Thursday 31 January 2013

Final part: Yanagita Rikao's Sengoku Basara Science Laboratory

Like my posts covering the earlier parts, this is an extremely rough English translation of part of the blog series Yanagita Rikao's Sengoku Basara Science Laboratory (Yanagita Rikao Sengoku Basara Kagaku Kenkyuujo). Please click the link below to see the original article, which is accompanied by illustrations and promotional videos.

As of 30th January 2013, Yanagita Rikao's blog series has been completed with publication of part 18 (translation below). There's a note from the author at the end of this post with his plans for the future of Sengoku Basara Science Laboratory. Writing these translations every week for several months has been an interesting challenge; thank you very much for persevering and reading my clumsy work!

Part 18 (Final): Reaching 240km/h with a flutter kick? Fuuma Kotarou

I can't think of a more 'ninja-like' ninja than Fuuma Kotarou. He doesn't utter a single word, his facial expression hidden by the wide forehead protector which extends past his eyes. He'll complete any mission so long as he's compensated, never deviating from his path even if it means being reviled as an 'emotionless killing machine'. Why does Kotarou fight? For the sake of money? Then, what does he need the money for?  Everything about 'Soaring Gale' Fuuma Kotarou is wrapped up in mystery; let's take a look at his abilities.

Today's acquisitions (31st Jan 2013)

I received a surprise today, in the form of MegaHouse's gorgeous G.E.M. Shiroyasha figure.

Shiroyasha is Sakata Gintoki's cool nickname from back when he fought in the Joui war in Gintama. This version only appears in flashbacks; the present day Gintoki looks quite different. The current anime arc gave us another brief glimpse and now I have this lovely model of him ready for today's episode!

Even though Shiroyasha is a relatively serious character, this is still a Gintama figure. He came with a comedy accessory accordingly - this time a small bust of mangaka Sorachi Hideaki. No matter where I put him, it looks as though he's a zombie rising up from the ground...

Wednesday 30 January 2013

News: Gakuen Basara 5 is on the way, along with more Sengoku Basara merchandise

Shop listings are gradually revealing that a huge wave of Sengoku Basara merchandise is on the horizon. As well as the PS3 Sengoku Basara Triple Pack and the two new BGM CDs, preorder listings have recently appeared for some other goodies.

The most exciting discovery for me is that we're getting a fifth Gakuen Basara manga anthology in March 2013. Details are tentative at the moment but it's listed at most major booksellers. The 164-page Sengoku Basara Series Official Anthology Comic: Gakuen Basara 5 will be released on 28th March 2013 and cost ¥1,029.

E-Capcom has listed a second batch of Sengoku Basara Silver Pendants for release in March. The three designs based on Date Masamune, Chousokabe Motochika and Ishida Mitsunari all sold out when they had a limited release back in December last year. They're not cheap at ¥8,190; as E-Capcom don't ship overseas, ordering from a retailer such as AmiAmi will be the best way to buy one.

There's also some more general Capcom merchandise on the way. Masamune and Kojuurou feature on a protective film cover for the iPhone 5; when in use, it's a transparent plastic cover for your screen with an attractive border. When you turn your phone off, however, emotionally charged dialogue from the pair will be visible on the unlit screen as pictured below. I don't even have an iPhone 5. Is it wrong to want to buy the cover anyway? The cost for this item is ¥1,029 and AmiAmi are offering a discount at the moment.

Fans of the series who prefer a wider variety of characters can choose from one of four sets of IC card stickers which will be released at the same time for ¥840. Each set will contain two stickers. They're designed to be stuck to contactless cards such as Suica (I use my local Oyster card instead) as a decoration. I appreciate the sparkles on these new designs and the alternate versions are very cute. Still, I'm not sure if I want to replace my current Date army sticker with any of them just yet...

Both the IC card stickers and the iPhone 5 cover will be available on 25th April 2013.

This isn't all, though; a book is on the way which collects the Sengoku Basara Science Laboratory series, but I'll say more on that when I have time to translate the final article in the series later this week. We already know that Sengoku Basara Magazine will debut around the end of March too, so with that and Butai Sengoku Basara 3 ~Setouchi Kyouran~ coming to DVD next month it's going to be an expensive time of year.

Tuesday 29 January 2013

News: Sengoku Basara Card Heroes Matsuri

While Browser Sengoku Basara sadly closed down late last year, the other recent Sengoku Basara mobile game, Mobage's Sengoku Basara Card Heroes, still seems to be going strong. Today, Capcom announced the details of a huge overhaul for the game. To reflect the major changes in today's update, it will now be going by the name Sengoku Basara Card Heroes Matsuri (Festival).

Card Heroes wasn't my favourite of the pair, but it seems to have a reasonably devoted following and it's good to see at least one of the Sengoku Basara mobile games continuing, especially as they're an excellent source of official illustrations in the absence of a new console game.

The relaunch will include new features, such as a twice-daily 'alliance battle', as well as new character abilities and attack modes. Existing game data will be carried across to the new version automatically. Sengoku Basara Card Heroes Matsuri is compatible with smartphones running iOS 4.0+ or Android OS 2.2+, and most featurephones from docomo, au or SoftBank compatible with Flash Lite 1.1. It's free to play (you just need to create a Mobage account), however, there are in-game purchases required for some items. The software is only available in Japanese.

The Card Heroes advertisement from back in 31st July 2012 gives an overview of how to play:

Additional details are available at the 4Gamer website.

Monday 28 January 2013

News: Sengoku Basara Tougun/Seigun BEST audio CDs revealed

Amazon and other Japanese media outlets have recently listed two new audio CDs relating to Sengoku Basara for the first time in a long while. The provisional titles are Sengoku Basara Tougun BEST (Sengoku Basara Eastern Army BEST) (CPCA 10291) and Sengoku Basara Seigun BEST (Sengoku Basara Western Army BEST) (CPCA 10292). Each has a release date of 27th March 2013 and a price of ¥2,100. Animate's listings contained a little more detail.

The CDs are obviously going to be compilations themed around the two Sengoku Basara 3 factions, with Animate specifically listing Date Masamune, Tokugawa Ieyasu, Katakura Kojuurou as representatives of the Eastern army and Sanada Yukimura, Ishida Mitsunari and Sarutobi Sasuke as central figures in the Western forces (for the purpose of this CD release). The compilations will include a selection of BGM tracks from the very first Sengoku Basara through to Sengoku Basara 3 Utage, including the spin-off games. They'll contain a selection of popular songs and also some previously unreleased material.

The end of March is looking even more exciting every day!

Sunday 27 January 2013

Basara Matsuri 2013 ~Haru No Jin~ speculation

As waiting patiently between news updates is no fun, I want to speculate a little! As previously reported, the two-day Basara Matsuri 2013 ~Haru No Jin~ festival will be taking place in Japan on the last weekend in March this year. What follows is my own imagination running wild, not any kind of actual news.

Here's what we know so far (accompanied by vague commentary).

