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Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings Season 2 Anime DVD Review

11 min read

Second verse, improved over the first.

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.
They brandish explosive shotguns and swing swords the size of men. They crush the opposition with rolling battle fortresses and incinerate their foes with solar death rays. Hordes of ninja assassins and samurai fight to vanquish every adversary in their sight. As loyalties crumble and new alliances are forged in the scorching heat of battle, heroes become conquerors and conquerors become legends. This is war!

The Review:
Audio:
The feature is presented with two audio tracks- a 5.1 English track and a Stereo Japanese mix. For the purpose of this review the Japanese track was used and it is a fairly solid one. The audio track is free from dropouts or other distortions and it gets its point across as dialogue is delivered clear while also communicating the effects subtleties such as crackling of leather or the clash of steel. Pretty much the only noticeable issue is there is a little difficulty shown at times when dialogue is present at the same time as background music as the music tends to become a bit soft comparatively, almost as if it is begging the audience to work to hear it.

Video:
Originally starting to air in the mid 2010 Japanese television season, Sengoku Basara is presented here in its original 1.78:1 ratio and it also is given an anamorphic encode. The series has some really good positives as the bright colors come across really well and the blacks are nice, rich and solid. It isn’t all positive though as there are some issues that pop up, notably some noise, banding, occasional minor ghosting, color blur, slight aliasing, jaggies and some points where the background can appear as lines through some foreground characters and items. Also a note- those with a high definition set up may choose to move back a decent distance from the screen as some of the issues- like the noise in some of the colors- is particularly noticeable from a fairly close distance and can be somewhat distracting.

Packaging:
This review is of the DVDs only but the packaging for this Blu Ray/DVD release was covered in Chris Beveridge’s review of the Blu Ray portion of the releases review.

A brief note on this as well- when I received the DVDs for review the first DVD disc was marred on with some label printing error on the blank “read” side of the disc but a simple resurfacing took care of the issue.

As for the DVDs themselves, the label uses a colorful images of Maeda Keiji on the first disc in a close up as he rides a horse with the reigns in his left hand and his large sword in his right behind him with his monkey friend on his hip near the top 2/3 of the disc against a metallic looking background with the series logo and disc number written in the banner on the bottom third of the disc. The second disc uses Motochika Chosokabe as he stands perched like on the bow of his ship with his left hand in his pocket while his right is behind him with the chain of his anchor weapon slashing a diagonal behind him against a similar background and banner set up as the first disc.

Menu:
The menus for the series are rather basic affairs with static images being used while some rather dramatic instrumental tracks play in the background. The first disc uses the same image of Keiji that is on the disc label but sets him against a background that is mostly while with a bit of red banner at the top separated by a thin black line. The series logo is up in the red portion and just to the left of Keiji’s arm with the options listed in black just below that. The Episode Select screen reverses the position of the red banner as it is now at the bottom as an image of Japan as displayed in a map in the series is faintly visible in the white portion with the episodes selectable in black laid over it. The language screen offers some change up as the red banner is now relegated to the a diagonal slash in the upper right corner while the background image is one that displays some rather simplistically drawn fallen warriors. The Extras screen uses a mostly white screen with a grey print that looks a bit stereotypically Asian with a red rectangle that lists the screen as the Extras in white and the back function near the bottom as a Golden dragon appears, almost wrapping itself in a circle in the center of the screen with the extra commentary option present on its upper left side.

The second disc’ menus are largely the same as the first though Chosokabe is replaced with an image of Kojuro and Sasuke Sarutobi who both are carrying some masks that show up in the OVA at the end of the episodes in this set while the colors and images behind them are slightly different. The Extras menu is set up the same as the first season’s with the extras feature written in brown over the three stills that represent the chapters for the extra as the Clean Open and Close and commentary choices are below that, next to a red rectangle that lists the screen as the Extras in white and the back function under that. The menus themselves show which option is currently highlighted by having it tinged red and the menu is quick to respond to changes in selections and initiates the selected highlight with minimal delay.

Extras:
Included for extras on the release are the featurette New Anime “Sengoku Basara II Katakura” Episodes 1-3 and the (almost industry standard) Textless Songs as well as a pair of episodes with commentary track with the English voice actors. When I first looked at the listings I was disappointed as I saw the Blu Ray version of the release had 7 episodes of this listed. Unlike the previous season these are at least somewhat entertaining and boarder on amusing at times, though still not really all that impressive in the final meassure. Dub fans may be additionally disappointed that this feature is available in Japanese with subtitles only.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The story returns the viewer to the Warring States era some time after the defeat of Oda Nobunaga (the dub mentions years, the subs don’t really address the amount of time that has passed). With the Devil King’s demise the various factions that formed an alliance to defeat him have separated and the warlords have returned to their former ideals of either conquering the country or trying to figure out which side they should ally with to ensure their people’s safety. In the chaos a powerful new contender for the throne of Japan has emerged in the person of Toytomi Hideyoshi and once again the various warlords will be forced to chose sides and form alliances to take down this immensely powerful warrior and his plans for unification of the country under his banner.

