Saturday 30 March 2013

Sengoku Basara Magazine cover art?

Also previewed at Basara Matsuri 2013 ~Haru No Jin~ today was Sengoku Basara Magazine. Aside from a colour picture of the rubber strap and confirmation of some other details we already knew about, KobaP showed a new image of Masamune which will most likely end up on the cover. He mentioned interviews with both Masamune's seiyuu and his stage play actor, along with a Masamune-centric chapter of the Mame Sengoku Basara manga and a new manga based on the BSR48 drama CD 'Soul Revolution'.

Basara Matsuri 2013 ~Haru No Jin~ day one mini-report

I'll make a proper post about this when I'm back at a computer (edit: full post now available here).

However, I just came out of Ryougoku Sumo Hall where the first day of the Basara Matsuri 2013 event took place.

It was amazing. We had a live Butai Sengoku Basara 3 ~Setouchi Kyouran~ performance, a cushion-throwing game, live seiyuu performances of scenes from the last stage play, Wakamoto Norio being ridiculous, Hoshi Souichirou complaining bitterly about a newer character beating Yukimura in the BSR48 popularity poll, and Sunday Mouri. T.M. Revolution performed Naked Arms, Sword Summit and The Party Must Go On, with a laser display. I spent a fortune on character goods.

We also had a generous amount of new information revealed about the future of the series. KobaP showed us a trailer from the Takarazuka Sengoku Basara play including the three already-revealed characters: Yukimura (the star), Kenshin and original character Inori. Since I've not kept up with news online during my trip I'm not sure whether the trailer was new. It was, however, new to me, and I enjoyed hearing the Takarazuka actresses singing along to familiar music from the series. Kenshin's reimagined outfit looks pretty cool, too. I'm not too sure what to think about Inori yet. The rest of the audience seemed curious but worried, too, when KobaP described her.

The next piece of news which I remember being actually new was that they're holding another event in July this year. It's not Basara Matsuri; instead it's a brand new kind of event based on the stage play called Busho Matsuri. I can't go, but I'm kind of glad they're giving the stage play its own live gathering. There are so many guests at the recent Basara Matsuri events that it's hard to cram everything in, and it's a good excuse to bring back older stage play actors who haven't been seen for a while. As this announcement was a surprise there was a leaflet given out after the event for it so I'll translate the full (enormous) guest list when I'm home.

There was also some news about the magazine. The provisional cover (starring Masamune) has been revealed. It all looks pretty slick and I hope it's easy to get hold of as an import order...

Finally...KobaP made us all stop chattering noisily and started a second trailer playing...

Sengoku Basara 4!

It's coming next year for PS3 and only PS3. I'm sure by the time I get online tonight all of the usual news websites will have the trailer and more information online...I was too excited to take it all in properly. No characters were shown, just two silhouettes. I can't wait to see the trailer again.

More Sengoku Basara, and on my preferred console too! 2014 is going to be incredible!

Wednesday 27 March 2013

News: Sengoku Basara magazine update

I'm still not back yet, however so much news keep coming out that I wanted to make a small post with the newest story before Basara Matsuri information takes over my life.

Dengeki Maoh's May 2013 issue was released in Japan today and it included a small update about the upcoming magazine. The first (Spring) issue of Sengoku Basara Magazine is due for release on the 27th April 2013. It will be a seasonal release in B5 format, published by ASCII Media Works and costing ¥2,400.

The first issue will come with the radio-style talk CD with seiyuu Nakai Kazuya and Morikawa Toshiyuki I mentioned in a previous post. It will also include a rubber strap of Date Masamune as he appears in the Mame Sengoku Basara manga.

We already knew the magazine's first issue will have Masamune on the cover from the Dengeki Maoh blog and that's now been confirmed formally. The cover itself may well be unveiled at this weekend's Basara Matsuri 2013 ~Haru No Jin~ event in Japan which promises to preview the new publication in more detail. The newly-launched website for the magazine will carry all of the information from Monday.

Saturday 16 March 2013

Blog status report

The Sengoku Basara exhibition at the Tsuchiura City Museum opened today, and already it looks as though it's a big success. The Tsuchiura City tourism account on Twitter is sharing pictures of the visitors and tips about the event. I wonder how much of the crowd is due to the Sengoku Basara effect and how much is simply the local history buffs excited to see the armour on display?

I'm probably going to be posting fewer blog updates for a couple of weeks as I'm not going to have access to my computer. Fingers crossed that there are lots of big announcements to post about by the time I get back!

Thursday 14 March 2013

News: Release details for three new volumes of Sengoku Basara manga

The release information for three of the upcoming manga publications was revealed today. First of all, Sumeragi's Mame Sengoku Basara volume 3 will be released on 29th March 2013 and cost ¥819. Amazon gives the date as 27th March, so I'm going by what e-Capcom says. The cover star this time will be Masamune for the first time. I like the design of the Mame Sengoku Basara books.

