DVD: £24.99, Blu-Ray: £29.99
Sengoku Basara, for those who don’t already know, is a well established hack and slash game for the Playstation and Wii set in the Sengoku (Warring States) period of Japan. Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings is an anime adaptation based on the Devil Kings PS2 game from 2005 and the series is to all intents and purposes a direct conversion from this game into anime.
So, what is Sengoku Basara about? In the Sengoku period, Japan is in a constant state of civil war as warlords roam the lands, killing on their way to total dominion. However, out of nowhere comes a newcomer, the Devil King Oda Nobunaga, whose technological and military might threaten to stamp out all of the rival warlord factions and to drag feudal Japan kicking and screaming unto his complete and total dominion. At least, that is his theory. Two rival champions of their respective factions, Date Masamune and Sanada Yukimura ally and form an army of armies on a crusade to save their lands from annihilation from the Devil King’s hoards.
Sengoku Basara manages to fit in all of the various playable characters from the game series, maintaining the personalities, character design and (most importantly) the special moves of each of the characters, which is one of the main selling points of the game. Because of this, the hack and slash action which the game delivers is transferred in full into the anime with the added bonus of retaining the “kill the evil guy” style storyline from the game.
Still keeping with the positives, the series has been produced and animated by Production IG (think Ghost in the Shell here) and they have delivered a beautifully smooth animation style which shows off the ferocity and scale of the battles in the series. The characters are also beautifully rendered, improving upon the level of character design from the game.
From the positive to the criticism. Sengoku Basara is a hack and slash anime based entirely on a hack and slash game, and as a result it is not written like Shakespeare or even Tarantino. The dialogue is forced, un-natural and, at times, thoroughly cringeworthy. Character development is also non-existent to the point that if you have not played the game, you will not have the slightest clue as to who anyone is, what they do or what their relationship is with whoever they are fighting, as all of this is introduced in the games in some form or another. Additionally, and true to the game, the series completely disregards the historical timeline with regards to technology; case in point, an electrically powered fifty foot “Gundam” fighting a standing army with swords. Extremely cool to watch, but it slightly diverts from the fact that the series is set in Feudal Japan! (Also, the female general of the Devil King’s cavalry has a Predator style gatling gun. How fair is that?!)
My overall opinion of Sengoku Basara is mixed. I am a fan of the original game (as in I completed it) so I knew who everyone was. The series does not lend itself well to those just looking for a quick action-packed anime as without this prior knowledge you, the viewer, will not have the foggiest what is going on until at least the fourth episode. The reliance of the series on poorly written dialogue means that this series goes from being a thoroughly enjoyable rampage of hardcore samurai action into a completely disengaging series, and i personally feel that this is a pity. However, as each episode basically guarantees a minimum of five minutes of pure hack and slash action there are some positives to be found here too.
Based on the above I would personally recommend, for maximum enjoyment, fast-forwarding through the dialogue and immersing yourself in the completely over the top action. However, if you are a connoisseur of the gaming series, and just want to see your favourite characters in the battle of their life against the Devil King, then enjoy this bargain of a series with all thirteen episodes in a single double disc box set.