The Fall 2018 Anime Preview Guide
Gakuen Basara: Samurai High School
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Gakuen Basara: Samurai High School ?
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How was the first episode?
While this probably isn't the best place to enter this particular franchise, all you really need is a passing knowledge of the major players of the Sengoku Era to get what's going on: Sengoku warlords reimagined as high school students. That actually makes a decent amount of sense, because high school can feel very much like a battlefield, and the tropes of high school battle anime makes this a particularly easy fit. The plot for this episode? Sanada Yukimura and Date Masamune square off over use of the field for their respective sports teams.
It is decently funny, even if you aren't up on your Sengoku guys. Even without the fact that none of them know how to play kickball (not that I can talk), their face-off is appropriately ridiculous, with random guys showing up to help out, the student council presidential elections somehow spilling over onto the field, and the moped “motorcycle” gang attempting to butt in only to have their leader told off by a teacher with a holster full of chalk. I chuckled in a few places – mostly the moped gang, honestly – but it really isn't much that we haven't seen before in other high school comedies. The Sengoku angle can only do so much to freshen things up.
Probably the best part of this episode is the very hammy voice acting. Everyone is so super-serious while still being completely over the top that it makes some of the gags stick when otherwise they would have felt a bit lame. The sheer number of characters who show up on the sports field also helps in this case, highlighting the ludicrous extreme that the guys are taking their rivalry to while still nicely mimicking the actual history of the players. This isn't the cleverest or funniest episode or use of the Sengoku warlords (but it does beat the pants off of things like Nobunaga the Fool), but if you're into the franchise or historic figures or just want a silly high school comedy, it's also a decently good time.
Capcom's Sengoku Basara game series has previously been directly adapted into anime form multiple times, but this series is based on a parody spin-off which takes all of the figures from the game series (and thus by extension from the Warring States era of Japanese history) and transplants them into a modern-day high school. No familiarity with the game franchise or earlier anime incarnations is needed, although I did get the sense that there are likely plenty of in-jokes here for those who have played the original games. All that's really necessary is a passing familiarity with the major Sengoku-era samurai.
That's because this is just another of those “put adult characters in a modern high school setting” gimmicks, and it's every bit as much stupid fun as other iterations on the concept. Characters get to take their historical conflicts and translate them into school-based conflicts driven by every ounce of the fiery passion which underlies the games. In a scenario like this a kickball match turns into an epic, no-holds-barred battle where even team uniforms match up with the traditional color schemes of the leaders (no matter that it doesn't make sense for the baseball and soccer teams of the same school to be wearing uniforms with entirely different color schemes) and all sorts of colorful individuals pop into the game using spiked bats or even six baseball bats all at once. Trick moves abound in the grand tradition of over-the-top sports anime and the teachers are naturally bad-asses themselves, including a headmaster who's the baddest of them all.
All of this is entirely silly, light-hearted fun. How much of it's actually funny is another story, although one of the best gags involves a “biker” gang who seem to all be riding scooters and there were at least one or two other moments which gave me a chuckle. The first episode also goes out of its way to throw in all kinds of cameo appearances, which is the one point where familiarity with the original games would probably help. Don't expect a high level of technical merit here, with shortcuts used heavily in action scenes and the artistry in general is not very crisp. However, this one hardly needs a high level of technical merit to accomplish its purpose or draw in audiences. If you're familiar with the original games or enthused about a parody version of Sengoku-era samurai then this should provide sufficient entertainment. If you're not then there's no point in checking it out, as it doesn't offer anything else.
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