Basilisk

Reviews

babyeinstein12's avatar By on 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 By on 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
hoggersying's avatar By on 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
Varagauzer's avatar By on Sep 7, 2013

Welcome to the somewhat adapted version of Romeo and Juliet, only this time it involves a lot of ninjas. A clever idea, the anime even starts up very well. But there are a few problems as follows:

This war between the Koga and Iga clans have been going on for 400 years, as soon as the Shogun places an anit-war pact everyone stops fighting, really? So what they are saying here is that loyality to the shogun runs deeper than 400 years of hatred, i dont think so. I mean even if there is an anti-war pact you can still go out in the forest and fight to your heart's content without the Shogun even knowing anything.

A death match between the 10 warriors of each clan to determine the next Shogun. Why must there be a death match? To be a leader you need strategic thinking to help your people, not martial arts, you have a whole army to defend you. The idea of a death match really makes no sense, but I get why they are doing it so that it can have tragedy at the end.

This show starts of really fast and they kill off most of the warriors at episode 10-12, so the next half of the series just becomes utterly boring because at most time it seems that they are just scraping for a few extra minutes by giving us insight into that characters past so that when they die we can mourn their death. I really didn't care who died next because it was obvious that they all would die in the end.

The ending itself was just so stupid, Genouske and Oboro are face to face surrounded by  witnesses and warriors from the Shogun for the final death match. Oboro can't bring herself to kill Genosuke and takes her own life, Genouske writes in the scroll that the Iga clan wins and takes his own life. This is nothing like what happened in Romeo and Juliet, there was a mixup in this case. In Basilisk there was no mixup you are standing right there in front of your lover and kill yourself, they could have easliy killed off all the witnesses choose whichever clan wins and escape off into the forest and live happily ever after. But no they had to die.

I'm just showing here how lazy the script was, they didn't bother to think what would an ordinary person would have done in that situation, they must die and that was all to it.

Basilisk does have good points though.

The animation was beautiful, it completely captured the essence of what was going on, the battle scenes were well done, very entertaining. The artwork was amazing, the characters were very well drawn.

The soundtracks were beautiful, completly captivating, both english dub and sub were very well voiced no problems there.

The characters run very deep, a lot of time is spent painting both the good and evil sides of the characters. However the characters lose their depth with the shallow story.

Overall, just as most of the garbage GONZO makes, this is quite forgettable, it started off with a lot of potential but obviously lazy script all they wanted to do was repeat the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.   

4/10 story
8/10 animation
8/10 sound
7/10 characters
6/10 overall
ames's avatar By on Dec 13, 2009

I am not a huge fan of violent animes, but it was a love story mixed with violence and gore.  Overall I wouldn't see it again, but it still was a good anime to watch.

8/10 story
8/10 animation
8/10 sound
7/10 characters
8/10 overall