Since the era of the Playstation 2 there have always been two major franchises that focused on a specific historical period in Japanese History, being the “Warring States” or “Sengoku” era covering it right from the beginning where clans fought for land until the eventual unification of all Japan. Sengoku Basara from Capcom is one of these two series; however instead of being a game release this time around they’ve gone for an anime adaptation of their earliest Basara game, named Devil Kings in PAL territories.
Sengoku Basara – Samurai Kings focuses on the life of a retainer from the Takeda clan, Sanada Yukimura during the period of the warring clans right up to their interpretation of a crucial moment of that time period, the “Incident at Honnoji”. Instead of being completely historical however, Capcom have chosen to take their own spin on things and instead focus on a rivalry between Yukimura and a leader of another faction named Date Masamune. These two, along with other generals of the time period go to launch a campaign against a powerful warlord named Oda Nobunaga, shown to spread death and fear throughout the land.
Sengoku Basara in itself is a very over the top anime, fights turn into extremely explosive lightshows with hundreds of troops (somewhat questioning the need for them anyway) flying through the air at any given moment. Except from that the art style is nothing too crazy, work has gone into making sure the characters remain looking like their video game counterparts but apart from the occasional style switch nothing too tremendous yet solid enough to remain entertaining.
The voicing behind the series is brilliant in English and also compliments the desire to keep the characters as similar as possible as almost all of the voice actors are the same as their videogame counterparts (From the most recent Sengoku Basara game anyway). The Japanese dub however leaves a little at time to be desired as the voices almost feel out of character, bar the comedy of Masamune Date constantly using random English words in his phrases to appeal to his rebel aspect.
Story progression is at a steady pace making you pay attention whenever possible to make sure you pick up all the details. At the same time here lies the downfall of the series as nothing is truly explained to someone new to the franchise. If you don’t know the historical period quite a few of the references and ideals make little to no sense at all to the point where it would almost be unwatchable due to the confusion you’d be presented with only the hints of comedy to go by.
Ultimately Sengoku Basara is an anime series for the already devout fan. If you know the period or the actual game series itself you’ll find a wonderful adaptation of a previous game, given a heap of fleshing out and story. In contrast, if you don’t know the series or the games very well it leaves so much more to be desired as it will ultimately be confusing and just become a pretty light show with explosions and rather passionate yelling.
Also to be noted, the Blu-Ray edition contains an additional 45 minutes of a miniseries named ‘Mini Sengoku Basara’ between two chibis of the minor characters, Mori Motonari and Chosokabe Motochika. The small series is a comedic piece that adds nothing to the main series itself but is a laugh nevertheless.
Check out the Madman Entertainment Screening room to watch the first two episodes of Sengoku Basara – Samurai Kings for free!