Despite only finding out about it a couple of days ago, the cover has also been revealed for the brand new anthology comic Sengoku Basara Comic Anthology 'Dategun Chronicle'. It comes out on the same day for ¥893. Not much information is available yet other than the fact that the artists will include Sasakura Kou, Arai Karo and Tsutsumi Yoshisada. I'm quite looking forward to seeing the veterans in action; it's been ages since I've seen any new Sengoku Basara artwork by Sasakura even in her doujinshi career. Arai is also contributing to the new Gakuen Basara manga and Tsutsumi illustrated the four Kodansha BOX light novels.

The additional information on the e-Capcom listing notes that the anthology will star Masamune and Kojuurou (obviously) along with appearances by characters such as Yukimura and Hisahide.

Last but not least, Itou Ryuu's Sengoku Basara 3 Bloody Angel volume 4 will be released on 8th April 2013 for ¥580. It's good to see that Mitsunari's harrowing tale of tragedy has already reached four compiled volumes! The cover fits in well with the rest of the series.

The details of the other upcoming Itou manga, Sengoku Basara 3 Naked Blood, haven't yet been revealed. The full pre-release information for Gakuen Basara 5 manga has already been posted and it can be read here.

News roundup: A small Sengoku Basara presence at Tokyo International Anime Fair 2013

The Sengoku Basara anime movie blog made one of its rare posts this week to announce a brand new tie-in. This one is pretty interesting even though it's got nothing to do with the games.

Last summer, the anime's character designer Ookubo Tooru travelled up to Ishinomaki to draw a new tie-in illustration for the famous Sendai Tanabata festival. This has happened a few times before for special occasions since the Sengoku Basara characters have been used to promote tourism frequently across the country. In this case, the picture was eventually revealed to be of the San Juan Bautista (Datemaru), a famous ship made by the real-life Date Masamune which travelled all the way to Europe on a diplomatic mission. That mission is celebrating its 400-year anniversary in 2013 and it's been in the news on a regular basis, both in parts of continental Europe and in Japan.

What makes this particular tie-in especially lovely is that the replica San Juan Bautista and its museum are situated in Ishinomaki, a region that was hit very hard by the terrible Touhoku earthquake and tsunami almost exactly two years ago. It celebrates one of the positive aspects of the Touhoku region at a tough time. And Masamune/Kojuurou look cool with the boat.

Today's tie-in brings the illustration of the San Juan Bautista back again, using it for a special regional omiyage item. The approach of White Day in Japan has brought with it these 'San Juan Cioccolata'. The chocolates are manufactured locally in Ishinomaki and they'll be sold in the Ishinomori Mangakan (Ishinomori Shoutarou Manga Museum) for 840yen per pack starting on 23rd March 2013.

Those who can't travel up to Ishinomaki can also buy the chocolates in Odaiba at next week's Tokyo International Anime Fair 2013 while stocks last. Production I.G. is running a booth as part of a clump of exhibits called the 'Anime & Character Rettou (Islands) JAPAN' on the public days of the fair on 23rd and 24th of March 2013. Their booth seems to be themed around characters which represent Japanese regions, so of course they've selected Date Masamune from the anime adaptation of Sengoku Basara to represent Miyagi Prefecture.

On the game side, the biggest news has been that Capcom has started accepting registration for its new My Capcom community, which is going to coordinate things like the official mobile newsletter (Tokusei Kawaraban) from now on. They've added a lot of incentives to join up including prize draws where you can win all kinds of crazy things, including your very own replica Date Masamune helmet.

Only one lucky person will be selected to win the kabuto, but another five hundred fans will win a rubber 'pixel art' strap. I love how many freebies you can get every time you do anything in Japan.

As further celebration of the new website, people who sign up and subscribe to the Sengoku Basara mobile newsletter will also receive an exclusive card for the mobile game Sengoku Basara Card Heroes Matsuri for a limited period:

And lastly, gaming websites are reporting another Sengoku Basara Card Heroes Matsuri tie-in, this time another crossover with the Onimusha social game Minna To Onimusha Card Master. By playing one of the games you can earn rare cards for the other. The images used for the two special cards aren't the greatest...

Tuesday 12 March 2013

Anime series which parody Sengoku Basara

I was looking at the search terms visitors use to find my silly blog recently, and amongst all of the searches for "kintama" and topless pictures of Yamato from Sukitte Ii Na Yo, one stood out like a sore thumb:

"Which animes make parodies of Sengoku Basara?"

Sadly, although I write about all kinds of things that kind of content wasn't available here. I'm really sorry for disappointing whoever was searching for such an amazing website; there's no way that photographs of my latest BL doujinshi shipments can fill the same void.

Having said that, what a great idea it is for a new blog post! So without further ado, I want to make a list with pictures wherever possible. Please leave a comment if you know any other references or parodies which I've missed. Manga is fine too, but let's ignore official guest appearances by Sengoku Basara characters in other media (e.g. game crossovers) or the list will be too long to manage. General parodies of feudal warlords don't count either, it has to specifically be the Sengoku Basara version of a character.

Here we go!