1. Nishikawa Takanori will be appearing as T.M.Revolution, rather than abingdon boys school who performed the most recent song for the series. This might mean nothing at all, however, it might hint that a new song is on the horizon. And why would T.M.R. be releasing a new Sengoku Basara song..?

2. The Matsuri events tend to involve a preview of the next game which is coming out. At the last Matsuri in 2012, however, there was no new game coming up and instead a new stage play was announced. As 2013 is already fully loaded on the live performance side with both Butai Sengoku Basara 3 Utage and the Takarazuka Sengoku Basara lined up, it seems unlikely that there'll be any more announcements of that nature in the near future.

3. It's not impossible that they could rerelease the PSP game yet again and finally add the rest of the Sengoku Basara 3 characters to the roster. However, the PSP games have always been pitched at a wider audience and come at the same time as a new anime release. There's nothing similarly mainstream announced for 2013 - yet.

4. There are a number of other Sengoku Basara developments due at a similar time, including the new dedicated magazine (which was originally dated for the end of March before being changed to the more vague "spring 2013"). The Sengoku Basara Triple Pack is also coming out at the end of March along with some new novels. The first anniversary of the official fan club falls at a similar time, and the Tsuchiura museum tie-in begins in mid-March too. It might be that the highlight of KobaP's Matsuri announcements ends up being the full details of the magazine, which will in turn carry some information on the next project when it comes out. We already know that Masamune will be the cover star of the first issue so if they end up announcing anything in the magazine, could he be a more central figure again in the story of the next game?

5. The new stage play will probably save some kind of announcement for when it finishes in May. Wouldn't it be perfect if there's a new game on the horizon, so that they can announce that the next stage play adaptation will be Sengoku Basara 4 at that time, matching the new game at the peak of its hype?

6. At events where a new game has recently been announced in the past, we're often treated to previews of some of the dialogue live on stage. The main seiyuu guests announced this time are Keiji, Kojuurou, Yukimura, Hideyoshi and Motochika. Nobunaga, Motonari and Sourin will be joining them on the first day and Hisahide, Ieyasu and Mitsunari on the second. For the most part, the guest list is of limited value as it depends on the availability and willingness of the individual voice actors to some extent. I can think of a few interesting new scenes I'd like to see from the selection of characters available.

7. It's worth noting that there has never been a big game announcement at a Basara Matsuri event before. Of course, Capcom might break with tradition at any time. What would fit the usual pattern best would be an announcement in the gaming press a few weeks before the event. Here's an incomplete, very simple timeline I made showing the game announcements:

2005 July: Sengoku Basara is released.

2006 February: Sengoku Basara 2 is unveiled.
2006 July: Basara Matsuri 2006 ~Natsu No Jin~ previews Sengoku Basara 2.
2006 July: Sengoku Basara 2 is released.

2007 March: Sengoku Basara 2 Eiyuu Gaiden (Heroes) is unveiled.
2007 March: Basara Matsuri 2007 ~Haru No Jin~ gives more details on Sengoku Basara 2 Eiyuu Gaiden (Heroes).
2007 July: Sengoku Basara X is unveiled.
2007 October: Basara Matsuri 2007 ~Fuyu No Jin~ previews Sengoku Basara 2 Eiyuu Gaiden (Heroes).
2007 November: Sengoku Basara 2 Eiyuu Gaiden (Heroes) is released.

2008 April: Sengoku Basara X is released (arcade).
2008 June: Sengoku Basara X is released (console).
2008 September: Sengoku Basara Battle Heroes is unveiled.
2008 October: The anime adaptation of Sengoku Basara is announced.

2009 April: Sengoku Basara Battle Heroes is released (and television anime begins).
2009 May: Basara Matsuri 2009 ~Haru No Jin~ announces the first Butai Sengoku Basara.
2009 June: Sengoku Basara 3 is teased.
2009 July: Sengoku Basara 3 is unveiled.

2010 May: Basara Matsuri 2010 ~Haru No Jin~ previews Sengoku Basara 3.
2010 July: Sengoku Basara 3 is released (and second season of the anime begins).

2011 January: Sengoku Basara Chronicle Heroes is unveiled.
2011 January: Sengoku Basara Fifth Anniversary ~Budoukan No Utage~ event gives more details on Sengoku Basara Chronicle Heroes.
2011 July: Sengoku Basara 3 Utage is unveiled.
2011 July: Basara Matsuri 2011 ~Natsu No Jin~ previews Sengoku Basara Chronicle Heroes.
2011 July: Basara Matsuri 2011 ~Natsu No Jin~ gives more details on Sengoku Basara 3 Utage.
2011 July: Sengoku Basara Chronicle Heroes is released (tie-in with June's anime movie).
2011 November: Sengoku Basara 3 Utage is released.

2012 January: Sengoku Basara HD Collection is unveiled.
2012 August: Basara Matsuri 2012 ~Natsu No Jin~ previews Sengoku Basara HD Collection.
2012 August: Basara Matsuri 2012 ~Natsu No Jin~ announces Butai Sengoku Basara 3 ~Setouchi Kyouran~.
2012 August: Sengoku Basara HD Collection is released.

2013 March: Basara Matsuri 2013 ~Haru No Jin~.

What would I like to see happen in the next two months? First and foremost, the announcement of Sengoku Basara 4 for Playstation 3. I want them to make a huge deal about it and create as many tie-ins as possible. It doesn't matter if it takes a long time before the game is finally available to buy; simply knowing it's coming is enough for the time being.

If not a new game, then a new anime would be wonderful (either a television series, or another movie). Ideally, I'd like it to deal with the characters who haven't yet made their anime debuts. While a full anime would be best, given the current popularity of comedy shorts, an anime adaptation of Mame Sengoku Basara or one of the other manga series seems like a possibility.

The other area where the series is strangely lacking is character songs. I personally own seventy-eight different Sengoku Basara audio CDs and yet there has never been a single character song (that wasn't also a theme song); odd given the popularity of the characters and seiyuu with female fans! Although a lot of stalwart overseas fans would sigh if this ever happened, I'd definitely buy the CDs...

There's a lot of demand for more figurines of the characters as well on the merchandise side. The Sengoku Basara 3 characters don't even have official One Coin trading figures yet to go with the original cast. Another possibility is a second season of the television drama Sengoku Basara -Moonlight Party-, which wouldn't interest me that much (three completely different live action interpretations in the same year?).

Of course, it's very possible that all they'll do at Basara Matsuri 2013 ~Haru No Jin~ is hype the upcoming stage events more and announce some crazy new merchandise tie-ins. We'll have to wait and see!

Saturday 26 January 2013

Anime review: The Legend Of The Legendary Heroes (Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu)

As I don't follow the light novel industry, I somehow got it into my head that The Legend Of The Legendary Heroes (Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu) was going to be a comedy based on the lighthearted title and apparent reliance on fantasy stereotypes I saw in the initial marketing push. It has its roots in a long series of books written by Kagami Takaya which began publication more than a decade ago now.

