Basilisk

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babyeinstein12's avatar
Mar 18, 2010

Story

Those who enjoyed the adventures of Naruto or the violence of Ninja Scroll would most likely pounce on Basilisk faster than you can say kunai. Would those ninja-mongers like it? That’s a tough question. True, Basilisk is a story about ninjas – but it goes deeper than that, and it’s up to the audience to like it for either the right or the wrong reasons.

Superficially, the show looks like a regurgitated “Romeo and Juliet” script, except it’s a lot bloodier and forced into a kimono (two star-crossed lovers, opposing ninja clans, hate and filial loyalty, tragic consequences, etc.). Paired with the “fighting contest” idea, in which twenty selected shinobi from both clans drop dead one by one, Basilisk gives off an initial scent of corniness. However, what the anime lacks in an intricate plot it abounds in charged emotion, decent characters, and psychological drama. As the number of survivors dwindles, the series throws in enough twists (among passable yet unsatisfying fight scenes) to keep the intrigue going.

Perhaps the show's biggest strength lies in its determination to follow the feud without any favoritism. One watches Basilisk with curiosity but not urgency, with emotional investment but not bias. Each clan has its own perspective; each character has his or her own story. Most strikingly, every character is capable of experiencing equally strong human emotions. For an anime that deals so much with bloodshed and hate, it places a noticeable emphasis on the strength of relational bonds. An entire episode is devoted to the tranquility of times past, showcasing ninjas from both camps (many of whom have died) and the friendships they share with their fellow allies. These moments of peace flash amidst a larger scenario always colored by uncertainty and loss. The old master Danjou states in the first episode, “It is the fate of those born as ninja.” Watching these shinobi die off, one starts to wonder: What is going on in the minds and hearts of these people? Can we understand what it means to be in their place?


Animation

Basilisk sports a pleasingly modern style that melds with smooth motion into some notable eye candy. Dark colors, apt shading, and a preference for rain drench many scenes with an appealing impressionistic flourish. Character designs look sleek and human-like, vaguely reminiscent of the designs characteristic of Satoshi Kon (Millennium Actress, Perfect Blue). The beauty of Basilisk's animation does not necessarily cater to the show's simplistic fight scenes, but it does help intensify the pathos of the situation.


Sound

What you hear can sometimes tell you more than what you see, and that certainly is the case with much of Basilisk. The sounds of splattering blood, agonized grunts of pain, and cracking bones are highly evocative, and elements of traditional Japanese music appropriately fit into a restless, eerie soundtrack that seamlessly harmonizes with what’s happening on screen. When the music is able to intensify the plot without the viewer noticing, it has succeeded (as in this case).


Characters

With a starting lineup of a whopping twenty ‘main characters,’ it is understandable how the show would only scratch the surface with most of them before killing them off. Each character is supplied with a few basic traits; as it stands, the script has only so much time to embellish even a smattering of those twenty ninjas. With the majority of the cast, the writers are perfectly content to leave the characters as their stereotypes build them to be, but for the remaining survivors, they do an understated yet effective job of gradually adding inner substance to their personalities.

The method’s success with these lucky few lies partially in the basic construction of Basilisk’s story and partially in the story’s execution. As one continues to see certain ninja scrape past death and bloodshed, an almost psychological connection is made: Time is drawn out for the viewer to accustom himself or herself to the survivor, and little by little, quirks and other qualities not seen previously glimmer into view. When that character finally dies, there is a little bit of an emotional decapitation for the audience. In the case of the kunoichi Hotarubi, I didn't even realize her implicit impact on me until her death, as I found myself almost shedding tears over the magenta butterflies floating up into the heavens from her fallen body. And this isn't the only time I felt like crying; a "decapitated" feeling occurred with many characters with which the show only spent an average amount of effort. It’s a powerful, subtle technique that might not have even been intended.


Overall

The question still remains: Will you enjoy Basilisk? Don’t count on experiencing any shonen-tastic orgasms from cool fights and intriguing villains, or pumping your fist along with a hyperactive prepubescent main character. Do expect a charged, heavy twenty-four episodes that brings with it a surprising amount of maturity. If you undertake the series for the right reasons, you will not be disappointed.

