Basilisk Volume One: Scrolls of Blood

Hawkeye

Four hundred years ago, a tragic war wrought by deceit and treachery was started, pitting two former lovers against each other. A peace pact was formed between the Kouga and Iga clans, but peace isn’t eternal, and the descendants of the two ill-fated lovers are destined to retrace the past’s footsteps.

imageThe first volume sets the scene of the story, exploring the past between Hougan the leader of the Iga and Donjo the leader of the Kouga. The two were lovers until Hougan’s city was destroyed with the help of the Kouga Clan. Though Donjo knew nothing of the plans to invade his beloved’s land, Hougan felt betrayed and disbelieved his claims of innocence, starting a 400-year war that eventually gave way to a very tense peace agreement. But a broken heart never heals, and even as the two grow old they remain bitter rivals, and the peace is broken many years after the truce as Hougan and Donjo finally kill each other. The treaty between the tribes is broken, and a deadly competition is started. Two scrolls are written, one for the Iga clan, the other for the Kouga, and are sent with the swiftest messengers. There is to be a battle of the ninjas, each clan’s best ten against the others. The last one remaining will reign over the other for the next 100 years.

imageThe end of the peace agreement would be welcome news to most, but not to the heirs of each clan. The two have fallen in love with each other and plan to marry. Just like what happened to Hougan and Donjo, both sides are blind to the treachery underfoot by their own people. Though two scrolls were sent out, the only one that reaches its destination is the Iga scroll, giving the Iga ninjas the upper hand to plot the Kouga’s downfall.

The story seems solid enough, but it felt like there was too much emphasis on past events. I realize that the Kouga and Iga clans hate each together, I don’t need to be reminded every 5 minutes in each episode. The series even does that annoying thing of playing the same scene before the opening credits that Record of Lodoss War did, essentially they do a very quick dramatic recap of the betrayal of the lovers. The first time I saw this scene, I thought it was pretty cool, but around the third time I wanted to stab my eyes out.

The animation left a lot of things to be desired. While they didn’t cheap out on the fight scenes, they did make all non-combat scenes boring. There were no interesting angles or spectacular backgrounds. There’s a scene where Obaru, the Iga heir, dances in the third episode, and it was just about the most boring uninspiring dance I’ve ever seen. Why couldn’t they have put the awesome sense of angles and fluid motion shown in the battles into this scene as well? Also, there was a stark contrast that just didn’t mesh well in the drawing of the older aged characters then the younger. The older characters felt gritty and overly lined, extremely detailed, where the younger characters had a crisp smooth look to them. I realize that young characters won’t have wrinkles, but it literally looked like two different series muddled together.

One of the few things I did like about the series was the sound. The music was an interesting blend of traditional-sounding Japanese music and a more modern day feel. The voice acting was very good as well, adding character to fairly bland characters. It helped give them a personality and depth that the anime lacked at times. The extras also weren’t bad, including “History of the Ninja” and Character Cast Auditions.

Basilisk had the potential of being a really good anime. It had an interesting back story and a current plot with plenty of possible twists and action, hell, it even ripped off Romeo and Juliet with lovers from two rivaling families. But it just didn’t deliver for me. The story was disjointed and not compelling in the slightest, and the artwork was in two clashing styles. This wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen, I might even have enjoyed it more if FUNimation hadn’t put the preview for it on every disc for several months. The hype for this series made my expectations way too high and I was outright disappointed. While this series may pick up in the later discs, I’m not sure I’m willing to stick it out and see.

Entertainment: 4
Good idea, poor execution. If you want to see this story done right, watch the live action version “Shinobi”.

Technical: 7
Good sound and neat extras.

Overall: 4

DVD Features: 1. Destiny, 2. Last Rendezvous, 3. The Onslaught of War, 4. The Horned Owl

Extras: History of the Ninja, Character Cast Auditions, Director/Actor Commentary, Textless Songs, Trailers

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