Chronicles Of The Going Home Club (Kitakubu Katsudou Kiroku) episode 2
(Added 11/07/2013) 
A new addition to the list (two within the space of a week)!  You can check it for yourself at the 3:31 timestamp on Crunchyroll. The characters are discussing the unifiers of the Sengoku period and somehow Masamune pops up mid-conversation.

Genshiken Nidaime (Genshiken second season) episode 1
(Added 07/07/2013) 
Production I.G. clearly couldn't resist slipping a Sengoku Basara doujinshi into the pile of books which appears during the Genshiken Nidaime opening sequence. You can watch it on Crunchyroll at the 4:00 mark to see for yourself.

These books also look mildly familiar later in the episode (picture take at the 7:56 mark)...

Monday 11 March 2013

News roundup: Dategun Chronicle manga anthology on the way, Sengoku Basara Takarazuka tickets now on sale

I was sniffing around earlier and came across another Sengoku Basara manga listing for this month with very little information yet revealed. Sengoku Basara Comic Anthology 'Dategun Chronicle' (tentative title) is listed on quite a few online shops as a preorder with a release date of 27th March 2013, priced at ¥893. It's from ASCII Media Works/Dengeki Comics EX/Capcom. A new anthology comic themed around the Date forces? It's been a while since any official anthologies have seen a release, other than Gakuen Basara. I'm intrigued. Along with Naked Blood and Mame Sengoku Basara 3, this makes a total of three manga volumes set for release in late March/early April which still haven't been formally announced.

The rest of today's information is for fan club members only, but I am translating it anyway as it might be of interest to a more general audience too.

Unexpectedly, the shipment of this week's official Sengoku Basara fan club 'Eiyuu No Kai' newsletter was delayed at the last minute. No specific reason was given, however, the main homepage has updated in the meantime to reveal that fan club members can apply for tickets to the long-awaited Sengoku Basara Takarazuka show which starts in mid-June 2013. The fan club ticket lottery runs from the 8th until the 14th April 2013, with the lottery winners receiving their notifications on the 16th April. Expect general tickets to go on sale soon, once all of the various fan club members have had their chance to apply.

Maybe we'll finally get the first glimpses of the Takarazuka actresses in costume at Basara Matsuri 2013 ~Haru No Jin~?

The only other newsworthy happening today is that the Eiyuu No Kai 'Basara-ya' shop will be selling exclusive Mame Sengoku Basara t-shirts for fan club members. There are four designs and each is available in a choice of medium or large sizes. The t-shirts will ship in mid-May 2013.

Sunday 10 March 2013

Manga review: Gakuen Basara

Gakuen Basara is a strange affair; it's a spin-off anthology series which transplants all of the characters from the Sengoku Basara feudal action games into a modern day high school setting. Capcom not only approves of this craziness, they even publish it themselves and carry it in their official merchandise outlets. Most - if not all - of the artists featured in each book are active in the doujinshi community or working on manga professionally, so the production standards are high. I think that this kind of anthology is a charming way to expose passionate manga creators to a new, readymade audience through official channels; with no need to build up complicated character relationships themselves, they can jump straight in with their story and show the reader what they're capable of, while being under Capcom's watchful eye prevents anything too creepy from happening on these pages. It's a pleasant alternative to one-shot BL stories and hyper super-deformed gag manga - not that I have any objection to either of those!

As this is an anthology series, the reader should expect a lot of variety in the art styles and storytelling between each chapter. The creators keep the setting details consistent but the atmosphere can change completely depending on which artist is in control of the story. Some have more attractive artwork while others are heavily stylised; in spite of this not a single one is disappointing, and importantly all of the dialogue is consistent with the characters so it never feels as though it's drifted too far from the core Basara atmosphere.

I do feel that removing the political power and violence of the original in the transition to a high school setting misses the point a little on some basic level. It's a fun diversion, so long as it's not taken as being any more serious than the goofy spin-off that it is. For this post I'm going to review the very first book in the series.

Sengoku Basara 2 Official Anthology Comic: Gakuen Basara came out in July 2007 and covers Sengoku Basara 2. It comes with a beautiful wraparound dust jacket cover by Nari. It's a similar length to the later anthologies in the series at 160 pages, yet there are fewer contributors so the stories are longer. Impressively most of the artists present in this first volume have stuck with the Gakuen Basara world and still actively contribute to the newest volumes six years later. Here is a list of the short stories which appear in the original Gakuen Basara along with their artists and a brief summary of the plot. In addition, rough character design sketches by Sanorin, Yanagi Batoshirou and Kyuugou are included between chapters.

Nekketsu Basara Gakuen (Hot Blooded Basara Gakuen)
The characters are all introduced for the first time against the backdrop of the Gakuen Basara Food Battle eating competition.

Basara Gakuen Guraundo Soudatsusen (Basara Gakuen Ground Scramble)
With the basic character introductions out of the way, this chapter introduces the other key component of Sengoku Basara: the rivalry between Masamune and Yukimura. Here, the pair fight over the rights to use the school grounds for their respective sports club (baseball for Masamune, soccer for Yukimura).

