Monday, 29 May 2017

Event report: Basara Club Fan Meeting 2017 Spring

It's been a while since this blog featured something like this, hasn't it?

Since real life didn't allow me to attend the previous Basara Matsuri and stage play events, I leapt at the opportunity to apply for tickets to this weekend's Basara Club Fan Meeting 2017 Spring events when the timing ended up coinciding with some travel I'd already arranged. The Sengoku Basara fandom is in a huge lull right now in Japan - even more so than it was prior to the announcement of Sengoku Basara 4 - and it's been a little sad seeing how few signs there are of the series' influence while travelling around the country over the past two weeks. Sengoku Basara merchandise has vanished from most stores, the anime discs are in bargain bins and we just had the news that Sengoku Basara Dokugan, the only serialised manga currently running (not counting the Retsuden one-shots in Dengeki Maoh) is to end in a couple of weeks. If not for this summer's Zangeki Sengoku Basara: Odawara Seibatsu ('Odawara Subjugation') stage play which has just started its major advertising push, I'd be ready to declare the series officially dead.

So it was with a little anxiety that I bought my tickets and turned up at the venue, half-worrying that I might be the only person there! Thankfully, that wasn't the case. The hardcore fans are still eager to celebrate the crazy action of Sengoku Basara even during this period of deathly quiet.

First of all, to avoid any dashing of hopes I want to make it clear that these fan gatherings are just for fun. The gaming media isn't present and there are no major announcements, so this post won't secretly reveal any news about Sengoku Basara 5 right at the end (sadly). If you still want to read more anyway, please go ahead!

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Streaming: Spring 2017 anime first impressions

What on earth happened to anime streaming this season? Right as we had finally settled into a wonderful era of Crunchyroll getting UK simulcast rights for almost everything on offer, Amazon Prime and Netflix have both stepped up their plans to grab exclusive licenses with bizarre global strategies; in Amazon's case, they've started licensing some titles for the US only which has left other English-speaking regions in the dust. It's as though we've gone back in time several years! The situation is worsened by UK licensor Manga Entertainment continuing to sit on its own licenses instead of putting them on some kind of simulcasting service. Their decisionmakers don't like Crunchyroll or dub-only outlet Funimation Now, but in the absence of any viable alternative Manga Entertainment continue to license shows and provoke the pirates by squatting on the digital rights for the UK. And so I don't buy from Manga.

I'm desperately hoping that this mess is just a temporarily blip on the path to progress, though it's not exactly unusual for the anime industry to shoot itself in the foot and prevent those who want to from watching and supporting their favourite titles. Global streaming is always such a mess.

All of my ongoing shows have finished other than Nobunaga No Shinobi, which has a second season continuing straight on from the previous one. So will anything new be joining it in my weekly viewing schedule? Let's see.

Streaming: Winter 2017 anime final impressions

Another busy season for me outside of this poor blog, which is limping along on these anime roundups alone these days. I've only been keeping up on the shows which aired on Crunchyroll which was rather convenient and economical. It feels as though this era may be over moving into the spring season, sadly, as it's absolutely loaded with service-specific exclusives; even losing just one must-see title in winter to Amazon Prime was a shame.

I dropped Fuuka partway through its run after realising that it was never going to become the alternate version of NANA I was hoping for, and from all accounts it seems that I dodged a bullet there. I also dropped Ao No Exorcist for no reason in particular. It was too confusing trying to stitch the canonical events from the previous adaptation together.

So let's go with this for my top three:

1. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu
2. ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept

The other reason for my lateness in posting these final impressions (and consequently, my first impressions for spring) is a little silly. I loved my top show so much that I was afraid to finish it for quite a few weeks, and ended up trapped in an extended winter much longer than I planned. Several of the shows - most notably Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu and Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans - were such emotional rollercoasters that they left me in tatters. I hope the current season will be kinder.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

News roundup: Catching up on Sengoku Basara news right before this weekend's Basara Matsuri

Wow, it's been a long time since I wrote one of these! The Sengoku Basara series has been reasonably quiet over the last few months, so I've been catching up on real life (and playing lots of Final Fantasy XIV). Thank you all very much for the notes/corrections/suggestions on my Sanada Yukimura-den guide; I'll update that very soon but the comments section has a lot of great information from the community. I also need to update it to reflect the changes to the DLC pricing, and the expanded availability of the mascot costumes for Benmaru and Bontenmaru which are now available for purchase.

I'm going to make this news roundup less detailed than my old ones since there's a lot to get through.

Announcements are expected tomorrow at the latest Basara Matsuri event

I never got around to announcing it at all but the big Basara Matsuri 2017 ~Mononofu Katari~ celebration is taking place this Sunday 5th February 2017 at the Maihama Amphitheater in Chiba! There will be two separate events on the same day, one at 14:00 and the other at 18:00. Tickets cost between ¥7,200 and ¥8,200 each depending on the seat.

