but it only really happens when Yukimura and Date are fighting. I assume it’s either a style choice, and if so it works pretty well, or these fights are so ridiculous that if they’d destroy their art budget if they went full tilt detailing those scenes. Speaking of Yukimura and Date I did enjoy the idea of their rivalry, as I’m a bit of a sucker for that type of thing. But again it’s nothing I haven’t seen before.

The sad fact is that by episode three I was bored out of my skull and by episode five I was just waiting for it to hurry up and end. There’s nothing that Sengoku Basara offers me that I can’t get better elsewhere. It’s funny because I’m thinking that all of these elements I’ve been badmouthing probably make the original video games really fun. I wouldn’t mind playing as some of these crazy ass characters but simply watching them felt like a chore. Perhaps if we focused on the different daimyo fighting each other rather than teaming up to fight Satan Nobunaga things would have been more interesting, but alas that does not happen. If you feel like this show might have been something you would have enjoyed I recommend skipping it and instead checking out S-CRY-ed, an anime that has a lot in common with this show with the fighting and being over the top but does a better job of keeping you invested.

I'm 80% certain motorbike horses weren't around in Feudal Japan
I’m giving Sengoku Basara 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas.


Pros 

-If you like over-the-top madness this show is for you

-The animation is pretty good

-Yukimura and Date’s rivalry is probably the best part of the show

Cons 

-Boring characters

-Boring plot

-Boring villain

-Too much style, not enough substance 



I need more anime to watch. If you have any requests or suggestions of anime for me to review shoot me an e-mail at betaisdead@gmail.com.

2 comments:

  1. nice review. I may get the game but will definitely avoid the show. I'm not much into action shows anyway. And you should really give Princess Tutu a shot. It's such a well put together show, but as I've seen through recommending it to some of my friends it's not all that interesting to everyone.

    And to your comments about the dub I'm beginning to wonder if I have low standards because I like the Princess Tutu dub. It may be because some of my favorite voice actors are in it but I just about all ways watch the dub if one is available.

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    1. Well as far as Princess Tutu went I only saw the first episode. Maybe the dub gets better from there but I remember being really turned off by the acting (this was a few months ago at this point). Plus perhaps we just have different tastes when it comes to that sort of thing.

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