Choi Aku Nyuumon (Slightly Evil Introduction)
Umeda Seika
The usually sweet Yukimura tries his hand at being a little more unpleasant. And fails, repeatedly. Is he doomed to be a good guy forever?

Seishun Ikinokori Game (Youth Survival Game)
Yanagi Batoshirou
Sasuke's information gathering skills get him into endless trouble when he accepts a request from Keiji to do some research into the school's female pupils.

Undeibanri! Hana No Setouchi Ouen Gassen (Polar Opposites! Flowery Setouchi Cheering Battle)
Toriumi Mihoko
Another clash between 'factions', this time with Motochika's rowdy cheering squad going head to head with Motonari's refined wind instrument club. Hanbee seems pleased to let both groups trample over one another.

Seigi No Tatakai! Kono Te De Mamoru Mono (Battle For Justice! That Which These Hands Protect)
Arai Karo
Nagamasa diligently tries to keep the students under control and uphold the school rules for the Oda faction, even when it means confronting the powerful school clubs. He also has to deal with Oichi, who is a little strange.

All in all, Gakuen Basara is a fun spin-off, and the only way you can read Capcom-sanctioned stories involving Tadakatsu playing baseball. I'll post summaries of the next three books shortly; the fifth isn't out yet, so it will come later!

Saturday 9 March 2013

Book review: Sengoku Basara Dengeki Visual & Sound Book

The Sengoku Basara Dengeki Visual & Sound Book is another anthology which comes with its own special audio CD. There's no continuity between this and the other four Visual & Sound Books.

Just as with the other books, the Dengeki Visual & Sound Book opens with a 'Gravure of Heroes' illustration collection. The theme is pairs of heroes this time and it starts off with a collection of articles exploring the various friendships and rivalries in the series. Next comes a selection of full colour illustrations by the artists Aoi Levin, Kirishima Sou, Nagasawa Shin, Kazuaki, Hitaki, Shishizaru, Tsunako, Wolfina, Amajio Komeko and Kazama Raita. It's really weird seeing Tsunako drawing the Date forces for once instead of her favourite Takeda characters.

Next comes the main part of this book, a manga to tie in with the included audio CD. This is where things get a little confusing. For the Dengeki Visual & Sound Book, the pages come straight from the second half of Haibara Yak's Sengoku Basara 2 manga (the same one I reviewed here the other day, released in English as Sengoku Basara: Samurai Legends). The entirety of Act 17: The Trickster and one scene from the climax of Act 18: Unbridgeable are reproduced in full, providing a coherent storyline about how the Toyotomi and Date forces were trying to outthink one another before a big confrontation.

The CD drama track is titled Comic Sengoku Basara 2 -returning to Zero.- and rather than being designed to be read alongside it, the audio performance carries straight on from the manga extract in the book starting with Act 19: Vengeance. It goes on to finish the story of the Sengoku Basara 2 manga, mostly word for word from the speech balloons. Since the CD only features Nakai Kazuya (Date Masamune), Morikawa Toshiyuki (Katakura Kojuurou), Okiayu Ryoutarou (Toyotomi Hideyoshi), a narrator and some miscellaneous soldiers, scenes with the other main characters have been completely omitted. This is less confusing than it sounds since only one brief scene with Kojuurou had to be cut at all to accommodate the restriction. The Toyotomi/Date storyline stands alone quite well.

I found making the audio drama a follow-up to the manga printed inside the book rather strange. Still, it was pleasant to hear the manga acted out with three of my favourite seiyuu and students of Japanese who happen to have books available might enjoy listening to this drama while referring to the English translated manga when necessary. The audio performance is a generous length too, clocking in at almost 25 minutes; it even includes 13 minutes of seiyuu chit-chat as a bonus.

The seiyuu discussions on the CD tie into the book again, unexpectedly. This time the usual pages of fan contributions such as artwork, letters and gags are accompanied by comments from Nakai, Morikawa and Okiayu themselves. There are even pictures of the actors holding the fan art to thrill the lucky people whose illustrations were chosen.

The final four pages of the book are devoted to preview images of the then-upcoming Sengoku Basara 3 game. I have mixed feelings about this volume overall. The audio performance was good and longer than usual, yet reusing the manga and removing the gimmick of being able to read along with it (without buying additional books) was a questionable decision by the producers.

Sengoku Basara Dengeki Visual & Sound Book was published on 26th December 2009 by ASCII Media Works and it's still readily available from good Japanese bookstores such as Yesasia and Amazon at its original price of ¥1,800.

Friday 8 March 2013

News: Sengoku Basara stamp rally in 'Sightseeing City Tsuchiura' details

Tsuchiura City has added a few more details about their Sengoku Basara tie-in campaign which starts on the 16th March 2013. Today's update covers the stamp rally being run in association with 'Sightseeing City Tsuchiura'. General translated information about the collaboration is here with more details about the museum exhibitions here.

The Gamer website has posted larger sample images of the three clear files that are being given out as rewards. You can pick one for every five stamps you collect.