7/10 story
8/10 animation
8.5/10 sound
7.5/10 characters
7.5/10 overall
xmr's avatar
Feb 21, 2010

this anime is based off a novel writen in the 1950's and the origional novel was much darker and more... dark... than the anime.

some people care about production quality... blah blah .......the production quality of the anime in my oppinion was simply amazing.... and one of the best produced anime i've seen...

some people care about the action scenes... blah blah.... the action content of the show is probably the most action i've seen out of any anime... and animated brutifully (brutal/beautifully)

the story is themed about the futility of effort... love/hate, peace/war, individualism/patriotism... kinda a "it doesn't really take two sides to tango" theme... seeing as 3 characters get killed from one of the two tribes, while they thought there was a peace treaty going on...

the characters (varied a bit from the novel) seemed for the most part logical understandable, and reasonable within their own justification, making most characters to a degree able to be simpathized with.

there are only a few "good guys" in the anime, and the development is dynamic enough to make one of the good guys turn completely revenge driven and a more evil than the regular violent grudgeholders like many other characters in the anime.

the bad guy is one of the most evil and brutal bad guys in any story i've checked out... if you ever have a problem in a story because its badguy is either incompetent, or just not that bad... this bad guy is horridly evil.  i even had to stop watching the anime for a bit to take a break durring one of the parts.

anywho i thought everything was done great, and the only reason i didn't, and will not give this anime a 10/10 is because of 2 things... aside from a few characters i found annoying to the point of being insane (which doesn't really bother me much... because their insanity/being annoying was understandable)... but there were a few scenes... especially towards the end of the show... that had me taking a break due to just how brutal it was...

P.S. people relate this to "naruto meets ninjascroll" and yep... if you have the tournament at the begining of naruto + naruto look + the graphic violence of ninjascroll... you pretty much nail the action scenes on the head.

10/10 story
10/10 animation
10/10 sound
10/10 characters
9/10 overall
PhdInCartoons's avatar
Feb 27, 2013

Story

Portrays both sides really well without picking one. The plot is a little familiar but the intricate emotions involved keep you intrigued

 

Animation

The animation is very strong. It's very good to look at. Let down a little by the handling of the action sequences

 

Sound

The voice cast put in a solid performance in this anime. The music throughout adds to the plot, without becoming a distraction

 

Characters

The characters are very well written. You feel for most of the large cast, which shows you how well they have been portrayed. They are let down by certain infuriating characters

 

Overall

This anime was a lot better than expected. It is definitely worth a watch.

8/10 story
8/10 animation
7.5/10 sound
8/10 characters
7.9/10 overall
roriconfan's avatar
Apr 8, 2012

Although Basilisk is essentially Romeo and Juliet with Ninjas, it becomes more like yet another example of why death games are bullshit, unless they are called Battle Royale. The inherent problem they have is that they are never about the story or the characters; it’s about seeing people die and, supposed, feeling sad about them. Only thing, you can’t feel sad about them because they die too quickly, too close to each other, and you already know that they will die at some point, so who gives a shit? It ends up becoming more like a game where you are cynically trying to guess who will die next. And even that becomes boring after awhile because as the contestants lower in numbers, it becomes easier to guess right, while at the same time, more apparent to tell who is clearly better than the rest or more favored by the story writer and is going to win at the end.

Battle Royale is a very old manga by now, and yet nobody figured out all these years that it works so well, despite suffering from the same issues, because its contestants have no superpowers. They had talents which, to the most part, where within the realm of reason, and felt very plausible. Said talents were not giving them that much of a head start over everyone else, and were still things everybody knew they possessed right away. All other death games fail because they try to throw in so much supernatural nonsense, that it becomes impossible to take the whole thing seriously, or at least be made to think it makes sense or matters in the longrun. No sir, one can teleport, one can fly, one is immortal, and nobody knows the other guy’s powers until he is about to die. Although keeping your powers secret is fun, if keeping them hidden is the only thing that makes them work, renders pointless the kind of power you have in the first place. It doesn’t matter what strategy you use to exploit the other guy’s weaknesses, it only matters if you keep it a secret. So what’s the point of having crazy powers? You can have something as simple as a hidden dagger in your sleeve, and it wouldn’t make any difference next to a guy who shoots lasers from his eyes.

