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Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings, The Complete 1st Season(TV) (2009)
In feudal Japan, many generals struggled for power in unending warfare, but one man proved to be too big a threat - the dark lord Oda Nobunaga. Sanada Yukimura and Date Masamune, two young warriors from different regions who become heated rivals, must form an unlikely alliance with the rest of the generals to take down the Devil King. Sengoku Basara is based on the PlayStation game Devil Kings by Capcom. The series was animated by Production I.G., and directed by Itsuro Kawasaki.
For more about Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings, The Complete 1st Season and the Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings, The Complete 1st Season Blu-ray release, see Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings, The Complete 1st Season Blu-ray Review published by Dustin Somner on November 13, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Robert McCollum, Johnny Yong Bosch
» See full cast & crew
Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings, The Complete 1st Season Blu-ray Review
While far from perfect, Sengoku Basara exceeds the quality of most video game adaptations.
Reviewed by Dustin Somner, November 13, 2010
Debuting as a video game for the Sony Playstation 2 system, Sengoku Basara (Samurai Kings) is a 12 episode series from the renowned Production I.G. studio. If you're a fan of both anime and video games you've no doubt endured the somewhat tiresome formula that often accompanies the media crossover. Fighting games in particular translate into little more than a platform to introduce an astonishing headcount of quickly forgotten combatants that seem oddly placed within a paper thin plot. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, we can assume you've never been exposed to Tekken or Street Fighter spin-offs, which are rarely regarded as the finest anime has to offer. Fortunately, Sengoku Basara marks a new direction in the land of spin-offs, combining enough character integration to please die-hard fans, while simultaneously creating an engrossing experience for the uninitiated.
Set during the Warring States period of Japanese history, Sengoku Basara opens with an introduction to various generals vying for control over the surrounding land. As we quickly learn, the alliances between dueling commanders are as fragile as a bowl in a china shop, leading to numerous skirmishes and double-crosses that speak to the honor of various leaders. One area of common ground among many of the territorial leaders is a collective disdain for a general named Oda Nobunaga, or the Demon King. This particular general has his sights set on conquering the entire countryside, and demonstrates a willingness to dispense with any manner of honor in completing his goal. Enlisting the aid of several misguided minions, the army of the Demon King proves more than most factions are able to handle, forcing shaky alliances between longstanding enemies, and allowing two young warriors to emerge as heroes. Before all is said and done, countless lives will be lost to the inevitable cost of war, and the land will be ravaged by an insatiable thirst for power.
The most important thing to focus on when approaching your first viewing of Sengoku Basara is the importance of not being distracted. Given the number of characters introduced during the first five episodes, it can become rather difficult to keep every name straight through the multiple plot twists. This problem becomes even more troublesome as alliances form against the Demon King, requiring the presence of informational narratives to bring viewers up to speed. So long as you dedicate your full attention to the show there's a decent level of dense storytelling to enjoy, but those who exhibit a tendency toward a wandering mind will soon become quite friendly with the reverse button on their remote control.
In addition to the dense plotlines and clever twists in the show, I was impressed with the majority of the action throughout the series. Unlike the realistic fight sequences found in Samurai Champloo, Sengoku Basara features characters who are capable of jumping one hundred feet into the air, or wiping out entire armies with the mere swing of a sword. As a result, there are no large-scale battles of any significance (though army skirmishes do occur), yet the attacks carried out by individual samurai offer enough eye-candy to satisfy the majority of viewers with an appetite for violence.
Despite my overall enjoyment of the production, there are still some problems worth touching on. First, I was profoundly annoyed by the interactions between Takeda Shingen and his underling Sanada Yukimura. The general essentially acts as a mentor to Yukimura, who continually winds up taking a beating from his "lord", as they take turns yelling each other's name. The first time it happens will seem goofy and a bit distracting (in comparison with the rest of the show), but by the fifth time it's more akin to nails on a chalkboard. The second significant problem is the anticlimactic inclusion of a thirteenth episode that was apparently produced after the original airing of the series on Japanese television. To be clear, consider the first twelve episodes of the series as the core production, with number twelve offering the true conclusion to the story arch. Episode thirteen is merely a value added side-story that takes place concurrently with events from earlier in the story, and bares little significance. If you know this going in, it won't be a huge deal, but I tend to anticipate a certain timeline as we approach the conclusion of a series, and found myself a bit perplexed by the early conclusion in episode twelve. If anything, it would have been nice to witness a final story arch that establishes the direction of a potential season two, rather than merely telling a side story from earlier in the first season. I know some will think this is a little nit-pickish on my part, but it had the unfortunate consequence of cheapening the experience during my initial viewing.
Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings, The Complete 1st Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in 1080p utilizing the AVC codec (at an average bitrate of 21Mbps), Sengoku Basara is truly a sight to behold on Blu-ray. Similar to Eden of the East, this series from Production I.G. serves as a demonstration of how far high-definition anime has come in the past two years, delivering an unprecedented level of detail within the artwork. For example, there's a scene early in the show where Date Masamune takes council with his second-in-command (Kojuro) at dusk while sitting under the bright pink petals of a cherry tree. The contrasting shades allow the petals to glow against the dark backdrop, creating one of many visually arresting moments in the thirteen episode run. Furthermore, I'd encourage every viewer to pay close attention to the minor artistic details during action sequences, which often show an incredible level of creative design. From reflective effects on the surface of blades to epic displays of war, you'll quickly grow to appreciate the tremendous effort on the part of the animation staff.
Beyond the animation itself, this is another fine transfer from FUNimation, effectively capturing every detail in the animation without defect. Lines are razor sharp with no stairstepping or aliasing; colors are bold, incorporating a vivid spectrum in even the darkest of scenes; and black levels never display a shred of weakness. Furthermore, I couldn't identify any instances of color banding, the days of edge enhancement appear to be behind us, and given the precision of the texturing in the animation, I was left with zero concerns regarding the use of DNR. Taken as a whole, this is one of the finest visual presentations I've witnessed in Blu-ray anime to date, and deserves consideration by any fans growing tired of the abundant upscaled source material.
Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings, The Complete 1st Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Released in stereo (2.0 channel) upon its original television run in Japan, FUNimation delivers a lossless upgrade of the native language variant on this release. In a perfect world we'd all hope for a lossless surround option on the superior dialog track, but since we're unable to turn apples into oranges, we'll simply have to appreciate the studio's continued dedication to lossless upgrades. Digging into the particulars of 2.0 audio mix, there's not much to say that you wouldn't expect. Dialog is clear and well-balanced next to the sound effects and musical selections, but there's a clear lack of immersion while becoming acclimated to the front-dominant sound design. In other words, there's nothing overtly wrong with the Japanese track, provided you temper your expectations to match the limitations of the source material. On the English side, we have clearly superior sound design (5.1) with excellent spatial separation and an overall level of immersion that effectively places viewers in the heart of battle. There still appears to be weakness in the lows on both tracks (gunshots, explosions, etc.), but aside from that one point, the English offering is technically the superior choice.
Despite the "on paper" strength of the English track, I'd still recommend you stick with the Japanese offering for one simple reason. Unlike many of the recent dubs completed by FUNimation, Sengoku Basara suffers from a subtle lack of writing precision that allows the lines from certain characters to grow a bit grating. Case in point, I found Sanada Yukimura (voice actor Johnny Yong Bosch) incredibly annoying as the series progressed, since his lines often involve lame ramblings about honor and justice. It wouldn't be so bad if the voice-work carried a more authoritative presence (such as the raspy texture of Soichiro Hoshi's rendition of the character), but the combination of the lines and voice decisions on the English side didn't reach the usual level of proficiency found on most FUNimation dubs.
Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings, The Complete 1st Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
New Anime "Sengoku Basara Chosokabe Motochika-Kun and Mori-Kun" (1080i, Dolby Digital 2.0, 43:02): Starring the two generals from the tacked on thirteenth episode of the series, this comical series of seven episodes chronicles the dissatisfaction of the two disgruntled commanders as they work toward securing their place in the anime series. The collection is presented in Japanese with English subtitles (see the final screenshot for a glimpse of the crude animation style).
Rounding out the extras, we have textless opening/closing songs, and a collection of previews for other releases from FUNimation.
Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings, The Complete 1st Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Sengoku Basara is well worth your time, but not something I'd consider a life-changing experience. Every time I tried to fall in love with the series, I'd wind up feeling a twinge of disappointment that brought me back to Earth. Perhaps it's the curse of video game adaptations or simply a matter of my own personal bias, but there was a certain point when I began to feel the series could have been much better. Don't get me wrong, I still found it entertaining as a whole, but aside from the animation, it lack that "wow" factor to elevate it above your average anime production. If you can find Sengoku Basara for a reasonable price, consider it a worthwhile investment. Otherwise stick with a rental first.
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