The theme of this event, which was originally revealed several months ago, is loosely a celebration of the Yukimura collaborations we had throughout 2016. Mononofu is a fairly specific word for a brave warrior which has a very strong association with the historical Sanada Yukimura in Japan, so he's the star attraction this time. I bet Nakai Kazuya (Date Masamune) turns up as a secret guest at the end though; it happens so often now that it's no longer really a surprise! The main attraction is being advertised as live voice performances by the star-studded seiyuu cast including a special story created just for the event, and we can also expect some brand new information from KobaP.

Sadly I can't attend in person this year - which is upsetting as Noto-san will be there and I would have loved to see her - so I won't be writing up a detailed report, but any announcements made at the event should receive full press coverage (and of course, attendees will be updating on social media). Given the silence since the last game was released and the lack of information from the fan meeting events late last year, I'm excited (and more than a little nervous) to learn where the series will be going in future.

The guest list is great, as always:

Hoshi Souichirou (Sanada Yukimura)
Morita Masakazu (Maeda Keiji)
Seki Tomokazu (Ishida Mitsunari)
Miki Shinichirou (Gotou Matabee)
Okiayu Ryoutarou (Toyotomi Hideyoshi)
Okamoto Nobuhiko (Shibata Katsuie)
Oohara Sayaka (Saika Magoichi)
Kobayashi 'KobaP' Hiroyuki (series producer)

Afternoon show only:

Ookawa Tooru (Tokugawa Ieyasu)
Genda Tesshou (Takeda Shingen)
Hayami Shou (Akechi Mitsunari)

Evening only:

Ishino Ryuuzou (Chousokabe Motochika)
Nakahara Shigeru (Mouri Motonari)
Kuroda Kanbee (Koyama Rikiya)
Noto Mamiko (Oichi)

As usual, there's exclusive merchandise available at the venue for fans to scramble to obtain.

Event pamphlet (¥2,800):

Seven double-sided oversized uchiwa fans (¥700 each):

Two batches of seven tradable kanji acrylic charms (¥500 each), separated into 'heaven' and 'brave' sets to help fans increase the chance of getting the charm they want:

A muffler towel (¥2,000):

A denim tote bag (¥3,000):

And an IC card case (¥1,500):

They have also announced the details for the home video version of the event, and I was delighted to see that there will be a Blu-ray option!

The Blu-ray version will cost ¥7,800 while the double DVD set will be ¥6,800 before tax.

Both versions will be released on 26th May 2017 and the first press bonus will be a booklet. Those who preorder at the event venue will receive an A3 poster as an extra incentive:

Reports from the newest Sengoku Basara stage play

The absence of the usual stage play guests at Basara Matsuri has a very simple explanation: the new stage play has just begun its run. Zangeki Sengoku Basara: The Battle Of Sekigahara is being performed from 3rd February to 12th February 2017 in Tokyo then moving to Osaka for the shows from 17th February to 19th February 2017.

There are a number of special treats lined up for attendees, such as a live performance of the series' anniversary theme song by band SOLIDEMO after Sunday's show and cast appearances from seiyuu Miki Shinichirou (Matabee), Ishino Ryuuzou (Motochika) and Ookawa Tooru (Ieyasu) on certain dates.

The cast of the current stage play is as follows (bold names are new to the roles):

Nakao Kenya (Tokugawa Ieyasu)
Okino Kouji (Ishida Mitsunari)
Mashima Shuuto (Date Masamune)
Matsumura Ryuunosuke (Sanada Yukimura)
Shiina Taizou (Sarutobi Sasuke)
Shiramata Atsushi (Chousokabe Motochika)
Sueno Takuma (Fuuma Kotarou)
Ooyama Masashi (Ootani Yoshitsugu)
Kawamura Yui (Ii Naotora)
Mamoru Asana (Saika Magoichi)
Shiozaki 'IRE' Airu (Gotou Matabee)
Itou Yuuichi (Kuroda Kanbee)
Matsuda Kenji (Matsunaga Hisahide)
Video footage appearance only: Inoue Masahiro (Katakura Kojuurou)

I'm interested in the new actors, especially since most of the leads have been replaced, but I'm also interested to see how well Naotora survives the transition to live action. It's good to see her appearing at last.

There are also some special appearances by characters who aren't part of the main play for a few of the shows, where they'll have extra scenes exclusive to those performances! Kotani Yoshikazu (Mouri Motonari), Inoue Masahiro (Katakura Kojuurou), Saitou Shuusuke (Shima Sakon), Nakayama Yuuki from SOLIDEMO (Hisahiko) and Yamaguchi Tomoya from SOLIDEMO (Takezou) will appear on certain dates, and in some cases they'll come back on stage for an 'after talk' chat after the finale. I hope that these extra scenes make it to the DVD so everyone can enjoy them.