Not only Basilisk made that grave mistake, it also made it worse by having characters that look like monsters. Despite being a colorful bunch, the series revolves around just 3 of them; the main romantic couple and the imba immortal. They are the only ones you care for, not only because they matter to the plot but also because they look normal. The rest of them either are useless cannon fodder, or look like ugly mutants, accompanied by a silly voice and some really crazy ninja power. You cannot see them as people with some sort of drama surrounding them; you see them as Pokemons. Oh look, it’s the scaly guy who turns to water, and the bald guy who can walk through walls. It makes the whole thing seem like a silly kaiju movie from the 60s.

Even if you try to watch the anime as a spectacle full of action and gore, Basilisk is still pretty bad but not because of pretty colors and nice sounds. Visually and acoustically the series is quite good, with detailed characters designs, magnificent sceneries, moody music score, and interesting battle choreography. What ruins it, is the two ninja clans that are fighting each other to the death, not being balanced at all. They keep saying that they have equal chances of winning, and yet you constantly see the Kouga being obviously stronger and smarter than the Iga.

1) The Kouga lost half their people because the Iga kept the order of annihilation hidden for several episodes. As soon as the Kouga found out about it, they even the score, despite being outnumbered and unprepared.

2) The Iga were not wiped out right away, only because one of them is immortal. Half of the Kouga were killed only because they could not kill this guy no matter how powerful they were.

3) Two of the Kouga can kill anyone they want by simply looking at him. No Iga had the slightest chance against that.

4) The leader of the Iga is a crybaby who refused to do the slightest thing until the final episode. The leader of the Kouga is a badass who kicks ass right away.

You know which team is going to win right away. And no, death games are not meant to be fair, or to have only balanced participants. It’s just that there is no challenge if it’s so obviously one-sided. And yes, there are many cases when the weaker guy wins, and it’s always because he kept his power a secret, or back stabbed a completely unsuspected opponent. It’s not a worthy victory, you cannot cheer for him, because he didn’t deserve to win. Not to mention how pretty much everybody in this show dies in a miserable way. There is no catharsis, they just die and kiss personal goals goodbye. And I am not saying that everyone deserves a heroic death, but it really makes the viewer not give a shit if the whole series is a monument of unfairness, based on imbalanced power levels which eventually mean nothing and overshadow any attempt at drama.

And wait, it gets even worse. Eventually you realize that none of them have control over their actions. They are all peons, controlled by the nobles. They never chose to fight each other, they were ordered to. Yeah, they did hate each other but they never took an initiative; they were always waiting for orders. And if you think that makes them noble because they were loyal to their masters, that assumption crumbles as soon as you see how they try to kill their opponents by cheating. As for their masters, it’s not like they are better either. Aside from being nothing but an excuse for the whole extermination to happen, they don’t even care about their ninjas. In fact, the real reason they want the two clans to fight each other, is so they can exterminate both, as means to not be a problems in the future. Meaning, there was never supposed to be a winner in this stupid war; they were all meant to die at the end. So why were we even watching this show? To watch mindless drones killing each other because nobody wants them? What is the point of all this?

Even the show becomes worse as it goes on. The pacing slows down more and more, because the amount of people left alive become smaller as time goes by. It was fun at first because of the variety and the mystery surrounding their powers, but then you get to see less and less things, about less and less people, you already know everything about. Even the ending is a mess. You don’t really understand what exactly happened. All three remaining warriors were so hax (and so painfully obvious they would be the ones in the finale) that it’s hard to figure out how their powers worked against each other. And it’s not like it matter much either, since by now you feel like shit because you know you are watching people die because they are supposed to.

It’s so easy to figure out a way for how all this mess could have worked much better. If we had the stupid Iga being wiped out in a few episodes by the superior Kuga, and if our two lovebirds had run away from all this mess, we would have an actually good story going on, where they are chased by the Kouga, who are still supposed to be annihilated by the shogunate. It would still leave the show as a death game, while spicing things a lot, even after most of them would be dead. But nope, instead of this obviously better story I came up with in 5 seconds, all we got was a lukewarm death game, with Pokemon ninjas, unfair battles, and a boring finale. As expected from GONZO, the studio that can get the most brilliant premise and make nothing but a mediocrity out of it.