Clear file type A: Manabe No Sakura (Manabe's Cherry Blossoms)
The characters on the file are Date Masamune and Sanada Yukimura. In the background are the somei-yoshino cherry blossom trees at Manabe Elementary School in Tsuchiura. Some of the trees are said to be over 110 years old. This file represents springtime.

Thursday 7 March 2013

News roundup: Gakuen Basara 5 manga details and more on Basara Matsuri 2013 ~Haru No Jin~

Goodness, it's finally started happening. After weeks of silence, solid details are coming out at last for the merchandise and events we'll be seeing at the end of March.

The cover art for this month's new Gakuen Basara 5 manga has appeared on the eCapcom website. It's a lovely, colourful picture with as many characters crammed in as possible. I hope it wraps around to the back cover as well to show even more of the cast members.

Capcom followed up by announcing the full release details as well. Nari is providing the cover again (if that wasn't obvious already from looking at it!). The manga will include colour illustrations from Yukihiro Utako and Kyuugou plus the usual manga chapters from GakuBasa regulars Minami Seira, sanorin, Danbo, Matsuura Hako, Maki, Rokuji, Yonata, Arai Karo and Yanagi Batoshirou. Gakuen Basara 5 will be released on 28th March 2013 for ¥1,029. It will be 164 pages long.

The big news for today came in a little later, though: the homepage for Basara Matsuri 2013 ~Haru No Jin~ has been updated. Amazingly, even the general tickets have already sold out! There'll be some exclusive merchandise on sale in a tent set up outside the venue from noon until 21:00 on the weekend of the festival which even people who don't have a ticket for the show can visit. Here are the pictures of what attendees can buy.

Basara Matsuri 2013 ~Haru No Jin~ t-shirts (¥2,900).

A choice of four tin badges (¥400 each).

Click below for the rest!

Wednesday 6 March 2013

Manga review: Sengoku Basara Samurai Legends

Sengoku Basara: Samurai Legends is the official name of the English translation of Haibara Yak's Sengoku Basara 2 manga, originally serialised in the Japanese magazine Dengeki Maou from March 2007. Four compiled manga volumes subsequently went on sale, with the last one being released in February 2009.

The English adaptation comes courtesy of Udon Entertainment, who have been the sole beacon of hope for English-speaking Sengoku Basara fans lately - Capcom's own US subsidiaries appear to have given up on the series entirely due to its unspectacular performance outside Japan.

Udon's release is a little different to the original Japanese edition, spreading the content over two books rather than four. This is a good deal as the price for the two books isn't much higher than usual for a niche manga title when buying overseas and you get a lot of Sengoku Basara for your money; it's definitely good value for such thick volumes. My biggest concern with the books being combined like this was missing out on some of the earlier Japanese cover art (the picture of Keiji is a particular favourite). As it happens there was nothing to worry about. The US release includes the original illustrations as colour inserts at the start of the book along with some other artwork from Haibara, and my inner nitpicker was pleased to see a note to acknowledge the original game and explain why the title was changed.

Haibara's art style is confident and stylish, a perfect fit for the series' hallmark over-the-top action. It's also very sexy; I'd think both male and female fans can enjoy reading this series without any concerns about their favourite character receiving the proper amount of attention. Since the plot of Sengoku Basara 2 revolves around the rise of the Toyotomi forces, Hideyoshi and Hanbee take centre stage as powerful antagonists with Masamune, Keiji and Yukimura facing off against them - separately, of course. Kojuurou and Sasuke are present too, as are Kasuga, Kenshin and Shingen. The two older warlords get to appear in what is probably the best fight in the whole first book where Haibara captured Kenshin's dangerous grace so elegantly that it left a lasting impression on me long after I'd finished reading.

The second book shifts the plot away from Kawanakajima and expands the role of the Maeda clan. As a result, Yukimura takes a back seat for much of volume two, stepping aside to give Keiji more time to reconcile his complicated relationship with Hideyoshi. Fans of the anime will be surprised by how a few adjustments to the plot can make the same confrontations play out so differently.

Being the most popular character in the series, Masamune's forces dominate the main storyline at times - yet at others he's completely absent for chapters at a time, and Keiji's role is explored much better. I really liked the way that the armies were portrayed. Tactical discussions receive just as much attention as riding around performing ridiculous feats of mass destruction, and the relationships between the warlords, their soldiers and even the common townspeople are explored in the background.

It's worth mentioning that Mitsuhide, Motonari, Motochika, Nagamasa, Oichi and even Mitsuhide make very brief appearances in addition to the characters I've already mentioned. The manga was written before Sengoku Basara 3 came along to confirm the series' canon ending to the Toyotomi conflict, so the plot deviates from what fans might expect at times. This is not always a bad thing.

One of the things I love about the way Sengoku Basara portrays the period in which it is set is that almost every faction is easy to root for. Even though Masamune is the central figure when it comes to popularity, Haibara doesn't hold back, depicting him as an aggressive, cocky upstart who makes mistakes and could easily be playing the part of a villain. Other characters too acknowledge that what they're doing isn't always right or the most honourable approach they could be taking. If the manga had been written just a little differently, it would be Hideyoshi's forces which the reader would be cheering for as he advances across the nation. This aspect of the series is strongest of all when the heroes' loyal subjects are shown; Hanbee, Kasuga, Yukimura, Sasuke and Kojuurou all share a deep devotion to their masters which is rarely seen in the real world. The commanders of Sengoku Basara must have been incredible people to inspire such unwavering dedication.