In the meantime, we will have to make do with the early reports from news sites such as 4Gamer, Famitsu, Gamer, iLIP and Stage Natalie, as well as this illustrated version.

A new stage play means new merchandise, and this one is no different in that respect. As well as a food and drink tie-in at the Karaoke Pasela store in Shinjuku, fans who go to see a live performance can purchase the following goods at the venue.

The official pamphlet (¥2,000):

A set of two A4 clear files (Eastern Army and Western Army versions) with all of the other characters on the reverse (¥1,000):

Thirteen sets of three large cast photographs (¥500 per set):

One of thirteen blind-packaged 54mm badges (¥300 each):

A B2 poster with the main visual for the play (¥800):

Or you can simply buy the 'complete set' bundle for a cool ¥10,000...

On the topic of the stage plays, Lumi noted that fans are no longer being forced to order the DVD versions through the Japan-only Ace Store, as Amazon Japan now lists Butai Sengoku Basara 4 for direct purchase. This is a much more convenient (and less costly) way for fans outside Japan to support the stage play series. Let's hope that the new play DVDs will eventually begin arriving on Amazon in a timely manner!

Brighten up your home with three new Sengoku Basara 4 wall scrolls

Three new B2 tapestries (wall scrolls) will be released on 27th March 2017 with illustrations by Sengoku Basara 4 manga artist Yoshihara Motoki. The designs were originally sold as exclusives in three Japanese regions but have now been made widely available within Japan on the Dengekiya store and Amazon Japan: Masamune/Kojuurou (Sendai), Yukimura/Sasuke (Nagano) and Mitsunari/Sakon (Kinki).

The Sengoku Basara Retsuden Series returns - in manga form

The Sengoku Basara series will be returning to monthly manga anthology magazine Dengeki Maoh this spring with a series of three all-new Sengoku Basara Retsuden manga focusing on specific characters from the Sengoku Basara universe.

The first of the new stories will be drawn by Sengoku Basara 4 artist Yoshihara Motoki, and it will be about Date Masamune. It will be followed by a story about Ishida Mitsunari from Sengoku Basara 3 -ROAR OF DRAGON- artist Ooga Asagi, then finally there will be a story focusing on Matsunaga Hisahide from frequent collaborator Tsutsumi Yoshisada. All three artists have worked on the series in the past so it's good to see them returning with this new project. In addition, Capcom's Yamamoto Makoto will be overseeing all three of the new manga so we can expect to see his input in the brand new stories.

The second volume of Sengoku Basara DOKUGAN can now be preordered

The alternate universe Sengoku Basara DOKUGAN manga is already up to its second collected volume, which will be released on 17th March 2017 under Akita's Young Champion Comics label for ¥562 before tax. It will be widely available from all good import bookstores as usual.

Speaking of Sengoku Basara DOKUGAN, I never had the chance to show off the cover artwork for the first volume which went on sale last October! Here it is.

Boost your Sengoku Basara music collection with a new compilation CD

The Sengoku Basara Complete Best 2011-2016 CD is a limited edition release which came out (AmiAmi) on 30th November 2016 for ¥3,000 before tax. The CD will only remain in print until March 2017.

The track list features the most recent opening and ending theme songs from the series, gathered together for the first time:

1. FLAGS (T.M.Revolution) - from Sengoku Basara -The Last Party-
2. The party must go on (T.M.Revolution) - from Sengoku Basara -The Last Party-
3. Chikai (Do As Infinity) - from Sengoku Basara Chronicle Heroes
4. UTAGE (T.M.Revolution) - from Sengoku Basara 3 Utage
5. Tasogare (Do As Infinity) - from Sengoku Basara 3 Utage
6. WE aRE (abingdon boys school) - from Sengoku Basara HD Collection
7. Count ZERO (T.M.Revolution) - from Sengoku Basara 4
8. Runners high (SCANDAL) - from Sengoku Basara 4
9. DOUBLE-DEAL (T.M.Revolution) - from Sengoku Basara 4 Sumeragi
10. Heavenly Blue (Ishikawa Chiaki) - from Sengoku Basara 4 Sumeragi
11. Hokkyokusei ~ Polaris (Ishikawa Chiaki) - from Sengoku Basara Judge End
12. Committed RED (T.M.Revolution) - from Sengoku Basara Sanada Yukimura-den

A few other miscellaneous merchandise announcements

To avoid my computer exploding from including too many images in this post, I'll recap some of the more commonplace new merchandise more briefly. There have been several new types of merchandise released in Japan over the winter, ranging from Sanada Yukimura-den metal straps to paid in-app decorations for ubiquitous transport planning app NAVITIME. The Capcom x B-Side Label sticker collaboration continued with additional designs for Yukimura, Masamune, Benmaru, Bontenmaru, Masayuki and Nobuyuki.