Any kind of fantasy anime immediately catches my eye, so I patiently waited and then preordered FUNimation's home video release. The Legend Of The Legendary Heroes received a more than adequate US adaptation with little fanfare. A pair of combo packs came out together in April 2012, each including 12 of the show's 24 episodes on both Blu-ray and DVD. An English dub was also provided, though since I stuck to the Japanese version with subtitles as usual I can't advise on the dub's quality. The first of the two combo packs came in a limited edition pack with a BD-sized chipboard box to hold the series. The first pressing versions of the sets also contained a single tarot card each; a pleasant bonus even if they're nothing to write home about, as extras go.

Part 17: Yanagita Rikao's Sengoku Basara Science Laboratory

As with my posts covering the earlier parts, this is an extremely rough English translation of part of the blog series Yanagita Rikao's Sengoku Basara Science Laboratory (Yanagita Rikao Sengoku Basara Kagaku Kenkyuujo). Please click the link below to see the original article, which is accompanied by illustrations and promotional videos.

Part 17: Lifting up a luxury cruise ship!? Tsuruhime

'Pure white and lovely' Tsuruhime is a happy-go-lucky girl. Dressed in priestess attire, which resembles the barbarian-style clothing that would later be called a sailor fuku, she dashes through the battlefield without a single attendant, holding a strung bow and countless arrows. Her objective is to protect the sea of her home. Having spent her girlhood in seclusion she knows no fear and scolds rough men, "You guys in the pirate crew, please don't throw rubbish into the ocean!". At the same time, without even knowing the real name of cool-headed ninja Fuuma Kotarou, she's deeply attached to "the one with twilight wings" and keeps him close to her heart. It's unthinkably aggressive, for a Lady of the Sengoku period. However, it's worrying that this lovely young girl is out on the field of battle. Will Tsuruhime be alright?

Tuesday 22 January 2013

News: The English version of Weekly Shonen Jump is finally available simultaneously (so long as you're in America)

This week marked a major landmark in the digital revolution, as the famous Shounen Jump weekly manga anthology magazine finally started publishing chapters in English, completely legally, on the same day as they go out in Japan. Given the colossal popularity of series such as Naruto, Bleach and One Piece in the US as well as in their country of origin, this is one of the biggest developments in the western digital manga industry to date.

Manga columnist Deb Aoki has published an article which covers the fan reaction so far as well as some comments from the magazine's side. The ignorant remarks from a few fans have been depressing to read, but overall a lot of people seem to be willing to get behind this. If it's a successful venture it bodes well for English manga distribution in future. The one fly in the ointment so far is that the English-language version, Shonen Jump, is limited to readers in the US and Canada. Region locking once again rears its ugly head!

If, like me, you're not from the US, I cannot stress enough how important it is to let the people behind Shounen Jump know that we're out there and waiting for our chance to enjoy simultaneous manga releases. They've produced a handy little form you can complete asking where you're from and whether you want to read Shounen Jump in English. I implore everyone from overseas who reads this to take a moment to participate if possible and let their voices be heard; the more feedback that the decision-makers get, the faster they will realise that something needs to be done.

If you can't think of three manga titles you want to request on the form, may I suggest that Kuroko No Basuke and Gintama could always use more votes..? I've noticed a fair number of visitors to this blog come here searching for more information about Gintama, and there's no better way to expand its fanbase than to give the official English manga release a second chance in the marketplace.

In any case, congratulations to the lucky fans in the US and Canada; I'll keep my fingers crossed that we'll be joining you soon to reap the benefits of digital distribution.

Monday 21 January 2013

News: Sengoku Basara Triple Pack coming to Japan in March

No official announcement has yet been made by Capcom, but keen-eyed user Tripp3K on the Koei Warriors forums noticed two days ago that Play-Asia was listing a new PS3 Sengoku Basara game release for late March 2013.

Some smaller independent shops had posted the game as an upcoming title as well, but everything seemed very vague. However, media giant Tsutaya has now posted the details and Play-Asia has followed suit with some additional information, so it looks as though this is confirmed. I anticipate a confirmation from Capcom very soon.

It was nothing terribly exciting in the end: Sengoku Basara Triple Pack is to be a PS3 bundle release of Sengoku Basara 3, Sengoku Basara 3 Utage and Sengoku Basara HD Collection. As the HD Collection contains Sengoku Basara, Sengoku Basara 2 and Sengoku Basara 2 Eiyuu Gaiden (Heroes), this 'triple pack' will actually include five complete games: that's every single title in the Sengoku Basara series other than the PS2 fighting game (Sengoku Basara X) and the two PSP spin-offs. It will be released on 28th March 2013 and its price will be ¥6,990. This will be a great way for newcomers to the series to grab all of the PS3-compatible games in one go at a very attractive price.

Of course, most of the people who actively follow Sengoku Basara news probably already have some (if not all) of the games in the Triple Pack. Since Capcom can't really squeeze any more money out of the existing fans with this kind of release, I'm hoping that there'll be some news for the rest of us as well in the near future!

Sunday 20 January 2013

DVD review: Basara Matsuri 2006 ~Natsu No Jin~

This will be the least detailed of all of my Basara Matsuri posts, as it covers the very first event. Unlike the later Matsuri celebrations, 2006's never had a proper standalone DVD release. Instead, the highlights were included on a compilation disc which came with the November 2006 issue of B's Log magazine, a publication which generally specialises in topics of interest to female gamers such as otome games and BL.

Basara Matsuri 2006 ~Natsu No Jin~ was held back on Saturday 22nd July 2006 in front of an audience of 1,200 people at Odaiba's Zepp Tokyo. I've been to Zepp Tokyo a few times myself and there's not much space so I was impressed to see that they'd somehow crammed a number of dedicated PS2 demo stations into the hallway for the attendees to play on, in addition to the usual merchandise stalls.

The original Sengoku Basara game had been released almost exactly one year earlier, and its sequel would becoming out five days after Basara Matsuri 2006. Back then, the series had earned some devoted popularity but it was still a long way from having taken off as the multimedia juggernaut it would eventually become. The purpose of the event was quite simple: to show the fans what they could expect from the long-awaited Sengoku Basara 2.

The guest list included Nakai Kazuya (Date Masamune), Hoshi Souichirou (Sanada Yukimura), Ishino Ryuuzou (Chousokabe Motochika), Paku Romi (Uesugi Kenshin) and Morita Masakazu (Maeda Keiji). The seiyuu were accompanied by series producer KobaP (Kobayashi Hiroyuki). The event also featured a music performance of Dive into Yourself by HIGH AND MIGHTY COLOR which wasn't included on the DVD. A shame since I am one of the people who thought their song for Sengoku Basara 2 was great, even if it was a departure from T.M.Revolution.

Sadly, the event footage which made it to the DVD only runs for a total of twenty minutes. After a short introduction by KobaP, clips from the event prologue are shown. It took the form of a costumed samurai-style combat display which reminded me a little of the recent stage official plays.

The DVD then went straight into clips from the seiyuu 'talk show' where the cast spoke about their characters and working on the game. The audience was really boisterous; there was far more yelling than I'm used to! Due to the fragmented footage which cut the talk show down to the bare minimum, there was nothing worthy of translating for this blog entry.