3/10 story
8/10 animation
8/10 sound
5/10 characters
4.5/10 overall
hoggersying's avatar
Jul 12, 2011

WARNING: SPOILERS ABOUND!!

Romeo & Juliet and dueling ninja clans--that's the 5 second description of Basilisk. It took me a little while to get convinced, but overall I enjoyed the series.

PLOT

The basic plot of Basilisk is that there are 2 great ninja clans, Kouga and Iga. They hate each other and would kill each other but for this non-hostilities pact, which promptly gets dissolved at the beginning of the series when the shogun decides he will pit the clans against each other to determine who will become the next shogun. Ten warriors from each clan will fight to the death, and whichever side the surviving clan represents will claim the shogun-ship.

Sound stupid? Yeah, it sounded stupid to me too, which is why it took me so long to get into this show and made me reluctant to start in the first place.

But once you get into it, the show is actually quite interesting, partly for the spectacularly fantastical and bloody fight scenes, but also for the pleasantly surprising character development and intrigue. What is this ninja's secret power? What is his/her back story? What motivates this ninja? Who is going to kill this ninja? How is he going to die?

And die he/she shall, because with 10 ninjas from each clan dueling it to the death, the   body count is deliciously high. Some characters die off quicker than the rest, and with less development, but some characters get a lot of development, and it's great. I enjoyed that sometimes the show would go back and develop characters that had already been killed via flashbacks, etc. Very well done.

STRENGTHS:

I would say the show's greatest strengths were its storytelling and attempts at character work. The series kept you wanting to know more about these ninja, their abilities, histories, and their eventual demise. The character designs were great and, I thought, very creative. Each character had a unique personality, skill, etc. The animation and fight scenes were pretty good, but I did not find those to be the main draw of this anime.

WEAKNESSES:

Weak female characters. This annoys me about anime generally, but ... the female characters in this series were really disappointing. In a flick about awesome kick-ass ninjas slaughtering each other, could you really not have more compelling female characters than these?

On the Kouga side, we had Kagouro, whose special power was related to her sexuality. Plus she was stupidly in love with Gennosuke. Yeah, okay, whatever. We also had Okoi, whose character design was very tomboy-ish, and yet HER special power was ALSO related to her sexuality. C'mon, really, what message is this sending to our young female audience? That female power = sex? Ugh.

On the Iga side, we had Grandma Ogen, who I suppose was a pretty good character. And Hotoburi or whatever her name was -- the girl with the snake and butterflies? She was the best of the bunch, I suppose, except that she was a simpering lovergirl too. Then we had Akeginu, who was ALSO a lovergirl--just unrequited.

And then we had the enormously annoying Oboro. God, I hated Oboro, passive weak little cryin' squaller that she was. Every time she was on screen I just wanted to punch her in the face. I can't help it. I hate everything about her.

If the women on this show weren't showing their breasts, getting raped, or crying, it was a relief. Sure, they had scenes where the girls kicked some ass and killed people, whether using their special powers or just using their knife skills, etc. But while the girls are off whimpering about how they love so-and-so or whatever, the men are using their eyes to make people kill themselves, or shape-shifting, or just being all-around more awesome. Oboro's "superpower" was to neutralize other ninja special powers, for example. All right, I understood the narrative significance of that, but couldn't any of the women have a superpower that was OFFENSIVE and AWESOME and that didn't require men to fall for her sexuality? Geez.

So I did have beef with the depiction of women in this series, but that is by no means unique to this series.

Anyway, I digress. Overall, the story was a strong one, if not all together very exciting. Again, I kept watching because I wanted to find out what everybody's powers were and how they would be killed (and by whom). Ultimately, the show satisfied on that front, so I enjoyed it. Definitely not the best or the worst series I've seen. Fairly short time commitment, so ... pretty worth the entertainment value.

7/10 story
7/10 animation
?/10 sound
5/10 characters
6.5/10 overall