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Sengoku Basara: End of Judgement Blu-ray Anime Review

8 min read

sengoku-basara-end-of-judgment-dvd-bdSekigahara is almost upon us!.

What They Say:
Get ready for the hacking, slashing battle of a lifetime in a new adaptation of the Sengoku Basara franchise. The new installment, based on the world created by Capcom, revolves around one massive conflict featuring mechanized samurai, mystical ninjas, gun-toting warriors, and a blinding array of deadly special moves! During the turbulent period of warring states, numerous feudal lords sought to rule the land of the rising sun. With Nobunaga defeated, Hideyoshi lead a brutal campaign to wipe out the remaining combatants. His ambitions were crushed, however, when he was betrayed by the idealistic Tokugawa Ieyasu. Ieyasu’s rebellion marked the start of a new conflict that would put old and new alliances to the test as Hideyoshi’s loyal followers began plotting their revenge, and the other remaining lords prepared their armies for the showdown at Sekigahara.

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 2014, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs in a nine/three format that’s become standard. Animated by Telecom Animation Film, the series is 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 third season of Sengoku Basara is done up really well here as it works to bring the first two seasons into the fold as well. The design doesn’t have the heavy chipboard box we had before but the packaging itself is the same as what was inside, which is a slightly thicker than normal Blu-ray case with an o-card that replicates the cover artwork. The front panel features four of the main characters all bunched together close but taking up a lot of space, though poor Date is being squashed here, with some decent color and sense of power behind it while being placed against the blue of the sky and the green of the trees. The full series logo with all the detail is along the middle and the whole thing has a slightly busy feel to it but looks good here with its detail and designs. The back panel goes for a manuscript paper type of background that provides for a good summary of the premise along with a couple of decent character shots along the right. Extras are broken out clearly and the technical grid uses a white background so that everything is clean and easy to read. Sadly, there are no show related inserts nor even a reversible cover 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 previous seasons for the most part in that we get the clean opening and closing sequences and a couple of commentary tracks on the first disc by the English language production staff.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Like a lot of shows, there are diminishing returns the more it goes on. Some can get better and grow in interesting ways, but a lot – especially in anime – tend to stagnate or repeat themselves. This is sometimes different when it comes to shows working off of video games because they can do some radically different stories to adapt from. Based on the third main game for this series, End of Judgement takes us to a different time in events and puts a whole lot of people together to fight. The first season was a lot of fun with the somewhat smaller main cast it had and the second season became more problematic as more people were introduced. This one essentially works from there but I find myself in that place where I’ve seen so many interpretations of characters from this period over so many years now that it’s all blurred into meaninglessness.

That doesn’t mean that this isn’t fun or can’t be fun. What this season does is essentially kick off as we’re now a hundred days away from the battle of Sekigahara and all the events that fall out from there with the warlords seeking to control the country. With so many groups in play and tenuous alliances and rivalries in the mix, everything goes in splintered directions quickly when Ieyasu ends up surprising everyone by killing Hideyoshi, further cementing his power and what he’s capable of in the minds of others. That has a lot of surprise rippling through the ranks while other see opportunity and start to move forward. Some of the main players are kept to more background roles this time around, even Date and Sanada to some degree, but it never feels like we get anyone that’s really stepping up to the plate to truly lead the series. And that’s what slows things down a lot.

Ostensibly, Mitsunari Ishida from the Toyotomi clan is the one that gains more position here and screentime as he advances his agenda. This complements the rise of Ieyasu during a lot of this as he’s playing against expectations and works such a casual command of events at times that it’s disarming to watch. Especially in contrast to the way Ishida seems so intense and ready to just light into anything and everything at times. These are fun moments to watch play out but they’re very superficial for me by not having played any of the games (and having no interest) combined with the minimal amount of story that we get here. I’ve seen a number of shows based on events leading up to and after Sekigahara and know there are a lot of angles to explore, but Sengoku Basara really isn’t interested in that. It’s all about the push of manly emotion for victory and dominance over one’s enemies and the battles themselves.

Which is fine because I certainly delighted in the action of the first season and a bit less so with the second season and its mild drawback of such events. This season feels like it’s a bit less as well as the action does hit most episodes but never feels like it hits quite the scale that we had before. The early episodes are more personal fights rather than taking down large swathes of armies and the like and there is fun in that, such as when Date is seeing things and trying to kill Sanada thinking that he’s Ishida. Or a bit on Date’s past as a commander and some of the bad choices he made when it came to his troops. When it hits the Sekigahara event it does feel like there’s an upturn for things here but it instead goes kind of squirrelly. We get Mori’s Sun Mirror machine that’s an old school style mecha that’s simple awkward as hell and then a more self-contained in magical space one on one fight that takes you out of the (somewhat) grounded aspect that the series has mostly held onto outside of some of the obvious game mechanics elements. There are some good fights to be had but they just lack the impact because of the meagerness of the story.

In Summary:
I like the Sengoku Basara project in general and certainly have some fun with it but it’s suffering from going on as long as it has and getting more “complicated” while still being mostly superficial in terms of story. That leaves us with some fun action sequences to be had and some outlandish moments for the characters as they fight – or simply interact with each other – but it lacks the story resonance it needs to give it some real weight. Funimation’s release will definitely please fans overall as it’s a great looking show that holds up well here and it has another very fun dub from the team that definitely enjoys playing these characters. While the packaging is a bit weaker than before we do get some good extras with it through a couple of commentary tracks so that elevates it above a few other shows recently.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Commentary Tracks, Clean Opening, Clean Closings

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

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: December 27th, 2016
MSRP: $64.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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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