There was also a batch of Sanada Yukimura-den goods including five magnets (¥300 each), a clear bookmark set (¥500) and a 2017 A5 desktop calendar (¥1,000) with art from the latest game:

It's odd that Naotora is included in the magnet and bookmark roster as one of the main characters, partly because merchandise for female Sengoku Basara characters is rare in general and partly because she has very little to do with the game the merchandise relates to in the first place! A preemptive sign that there were plans to boost her popularity to tie in with this year's taiga drama in Japan?

The Capcom Cafe has updated its menu to add new dishes.

Like this amazing beef stew...

...and at the same time, the cafe has updated its merchandise list with a whole host of new items incorporating the Sanada Yukimura-den cast:

From January 2017, fans in Japan can visit amusement arcades to try to win one of six 15cm nesoberi mascot plushies from Banpresto based on Masamune, Yukimura, Ieyasu, Mitsunari, Motochika and Motonari:

Lastly, Japan-only official merchandise store e-Capcom has also been offering a unique ¥2,130 calendar which collects some of the quirky illustrations that Itou Ryuu has been creating for the Sengoku Basara LINE account. The account has continued to send strange new pictures to its subscribers on a regular basis, so it would be nice to see them all collected into an art book eventually. Until then, this calendar is the only way to have a high quality physical copy of those illustrations. Preorders close on 8th February 2017 with delivery estimated for 10th March 2017. The calendar starts in April and runs for twelve months, so including the cover there are thirteen images included in total. For those of us who can't afford the calendar via a deputy service, following the official LINE account is a free alternative with images like this appearing on a regular basis.

A few autumn/winter event updates, many of which have now ended

While I wasn't updating, we've had collaborations with Hacka Doll, and mobile game Senran No Samurai Kingdom. We have had a Yukimura-themed tour running alongside the promotions at the Tokyo Game Show, and the Sweets Paradise Sanada Cafe relocated for another campaign.

The Bali Tower hotel in Tennouji (Osaka) is letting guests stay in special Sengoku Basara Yukimura or Masamune themed rooms up until 28th February 2017, and gorgeous Christmas cupcakes and macarons were made available across Japan by mail order through Priroll.

Meanwhile, there is currently a major real world campaign heavily featuring Ii Naotora (along with Ieyasu) to capitalise on the increased interest she's expected to be receiving in Japan throughout 2017. The main purpose of the campaign is promote tourism in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka, a region with strong historical ties to the Sengoku period. A full announcement is available in English already courtesy of Capcom and the Japanese website for the promotion shows off the various attractions, from the standees used in the stamp rally to the stunning Sengoku Basara train decorations. The free Sengoku Hamamatsu Stamp Rally smartphone application is available for iOS and Android devices and lets visitors unlock digital wallpapers and frames. You can also earn exclusive merchandise by travelling around the Hamamatsu area.

Visiting 15 locations earns you an oversized badge:

While visiting 30 (!) locations earns acrylic key holders or labels:

There are also additional benefits to travelling around the Shizuoka area, with the Tenryuu Hamanako Railroad x Sengoku Basara campaign offering exclusive Naotora-themed ticket designs, smartphone cases and collectable model trains for its customers to buy.

I would love to get my hands on that little train!

Still waiting to see Judge End? It's now available in English on Blu-Ray and DVD

Funimation have finally released (RightStuf link) the 2014 spin-off anime Sengoku Basara: Judge End under its official US title Sengoku Basara: End Of Judgement on 27th December 2016. It's a DVD/Blu-Ray combo pack priced at $64.98 SRP; with online discounts it can usually be found around the $40 mark before shipping.

There are no special editions this time around, though the first press comes with an o-card (a thin cardboard slipcase). Special features include an episode 3 commentary, textless songs, and trailers. The series is presented with a choice of the original Japanese audio with English subtitles, or the brand new English dub (which is being discussed here; thank you to Mewshuji as always for spreading the word!)

I doubt a UK license is imminent - Manga UK reported that the previous Production I.G. anime sold poorly here and they actively avoid licensing titles popular with women (!), so it all depends on whether Funimation and Anime Limited decide to relaunch the series in the UK themselves. Given that Judge End isn't all that popular even amongst fans, I decided not to wait and picked up a copy of the US set for my collection. I'll try to write a comparison with the Japanese discs when there is time.

To accompany the release of Judge End, Funimation has also rereleased the previous anime at a rock bottom price in its S.A.V.E. range. You can get both seasons of the Production I.G. anime television series (including the OAV episodes and extras) bundled together on Blu-Ray and DVD for under $25 which is an amazing deal. The rerelease of the movie is priced similarly. S.A.V.E. releases usually come towards the end of a product's life cycle before the series goes out of print entirely, so if you have been waiting before picking up a copy of the anime this rerelease might be your last chance.


