Basilisk: The Koga Ninja Scrolls centers on a battle between two rival ninja clans during the Azuchi-Monoyama era (1600). A sort of non-agression pact betweent the two clans was put in place generations ago by Hattori Hanzo (not the Kill Bill Hattori Hanzo...jeesh, the samauri) which helped Hanzo rise to power. When Hanzo dies a power vacuum is created among his grandsons, the political tensions in this early Japanese government run high, as each candidate sets off a string of espionage-style tactics to defeat their rivals and fill that vacuum. One of these tactics entails recalling the treaty between the Kouga and Ida ninja clans, and setting their best 10 ninjas against each other in a kill or be killed battle to the death. Two grandsons want the shogunate, each is backing a different clan, whatever clan wins the backing grandson earns the title...a very odd way to remedy the situation, but it is fun!  So, it's sort of historicial, but not really. The basis of the story is actually rooted in Japanese history, but then it gets very anime with some fairly impressive ninja skills and a Romeo and Juliette love story between the heirs of each clan, Gennosuke and Oboro, whose marriage (arranged prior to Hanzo's death) was to unite the two clans permenantly.

I did enjoy this series--it had a lot of fighting, some heavy symbolic gestures and repeating images/metaphors, and a rather sad/poignant focus on loyalties (does one honor love above all else? And if so, which kind of love? Filial, romantic, familial?).  As the plot twisted around itself amidst some heavy betrayals and deceptions, I would become interested in characters only to be shown their tragic demise. This is not a light-hearted romp! It is, in fact, one of the more violent and brutal animes I've watched. But, there does seem to be some rather skilled story-telling here as well. I enjoyed the pacing of the series, and the way characters' special ninja skills, backstories, connections, etc. were revealed. Although, I did enjoy it, I don't know as I'd put this on the list of my favorite animes of all times. It was good, it was thoughtful, but it stayed just shy of becoming something I could see myself watching again--perhaps due to the violence? Or perhaps the animation style (which does seem older and grittier)? Or maybe it is the guy who fights with his nose hairs?

If you are interested, as many people are, in warring ninja clans, this is well worth a watch--it is rooted in at least SOME historical reality and does not shy away from serious brutality and heartlessness. Just don't expect a feel-good romp.


William Shakespeare said...

Oh. I'm going to watch this!

Dr. M said...

You should, it goes along with your whole eyes as metaphors, power-centers, contracts, etc. theory.