Some live voice performances followed reading dramatic scenes from the new game. The weirdest one to watch was Paku Romi as Kenshin; she's a beautiful woman and to hear Kenshin's silky words spoken by her live is a little unsettling - in a good way. Her voice carries a distinct feeling of masculinity even when you can see her standing there on stage in a long skirt. Ishino was immersing himself completely in his performance, mustering just as much enthusiasm for his role as he does now, more than half a decade later. As a treat, there was also a special Matsuri-exclusive dialogue between Masamune, Keiji and Yukimura.

And that was that! All that remains of Basara Matsuri 2006 ~Natsu No Jin~ was all over far too quickly. KobaP finished with an exclusive message of hope and gratitude for the readers of B's Log, and I was left wondering how much of the footage ended up being removed when this compilation was put together.

Although it was disappointing that so little of the event was shown, I can see why this was never sold as a standalone disc. The video quality is blurry (it's hard to make out the seiyuu at all when they're not being shown close up) and the sound isn't great, either. The difference between the Basara Matsuri 2006 footage and that from later events is very noticeable. It's a shame though; all of the clips are cut so abruptly to move straight into the next that so any lighthearted fooling around between the guests has been purged from the recording entirely.

Since my comments on the event itself are so short, I'll mention something else. One extra incentive to attend the original event was that visitors were able to pick up a unique audio disc, the Sengoku Basara 2 Kansei Happyoukai ~Basara Matsuri 2006 Natsu No Jin~ Character Voice CD. This is quite rare these days as it was never made available elsewhere, and attendees who have moved away from the series can neatly cover their original ticket costs by selling it on the used market.

The CD contains twenty tracks, half of which are very short musical interludes to separate the others. The remaining ten tracks collect dialogue from the game. Each contains a few minutes of standalone quotes from the characters on the front of the CD (pictured). Since there are no background sound effects (or music) played alongside the voice track, if nothing else it's probably a good way to make some exciting personalised ring tones.

For the sake of being thorough - in case some gaming magazine fan stumbles across this post one day and wants to know - the November 2006 B's Log DVD also includes some material which is completely unrelated to Sengoku Basara. There's a promotional video for the anime adaptation of Kin Iro No Corda (La Corda d'Oro), long video interviews for seiyuu Ishikawa Hideo and Takahashi Hiroki, an interview with Suzuki Masaru, Miyake Junichi and Nemoto Kouta of seiyuu unit Boy's Beat, and a Boy's Beat clip to promote Summer Beat ~Love & Smile~. Alongside the event footage I've reviewed above, other games are advertised with videos clips including Lamento -Beyond The Void-, Laughter Land, Ayakashibito -Genyouibunroku-, Mermaid Prism, Yo-Jin-Bo ~Unmei No Freude~, Under the Moon, Palais de Reine, and Arabians Lost ~The engagement on desert~. There's no other Sengoku Basara content besides the stingy Matsuri compilation.

In the absence of a proper event DVD, I've drawn heavily on event reports from gaming websites such as Famitsu and Gpara in order to pull all of the details together. I'm glad that the Sengoku Basara series has become so big since the summer of 2006; it makes enjoying things properly from afar much easier!

Saturday 19 January 2013

Part 16: Yanagita Rikao's Sengoku Basara Science Laboratory

As with my posts covering the earlier parts, this is an extremely rough English translation of part of the blog series Yanagita Rikao's Sengoku Basara Science Laboratory (Yanagita Rikao Sengoku Basara Kagaku Kenkyuujo). Please click the link below to see the original article, which is accompanied by illustrations and promotional videos.

Part 16: Jumping onto a bullet train!? Tokugawa Ieyasu

'If you haven't seen a boy for three days, view him with new eyes'*. Embodying those words is 'Toushou Gongen' ('Avatar of the Light of the East') Tokugawa Ieyasu. He grew from a boy into a young man through battle, deciding to cast away his spear and fight with the power of his fists alone. He aims to unify the country using the power of bonds. It's just as though a butterfly has emerged from its chrysalis. For this article, I'll examine the strength of the grown up Ieyasu.

Wednesday 16 January 2013

News: The complete Sengoku Basara 2 manga is now available in English

It's so rare that we get English-language news about the Sengoku Basara series that it deserves its own post.

Last night, Udon Entertainment announced on Twitter that the long-awaited second volume of Sengoku Basara: Samurai Legends has finally been printed and sent to distributors. It's been delayed a few times, so they included a couple of tantalising photographs as proof of its existence. I can't wait to add the book to my collection!

Sengoku Basara: Samurai Legends is the English translation of the four-volume Sengoku Basara 2 manga. It was drawn by Haibara Yak and originally published between 2007 and 2009 in Japan. For the English-language edition, Udon split the manga across two hefty volumes rather than sticking to the same release format as the Japanese books.

There's a preview of the first volume on their website which gives a good idea of what to expect from Haibara's dynamic art style. As it's the official Sengoku Basara 2 manga, the plot naturally centres around the rise of the Toyotomi forces and the actions taken by the other armies in response. Unlike the Sengoku Basara 2 anime, the manga incorporates more characters from the game for a more balanced feel. As much as I adore Masamune, it's good to see characters like Nagamasa, Oichi, Kenshin and Keiji get some time in the spotlight.

Udon also mentioned that the first printing of volume one sold out and had to be reprinted. The new copies should be available at the end of the month. That's very comforting to hear, as brisk sales could mean that they will consider publishing more Sengoku Basara material in the future. There's plenty of manga out there for the series already just waiting to be picked up and brought to the west. A lot of fans don't seem to realise that the manga is out, so here are some links!

Sengoku Basara: Samurai Legends volume 1 (Amazon UK) (Amazon USA)
Sengoku Basara: Samurai Legends volume 2 (Amazon UK) (Amazon USA)

Udon also published the Sengoku Basara 3 Official Complete Works in English last year as Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes Official Complete Works. This art book is filled with design illustrations from the third game. They've posted an official preview with some samples as well as photographs of how the book looks; it's obvious that a lot of care has gone into bringing this to the west. All fans of the series owe it to themselves to take a look:

Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes Official Complete Works (Amazon UK) (Amazon USA)

I think this is also a good opportunity to list the other Sengoku Basara products which are available in the west. Every single purchase of these products matters - let's show the publishers and Capcom that there's a real demand for Sengoku Basara overseas!

First of all, the complete anime has now been released by FUNimation. There's a UK release too from Manga Entertainment, but I can't recommend that: the US version offers a slick Blu-ray/DVD combo pack and limited edition box while the UK only had a Blu-ray for the first season. As well as the drop in quality, this means that the UK release is also completely missing four of the seven special Mini Sengoku Basara episodes which were only available on the Blu-ray version of the second season in the US. The US release is so low priced at around $20 per set that it blows the DVD-only UK version out of the water:

Sengoku Basara Blu-ray/DVD combo pack
Sengoku Basara 2 limited edition Blu-ray/DVD combo pack
Sengoku Basara -The Last Party- Blu-ray/DVD combo pack

It looks as though the second season is currently out of stock, so a standard edition might be on the way soon. UK buyers shouldn't have to pay any customs fees purchasing the sets from the US since the price is below the customs limit (currently £15).

