The dangers continue to lurk around every corner but the fight continues on.
What They Say:
Murakumo crumbles at the hands of the united clans, but enemies still stir in the shadows. Without warning, Hibiki is kidnapped, and a new castle looms on the horizon. One man cannot face such monstrous power alone, and if Hachirou wants to save Hibiki, he must command the Kouga and Iga clans to put their lives on the line once more.
The audio presentation for this release is pretty standard but serves the material well as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo as well as the new English language adaptation which gets the 5.1 bump to it. Both tracks are encoded with the lossless Dolby TrueHD codec and come across very cleanly. The series has a good mix of action and dialogue that keeps it moving while making sure both sides of it have some very good moments. With the action, it utilizes the forward soundstage well to jump about and provide some depth and placement where needed. We get some much bigger action scenes towards the end and those ramp things up well, making it fun and appropriate. The dialogue side is much the same as we get the usual standard sequences but also some big scenery-chewing bits with the way the characters go at it, especially in the action sequences. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2018, the transfer for this TV 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 with nine on the first and three on the second. Animated by Seven Arcs Pictures, we get a really well-done show here with some great animation and character designs along with some very fluid scenes. There’s a lot of things I like about the style and design here that shines through well, from the large eyes and bold colors to the more rounded character designs. The show has a bright, colorful and vibrant look to it that really drives home a solid visual design that the transfer captures very well but it does all of this with the darkness all around it through many backgrounds and the scenes themselves. The colors are solid throughout, the detail shines well in both the character animation and the backgrounds and there are a lot of scenes that just pop wonderfully.
The packaging for this release brings us a slightly thicker than standard Blu-ray case to hold the four discs across the two formats. It comes with an o-card that replicates the case artwork and it definitely helps, though it really is noted that the artwork is dark and murky to begin with. It’s a good key visual piece that I liked upon its initial release as it keeps the darkness above while keeping the brightness close in on the two leads below. The logo is kept simple to the lower right and there’s a nice mix of colors throughout the whole design. The back cover is a bit simpler with just a couple of bold colors where the middle is a soft white with a brief summary of the premise. It’s here that we get a shot of Murakumo sword in hand along with a trio of very tiny shots from the show. The extras are partially listed while the remainder has the production/technical grid information. No show related inserts are included but we do get a reversible cover that uses the Japanese artwork design that lets Hachirou get an action pose piece while the back cover is the same as the main back cover.
The menu layout for this release is pretty standard as we get a lot of moody clips playing with brief bits of action mixed into it all. It goes for a darker design overall with some vibrant moments punctuating that and it works well since the series essentially lives in this kind of environment, so you get an idea of what to expect. The logo is done up in a good size along the center-top while the center-bottom has the minimal navigation to it that provides a few little thematic elements to tie it into the property overall. Submenus load quickly and while you can’t change languages on the fly you can do it easily through the pop-up menu during playback itself. It may not be the most memorable of menus but it puts you in the right mood for what’s to come.
The extras for this release are a bit basic but there’s some effort involved here. We get the clean version of the opening sequence only due to the way the closing is setup but we also get an original English language commentary. This is just for the 24th and final episode but it’s a good one to do that with and there’s a good bit of fun with the cast/crew involved here in talking about the show.
Originally based on the novel The Kouga Ninja Scrolls by Futaro Yamada which came out in 1958, the original Basilisk manga series hit in 2003 and there was quite a popular two-cour anime adaptation in 2005 that Funimation established itself well with. A sequel manga series landed in 2017 and wrapped up this year with seven volumes and it launched the anime adaptation that ran for two cour in the first half of 2018. That saw Junji Nishimura, a solid and strong director, handling the production at Seven Arc Pictures. I never saw the first half as we didn’t get that set for review so I went into the second half a bit blind, which made some of the story elements a little rough but I was more than easily able to enjoy the action and the more sweeping moments.
Taking place ten years after the events of the original series that pushed the two clans to war with each other in the hopes of wiping out at least one of them if not both. Times have become difficult again with a new shogun having gone through succession and ties to the past were explored with that before moving forward. It looks like a decent chunk early on in the first half of this series was focused on showing how this next generation of ninja was working to carry on the legacy and learn their trade well. It’s interesting to see how the two clans have worked together in some ways and unified in others over the years and the focus on the next generation side, without being direct descendants of the leads of the first, is a nice touch. Both Hachiro and Hibki echo what we saw before right down to the relationship side of it but with enough little difference so that it’s not identical. Close enough in some ways but divergent in others to smooth it out.
With so much of heavy lifting done in the first half of the series to showcase the clans, the dynamics, the old feelings that still reside out there, the second half is far more focused on the action. There’s a decent bit of deception going on here and there as the various ninja do what they must do to survive and it plays well as it’s not always just physical actions, but rather simple stealth or careful words used in order to shift discussions and directions. Hachiro tends to be the more physical of the two leads but I liked seeing Hibiki step up from time to time, even if this half kicks off with a kidnapping for her. But I like how her past comes to haunt her in an interesting way toward the end, providing another nice if a little blunt connection to the original series. But realistically, most of this season is about the fighting and moving toward those moments.
There’s a good enough story to help hold it all together with character motivations, grudges, and other issues, but when it gets down to the fighting it works through. There are enough expected pauses and dramatic moments to give it room to breathe and not break the budget, but I like the darker and murkier look of the show in how it allows the action to feel even more intense because of it, moving within a lighting pattern that feels appropriate. The sequences themselves are solid and engaging – moreso if you’ve seen the first half, I imagine – but it’s a delight to watch since we get so few ninja fighting series these days and rarer that it’s actually treated dark and seriously like it should be. It does it well within this series and as it drives toward the final with the fight becoming more desperate and the bodies dropping more, it fits just right with its intensity. It may get a little wonky in terms of story in how it handles things but if you’re just looking for something that will give you the action you need without the cutesy material, this is it.
I have very fond memories of the original series even if I know exactly what all of its problems were and how the anime adaptation magnified them in a way. A sequel series is a dicey project but I like a lot of what they did here in advancing things forward, tying things to the past without it being a constant and domineering part, and playing with a few different angles along the way. The visuals are what delivered for me as the action is solid throughout and it looks great with the murky lighting applied to it that gives it more atmosphere. Though I didn’t connect much with the characters for reasons stated above, they’re easy enough to get into in a basic way and that makes it easy to just go along for the ride.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Episode 24 Commentary
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: July 2nd, 2019
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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.