Historical anime, based on a game. No manga, no novel, no actual written source that can grant it to have any sense. When it came out in 2009, the first installment had all the ingredients to be the perfect mess. As an addition, it aimed to represent the Sengoku era – a period of Japanese history, so dearly loved by all history nerds. To make a long story short, Sengoku Basara should’ve been buried by hatred.
Miraculously enough, it wasn’t. First of all, let me thank for this Makoto Tsuchibayashi from CAPCOM, who created those captivating characters, as well as Production I.G. and Funimation, who produced it. To be accurate, there were people criticizing the historical accuracy flows, depth of characters etc., etc. As far as my knowledge goes, Sengoku Basara can be easily translated as Sengoku Extravaganza and I believe that if you’re up for that, you’ll get even more then you’ve been hoping for, so stop complaining and embrace the artistic presentation!
The time is that of the Warring States period (15th-17th century), where being the best on the battlefield made you the strongest ruler. The story tells about the legendary Sekigahara battle for the dominance over torn-up Japan. You’ll see the mythical beast Oda Nobunaga, accompanied by his psycho-genius general Akechi Matsuhide and his warrior wife Nouhime (Lady Nou), known to history as an extreme beauty and supposedly a spy and an assassin. You’ll see his poor sister Ichi (Oichi, according to history), who comes from the legendary Taira and Fujiwara clans. She’s wife of the daimyo Azai Nagamasa, who also therefore had to fight by Nobunaga’s side. History lovers are angry that Oda Nobunaga is shown as an extravagant beast, but I believe that they should stop taking thing as literally and see the anime character as a caricature, which we all know exaggerates the lead characteristics of a person to make them more readable. Who’ll argue Nobunaga had demonic dominance and was extremely extravagant?!
Next on the list is Date Masamune. Even though history only marks him as the biggest dreamer of the period, the anime proclaims him an absolute star. In history, he’s an heir of a notable clan, who loses his right eye due to smallpox. Because of this, he’s regarded by his own mother “unfit” to succeed his father as head of the family. That motivates Date to become one of the most ambitious and characteristic warriors in history. Not even a great warlord, such as others, Masamune and his six swords, known as the “Dragon Claws”, become the star of the “Sengoku Extravaganza”. With his crescent-moon-bearing helmet, he comes to bewitch us with a great quantity of Engrish… The series get my compliment for choosing an unlikely hero, thus becoming original. He’s fast, charismatic and brave, destined to win every battle and never fall back. By his side, Date has Katakura Kojurou – his faithful retainer with a brilliant strategic mind. Those two characters create such perfect balance that I can barely think of a better combination. Kojurou’s depiction is one argument against those, who say characters in the series are superficial. During the first and especially the second installment, we get to know the warrior, his motives and commitment to his lord. He’s not even a lead character and we still grow into loving him, because of his will to guard the master he once swore to protect. That’s why Masamune refers to him as his “right eye”. On a lighter note, I would like to get back to Date’s Engrish who became the favourite subject of otaku all-over the world. Phrases like: “Put ya guns on!” and “Let’s party!” spoken in his own, unmistakable way, have more views in Youtube than most of the series created nowadays.
Date Masamune is also part of the most notable noble rivalry in the series. Just like in history, where the two of them met many times, one being the Battle of Domyoji, he’s the archenemy of Sanada Yukimura – Takeda Shingen’s fateful samurai. Having history in mind, the anime depicted quite well the childishly rash and enthusiastic young warrior, baring his deep respect towards the philosopher daimyo of the Kai Province (a.k.a. The Tiger of Kai). We see Shingen motivating and guiding the young samurai on his way to become a great warrior. Yes, they actually have that in the anime, even though shown in the series’ specific and unique humorous way. Yukimura is also leading the famous elite group of ninja, called Sanada Ten Braves, led by the legendary and mythical Sarutobi Sasuke.
He has a prominent connection to one of the completely deteriorated characters of the Sengoku Basara series – Uesugi Kenshin’s personal ninja Kasuga, who used to be his subordinate. I believe her character is inspired by Lady Kasuga, member of a samurai family, who lived in the Sengoku period. Kenshin’s “Beautiful Sword” has nothing to do with the historic personality, though and in my opinion can be considered pure fan service.
Notable daimyo of the Echigo province, Uesugi Kenshin is noted by history as the most powerful ruler of Japan’s Sengoku period. Considered a God of War, he’s famous for respecting the Buddhist god Bishamonten, as well as being a great administrator and economist. In Sengoku Basara he’s shown to be a strategic genius, a pacifist (as much as the era of wars allows him) and quite a charismatic leader with feminine looks. Like in history, his biggest rival is Takeda Shingen, who he enjoys warring with for Japan’s domination. I admit that in the anime, Kenshin is a bit too funny to look at, but even so, I believe that’s not disrespect, but pure artistic view on the matters.
During the series, you’ll also meet the other two notable daimyo of the period – Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who’ll lead the action in the second establishment and Tokugawa Ieyasu, Nobunaga’s ally, supported by the power of the great general Honda Tadakatsu, one of Tokugawa’s Four Heavenly Kings. Maybe this daimyo is the biggest controversy in the series, since his influence is much lessened. Being a famous ruler and the first Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate, established in Japan in 1603, he sure deserves attention. His general is also weirdly depicted as a mixture of mecha and demonic being that is superior in size and strength. Yes, this is unserious and yes – a bit weird, but believe everyone has his own right to have a shot at history. As long as the facts are not changed, I will describe it all as some extra “fantasy factor”, so needed when creating legends.
I believe that the best in the series is also the worse – it’s a mixture of history, comedy and exaggeration. I personally find it quite enjoyable and a fun way to become interested in Japanese history. The dynamic of the series is amazing, the characters – funny, unique and inspired by actual events and personalities.
Here are my final words: If you want to see characters that are fun(ny) and hard to forget – see both seasons . Sengoku Basara will become your guilty pleasure and will leave you craving for The Last Party, growing jealous for Japan’s history and popular culture. You, who are expecting a documentary – just go read a book. The rest of you – “Let’s party!”.
Review provided by my faithful Death Scythe. Thank you!