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Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings Season 1 Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

It’s gonna be one hell of a ride.

What They Say:
Sengoku Basara drops you directly into the burning battlefields of feudal Japan, where rival warlords hack and slash their way to total domination. Each conqueror wields a special attack that boosts their powers of devastation, and each commands a horde of relentless warriors. But when a supreme evil – the Demon Lord – threatens the land, these fierce generals launch a co-op campaign of annihilation and build an army of armies to obliterate their common foe.

As the front line grows crowded with gun-toting, mechanized samurai and mystical ninja, some will say that war is hell – but Sengoku Basara proves it can also be kick ass.

Contains episodes 1-13.

The Review:
The audio tracks for Sengoku Basara are pretty standard fare in terms of what we get in that the original Japanese is in stereo and the English mix gets bumped up to 5.1, both of which are encoded in Dolby TrueHD lossless form. The show has a pretty strong feeling to it with both mixes as the stereo track has a very good forward soundstage design with lots of impact in the battle scenes while the English mix bumps it up a few notches and gives it even more resonance. The English mix doesn’t use the surrounds as heavily as one might want, since it wasn’t in the original design, but it’s given a sharper feeling overall and that definitely makes for a more appealing action sequence. Both tracks have a lot to offer and dialogue is clean and clear throughout with no dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2009, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episodes are spread across two discs in a ten/three format due to some lengthier extras on the second disc. Sengoku Basara has a truly gorgeous piece of animation to it and this native HD transfer captures it beautifully. It offers up very rich colors and a wonderful flow of animation with no discernible issues that you can easily become captivated by it. The CG animation in it even comes across very well with a very vibrant look that it practically leaps off the screen. I’d even go so far as to say that Sengoku Basara is the only anime I can think of that I’d love to see in 3D as it’s done here. The transfer here left me thoroughly enjoying the visual design of the show.

While the series was released in separate DVD and Blu-ray releases the first time around, this edition gives us the combo version so that it’s in line with the second season release combo as well. To try and bridge things in an interesting what, what we get is a DVD sized O-Card that inside has the Blu-ray case itself. There’s some edging along the bottom to keep it in the case securely and you extract the case through the top when you want it. The O-Card and the case artwork is the same for both, so if you don’t care for it or just want the Blu-ray on the shelf, you have that option easily without losing anything. The front cover is busy but engaging with the pairing of Date and Sanada and their primary colors set against a white background that has the word Basara along the left that’s obscured. The logo itself uses the same that we’ve seen with the previous release that matches the game as well for that extra bit of synergy. The back cover is a bit cleaner with the ay things are laid out and we get a lot of material set against a white background that helps to make it all feel smoother. Shots from the show, a simple sumary and some god bits of artwork that sets the mood nicely. The discs extras and features are clearly listed and the technical grid along the bottom covers the two formats with all their specs in a clean and easy to read format. The reverse side of the cover is kept to a white piece with a little gold edge work along the top and bottom. The left side breaks down the episode titles for the season in a paragraph form while the right side breaks down the extras. No show related inserts are included with this release.

The menu design for the show fits in fairly well with the theme as the navigation menu, which also doubles as the pop-up menu as well. It’s done in a rough kind of text with the strip itself also done like a torn piece of paper or flag. The text is done with a blue color to it while the highlighted section is red, owing to the Masamune/Yukimura aspects of the show. The two of them are also the main players along the majority of the screen as we get action scenes with the two of them that are pretty busy and intense, but it gets a low and slow building piece of music set to it that’s decent but doesn’t really get you primed for the show itself. I do like that when you bring up the menu it uses a bit of a sword chinking sound and everything moves very smoothly and quickly, particularly the response time of the pop-up menu when it comes up. The discs do not read our players’ language presets and default to English with sign/song subtitles.