Whew, writing all of this took so long that it's already Basara Matsuri day in Japan! I'm praying that we get some good news.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Streaming: Winter 2017 anime first impressions

It feels so good to be back on schedule after a truly exhausting six months. This season was looking like a light one for a while, being comprised almost entirely of fluffy moe shows about giggly schoolgirls and a bunch of sequels. Somehow, though, I've ended up stuffing my schedule with a whole bunch of titles; it remains to be seen how many cling on for the whole season!

Now that Crunchyroll has devoured most of its competitors in the UK streaming scene, it looked as though they would be making a clean sweep of most of the worthwhile licenses this season - The Anime Network, Amazon Prime, Daisuki and Netflix have grabbed a few titles yet almost everything else is coming through Crunchyroll directly. The service really does represent incredible value for money for a fan in the UK these days.

Still, things are always unpredictable in the world of anime licensing. Right before I finished mopping up the last few first episodes to finish this post, Amazon announced that they would be entering the anime streaming business properly with a dedicated anime service named Anime Strike! At first glance it seemed like a pretty good deal; the Amazon exclusives each season are annoying, but for less than $5 fans could subscribe to have full access to the simulcasts and also the rest of Amazon's rather impressive digital anime catalogue. If anyone was going to rise up and become a true rival to Crunchyroll, perhaps Anime Strike would be the first to succeed!

Upon closer inspection, however, Anime Strike is a really, really bad deal. You have to pay $4.99 per month, which is comparable to Crunchyroll's subscription fee. And on top of that, you have to pay the $99 per year for an Amazon Prime account, making the true cost of Anime Strike more than $13 per month - around twice the price of a Crunchyroll subscription if you're signing up for anime alone and don't need the other Prime features. Meanwhile, Crunchyroll offers a free ad-supported service for those who can't afford to pay, along with more languages, more regions, scheduled simulcasts on a proper timetable and more content. The icing on the cake is that Amazon's Prime Video player is nowhere near as good as Crunchyroll's unless you're using it on Amazon hardware, while the market leader supports a huge range of devices to stream the anime you're paying for onto your consoles, phones and tablets. Paying twice as much for a tiny fraction of the content (Amazon Prime has two simulcasts compared to Crunchyroll's sixty this season) isn't appealing at all, and it feels as though doing so would send the message that Amazon's tactic of grabbing the worldwide streaming rights for new titles straight from Japan and releasing them only to a small subset of regions is acceptable. It's not acceptable. It encourages people to pirate anime.

Thankfully Anime Strike is US-exclusive at the moment (hello, region locking!) and if the online reactions are representative of Prime customers' feelings on the matter it doesn't look as though it's going to be a roaring success over there. Perhaps it will be rethought before daring to step outside its home turf to be steadfastly ignored by the rest of the anime-viewing world.

With my commentary on that brand new drama over, I'll move on to my first impressions! The ongoing titles I'm still following are ALL OUT!, March Comes In Like A Lion, Nobunaga No Shinobi and Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans. Everything else is new.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Streaming: Autumn 2016 anime final impressions

I've been trying to take it easy this season since I came in so late that it was tough to get caught up on everything. Still, there were quite a few good shows which prevented me from watching as little as possible and easing myself in gently. It helped that I was able to watch absolutely everything I wanted on Crunchyroll alone (for once), avoiding the hassle of juggling half a dozen different streaming services with their own unique annoyances.

Although they started out reasonably strong I ended up dropping Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru and Magic-kyun! Renaissance due to time constraints; neither really succeeded in keeping my attention. And I wonder what happened to the promised Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda (Kiss Him, Not Me) simulcast? It never turned up. UK license-holders Anime Limited say the signed paperwork was turned over to Crunchyroll but the show remained region locked away from the UK right until the end. A pity.

It's difficult to rank individual shows for this post-season ranking. There were a lot of titles I enjoyed but my favourites changed week by week!

1. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure
2. Yuuri!!! On Ice
3. Drifters

Yuuri!!! On Ice was amazing, a real surprise bursting with idealism and elegance. On the other hand, this year's long-running JoJo's Bizarre Adventure saga somehow kept things bonkers from start to finish and was like nothing else I've watched all year. Then there was Drifters, which I'd been looking forward to for ages and found even better than the manga. They're all completely different shows and incomparable, so the ranking is even more meaningless than usual.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Streaming: Autumn 2016 anime first impressions

I've finally caught up with the start of the current anime season, less than a month before it's scheduled to end. Taking back control of my life is a slow process! Everything changed once again this season, as Funimation have turned their new service into a dub-focused portal while letting Crunchyroll have the rights to their subtitled anime. It saves me some money as I no longer require two subscriptions. Meanwhile, however, The Anime Network has made another attempt to lock content to their own home-grown service to tempt people away from the market leaders, but it's a poor value proposition with only one exclusive show streaming to the UK. No thanks. I'll stick with Crunchyroll and pass on that one show. Animax UK have no acquisitions at all (hurrah!) but Daisuki and Amazon Prime have a couple. I've also had the good fortune to be able to see a few films in the cinema across the UK recently, including Your Name. (Kimi No Na Ha.), La Tortue Rouge and the first two parts of Kizumonogatari. All were great.

