The Winter 2018 Anime Preview Guide Basilisk: The Ouka Ninja Scrolls
How would you rate episode 1 of
Basilisk: The Ouka Ninja Scrolls ?
What is this?
How was the first episode?
It's been over a decade since I first watched Basilisk. It premiered during the spring season of my senior year of high school (insert groaning noise here). It was a typical Romeo and Juliet love story, aside from the ninjas strangling people with their hair and inflating themselves into giant balloons. When the sequel was announced, I was pretty stoked to revisit the Kouga and Iga clans and hunker down for more over-the-top battles and gore.
So it's too bad these ninja are dead right out of the gate. I'm not sure what happened with this premiere episode, but it's a blend of incomplete animation sequences, a soundtrack ripped from a default CASIO keyboard back beat, and a practically nonsensical plot. Everyone is also very cool with incest all of a sudden, and I don't mean step-siblings that call each other “onii-san and imouto-chan” incest, but just straight-up born-from-the-same-parents incest. There's a lot to break down on why this episode is awful and I have so many questions.
What's up with the Oda Nobunaga bit in the beginning? Are the Kouga and Iga kind of okay now? Were the kids just having a practice session of ninja skills or were they actually trying to kill one another? Why are the Kouga supporting the shogun's brother and why should the audience care enough about him to warrant continual cuts of him riding a horse in the rain?
The episode's key visual makes it appear that there's going to be a substantial time skip where the ninja we're crudely introduced to are no longer children, so it's odd to me that we spent the full first episode in a sort of “flashback.” If it was supposed to be laying groundwork, it hardly did the job at all much less in any intriguing way. There is a lot of blabbing over still shots in this opener, and that doesn't bode well for the rest of the production. Hopefully this season has some other action show offerings, because this one is unwatchable.
The original Basilisk manga, which was itself based on an earlier novel, was followed up in 2010 by a two-part novel sequel. This series is based on those novels, so the story is a direct sequel to the 2005 anime series, though the connections to the earlier content are more implied than outright specified; there's a generalized reference to earlier events at the beginning, a name dropped along the way, and the recurrent sense of fallout throughout, but that's it. Even so, I get the impression from this episode that those who have not seen the first anime series may struggle with this one, as that series set the stage for what we have here.
Basilisk succeeded by melding a Romeo and Juliet-themed story to highly graphic supernatural ninja action, resulting in a series that gloried in hyperviolent visuals and crazy powers alongside tragic elements. This series looks like it wants to retain as much as possible of the former while still advancing the story to the next generation, but its approach to this isn't clear from the first episode. The focus of this premiere is scattered; what an early scene involving Nobunaga has to do with anything is a complete mystery at this point, and how Tadanaga's actions fit in only starts to become clearer at the end, when the senior Kouga ninja show up to support him. Otherwise, the episode mostly spends time introducing a whole bunch of ninja, from a handful of adults to the various youths, including a gun-user, a metal-armored ninja, an illusionist, and whatever unspecified things Hachiro and Hibiki can do. In keeping with the name of the franchise, both are implied to have eye-based powers just like Gennosuke and Oboro, but the production is remaining coy for the moment about what they can do.
In fact, the first episode goes so far toward trying to replicate the original that it's failing to stake out its own territory. Same central characters with the same potential relationship, just younger. Similar visual and power themes to the ninja from the first series, including one who is physically disabled. Using what worked before is all well and good, but this installment is already in danger of being a copycat. As someone who was a fan of the original, I'm a little worried, even if there is a decent mix of powers and personalities so far.
I'm also a little worried about the production. The prominent overuse of stills at various points suggests that the animation effort wasn't finished on time. The musical selections in the first half of the episode, while the kids are doing their training fight, also leave a lot to be desired. The visuals and animation aren't bad but they don't quite capture that distinctive look that Gonzo fostered in the original, either.
I'll continue watching this one because the name still carries weight, but I'm hoping for more out of future episodes.
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