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Sengoku Basara: Judge End (and well, everything else)

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Sengoku Basara: Judge End (and well, everything else)
« on: August 31, 2014, 05:08:13 PM »
 

Mewshuji

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Sengoku Basara is a series about warriors and warlords from the Sengoku era of Japan... which sounds a lot like so many other modern Japanese media, I know. However, the difference lies in the characterizations- many seem to be the opposite of how these characters are normally portrayed, or super ham-ified versions of them. Yet, the characters and their quirks do have historical reasons for being there, which I find really, really captivating.

Now, Basara is a really big series- it has 4 main video games (with 2 expansion packs, one for the second and third title each) in the style of Dynasty Warriors fused with Devil May Cry and/or Bayonetta, a fighting game from the creators of Blazblue/Guilty Gear, several touring stage shows, a Takarazuka Revue show, a live action J-drama, tons of manga, and an anime by Production IG with two seasons and a movie.

Sadly, the series doesn't have much in the way of Western localization- the first game was released in a horribly edited form as "Devil Kings" as an attempt to tie it in to Devil May Cry, Capcom believing it would sell better than a game about samurai. It flopped. Then they tried again with Sengoku Basara 3, releasing it as Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes and simply translating it with a surprisingly godlike English dub. Again, it flopped though, but this time due to Capcom barely doing anything to market it. But then there's the IG anime, which did pretty well for an anime. While the localization was handled by Funimation they did a good job of it- they got as much of the cast from the game as they could and the few they couldn't get back did a surprisingly really good job. Someone clearly really likes the show at Funi for it to have had the budget that it did in regards to localization.

Oh. And there's a currently airing anime called Sengoku Basara: Judge End, (or "End of Judgement" in English speaking regions) that's on hiatus this weekend. If you're familiar with the first series, you might not be too happy with this rendition, mostly because it's less high-octane action based and more of a slower character drama. Don't get me wrong there's still plenty of fight scenes, but it really does place a lot more emphasis on the characters. The plot basically follows the third games, being based around the Battle of Sekigahara. Tokugawa Ieyasu has killed his former lord Hideyoshi in the name of uniting Japan through bonds rather than through power; his former friend Ishida Mitsunari, who is hopelessly devoted to Hideyoshi, has sworn vengeance against Ieyasu. The two begin forming armies that divide Japan between West and East to decide the fate of the land at the "promised place" of Sekigahara.

In speaking of the characters, well, they're probably the reason people even care about the series! So, in essence, I've saved the best for last. While TVTropes and the Sengoku Basara wiki have done a pretty serviceable job of explaining the characters in detail, I thought it might be best to highlight some of my personal favorites. As this is the anime section I'll try to stick to their anime renditions, though in two cases I really have no choice but to delve into their video game version given how the first anime kinda butchered them a bit.

I also feel the need to explain their roles in Judge End, partially as I really want people to give the anime a try. It portrays the characters far, far better than the first anime did, ESPECIALLY the women.

Date Masamune

Arguably the most popular character in the series, I have to say Masamune is horribly overrated. That being said... I can't help but like him anyway. His cool attitude and laid-back way of speech is always a joy to listen to and of course, his Engrish is amazing. He's very much interested in looking stylish and his army reflects this by looking like a bunch of gangsters. Oh and he has an awesome aide by the name of Kojuuro who is pretty much a Yakuza mob boss.

Oh and yes. He wields six swords at once.
In Judge End he's knocked down a peg by Ishida Mitsunari, forcing him to re-evaluate himself... well, only after he tries to seek revenge against Mitsunari only to be scolded by Kojuuro. Afterwards, he joins up with Ieyasu, forming the bulk of the Eastern Army.

Sanada Yukimura

Pretty much your typical shonen protagonist in behavior, except he's treated by most as being the hot-headed youth he is rather than some great savior. It's clear he has a lot to learn from his "Oyakata-sama", Shingen, but he's very eager to learn. It's worth noting he, well, quite literally burns with passion. He's a bit thick-headed though, but his utter naivete and politeness (he calls pretty much everyone else -dono, which is incredibly respectful) somewhat make up for it. He's... rather like a puppy. You can't help but like him.

In Judge End, he's teamed up with Mitsunari after Shingen falls into a comatose-like state, joining the Takeda clan to the Western Army's cause. It's interesting to note he's had a lot of character development in this adaptation so far, growing from being hyperactive into a far more respectable leader.

