Japanese Title: Basilisk: Kouga Ninpou Chou
Similar: Ninja Scroll the Movie
Romeo x Juliet
Watched in: Japanese & English
Length: 24 episodes
- Creative powers make for strategic encounters.
- Both ninja clans have good and evil.
- No character feels safe.
- Tragedy of the premise makes you feel for the characters.
- Some characters don’t get the development and screen time they deserve.
- The English voice track doesn’t work well with Japanese nouns and honorifics.
Two ninja clans have feuded for the last four-hundred years, only held at bay by a royal pact prohibiting conflict in the last few generations. In this time of tenuous peace, Gennosuke, grandson of the Kouga clan leader, and Oboro, granddaughter of the Iga clan leader, have fallen in love and their marriage is to create a binding peace between the clans. However, the current shogun decides to use the clans to determine the successor from his two sons. Each clan must select its ten best ninja to annihilate each other. The winning clan will receive the support of the shogun for the next thousand years and rule over the defeated. The pact is broken.
Basilisk is a brutal story as both sides cut each other down to the last. You quickly learn that no one is safe in this conflict; no character wears unkillable ‘plot armour.’ This creates great tension in every moment of conflict, for you never know what will happen, who will die. Basilisk makes great use of the ninja theme with every aspect shrouded in deception and brutality. Each ninja has a special power such as a spider-man who spits glue-like phlegm, and a woman can use her blood to mark the target and create a red mist she can vanish into. To reveal any more would constitute spoilers since the powers themselves are kept hidden for use as twists in the plot. I love strategic use of character abilities and talents.
The writers did a great job with the characters. Neither clan is the good or bad side. Both have characters with shades of grey, beautiful and ugly, calm and angry, kind and cruel. Having these complex characters on both sides makes it all the harder to see them die.
It is clear Basilisk drew much inspiration from Ninja Scroll the Movie with the unique ninja powers and action style. In my review of Ninja Scroll, I noted the lack of character development as a core issue. Thankfully, Basilisk uses its longer screen time to develop the characters through flashbacks and during downtime. Even then, a few characters don’t get the screen time they deserve in such a large cast.
Basilisk excels at character design, each ninja’s look based on their powers – they even have a ninja with no arms or legs. The action is suitably gory and uncensored as a man cuts off his own head. I do wish the visual style in general had more grit like Ninja Scroll the Movie and Berserk – Basilisk looks too clean by comparison.
Finally, we come to the audio. Don’t use the English track. With so many archaic Japanese names and locations coupled with honorifics –dono and –sama spoken in American accents (some rather heavy, see: character Okoi), the English voice work sounds strange. If they insisted on using the honorifics with these voices, they should have use titles like ‘lord’ and ‘lady’ instead. Stick to the Japanese original with its well-matched voices to the characters.
I highly recommend Basilisk to anyone who isn’t averse to a little gore. The ninjas and their powers make for an engaging narrative of action and tragedy.
Art – High
A variety of character designs that fit their creative powers. Gore and violence worthy of the brutal premise. I would have liked more grit in the general art.
Sound – High
In Japanese, each character has the right voice, well executed. In English, however, the heavy use of Japanese words doesn’t sound right. Outside of the forgettable title tracks, the music is nice. I particularly liked what I refer to as ‘mountain monk’ music (I have no idea what it’s called) – flutes, chimes, ethereal vocals, etc.
Story – High
A tragic tale of two ninja clans willing to fight to the last warrior if it means wiping out the opposing clan. Add in the forbidden romance, and you have a great story to hear.
Overall Quality – High
Recommendation: Can’t go wrong watching this. Basilisk manages to deliver great action coupled with complex characters in a dark tale of love and hate.
Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)