The extras on the second disc are definitely a mixed bag. The tried and true is here as we get the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences, but we also get the seven part series that shows us a cute lightly animated chibi version of a couple of characters that show up towards the end of the show. It’s all very out of the show itself as they start if off by wanting to watch Sengoku Basara and the thing runs just under forty-five minutes total. But it left me completely bored from almost the start as it didn’t provide much humor at all and had me checking the clock on it to see how much was left every few minutes.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the video game of the same name from Capcom, Sengoku Basara is a twelve episode series with an additional DVD only episode that takes place in the Warring States period of Japan’s history. Production I.G. handled the animation duties for this series and the payoff is significant as the show looks positively stunning throughout. Video game to anime adaptations aren’t uncommon but the good ones are definitely rare, especially those coming from more action oriented origins. Sengoku Basara’s game play is one that does deal with a bit of a story but is far more about the action and extensive battles. The anime is, for the most part, essentially the same in that regard and you could easily call it an exercise in style over substance.

But what beautiful style.

Sengoku Basara is an easy show to describe in that it’s all about the battles between men of legend at a time when warlords and clan leaders were consolidating power bases and doing all they could to either expand their reach or protect something dear. Lions of men take command and most of them spend their time on the field with their men, not just commanding from afar. In this period, there is a long quest to unite the lands under their own rule but threats are out there everywhere and nobody else can be trusted, forcing them to essentially expand solely through conquest. Even when using other methods, such as marriage, it’s something that can be easily thrown away in favor of a blade to win.

Within this story, there are a few factions that are at work and they’re fairly layered as there is the man ultimately in charge as well as those that serve under him, often including one that has the ability to rise to the next level some day. One faction has Date Masamune, the one-eyed dragon who is an exceptional warrior who has at his side a man named Kojuro who serves as his right eye. Though the initial person they want to take down is a man named Kenshin, Masamune spends more of his time going up against Yukimura Sanada instead, who serves under Kai the Tiger who is acquiring a fair bit of territory through their campaign.

Once the two come into contact, it invariably pits them against each other several times before they discover the real problem that they and most other leaders and factions must face. As much of a threat as they are to each other and their plans for conquest, there is someone bigger out there that threatens everything else and what they may potentially achieve. Nobunaga Oda has built his reputation over the years to the point where he’s believed to be possessed by the devil itself because of what he does and how he gets away with it. With him as the threat above all other threats, eventually the various sides have to come together in some form to deal with him less they face him singly down the road as Oda picks them off one by one.

The plot of the series is pretty minimal overall, though they do tie it together well enough with a lot of manly moments, things involving honor and loyalty and the movements of various forces and factions and how it will affect the country as a whole as it further falls into war. The cast is decent as they’re introduced though they’re not exactly filled with a rich history. They’re people living in the here and now and that is filled with war, plotting and sacrifice. There are a couple of women mixed into this manly show, one the wife of a general and sister to Oda while the other is a ninja who has fallen hard for her master. She has quite the creative costume to her, but plays such a relatively small role overall it’s easy to overlook. You aren’t watching this for its detailed character study, to say the least.

So why watch Sengoku Basara? That’s surprisingly simple. It’s a beautiful looking show when it comes to what it really wants to sell itself on and that’s the action. The appeal of the game is translated here beautifully when it comes to the battles as there’s a lot of power and intensity to it and some wonderful choreography. When I first got into Japanese live action cinema, one of the earliest things I saw was Akira Kurosawa’s Ran with its large scale armies fighting, the movements and so forth, and it has left a definite impression after all these years. This isn’t Ran of course, but it captures some of that flavor with the troops and battles here which is hugely appealing.

In Summary:
With the second season set to hit, it’s definitely the right time to re-release the first season and make a more compelling combo product for those that missed out. I had been hesitant going into this season originally because of its origins and that had me with some low expectations. Revisiting just before the second season is definitely a good way to go and its a series that I think definitely works best when viewed in marathon form. While it’s light on actual plot or story, it makes up for that with beautiful visuals from Production I.G. that really shine. I’m not a fan of style over substance but sometimes a show comes along that hits it so perfectly, that allows the overall feeling of the series and its presentation to be enough, that it’s captivating. It rises to the challenge beautifully and every episode had me looking forward to the next one to see where it would go and what battle would occur. While Sengoku Basara is not a show that will be long remembered, it’s a skillful and beautiful execution of material that really deserves a look as it’s surprising how addictive it is.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, New Anime “Sengoku Basara Chosokabe Motochika-kun and Mori-kun” Episodes 1-3 (DVD) / Episodes 1-7 (Blu-ray), Textless Songs

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Readers Rating: [ratings]

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: February 7th, 2011
MSRP: $44.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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