On the game side, the dreadful westernised version of the first Sengoku Basara, 'Devil Kings', is long out of print, and with the HD Collection out in Japan now it's difficult to recommend hunting down a copy of the gutted American adaptation. However, it's still possible to find the English-language version of Sengoku Basara 3 (titled 'Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes) quite cheaply. Weak acting and lack of the Japanese voices aside, it's a good game and worth picking up. If nothing else, counting the number of different ways the dubbed Masamune catastrophically mispronounces 'Kojuurou' in his dialogue is a game in itself!

Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes for PS3 (Amazon UK) (Amazon USA)
Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes for Nintendo Wii (Amazon UK) (Amazon USA)

All in all, the list of official English releases for the Sengoku Basara is pitifully short at the moment. With the anime finished and the games having stalled in the west, I hope that the fans will support the translated manga and make Capcom sit up and take notice of us again in future.

Tuesday 15 January 2013

News: Tsuchiura City Museum tie-in "Basara-tachi No Busou -The armor and swords of the warlords who ran through the Warring States-"

Not quite the spectacular burst of information I was hoping for, but Capcom have updated their news page with details of a collaboration between Sengoku Basara and the Tsuchiura City Museum in Ibaraki prefecture. The "Basara-tachi No Busou -The armor and swords of the warlords who ran through the Warring States-" event will run between 16th March and 6th May 2013. The idea is that the museum will display weapons, armor and helmets worn by the famous real-life warlords which appear in Sengoku Basara.

Display of armor and weapons
Three of the museum's exhibition rooms will display armaments from warlords who appear in Sengoku Basara.

Sengoku Basara art exhibition
Character illustrations from the series will be on display in a hall in the museum.

Commemorative pictures
Ready to go to war in the exhibition hall will be full-sized replicas linked to the warlords whose armor and blades were on display. Take a commemorative photograph together!

Gaming corner
You can experience Sengoku Basara 3 Utage and Sengoku Basara HD Collection (PS3 editions only).

Merchandise corner
Original Sengoku Basara goods will be sold in the Machikado Kura Daitoku store!

Sengoku Basara stamp rally in 'Sightseeing City Tsuchiura'
Acquire stamps at the city's tourist attractions. By gathering five stamps, you can receive an original clear file. There will be 5,000 clear files available with three different designs. The event will end when there's no more stock left. (Note: Sightseeing City Tsuchiura is the name of a local tourism guide.)

Prizes for those who visit!
The first 10,000 visitors will receive a 'special exhibition official guidebook'.

The museum is open between 9:00 and 17:00 (final admission 16:30) every day of the week except Monday. During the holiday period at the end of April these dates will change slightly; it will be open on Monday 22nd April, 29th April and 6th May and close on the 9th April, 23rd April and 30th April instead. Admission costs ¥600 (¥200 for schoolchildren).

The museum can be accessed by car (free parking available) or by train. The JR Joban line runs from Ueno station in Tokyo to Tsuchiura station and the journey takes 70 minutes using ordinary trains or 50 minutes on an express service. The museum is at Kijou Park, which is a fifteen minute walk away from the station's west exit. If you'd prefer not to walk, you can take a bus from Nishiguchi bus stops 4 and 5 and disembark a minute's walk from the museum at Kijou Kouen.

Alternatively, take the Tsukuba Express (TX) train from Akihabara to Tsukuba station. The train journey takes 45 minutes. Upon reaching Tsukuba, take the bus from Tsukuba Centre bus stop 3 and disembark at Senzokuchou. It's an eight-minute walk from there to the museum.

Tsuchiura isn't very far from central Tokyo; I'd be interested to hear from anyone who visits the museum!


The only other tidbit today came to my attention just after I originally posted the news above. It's an even more tenuous link to the series: the Capcom Unity Japan page on Facebook is running a New Year prize draw which will close tomorrow at midnight. I didn't even know there was a Capcom Unity Japan presence on Facebook in the first place, but it seems they have competitions on a regular basis.

Of the five people who like the page and apply for the prize draw, one will receive a Sengoku Basara goody bag containing a complete set of eight plastic Sengoku Basara keychains and a pair of Masamune/Yukimura plushies. The other four prizes relate to Monster Hunter, Biohazard (Resident Evil) and Gyakuten Saiban (Ace Attorney). All you have to do it 'Like' their page and choose which prize bag you want to try for, granting permission to their app when asked. Please note that prizes can only be posted to Japanese addresses.

Sunday 13 January 2013

DVD review: Basara Matsuri 2012 ~Natsu No Jin~

Last year's big Sengoku Basara event was Basara Matsuri 2012 ~Natsu No Jin~, held the same weekend as Comiket on the 11th and 12th August 2012. The venue was the Makuhari Event Hall, part of the famous Makuhari Messe complex in Chiba, near Tokyo.

The last stage play run had been several months earlier and even Sengoku Basara 3 Utage's release was rapidly becoming a distant memory. It was the HD Collection, due for release a few weeks later at the end of August, which was the focus of the event. There was a strong Toyotomi bias to the guest list; Basara Matsuri 2012 presented a rare opportunity to see the seiyuu for Keiji, Mitsunari, Hideyoshi and Hanbee together side by side for the first time. The team weren't going to let this chance for some faction-related fan service pass them by.

There were three separate events over the course of the weekend. An evening show kicked things off on Saturday and then Sunday had two shows back-to-back in the afternoon and evening. I was fortunate enough to be part of the 6,000-strong audience for all three sittings. That's 6,000 people per show: even if a large number of people attended multiple times, it's still an impressive number of attendees for such a specialised gathering.

The DVD version of Basara Matsuri 2012 finally came out on 26th December 2012 as a two-disc set with a thin colour booklet full of photographs. Though it's a limited release costing ¥5,800 it's unlikely that it will become overly rare any time soon. As I was physically present for the original event, I'm going to do this DVD review a little differently and fit my comments about the DVD content into a long, long description of the entire weekend from the perspective of an audience member.

The list of guests for Basara Matsuri 2012 ~Natsu No Jin~ was colossal. Here's the full list of seiyuu who came on stage, starting with those who were present for all three performances:

Friday 11 January 2013

Book review: Sengoku Basara 2 Visual & Sound Book Vol. 1

The Sengoku Basara Visual & Sound Book collection is a set of large anthologies which come with audio CDs. Every book in the series contains a jumble of articles in the same vein as a dedicated magazine; the gimmick is that CD contains an audio performance of some of the content.

The book I'm reviewing today is the first of three based on the Sengoku Basara 2 game.