The excellent JoJo's Bizarre Adventure was my only ongoing commitment so I would normally have avoided picking up too much this season, except that a whole bunch of titles I was previously following have returned with sequels. So there hasn't been all that much room for completely new shows in my weekly schedule.

So without further ado - I need to start work on my final impressions post soon - here's the current rundown of UK simulcasts!

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Streaming: Summer 2016 anime final impressions

Did the season end already?! Between my packed schedule, real life stresses (I'm never moving house again) and keeping a close eye on Sengoku Basara news (which I badly need to write up into a news post), I feel as though it only just began. It doesn't help that I've been forced offline for a very long time due to problems with my Internet connection. I even ended up dropping Love Live! Sunshine two thirds of the way through simply because I was getting too backlogged - it was too much like the previous series only with less likeable girls and I wasn't enjoying it. Without my sudden and inexplicable addiction to Mystic Messenger the last couple of months would have been rather dull.

Real world politics are depressing right now so here's Arslan

Thankfully, Funimation Now and Crunchyroll made catching up relatively easy since both services have schedules and episode tracking, features which I've asked for countless times on lesser streaming sites without any success. I closed my Funimation Now account at the end of the season since they're switching to focusing on dubs and the site isn't really functional for me without a quality selection option or an app for any of my devices, but it was still a better experience than Animax or Viewster.

First and foremost, the post-season ranking.

1. Arslan Senki
2. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure
3. Binan Koukou Chikyuu Boueibu Love! Love!

My prediction wasn't too far out except that the sequel to Binan Koukou was even better than its first season and I'd apparently underestimated quite how much I loved Arslan Senki. Danganronpa 3 was good fun too, but the annoyance of Funimation's new website made it a nuisance to watch. I'll give it another spin on Blu-ray in future to accompany the next game release.

As I want to get caught up on the already-half-finished autumn season straight away, my comments may be shorter than usual.

Monday, 22 August 2016

News roundup: Release week has arrived, and with it come lots of new videos

More Sengoku Basara: Sanada Yukimura-den videos appear as release day approaches

We're being treated to a steady flow of new updates now, with even more on the way. The most interesting so far has been this Game Maniacs broadcast with KobaP since it isn't shy about revealing a few previously-unseen interface elements. Thanks go to OneSanitarium for flagging it up this morning.

Then there's the T.M.Revolution version of the second promotional video, which technically isn't new. Still, I'm not going to pass up an excuse to embed some T.M.Revolution on my blog.

Other recent Sanada Yukimura-den news

For the benefit of those not on Twitter, I've been keeping my Reference Materials post relatively up to date with new information from the trophy list to the menu interfaces. Please check there if you have any questions about the game as I think everything I know is included in that post. I'll be updating several times after the game's release so hopefully there won't be long to wait before everything important is translated. Here's the game's main menu composited from a few different screenshots (thank you again to OneSanitarium for helping with one picture I was missing!)

We heard a few days ago that there would be a pair of broadcasts on Nico Nico Live on 23rd and 30th August 2016 at 19:00 Japan time, hosted by Nico Nico personalities Edosan" and Fumiichi, and Furukawa Mirin of The links for both broadcasts are now live so the timeshifts can be reserved if you have a Nico Nico account. I don't expect any new information to be revealed at this point other than a mission here and there, but it's always possible.

The Twitter reveal of the sixth special weapon based on a regional food speciality came along as expected, showing off Masayuki's special weapon Zeppin Kougyo which is a fancy arrangement of ayu (sweetfish). I wonder how these food-themed weapons are obtained?

Other updates have included formal confirmation of free mode once you've cleared the game's main story stages and a bunch of screenshots from the opening sequence which have been released to the Japanese gaming press. There's also one last(?) major Twitter campaign which is offering merchandise for participating in social media activities.

Speaking of the opening, it's a little unusual that we haven't heard anything about an ending theme at this point. Could it be an instrumental, or a remix of the opening song?

In Japan and not sure about whether to buy Yukimura-den? Visit a game store!

Games shops across Japan will also be running a series of in-store demo events next weekend. Those who try the game out will receive a special Sengoku Basara clear file as a memento.

