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Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings Season 2 Limited Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

While Nobunaga has been dealt with, there’s always another bigger foe just around the corner.

What They Say:
Japan’s toughest warlords are on the move, leading massive armies against their rivals in a thrilling quest for total domination. Wielding insane weaponry and unleashing the elements to boost their already awesome power, these warrior generals roar into the fray atop turbo-charged stallions, slicing through the enemy with six blades at once.

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 2010, 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 once again 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.

The combo edition limited edition release for the second season of Sengoku Basara is done up really well here as it works to bring the first season into the fold as well. The release comes in a heavy chipboard box that fitst the show well and is a Blu-ray sized box at that. The front panel features Masamune with an action pose as he hauls out three of his swords against a white background that has part of the logo in English along the left behind him. The full series logo with all the detail is along the lower left and the whole thing has a slightly busy feel to it but looks good here with its detail and designs. The back panel does the same thing but changes things out with Sanada and his heavy reds taking the center stage. It also changes out the background logo to shades of red and flips the location of the more detailed logo. The box art looks good all around and I like the feel of it as it all gives it a bit of weight.

Inside the box we get the Blu-ray cast that holds the DVD and Blu-ray discs as well as a simple filler box where the first season can go. The filler box is the weak link here as it’s just a black and gray piece that has a plain background overall with the series logo in greyscale as well. While some filler boxes are are worth keeping, this one is an easy toss. The Blu-ray case plays well with the first season (which featured both Sanada and Masamune together) as this one is given over to Hideyoshi where he dominates the cover with an aggressive approach to his stance. The background is the same as the box but it’s pretty minimal since he dominates it. The back cover is given over to Hanbei whose in a serious pose but he doesn’t dominate it like Hideyoshi. The reverse side of the cover is a kind of awkward piece where the left side is a wraparound piece with the episode numbers and titles that almost starts to read like a summary of the show, while the right side breaks down the extras included in the release. 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 are similar to what we saw with the first season in that we get the clean opening and closing sequences and a commentary for the final episode by the English language production staff. The big extra is the seven part mini stories that are provided from the original home video releases in Japan where they run four minutes each and have cute picture drama kinds of stories that are all comical in nature, but in that kind of sly and cute manner that works exceptionally well.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After experiencing the first season last year and absolutely falling in love with the general feel of it all, I was definitely looking forward to the second season. I was quite tempted to watch the second season when FUNimation ran the simulcast for it, but I kept remembering how much I enjoyed the first season as an overall package and felt that I wouldn’t enjoy it quite as much if I had to break it down episode by episode. And after watching this again, I really continue to feel that way as this is a series that I adore it for its visuals and the atmosphere it creates, and its sense of fun, but not so much for its story. A lot of it is that I’ve gone through this period and these characters so many times over in so many different variations that it’s all just a giant mess of what was real and what wasn’t. So with the main focus of the show being about big scenes, big emotions and lots of action, I find myself just giving in to all of that and enjoying it on a base level. Not that they skimp on the story, it just doesn’t resonate with me on that level.

With the events of the firsts season now behind the core cast, the defeat of Nobunaga and all that he represented has lead them all to quite a victory. But even that wasn’t enough to change the course of things as there is still a great need among the power players to unify the nation on their own. While they worked fairly well together, even with all the little subplots and power plays that were put into motion, they aren’t able to work together to achieve this goal for a myriad of reasons. You have to appreciate what it was that Nobunaga represented that got them to go as far as they did and it was definitely a beautiful series of events that lead to its resolution. So naturally, this season brings in another power player that threatens the status quo even as they try to gain superiority over others.

The arrival of Hideyoshi as the man to unify the nation is an interesting one as he’s a large man physically, reminiscent of Takeda but even more like a brick than he is, Unlike most of the others, he intends to unify the land through his fists as he uses no physical weapons outside of his own body, and his desire extends beyond Japan as he sees great opportunity to go out into the world to do things. What helps him on his quest is a curious man named Hanbei that has white hair and a slim purple mask of sorts across his face. He’s a master tactician and he intends to help Hideyoshi achieve his goal no matter the cost to himself personally as he has only so long to live to begin with. The two are a good pair, similar to Takeda and Sanada, but with different personalities. While we don’t get deep into Hanbei or Hideyoshi’s lives, their basic natures are certain true and simple.

Hideyoshi’s arrival in the game definitely puts an upset into the plans that others have, especially with the desired fight that Sanada wants with Masamune as the two have a real rivalry going that had to be put to the side for the battle against Nobunaga. There’s a certain gentleman’s agreement that is born here to deal with Hideyoshi as he makes a huge push from his first appearance and throws things into more disarray as he tries to unify things. Hideyoshi drives a big wedge into things and that causes the two main forces besides Kenshin to try different approaches to boxing him in, but it leads to all sorts of complications on its own, especially for Sanada as he ends up spending time out west where he runs into an almost comical group that will help him achieve a new level of power.

In a lot of ways, the second season plays out much like the first does but without the big supernatural aspect that Nobunaga brought to the picture. There’s a good buildup towards the final couple of episodes where all the forces finally come to a head and it plays out in spectacular fashion. The build up works well across the board as we see the various factions going through their motions and figuring out their plans while rubbing up against each other at times as well. The one in particular that I liked is when Hanbei spends some of his time to kidnap Katakura, the right eye of Masamune the Dragon. Katakura has a good past that’s explored here over the season in regards to Masamune as they’re tight for a lot of reasons and seeing him under Hanbei’s manipulations, and various attempts to torture him, makes for an engaging subplot that carries through the season well.

Also similar to the first season is that we get an OVA attached to the series which plays fast and loose with things in a very good way. The OVA this time around goes back in time a little bit to focus on Sanada and Masamune when they were together at Takeda’s place during one of the quiet times. It has a very humorous turn to it as Sanada reveals to Masamune that it’s time for the Contest of Men, one of the biggest events for a warrior in the Takeda clan where only a few are chosen to go through it. Takeda was one of the few that passed it years ago and it’s a big series of challenges that Sanada and Masamune must face. It’s over the top in the way that fits with Takeda easily, especially with how he and Sanada are together, and with Masamune involved it just goes bigger and surprisingly enough, sillier. It’s a fun way to cap off the season with a bit of levity and simplicity after things got so big and serious in the fight against Hideyoshi.

In Summary:
I kind of feel bad in saying ignore Sengoku Basara for its story because it’s not really the right approach. The show plays for big action and set pieces with the whole unification of Japan angle, but that’s just the back drop to the characters who play it big and almost overact when you get down to it. But it’s a great bit of overacting and action when combined that just goes in such a fun way that I can’t help but to smile through it. The plot is simple with a new party being introduced to the unification process and it throws a wrench into it all and the various sides work to deal with in expected ways. With some really great animation once again, wonderful designs and one of my favorite styles of action for a show of this kind, Sengoku Basara does everything right here for me. It’s a huge guilty pleasure that looks and sounds fantastic.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Mini Episodes, Commentary Track, Clean Opening, Clean Closings

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: $64.98
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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