A third of the book is devoted to 'Gravure of Heroes', a series of character profiles for Date Masamune, Katakura Kojuurou, Takenaka Hanbee, Mouri Motonari and Akechi Mitsuhide. A large number of popular Sengoku Basara artists contribute full-page colour illustrations to accompany the profiles, namely Haibara Yak, Fujisaka Kimihiko, Shishizaru, Kugawara Kadzuki, Shimotsuki Kairi, Sugiura Yoshio, Enomoto, Yamamoto Kana, Kazama Raita, Rei, Hitaki, Nanase Aya, Sasakura Kou, Tobashi Kotomi, Yumeji Kiriko and Hirooka Masaki. The paintings of Kojuurou vary wildly in theme (he wasn't yet playable at the time or in possession of his own story mode to expand on his character) but there's a good mixture of styles. I like that the profiles also include nice big pictures of the characters' alternate costumes.

The next part of the book is devoted to seiyuu interviews. The actors featured are Hoshi Souichirou (Sanada Yukimura), Koyasu Takehito (Sarutobi Sasuke), Paku Romi (Uesugi Kenshin), Genda Tesshou (Takeda Shingen) and Kuwatani Natsuko (Kasuga). There's even half a page for often-overlooked Sengoku Basara narrator Watanabe Hideo! Not coincidentally, these particular seiyuu also provide the voice work for the special CD inside the book.

Speaking of the CD, that comes into play next for Haibara Yak's manga 'Hibana, Chitte Gouka Tonare'. I believe the manga is a direct reproduction of one originally printed in this book, which is a little cheap of the producers. Fans of the Takeda and Uesugi factions should be fully satisfied by the quality of this short story: it's about Yukimura inviting himself along on one of Sasuke's stealth missions and coming face to face with the 'god of war' Kenshin in combat. Haibara is in her element drawing both cool men and sexy women. I particularly loved the disgruntled faces Sasuke pulls in between the action scenes. Capcom should get her back to produce some more work for the series...

The manga is fully voiced on the CD. Weirdly, the order of the final two scenes is reversed for the audio performance, making it confusing when you're following along with the story in real time. Presumably it was done to heighten the suspense. To help the drama on the CD stand alone, appropriate narration and reaction sounds are added to the script at moments where the manga had no dialogue.

After the manga several pages are dedicated to the new game that was in development at the time, Sengoku Basara 2 Eiyuu Gaiden (Heroes). As part of this there is a two-page spread about the Basara Matsuri 2007 ~Haru No Jin~ event with a few tiny photographs. Fan contributions including artwork, letters and gags complete the book. Regular artist Nishizawa Sabroh provides two yonkoma comic strips along with the usual fan page title illustration this time around.

Sengoku Basara 2 Visual & Sound Book Vol. 1 was published on 15th May 2007 by Media Works and it's still available for purchase from all good Japanese bookstores such as Yesasia and Amazon at the original price of ¥1,800.

Wednesday 9 January 2013

Part 15: Yanagita Rikao's Sengoku Basara Science Laboratory

As with my posts covering the earlier parts, this is an extremely rough English translation of part of the blog series Yanagita Rikao's Sengoku Basara Science Laboratory (Yanagita Rikao Sengoku Basara Kagaku Kenkyuujo). Please click the link below to see the original article, which is accompanied by illustrations and promotional videos.

Part 15: A comprehensive analysis of monster-grade strength!! Oda Nobunaga

'Heaven Conqueror Demon King' Oda Nobunaga. Simply writing the name is enough to make every inch of the body tremble in fear. He's probably as much as two metres tall, with a long sword in his right hand, a shotgun in the left, and clad in armour with protrusions which thrust to the heavens like an assassin's blades. Proclaiming himself to be the Dairokuten Maou ('Demon King of the Sixth Heaven'), he issues the words "Bow down to me!". It's as though his presence nullifies any other. And if he enters the battlefield, he displays such strength that it's as though there is nobody else around. Ah, why did the heavens send a warlord like this to walk the earth?

Book review: Sengoku Basara 2 Visual & Sound Book Vol. 3

The Sengoku Basara Visual & Sound Book collection is a set of large anthologies which come with audio CDs. Every book in the series contains a jumble of articles in the same vein as a dedicated magazine; the gimmick is that CD contains an audio performance of some of the content.

The book I'm reviewing today is the third and final volume which was based on Sengoku Basara 2 (the game, rather than the anime adaptation). There is no continuity between the books so fans can buy them in any order if they don't want to collect the set.

Volume three starts off with 'Gravure of Heroes' as usual, but the creators presumably realised that they'd blazed through most of the popular characters already in the first two collections. This time the illustrations cover a wider variety of characters with a number of stunning group portraits. The artists who contribute paintings are Shimotsuki Kairi, Yumeji Kiriko, Kugawara Kadzuki, Nagasawa Shin, Kazuaki, Wolfina, Kyuugou, Kazama Raita, Tobashi Kotomi, Shishizaru, Hitaki and Haibara Yak. The artists outdid themselves this time; the range of characters chosen was excellent and all of the pictures are on another level compared to the earlier books, even in the absence of a few of my favourite artists. The female characters are well represented too.

Next comes a short manga by Shimotsuki Kairi. Better known now for her own hit Sengoku-era manga Brave 10, Shimotsuki has worked on a number of BL series in the past as well as Capcom's three-volume Sengoku Basara: Ranse Ranbu manga back in 2006 (available from Amazon Japan: 1, 2, 3). The manga included in the Sengoku Basara 2 Visual & Sound Book Vol. 3 is an original story based on Sengoku Basara 2 called Chuushin No Kyouji ('The dignity of a loyal subject'). With a title like that, it's only natural that the simple, self-contained story revolves around the Dragon's right eye, Katakura Kojuurou.

The Chuushin No Kyouji manga is the main feature of the book and it's what the CD ties into. Seiyuu Nakai Kazuya (Date Masamune), Morikawa Toshiyuki (Katakura Kojuurou), Hoshi Souichirou (Sanada Yukimura) and Koyasu Takehito (Sarutobi Sasuke) all appear, as does series narrator Watanabe Hideo (or someone who sounds very much like him - the role is not credited). While he isn't voiced, Fuuma Kotarou also has some scenes in the manga.

Since a lot of the manga is visual in nature, the audio script is longer with extra narration and dialogue so that it can stand alone and still make sense. It occurred to me when reading that these CDs would probably be quite interesting for students of Japanese who can follow along with the book. They'd need to look out for the idiosyncratic speech patterns of the characters; still, a little challenge surely makes learning all the more fun!

Short interviews with the four seiyuu follow the manga along with information about Sengoku Basara 2 Eiyuu Gaiden (Heroes), which had been released a couple of months previously, and the upcoming Sengoku Basara X (Cross). Two pages are dedicated to a very brief summary of the Basara Matsuri 2007 ~Fuyu No Jin~ fan event, then a collection of fan art and letters wraps things up. Official artist Nishizawa Sabroh provides official illustrations to complement the fan contributions.

Sengoku Basara 2 Visual & Sound Book Vol. 3 was published on 15th January 2008 by Media Works and it's still available for purchase from all good Japanese bookstores such as Yesasia and Amazon at the original price of ¥1,800.

Tuesday 8 January 2013

Nico Nico Douga: Cuteness, comedy and male beauty

A super-cute video with 'mochi' style Hideyoshi and Hanbee dancing alongside the popular 'mame' style Mitsunari! The song is Worlds End Dancehall by wowaka and the MMD video comes from user Mofu. I love watching their little feet move. The Toyotomi forces definitely need a proper reunion in the next game.