The translation of the English adaptation is particularly good for the most part, and they've retained some flavour of the original by keeping the original Japanese for the maps which appear from time to time and adding the English translations as extra labels. This might be awkward in most series, but Sengoku Basara is a period piece and it's likely its readers will have more interest in Japanese culture than usual. The old-fashioned Sengoku-era names for the regions are slightly exotic to Japanese readers as well, and I felt it was appropriate to keep that feeling intact here.

There is only one aspect of the English adaptation I disagree with, and it's that the "Danna~" which Sasuke uses to address most of the other characters has been translated as "Guv". This is probably only an issue because I am from the UK, but to me the word seems dreadfully out of place in an otherwise strong script. The connotations of "Guv" are quite specific and it evokes an image of a shady Cockney gentleman, which isn't how I think of Sasuke! I can understand why the translator made this choice as they were trying to retain a sense of the myriad forms of address which pepper the dialogue of Sengoku Basara, and there simply aren't enough equivalents in English to cover all of the different words used in the original. However, I really wish they had chosen a less silly word.

Overall though, the translation is great and the script matches the action well. There's a lot of variety in the styles of English used, depending on which character is speaking. There are also a few things that are difficult to get used to after being used to hearing them in Japanese, such as "Kawanaka Island" instead of "Kawanakajima" and "Kei" instead of the familiar "Kei-chan" - even leaving the old-fashioned honourifics intact to accommodate "Kei-chan" would make the dialogue difficult to follow for newcomers to the series. Names are presented in western order and with simplified romanisation to match the English version of Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes (Sengoku Basara 3). Because a western audience won't necessarily have the same familiarity with Japanese history as the readers in its home country, it would have been a challenging manga to translate.

The first volume of Sengoku Basara: Samurai Legends came out on 24th April 2012 (Amazon USA). Volume two was released on 19th February 2013 after suffering a few production delays (Amazon USA). The series is now complete. Udon have obligingly provided generous samples of the artwork in the form of previews of volumes one and two.

In summary, Udon have given the excellent Sengoku Basara 2 manga the English adaptation it deserves, giving me hope that future volumes of manga might eventually make their way to the west. All English-speaking samurai fans owe it to themselves to look out for these two books.

Tuesday 5 March 2013

Anime review: JoJo's Bizarre Adventure volume 1

I recently received the first Blu-ray disc of the 2012 anime series JoJo's Bizarre Adventure (JoJo No Kimyou Na Bouken). It had always seemed strange that a television adaptation had never come about for JoJo; it's been consistently popular for many years and through a number of major changes to the cast and setting. It wasn't until the manga's 25th anniversary that this oversight was finally addressed.

This is the first time that the beginning of the saga has ever been animated and released for proper consumption (a short-lived movie soon disappeared without trace, and the OAV which previously made it to the US covered a later part of the story). My previous JoJo experience is relatively weak, so I was lucky enough to be able to experience many of the twists and turns for the first time. It would have been impossible for me to go in with no knowledge of the characters at all - the series is simply too famous and a goldmine for parodies. Still, I feel that the impact of these three episodes is even greater if they're allowed to surprise the audience without excessive spoilers, so I'm going to avoid saying too much about the actual content.

Visually, this new television adaptation is stunning. Rather than updating the early parts of the original manga to match a modern aesthetic, the animation staff has completely embraced the camp, bold artwork to create a blend of styles unlike anything else I've seen in television anime. The opening sequence uses computer generated animation to bring the manga to life; it's one of the best title sequences I've seen in a long time. The rest of the show looks more traditional, while still incorporating bold colour and on-screen sound effects to keep the spectacle as crazy as possible.

The show delivers with its audio too. Dio almost steals the show completely, thanks in part to veteran Koyasu Takehito's deeply masculine performance. Opposite him is Okitsu Kazuyuki playing Jonathan Joestar. I hadn't taken notice of Okitsu before; here he makes a perfect JoJo with a naive, honest and occasionally petulant tone of voice. The opening song "JoJo ~Sono Chi No Sadame~" is an instant classic in the anison tradition. It's worth noting that even the music played during the credits is subtitled in English on the disc.

Sometimes, older material suffers when compared to recent hits in its genre, often due to later works having drawn inspiration from the manga which predated them. This isn't the case here; JoJo can make new fans laugh, gasp and cheer without even appearing to try. What a shame that this fantastic shounen classic was never picked up for a worldwide streaming broadcast. Its age and shameless affection for a camp aesthetic might not resonate with everyone in the current generation of overseas fans, but anyone who goes into it with an open mind is sure to find it impossible to resist the show's many charms.