The action begins immediately as Masamune and Yukimura meet again in battle as Yukimura is attempting to delay Masamune from interfering as Kenshin and the Tiger of Kai once again are facing off against each other. Yukimura is the same as ever and tries to persuade Masamune to let the two generals fight it out and then the winner and their army can face Masamune at a later date in conflict. This pleas falls on deaf ears though as it clashes with Masamune’s philosophy that winning is what is important and thus he looks forward taking on a weakened victor. When Masamune manages to defeat Yukimura the signal is given for Masamune’s army to advance but the appearance of another army out of the woods, this one belonging to Hideyoshi, causes a change of plans. While Masamune fights to a standstill with Hideyoshi the other two armies retreat thanks to some quick thinking by Masamune’s right hand man and strategist Kojuro and the standstill plus retreat of the other armies force Masamune to also do the same.

The outcome of the aborted fight creates new problems for the various parties as the Tiger of Kai dispatches Yukimura on a new quest in order to prevent Hideyoshi’s army from gaining more ground in the South which also serves as a gamble to see if the young man can come to terms with what his eventual rise in leadership will entail. At the same time Masamune will find himself minus his strategist and the man who serves as his right eye when Hideyoshi’s strategist, Takenaka Hanabei, arranges for the kidnapping of Kojuro in an attempt to get the man to join Hideyoshi’s ranks and use his skills for their ends.

During this period the warrior Maeda Keiji will also again make his attempt to find a way to calm events before they lead to more battles. To this end, he attempts to change the course of his old friend Hideyoshi’s path as Keiji seeks to try to convince Hideyoshi to pursue a less blood strewn path to the future for the country at large and his uncle and his clan in particular. Events are just out of reach though as well meaning gestures can’t change to course the country is on and the late arrival of Yukimura to the land he was dispatched to seals the deal as Chosokabe brings his forces to bear against Hideyoshi and his ally Mori. With events spiraling some of the familiar warriors are suddenly finding themselves in a place where their only recourse is to change or else they will perish under either the blade of steel or enormous fists that will clash in order to bring order to the chaotic time.

The second season of Sengoku Basara is one I entered with a bit of dread as I found the first season to be incredibly splashy but dull and lifeless and feared the second season would be more of the same. Luckily I was proven wrong as the second season addresses many of the issues I had with the first. Part of this is due to the fact that, thanks to the first season, I have some idea of who these main characters are after the time spent on the first season but it goes deeper than that.

The second season takes many of the warriors- Masamune and Yukimura in particular- and actually spends time developing them as characters rather than just relying on either the audience’s knowledge of them from either the game series or history. During this season both Masamune and Yukimura will be forced to come to terms with the outcomes of their actions as they are stripped of the security that others brought and which protected them in the past and now they have to deal with having no one to oversee their actions and try to guide them. In Masamune’s case this is less needed as he learned a good deal about valuing his men from Kojuro in the past but his strategy skills just aren’t in the same league and without his friend to serve as his compass and right eye he will be more venerable in battle. Yukimura meanwhile will learn the value of having to weigh every action carefully and realize that even the best of intentions can wind up sinking an army as he has to grow into the role his mentor is trying to groom him for or watch as that army will perish.

Additionally Keiji gets a bit of back story to fill in his seemingly aimless wanderings and pursuit of peace though he doesn’t make out nearly as well as Masamune or Yukimura in that regard. A final bonus is present when the audience finally gets some screen time for Chosokabe and Mori which helps give a handhold to grasp for the two characters that played a sizeable role at the end of the previous battle.

As the series goes into yet another major conflict the various machinations and motivations of the generals are laid bare. Along this path that they take the opportunity arises to see some of the consequences these mammoth struggles play on the villagers who live in the country and just are trying to make it through their days without really having the time to worry over which general is going to claim he rules the whole land. The general’s attitudes also get laid bare as the contempt some have for their men who they see as pawns is on display and at odds with the generals who see the men as people whose sacrifice may be necessary yet feel that even in the cause is important, every life is important and thus is something they shouldn’t just throw away.

Also the addition of the over-the-top OVA along with a new entry into the famous characters who appear helps strengthen the role that humor plays on occasion to help break up the heavy nature of some of the material at times. While this isn’t unique to this season as the previous season used humor as well, the new aspects here just seem to flow better, but for those who loved some of the gags used in the first you’ll find they are present here. If you didn’t care for some of the running gags you’ll probably be happy to find they are less present than in the first, though some of the replacements may not be exactly the most clever or original things ever.

In Summary:
Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings season 2 brings back the surviving cast from the first season and takes things a step further by actually developing some of the characters. In some ways this development was what I thought the first season lacked as the viewer gets a chance to connect with the motivations behind some of the main characters as well as learn some of what brought them to where they are today. While the bold action and its colorful implementation is an easy thing to point out in the series it is this developing and growing that actually makes this season stand so far above its predecessor as it gives a person a reason to root for a given general beyond just they think he is the coolest looking one. This season and the work to develop the characters actually sets apart some of the generals in a fairly good way and gives an idea of what kind of leader of Japan each one might have been (or at least these interpretations of the historical figures anyway). While there are still a few dead spots at times, this season has me now greatly anticipating the movie to see just how the writers choose to finish off this series.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 6 Commentary, Episode 12 Commentary, Textless Opening Song, Textless Closing Songs, New Anime “Sengoku Basara II Katakura” Episodes 1-3 (DVD)

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

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: February 7th, 2012
MSRP: $64.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Samsung 50″ Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.

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