The fourth (and final) Sengoku Basara: Sanada Yukimura-den study video

Capcom TV's silly series of clips showing Gor☆geous learning about the new game from NonakaP is now officially over with the release of the fourth video:

More promotional activities take place in conjunction with Sanada Juuyuushi

Here's a short message from actor Nakamura Kankuro VI to promote the tie-in with the upcoming Sanada Juuyuushi ('Sanada Ten Braves') movie. The collaboration also featured in the news today thanks to a joint press conference about the game and movie.

The Sengoku Basara DOKUGAN manga will be released in collected form soon

The first volume of the manga is scheduled for release on 20th October 2016 under the Young Champion Comics label. The price is officially ¥562 before tax, and it should start appearing on other import sites very soon.

More Sengoku Basara exploration with a special one-day tour

A special Sengoku Basara: Sanada Yukimura-den Release Date Memorial 'Sanada Pilgrimage Day Trip Tour' will take place on 15th October 2016, taking fans around the Ueda area and ending with a presentation by series producer Kobayashi Hiroyuki. Some special illustrations have been revealed showing Yukimura and Sasuke enjoying konetsuke mochi and hot springs; these pictures will appear on keychains, stickers, badges and other goodies available to those on the tour. Cute!

Thursday, 18 August 2016

News roundup: The final Sengoku Basara: Sanada Yukimura-den live broadcast

Recap from the fourth Sengoku Basara: Sanada Yukimura-den live stream

I took the day off work today to watch the stream on time for once, so without further preamble here's what I noticed after watching it twice in a row.

After speeding through the usual introductions and greetings, they played a short video message from Nishikawa Takanori (T.M.Revolution) then launched straight into a recap of the game information.

They made a big deal of the ability to replay the audio from the story in the game's gallery, which is admittedly a very cool feature.

Ayana's cool Yukimura t-shirt did not go unnoticed.

The first gameplay demonstration was from chapter eight of the game's story mode (Edit: Oops, fixed a typo - thanks AZ Shibakusa!). You start out playing as Yukimura but can use Sanada Blood (L2) to control the Sanadamaru fortress at any time. You hold L2 down to aim to Sanadamaru then release the button to fire the cannons. Cancelling by pressing L2 again is possible up until the weapon fires. A blue gauge around the Sanadamaru's portrait helps judge its current status; as with smaller cannons in the series, if you fire too often the weapon will overheat and need to cool down.

The first objective is to destroy four cannons, then it changes to having to destroy all eleven of the cannons.

The first boss is Gotou Matabee. In the stream, he showed up partway through the mission to destroy all the cannons and it seems that he can be ignored at this point. This is totally not simply an excuse to post a picture of Matabee.

Once the cannons are down, Sasuke appears and Yukimura launches him into the air for the minigame where he flies around destroying supply crates.

It doesn't look as hectic as it sounded from the early descriptions. KobaP called an end to the demonstration before the minigame finished so what happens afterwards will remain a surprise.

Ayana expressed her initial worries about whether Sasuke was even going to appear in the game, saying that the Sasuke fans were really concerned for a while! It seems that she's a genuine fan.

Next, they took a break from the gameplay and recapped the DLC oni costumes which were revealed earlier today along with some of the other past DLC announcements. Ayana picked up the controller for the next gameplay demonstration, and while she was very nervous she took control of Yukimura in his oni costume for a run through the Tenmokuzan stage. It was her very first time playing the game - let alone live on camera - but she did a decent job. It's sort of fun that you can give all of the characters coordinating outfits for the cutscenes.

Since they've demonstrated that stage several times before there wasn't much that I noticed to comment on. The next demonstration was with Benmaru on the very first chapter of the game. Both of the kids were in their mascot DLC outfits so it was hard to see what was going on around their portly bodies. They showed a fairly generous portion of the stage. The interface indicated that Benmaru's Yukimura-kun DLC costume was his third outfit so it doesn't look as though he has any more alternate costumes as part of the base game.

The first announcement in the news bulletin segment was that their LINE followers would be sent another new smartphone wallpaper illustration drawn by mangaka Itou Ryuu. It's a fun one, showing Keiji and Yoshiteru dressed up to party at a festival.

The next new reveal (I'm skipping the new items we already know) was about a collaboration with Kiwa Corporation restaurants in Japan. Over a hundred branches will be offering a themed Sengoku Basara: Sanada Yukimura-den menu from 1st September through to 31st October 2016. Choose from a selection of four different set meals based on Yukimura, Masamune, Nobuyuki and Masayuki, and receive ramen, fried rice, a Sengoku Basara coaster, a bottle of Japanese-style 'cider' with a Sengoku Basara label and a fortune cookie, all for ¥1,380 before tax. You will also receive a fortune cookie if you present your LINE account in the restaurant to show them that you're following the official Sengoku Basara account there.