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is available as a special edition Blu-ray, standard edition Blu-ray, first press DVD or standard edition DVD. The only difference between the DVD editions seems to be a stylish slipcase, while the special Blu-ray comes with a different slipcase, a soundtrack CD and a proof of purchase, which can eventually be used to apply for a special figure set once you've collected the whole series. The Blu-ray version also includes English subtitles, making it an excellent deal for fans overseas frustrated with the lack of streaming options. It's also worth noting that the animation has been cleaned up for the home video versions and previously-censored violent scenes have been restored to their full glory. The Blu-ray special edition is the version I purchased and used for the screenshots above, and I feel this is the best way to watch JoJo. The show's unusual art style deserves nothing less than the highest quality picture.

With another eight Blu-ray volumes lined up for release in 2013, JoJo is going to be part of my life for the rest of the year. There's still no word on whether it will be continuing into the third story arc at a later date even though sales of the home video version have been brisk. I'm fully satisfied with the content of the Japanese edition even if the series receives a localised release later on, however, for the sake of other fans it would be great to see it make it to the US (or even the UK) one day. I just hope that future seasons of the anime, if they ever come to exist, will be streamed outside Japan so that I don't have to keep watching each episode five months behind my friends on Twitter.

Monday 4 March 2013

Today's acquisitions (4th Mar 2013)

Although it's the first delivery of March, it will also be my last delivery until April unless my outstanding manga order at Amazon UK ships out or I get exceptionally lucky with postage times for the next Eiyuu No Kai newsletter.

The best item in today's delivery is the special edition DVD of Butai Sengoku Basara 3 ~Setouchi Kyouran~. I'm looking forward to watching it as soon as possible. The slipcase is thick and nicely weighty with the title embossed in foil on the spine. Of course, once I've seen it I won't have any new Sengoku Basara stage plays to look forward to until the next one comes out on DVD towards the end of the year...

Everything else in the picture is manga. Samura Hiroaki's short story compilation Emerald And Other Stories should be good; I'm a huge fan of Blade Of The Immortal so this book might tide me over during the long wait between each volume. I'd missed a couple of volumes of Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei because the 'local' comic shops no longer carry it now Kodansha has taken over from Del Rey. The other two books are Maiden Rose (Hyakujitsu No Bara) by Inariya Fusanosuke. The price on Amazon was starting to get silly; when I saw that United Publications had it in their clearance sale it was impossible to resist.

Sunday 3 March 2013

Anime review: Psychic Squad (Zettai Karen Children) collection 1

I'd already purchased the whole of Zettai Karen Children on DVD prior to the 2013 television series THE UNLIMITED -Hyoubu Kyousuke- being picked up for broadcast to the UK through Crunchyroll. It was initially doomed to fall into my backlog of unwatched discs for years to come. This was until I become so addicted to its spin-off that I became desperate to see the original series as soon as possible.

Zettai Karen Children has been given the generic-sounding title Psychic Squad for its US release, guaranteeing that it will be overlooked by potential fans for years to come as few of the people enjoying THE UNLIMITED are going to realise the original series is already available to own. The US release splits the complete series into four double-disc DVD sets.

Due to the bland title, I almost forgot to buy the series myself. Psychic Squad collection 1 came out in on 1st May 2012 and sells for $49.98, which ends up being just over $30 when online discounts are taken into account. The set is barebones with no English dub; it contains the first thirteen episodes in Japanese with English subtitles split across two discs. There are minimal extras; just sponsor bumpers, a clean OP/ED and some trailers. Sadly, there's no Blu-ray version available and the DVD video quality is nothing to write home about. Still, I'm very glad that US licensor Sentai Filmworks released the entire show with such good timing.

Zettai Karen Children has a simple premise: in the near future, a growing number of people are being born with ESP powers such as telekinesis, teleportation and telepathy. Normal people feel threatened by these mutants espers which results in an uneasy culture of persecution on both sides. In spite of this, some espers work for the good of mankind thanks to a 'Minority Report'-style organisation which uses psychics to predict catastrophes and stop them before people can be hurt. The titular 'Children' are a trio of young female espers with unusually strong powers. They work together to help people and make the world a better place along with their idealistic young guardian, Minamoto Kouichi.

It's a lot like the X-Men, except that the cast is much smaller and there are lewd jokes every few minutes. And there really are a lot of smutty jokes, for a series which is so family friendly in every other respect.

The girls are fun to watch (my favourite is Nogami Aoi, the dark-haired teleportation expert). While Minamoto himself is a little too good-natured and naive for my tastes, he's shown to have quick wits when not being teased by the girls or the team's enemies. It takes several episodes before the protagonist of THE UNLIMITED, Hyoubu Kyousuke, finally appears in front of the main characters. Kyousuke is the main reason for my interest in the series at all, but I can safely say that it's enjoyable even without his relentless bullying.

It does, however, get considerably better once he's around to act as a foil to Minamoto's innocent personality. As fans of THE UNLIMITED will already know, Kyousuke is an older esper who hates 'Normal' human beings with a passion. What makes him a little different from most villains is that he's extremely relaxed about his evil scheming and will quite happily pop in and help the main characters out when it suits him. This is partly because he is interested in protecting one of the three Children for his own reasons, and partly because he is a natural-born troll, through and through.