Monday 7 January 2013

News: Butai Sengoku Basara 3 Utage website goes live

The Butai Sengoku Basara 3 Utage website finally launched today after an exciting countdown which started with the New Year. Each day of the countdown had featured a CG illustration of a different Sengoku Basara character (Masamune, Yukimura, Ieyasu, Mitsunari, Kojuurou, Sasuke and Hisahide).

As previously reported, the Utage stage play will run between April and May this year at four venues. We now have exact dates, so here they are.

Fukuoka's Canal City Theatre: 26th-28th April 2013 (four performances)
Nagoya's Chuunichi Theatre: 2nd-4th May 2013 (five performances)
Tokyo's Nippon Seinenkan Great Hall: 10th-19th May 2013 (fourteen performances)
Osaka's Morinomiya Piloti Hall: 23rd-26th May 2013 (six performances)

All advance tickets cost ¥7,200 and go on sale from next week.

It was casting news that fans were hoping for most, especially as Hisahide has never appeared in the stage plays to date. Capcom didn't disappoint us and a live Ustream presentation was arranged to launch the site at midnight (Japanese time). Thanks to being at work I missed the presentation so I've had to rely on the brand new website and some tweets from KobaP for my report. Here is the list of actors who will be taking to the stage to perform Butai Sengoku Basara 3 Utage a few months from now - bold/italics means they're a brand new cast member.

Matsuda Kenji (Matsunaga Hisahide)
Kubota Yuuki (Date Masamune)
Hosogai Kei (Sanada Yukimura)
Hirose Yuusuke (Tokugawa Ieyasu)
Nakamura Seijirou (Ishida Mitsunari)
Yoshida Tomokazu (Katakura Kojuurou)
Murata Youjirou (Sarutobi Sasuke)
Kawamura Yukie (Tsuruhime)
Yashiro Minase (Saika Magoichi)
Nakamura Kazuto (Takeda Shingen)
AKIRA (Uesugi Kenshin)
Imai Yasuhiko (Mogami Yoshiaki)
Takahashi Hikaru (Fuuma Kotarou)
Tsukamoto Takuya (Imagawa Yoshimoto)
Sakurada Kousei (Azai Nagamasa)
Taniguchi Masashi (Tenkai)
Kubodera Akira (Oda Nobunaga)
Tamaki Nami (Oichi)

The biggest surprise by far is Yoshimoto! I'm amazed to see the scale of the list, including Kubodera returning to portray Oda for the first time in ages and stage debuts for a lot of older characters. Tamaki Nami joining the crew is particularly impressive since I know her from her pop music career. It's a shame Kingo, Sourin and Muneshige don't seem to have made the cut, but everyone else who starred in the Utage game is present. Surely the story is going to be pretty heavy this time around, though...

Pictures of the cast are now up on the official website. Hopefully those of us who can't go to watch the stage play live will be able to see some pictures of the actors in their costumes nearer the time.

The official recording of the cast announcement, featuring Butai Sengoku Basara mastermind Nishida Daisuke with actors Kubota Yuuki and Hosogai Kei, can be watched on Ustream here. Within a few hours of broadcast the video had been viewed more than 8,000 times. It sounds as though this is going to be yet another successful Sengoku Basara stage play!

Sunday 6 January 2013

DVD review: Basara Matsuri 2011 ~Natsu No Jin~

Some time ago I purchased and watched the DVD compilation of footage from Basara Matsuri 2011 ~Natsu No Jin~. Since I wasn't running this blog at the time, I've gone back to create a belated review to summarise what happened at the event so that I can reference it easily in future. The other reason for this sudden bout of Basara-related archaeology is that I'm trying to judge when we can expect an announcement of the next game, if one is coming at all!

Basara Matsuri 2011 ~Natsu No Jin~ was held on 17th July 2011 at Tokyo Mielparque Hall in Hamamatsuchou. There were two performances that day, one in the afternoon and the other in the evening. There was also a separate event held the night before called Basara Matsuri 2011 ~Natsu No Jin~ Zenyasai ('Festival Eve').

The DVD version of Basara Matsuri 2011 was released on 23rd December the same year on a single dual-layer disc, retailing at ¥5,040. It included a colour booklet with some pictures from the event and brief profiles of the guests. There's also a slip of paper inside apologising for a misspelling of Nakamura's name (corrections like this are a surprisingly common occurrence).

It was an exciting time to be following the series: Sengoku Basara 3 had just been rereleased on Wii and PS3 on their respective priced down classics labels, and the movie Sengoku Basara -The Last Party- was receiving good reviews from its cinema run. Two radio shows were on the air on a regular basis. 2011 also marked the revival of the Butai Sengoku Basara stage play project with Butai Sengoku Basara 3 bursting onto the scene. It had been announced back in June and was going to debut in October; fans were naturally curious about which actors would be playing the new leads.

In addition to all of this, the second PSP spin-off game called Sengoku Basara Chronicle Heroes was to be released the week after the event.

The fans had purchased their tickets expecting Chronicle Heroes to be the main focus of this Basara Matsuri. However, on the 5th July - two days before the scheduled publication date - a scan from Famitsu revealed that a brand new game was on the horizon: Sengoku Basara 3 Utage. This news was far more exciting than the announcement of Chronicle Heroes had been; Utage was to be a proper PS3/Wii game rather than a handheld spin-off title.

Consequently, the scheduled Basara Matsuri event would be the perfect opportunity for Capcom to tease more details ahead of Utage's distant November release date. Without further ado, here's a description of how things went.

Book review: Sengoku Basara 2 Visual & Sound Book Vol. 2

The Sengoku Basara Visual & Sound Book collection is a set of large anthologies which come with audio CDs. Every book in the series contains a jumble of articles in the same vein as a dedicated magazine; the gimmick is that CD contains an audio performance of some of the content.

The book I'm reviewing today is the second based on Sengoku Basara 2. There were three in total for that game, one for Sengoku Basara 3 and a similar but separate volume called the Sengoku Basara Dengeki Visual & Sound Book. I'm starting with Sengoku Basara 2 Vol. 2 for no reason other than that it's the one I received most recently. Each volume stands alone.

Volume two starts off with 'Gravure of Heroes', a series of character profiles for Chousokabe Motochika, Sanada Yukimura, Sarutobi Sasuke, Maeda Keiji, Azai Nagamasa and Oichi. These are accompanied by gorgeous full-page colour illustrations by a number of regular Sengoku Basara series fan artists: Haibara Yak, Yumeji Kiriko, Shishizaru, Wolfina, Shimotsuki Kairi, Nagasawa Shin, Yoshizumi Kazuyuki, Kazuaki, Hirooka Masaki, Tsunako, Sasakura Kou, Kugawara Kadzuki, Yamamoto Kana, Tobashi Kotomi, Hitaki, Enomoto and Kazama Raita all feature. Several of these artists have gone on to win wider recognition for their talent in the years since the book was produced, making these SenBasa illustrations even more exciting. There's an interesting variety to the art styles on display (especially for the pictures of Oichi) and I don't think I'd ever seen Nagamasa drawn by Sasakura before. The quality is superb.