Fancy-looking Sengoku Basara masu boxes will be available from Urakita on 18th August 2016. A single box will cost ¥1,650 before tax with mini boxes available for just ¥850 before tax. There's a very wide selection of character designs on offer.

In addition, a range of designer Sengoku Basara x Laundry t-shirts is coming next week, priced at ¥4,200 before tax per shirt.

And Sweet Workshop Priroll will be adding printed Sengoku Basara macarons (¥1,852) and cupcakes (¥2,000) to their range of character-themed desserts from 18th August 2016. The treats come with stickers.

Some samples of the cakes and macarons were available in the studio. Yummy.

There will be a pair of broadcasts on Nico Nico Live on 23rd August/30th August 2016 at 19:00 Japan time. The shows will be hosted by Nico Nico personalities Edosan" and Fumiichi, and Furukawa Mirin of All of the presenters have helped promote Sengoku Basara previously.

They showed a video clip of the Yukimura-den trains currently running in Japan as part of the news bulletins. Ayana sounded tremendously excited when Sasuke's picture passed by the camera.

The final part of the broadcast was a live quiz for the viewers, with signed posters and merchandise from the Chara Pop stores on offer. They asked for the name of the fortress at Osaka Castle (Sanadamaru) and laughed at some of the joke answers people made (Mori Ranmaru?!), then they asked for the name of the new game. Again, there were some silly answers (Akechi Mitsuhide-den, Musou-den, Ninja Guy-den, Mori Ranmaru-den... what's with all of the Ranmaru gags?)

After a few 'final' messages the conversation shifted to how the game is being released in Chinese as well for the very first time. NonakaP described the trouble that fans in countries such as Taiwan have experienced, playing the games entirely in Japanese even though they had an official release over there. They mentioned that as well as the launch events in Tokyo (attended by KobaP) and Osaka (attended by NonakaP), there was actually going to be a third event on release day. Series director YamamotoD will be travelling to Taipei to meet the Taiwanese fans!

With a final cryptic hint from KobaP that there'd be more to reveal right up to the game's release next week, the show wrapped up. Fans speculated whether the opening might be revealed online, whether there'd be another episode of the live stream, or whether it might be something completely different.

Personally I think the most disappointing (and therefore most likely) answer is that it will be the promotional video KobaP mentioned before, showcasing the six food-themed weapons they've been teasing at events week by week.

That's all from the live stream, but I've been thinking back on what we know about the game and I'm now even more convinced that Free Mode is hidden somewhere. The shot of Keiji on Masamune's stage in one of the promotional videos doesn't match up to anything else we've seen, and the simplest explanation is that once you've played through the main story or completed some other task, you can swap out the characters you control on story stages thereafter. One other possible hint is that the Tegata Missions are always worded in a general way - instructions like 'defeat Hideyoshi' or 'defend the gate' - which means there won't be any gameplay problems with slotting other characters into the free mode stages, with the exception of the character-specific minigames like Sasuke's aerial sabotage mission. The mid-stage dialogue would obviously need addressing but given how little work would be needed to allow free character selection on story stages I'm almost entirely convinced that we'll get it. Let's see.

Notes from this morning's official website update

The new information collected the new details revealed in Weekly Famitsu, with the advantage of much better pictures. I've made a small amendment to my previous post as the confusing magazine layout led to a mistake in the stage descriptions.

We also got a brand new promotional video showing the game's paid DLC costumes in action. The voiceover confirms that the removable heads for the Bontenmaru/Benmaru outfits are for cutscenes (there won't be any in-game headless mascot action). The oni costumes are loosely connected to the idea of the underworld; it's already been announced that the hardest difficulty level is named after the Sanzu River so there's an existing connection there.

Here's a gratuitous picture of the (non-DLC) alternate costumes too, just because a picture was available:

The last update was another tweak to The Action Of Sanada Yukimura-den 'making of' video section, with two new clips and interviews featuring director Tanaka Toshihiro and Sonomura Kensuke.

The third part focuses on the fastidious details in the action scenes. Yukimura's new Heavenly Wings mode gave the team some interesting challenges:

The fourth clip is similar, except it concentrates on the story scenes:

Japanese search engine 'goo' helps advertise the new game

goo is a popular Japanese search engine and to promote the new game's release next week, it's currently displaying a Sengoku Basara: Sanada Yukimura-den theme on its front page.

As well as the visuals, there's a large box on the front page which collects interviews, videos and articles about the game to help visitors learn more. It's an interesting way to spread awareness about Yukimura-den.

Ashigaru-kun visits the Rokumonsen Cafe

The latest in Ashigaru-kun's series of photo reports has been posted on the Tokusei Kawaraban site and it's all about a visit to the new Rokumonsen Cafe in Akihabara.