Reviewby Theron Martin, Nov 9th 2006
After 400 years of simmering animosity, an edict by the former Emperor has ended a forced non-aggression treaty and put the Kouga and Iga ninja clans at war. Thanks to their interception of the announcement sent to the Kouga, a group of Iga managed to gain the upper hand by keeping the Iga in the dark about what's happened and their gentle leader Oboro out of it. The Kouga start to get suspicious when the Iga make an overly bold move, however, and eventually learn the truth. The ten elite of both sides battle, with more falling while Gennosuke and his love Oboro remain blissfully ignorant, but the truth cannot be kept from them forever. Tenzen ultimately decides to tell Oboro while two of the Kouga infiltrate the Iga stronghold of Tsubakare to warn Gennosuke. But what will that do to their love?
For most of the first volume and the first episode of the second the Iga clan distinctly had the upper hand in an ages-old conflict now turned into a battle to the death. Before this volume is finished the score has been evened a bit, though not without cost and a lot of flashy use of super-powered ninja techniques. The sheer variety and inventiveness of the techniques is one of the series' main attractions; introduced in this volume is one who can drain a person's blood through skin-to-skin contact, another who can copy the face and voice of anyone, a third who can blend into the walls and ground (though he's naked while doing so), a fourth who can crate wind vortexes powerful enough to crush a man's skull, and a fifth with super-human senses. As before, these abilities may not be original but they are used well enough to create a visual spectacle. Even Oboro gets in on the power use, albeit inadvertently. We still don't know what Gennosuke's gimmick is (beyond being a bad-ass-looking samurai, of course), but hey, they've got to keep a few surprises up their sleeves for future volumes.
Basilisk isn't a series built with plot development in mind, instead concentrating primarily on the battles and defining the attitudes and positions of its characters. The one pivotal plot point – what the revelation of this war's existence will do to the relationship between Gennosuke and Oboro – isn't directly dealt with in this volume, but it does set everything up for that confrontation to happen in the first episode of the next one. Given how well-established they've been as a couple, forcing them apart would be heart-rending, but that's the direction the series seems to be going. Even for those who have only been watching the series casually so far, it's unlikely a viewer will be able to watch how this volume ends without wanting to see what becomes of them in the next one.
Basilisk also pulls Naruto's standard trick of developing a character just enough to make the character sympathetic before ruining/killing the character, but executes it more effectively than Naruto ever did. In fact, quality of execution in general is what raises this series at least a bit above most other ninja-freak titles out there. Its action scenes are invariably executed well, as is its music, artistry, and graphic violence.
And the graphic content is the other main draw here, and it doesn't disappoint. While there's no actual nudity, the visuals get highly suggestive at points. Displays of bloody violence are ratcheted up a notch, and two of the “name” character death scenes (one involves strangulation, the other a sort of skewering) are intense enough in their portrayal to be more than a little disturbing. If you're squeamish, this is not a volume you want to be watching.
The artistic quality established in the first volume is maintained throughout this one, creating a good-looking series with excellent animation. Most interesting amongst the newer designs is that Okoi is actually drawn with a somewhat stocky (albeit voluptuous) build, which makes her a bit more convincing as a combatant. Enough of an emphasis on more traditionally Japanese features is used that a couple of the characters can be a bit hard to keep straight based just on appearance, but that also lends the visuals a more authentic feel. This is a story about dueling ninja clans, after all.
The musical score remains solid but unremarkable, as does the English dub. The script continues to play fast and loose with the original meaning, but English VAs for the new roles are well-chosen, so this is a dub likely to work well for dub fans. How much sub fans might appreciate it depends mostly on how much leeway one is inclined to allow FUNimation in their translation.
In addition to clean opener and closer, the second volume includes the original Japanese extras for volumes 3 and 4 of the Japanese release. These constitute First-Press Release #3 and #4, a pair of half-hour long specials featuring a quartet of series seiyuu talking about their characters, events in the episodes involves, and showing video clips while also answering letters. It's a fun bunch to watch, so they aren't boring.
If the first volume of Basilisk at least mildly got your attention then the second volume is likely to hook you, provided that you can handle the severe graphic content. It may not be the deepest or most complicated series, but what it does, it does well.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B
Animation : A-
Art : A-
Music : B
+ Good artistry and action scenes.
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