Uesugi Kenshin

Hailed as the War God of Echigo province, Kenshin is one of the canonically strongest characters in the series. Kenshin is rather elegant in their manner of speech, always speaking in keigo. Kenshin is devoted to the Buddhist god of war, Bishamonten, though is seemingly just as devoted to the well-being of their people and of their lover, the kunoichi Kasuga. They also have a rivalry with Shingen, and is probably the biggest ham in the series; it's been suggested that this is because Kenshin's mannerisms are based on that of a Takarakuza Revue character archetype. And if you've seen stage shows or musicals, well... yeah that makes a lot of sense. It's well worth noting that in spite of the localization's gendering of Kenshin as a male, they've never actually been given a gender in the Japanese releases; and when asked, all the series producer Kobayashi Hiroyuki did was shrug. This is likely because of the historical Kenshin being rumored to be a woman, and so in order to capitalize on that, make it a mystery as to if Basara Kenshin is a man or a woman or something else. I like to think of Kenshin as a woman, but, I certainly understand why others would treat Kenshin as a man.

 In Judge End, Kenshin has elected to stay out of the upcoming Battle of Sekigahara due to his rival Shingen falling ill. However, Kenshin did order Kasuga to aid and watch over Yukimura.

Kasuga

Pretty much your stereotypical femme fatale... or so you would think based on her appearance. Wears a sexy leather catsuit, blonde-haired, takes her job very seriously, very svelte with just the right curves... But, see, she's not some sexpot. No, no, far from it, she's intellectual, and furthermore is incredibly and hopelessly devoted to her lord Kenshin. She actively brushes off flirtation from others, in fact. In spite of her outfit I really do consider her to be a good example of a strong woman in fiction. Sadly, in the first anime, that part of her doesn't get to shine that much, which seems a major problem for the girls in IG's adaptation. Odd given IG did make GitS:SAC and all. Kasuga even gets captured at one point, and in a way that seems to invalidate her supposed skill as a ninja. She's very much a badass in the games and then in Judge End... though she does get captured again in the latter, but at least this time it's due to an Eldritch horror more or less, so it's understandable.

As noted before, in Judge End, after scouting around on behalf of Kenshin, she's ordered to aid Yukimura in the upcoming battle... and then gets caught.

Oichi

Ah, precious Ichi. I can't think of too many other characters that have multiple interpretations that have a tendency of going from a delicate flower to an utterly psychopathic mess every single time. She's a typical Yamato Nadeshiko at first glance, and is a loyal, unquestioning girl to her husband Nagamasa in the first anime... but to the point it's rather grating. I can't blame anyone for disliking her in the anime. However, basically every other adaptation paints her in a very different light. She openly questions everything her lord, her brother, and indeed others do, and clearly has her own set of morals she tries to adhere to. Sadly, she does lack confidence which leads her to sometimes follow orders she disagrees with. This all comes to a head when, inevitably, Nagamasa is attacked by her brother, the "Demon King of the Sixth Heaven" Oda Nobunaga. Her psyche starts falling apart as she starts questioning basically everything she believes in, and eventually ditches her naginata completely in exchange for what amounts to hands made of shadows sprouting from Hell as she goes crazy and kills her brother and his clan.

Most of the time she has a sad ending, with either her dying or ending up all alone. But thankfully there are ways of subverting it. Saving Nagamasa in Sengoku Basara 4 is one, while having her support the Eastern Army (given how smiley and happy it is in comparison to the glum Western Army) in Sengoku Basara 3 is another. In the latter case, she finally is able to put her demons to rest more or less. In Judge End, she is kind of mind-broken from her husband dying and the Honnoji Incident, and speaks in riddles. She roams around in spite of the Oda remnants trying to keep her safe, killing people willy nilly until Ieyasu captures her. She is eventually "rescued" by Yukimura and Sasuke... only to be triggered into an absolutely bat**** crazy mode by someone reminding her of one of her brother's retainers she was friends with. Kasuga jumps in to protect the person and puts up a good fight but gets captured as a hostage as this **** called Tenkai leads Oichi away to help him revive Nobunaga.

Yeah, Nobunaga getting revived is a common theme in the series after his death. Can't at all be because of his moniker, can it?

Saika Magoichi

Magoichi is probably the most positive portrayal of a woman in Sengoku Basara and definitely one of the most positive in fiction. She is the leader of the Saika Faction, a group of mercenaries that offers their services to whomever they deem worthy. Her followers respect her not out of some misguided sense of wanting to "protect" her or out of "liking" her or anything- no, she's the boss, plain and simple. And she deserves every bit of respect- she's blunt, skilled, intelligent, and has a wry sense of humor. She has a bit of a sad backstory in that her village and the previous Magoichi (Saika Magoichi being a hereditary title) were wiped out by Oda Nobunaga.

She doesn't appear in the first anime, but in Judge End, she pretty much brushes off Mitsunari and Ieyasu's requests to join them, instead electing to aid the vagabond warrior Keiji due to his earnest wish to locate his aunt, Matsu, who incidentally had been kidnapped (by Ieyasu he thinks, but turns out it was by Tenkai). Later, upon Tenkai revealing his plan to revive Nobunaga, Magoichi decides to go after him to try and stop him, bringing along Tsuruhime, Keiji, and the freed Matsu with her.
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Welp, if you all have any questions, feel free to ask! I hope you guys found the topic informative! ;w;