Otherwise known as The Manliest Anime That Ever Was. Because seriously, Sengoku Basara makes the characters of the likes of Dragon Ball Z seem limp-wristed and demure by comparison.Welcome to the Sengoku Period of feudal Japan, where the country is in a state of bloody upheaval thanks to the rise of several great warlords and samurai warriors, including the famed one-eyed dragon Date Masamune and the crimson demon of war Sanada Yukimura. When the dark lord Oda Nobunaga proves to be too much of a threat to leave alone, rivals Masamune and Yukimura form an alliance with each other and with the other nation’s generals in order to bring him down for good. Of course, there are a few… shall we say liberties, taken with these real-life personalities, although I have the characters themselves to thank for bringing such ludicrous fun to the kind of show I’d usually take pains to avoid.
See, Sengoku Basara isn’t really one to tone things down for the sake of historical accuracy. Nor does it bother with a particularly complex plot or meaningful contemplations. The point of this anime is simply to entertain – and that’s something it excels at, to truly ridiculous heights. As such, the main draw card here is the cast. First off we have Date Masamune; arrogant enough for a dozen men, wielding not one but six swords to back it up, and clearly a fan of throwing around a lot of hilariously random English. Oh, and his horse is part-motorcycle. There are actual exhaust pipes out back and handlebars coming from its mane. His main foe, Sanada Yukimura, is a fanatically loyal hothead who apparently takes great pleasure in punching and being punched by the leader of his own forces, Takeda Shingen, in fits of manly passion. Takeda himself is seemingly man enough to need to stand astride two horses at once while resting the blade of his comically giant battle axe against their necks. Uesugi Kenshin looks and sounds like a girl, but his accomplishments have not only earned him the nickname “God of war” but also routinely cause his devoted ninja Kasuga (whose outfit looks like it came from a leather fetish store) to practically have an orgasm every time he so much as looks at her. And let’s not forget the Devil King himself, Oda Nobunaga, who’s so damn evil that he can pull off dramatic cape flourishes, Gregorian chant background music, and a throne made up of nothing but human skulls with aplomb.
In case it wasn’t already obvious, Sengoku Basara isn’t too fussed with taking itself seriously. That’s the beauty of this series though – it’s just so blatantly over-the-top, so unashamedly stupid, that it comes across more as a genuinely uproarious comedy/parody than anything else. People regularly scream out the names of their attacks, use weapons at least twice the size of their own bodies, do totally unnecessary flips while dismounting from their horses, ride straight up cliffs, and disintegrate opponents using nothing more than their insanely powerful battle auras – sometimes all in one episode. In both seasons as well as the movie, logic is tossed out the window in favour of pure badassery and excellent rock music, and personally, I couldn’t help but be oddly charmed by it all.
Discussing something as mundane as the technicalities of the show feels somewhat pointless in light of these factors, but whatever. Perhaps surprisingly, the production qualities of Sengoku Basara aren’t bad. The artwork can be flashy but generally doesn’t deviate too much from what might be considered typical shounen fare. The animation is usually fine but prone to being weirdly patchy in a few spots, as if the creators couldn’t quite make up their minds about what they wanted to do. On the other hand, the soundtrack is consistently excellent. In fact, the first opening theme (‘JAP’, performed by Abingdon Boys School) is so catchy that I could never bring myself to skip past it. Even if the song itself hadn’t clinched it for me, the dance routine certainly would have.
In short, Sengoku Basara is a bundle of action wrapped in crazy, and it doesn’t just know it; it revels in it. The series combines all the things I tend to dislike about samurai/martial arts anime – the cringe-worthy scripting, the tediously drawn-out fight scenes, the senseless fanservice – and takes them to the extreme, transforming them into something undeniably magnificent. I can honestly count on one hand the number of shows that have been this much fun to watch. Worth checking out for its historical accuracy or poignant drama? Ha. No. But for sheer, unadulterated enjoyment, you could hardly do better.
Question of the post: What are your thoughts on Sengoku Basara? Are there any anime you’d compare it to in terms of its enthusiastically exaggerated presentation? (I’m thinking Kill la Kill, but I’d be interesting in hearing about any other titles it may remind people of.)