The next part of the book is a short story based on Sengoku Basara 2: Cool & The Gang, the very first Sengoku Basara novel written by Asou Ryou. The novel (sold separately) was illustrated by Tsuchibayashi Makoto while the 'special edition' arc in this book comes with a generous number of pictures by Tobashi Kotomi instead. Cool & The Gang involves Masamune teaming up with Motochika. As both characters are not only extremely popular but also in possession of similar character traits, the storyline was well received.

This is where the CD comes in, allowing you to immerse yourself in the story with the dulcet tones of the familiar Sengoku Basara seiyuu. The actors featured on the CD in this volume are Nakai Kazuya (Date Masamune), Ishino Ryuuzou (Chousokabe Motochika), Morita Masakazu (Maeda Keiji), Okiayu Ryoutarou (Toyotomi Hideyoshi) and Ishida Akira (Takenaka Hanbee). The dialogue is loaded with cocky lines to allow Masamune and Motochika an opportunity to play off one another beautifully.

The next part of the book is a set of short interviews with the seiyuu who featured on the audio CD. One thing which could have made the bundle feel more worthwhile would have been some out of character discussion by the seiyuu about either the story they performed or to expand on these too-brief interviews. There was plenty of space on the CD.

Following the seiyuu segment comes detailed previews for the upcoming games Sengoku Basara 2 Eiyuu Gaiden (Heroes) and Sengoku Basara X (Cross). Fan contributions such as artwork, letters, jokes and comics fill the remaining pages.

Sengoku Basara 2 Visual & Sound Book Vol. 2 was published on 10th October 2007 by ASCII Media Works and it still seems to be in print (my book is from the third printing in 2009). It can be purchased from all good Japanese bookstores at its original price of ¥1,800, including Yesasia and Amazon. There shouldn't be any customs fees importing it to the UK, so anyone curious should give the series a try.

I'll post the details of the other Visual & Sound Books I possess whenever I have the time to slot them into my schedule!

Friday 4 January 2013

Manga review: Sakuran

"In Sakuran, Moyoco Anno lifts the veil on life in the Edo period pleasure quarter, Yoshiwara. The story follows Kiyoha, sold into a brothel as a child and forced to work as a maid and her rise to prominence as one of the top-ranking courtesans in Yoshiwara. The allure of the “flower and willow world“ as it was called by artists in the day is underscored by the very real tragedy, heartbreak and difficult lives led by those seemingly glamourous courtesans. Will Kiyoha’s fox-like wiles give her a chance to break free of her gilded cage? Or will her fighting spirit ruin her chances of ever escaping the brothel?"

I've been a fan of Anno Moyoco's quirky, sensual manga ever since Tokyopop and Viz experimented with English versions of her longer works Happy Mania and Flowers and Bees. In the absence of any more English language books, I imported and watched the Sakuran live action movie when it was released on DVD (it's since, incredibly, received a UK DVD release). The movie adaptation had me spellbound - between the perfectly-cast Tsuchiya Anna in the lead role, a memorable soundtrack from Shiina Ringo and luxurious visuals, it was like watching a fully-realised work of art. The storyline is simple and a few anachronistic elements will certainly frustrate some viewers, yet the movie was never trying to be a classic period piece. Instead, it's a surreal look at the everyday lives of women who have been traded like possessions and forced to earn their keep in the walled world of Yoshiwara. Despite a thick veneer of glamour, the story shies away from nothing. The movie left a strong impression on me long after the credits had rolled.

Having assumed that the manga would never be picked up for publication in the US I was delighted to finally be able to add it to my collection last year. Reading the manga after the live action movie is slightly disorientating as the film spends far more time on the lead character's adulthood than the original story. The story completely diverges towards the end, and consequently, the two versions of Sakuran feel very different.

Nonetheless, both are wonderful.

I was ultimately left with the impression that the Sakuran manga, richly steeped in suffocating femininity, has a much stronger message than the movie. The protagonist (she goes by a number of different names over the course of her career) is extremely likeable; a spirited young lady in challenging circumstances through no fault of her own. She's perpetually having to balance her rebellious impulses with the pressures unique to the alien world in which she's been forced to live.

Anno's artwork is nothing short of sumptuous. Her gaudy, expressive art style matches the subject material perfectly. Intricately detailed fabrics, hairstyles and make-up fill every panel. My favourite character, visually, was the oiran Mikumo. Her unreadable face had a stoic beauty to it which made her resemble a woodblock print brought to life.

Sakuran has been blessed with a top-quality English language release from Vertical. It's a little more expensive than a regular book, but it's self-contained and much thicker than normal too. There are some translation notes at the back to help make sense of the exotic terminology used in the pleasure district and the cover is stunning, placing Anno's garishly beautiful illustrations over dazzling coloured foil.

This is easily one of the most striking books in my collection. I would recommend Sakuran to anyone who wants to see traditional Japanese courtesans from a slightly different, less idealised perspective - so long as the 18+ rating doesn't frighten them away.

Nico Nico Douga: Hello, 2013!

I received a lot of new visitors to my pathetic little blog the other day! Thank you for being kind about my dorky fangirling...

There's still very little to report in the way of news, though the Butai Sengoku Basara 3 Utage website launched a countdown at the start of the year which is rapidly heading towards its glorious opening next week. To add a little excitement the character on the front page changes daily; so far we've had Masamune, Yukimura, Ieyasu and Mitsunari. I'm hoping that Kojuurou and Sasuke will come next.

Anyway, here are some of the most indulgent Miku Miku Dance videos I've been watching on Nico Nico Douga to celebrate the New Year recently. It's not quite Kouhaku, especially as all of the best videos lately seem to feature the twin dragons of Oushuu. This is not the most balanced post.

In the first Sengoku Basara's Date Masamune dances to Shoujo Misui on Keiji's Kyoto festival stage courtesy of the user ariNO. There are some pretty effects, but really the reason I'm linking this is simply because I love both the song and Hittou.

Wednesday 2 January 2013

Part 14: Yanagita Rikao's Sengoku Basara Science Laboratory

As with my posts covering the earlier parts, this is an extremely rough English translation of part of the blog series Yanagita Rikao's Sengoku Basara Science Laboratory (Yanagita Rikao Sengoku Basara Kagaku Kenkyuujo). Please click the link below to see the original article, which is accompanied by illustrations and promotional videos.

Part 14: A single horseman able to defeat 1,300; what's going on!? Maeda Keiji

Freedom. It's as though the word exists for Maeda Keiji. While he belongs to the Maeda family, he shows no interest in world affairs and lives for love. He cuts a flamboyant figure with a hawk's flight feathers in his hair, a monkey - Yumekichi - on his shoulder and an incredibly long sword on his back. I'd have liked to do the same once, but with his personality and skill he can probably be forgiven for living his life this way. I'll try to assess the strength of the 'Gorgeous Splendour', Maeda Keiji.