Most reports seem to advise reading Shiina Takashi's original manga instead of trying the television version due to some unpopular decisions with the adaptation. I don't have access to the manga and instead came from THE UNLIMITED, so my perspective may be a little unusual. The dark, urgent atmosphere of the newer spin-off is completely absent in this story, but that's not a bad thing, especially watching them both side by side the way I've ended up doing. It's fascinating being able to see Kyousuke (and the Children) from different viewpoints.

In summary, Sentai's DVD collection was definitely a worthwhile purchase. I'm hoping that THE UNLIMITED will eventually receive a Blu-ray release in the west and gain enough of a following that the original manga makes its way over here one day.

Saturday 2 March 2013

News roundup: More Sengoku Basara manga in March

Although Capcom remains tight-lipped, shop listings are continuing to reveal some new products on the horizon.

As well as the previously-reported Gakuen Basara 5 and Mame Sengoku Basara 3, AmiAmi is now accepting preorders for Itou Ryuu's Naked Blood manga which currently runs in Capbon magazine. Their page for the book gives a price of ¥630 and a tentative date of early April. The Naked Blood story chronicles Tokugawa Ieyasu's growth over the course of the games, a little like Itou's recent Bloody Angel series which focused on Ishida Mitsunari.

In the US, FUNimation have revealed that a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack will be released on 11th June 2013 containing both seasons of the Sengoku Basara anime for $69.98 (expect to pay half that much with online discounts). This makes sense as the limited edition second season pack has already sold out at some stores. I wonder if they'll use different cover art?

Speaking of video releases, the DVD recording of Butai Sengoku Basara 3 ~Setouchi Kyouran~ also met its early release date this week. My copy's on its way so there'll be a review posted soon.

The last piece of news is that the third Sengoku Basara Fan Club (Eiyuu No Kai) newsletter is scheduled to be despatched to members on the 9th March. Perhaps it will finally trigger some formal announcements of all of the new March merchandise from Capcom themselves? I'm hoping for a track list for the two new 'Best' CDs soon!

Friday 1 March 2013

Nico Nico Douga: MMD Basara Battle Festival

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Miku Miku Dance users of the world had set up a 'Battle Festival' event this weekend, meaning that talentless fans such as myself could enjoy some excellent Sengoku Basara movies with a more bloodthirsty theme than usual. The artistic skill of the Japanese BSR fans is quite humbling. These were my favourites from the first day. Check out the MMDBASARA戦闘祭 tag for a wealth of other celebrations of swordplay if you have time; they look amazing in full quality. The event is planned to last for the rest of the weekend so it's likely I'm not going to get anything productive done as long as people keep uploading brilliant new videos for me to watch...

Simply titled 'Kessen', this video by yurie shows a confrontation between Masamune and Yukimura. It's exceptional in its attention to detail and makes me long for more Sengoku Basara games! The creator took the scene from the superb BONES movie Sword of the Stranger and made it even better.

Anime review: Code Geass Boukoku No Akito (Code Geass: Akito The Exiled) volume 1

After the enormous success of the original anime Code Geass: Hangyaku No Lelouch (Code Geass: Lelouch Of The Rebellion), it was only a matter of time before its makers would try to expand the universe they'd created. Unlike 2012's fluffy spin-off, Nunnally In Wonderland, Akito The Exiled is a serious mini-series with an brand new cast.

The Code Geass television series told a self-contained story which didn't require further expansion, so this follow-up isn't a sequel and doesn't cheapen what came before it. Instead, Sunrise has chosen to produce a four episode OAV set on a different continent to the television series, with a completely different struggle as its backdrop. The events which unfolded in the television series are mentioned in the dialogue as distant world affairs, but for the most part Code Geass: Akito The Exiled stands alone.

Changing all of the characters would usually be a risky thing to do. It helps that Code Geass already had a vast roster of characters in the first place to draw from; whether you warm to the newcomers probably depends to a large extent on whether you were watching the television series for Lelouch himself or for the plot and supporting cast. The new characters have charms of their own, while being far less melodramatic than the old hero.

Another potentially risky decision on the creators' part is that this new series has a much more serious tone than Lelouch's story. The original Code Geass can only truly be enjoyed if you can suspend your disbelief from time to time as the story lurches between tragic and farcical. This OAV takes a different approach and sticks firmly to a more solemn plot. There's no room in its short run time for school hijinks; this is a story about war, persecution and politics. If anything, it reminded me a little of a simpler Gundam 00.

Some people lead complicated lives

The setting this time is Europe, which confusingly means that everyone keeps talking about "Europia United", an alternate future version of the E.U. - I was certain that "Europian" was a spelling error in the subtitles until I realised that it was probably deliberate. To make things seem even more complicated, the enemy is Euro Britannia, the European front of the Holy Britannian Empire. The first episode doesn't expand on things in much detail, instead laying the groundwork for the battles to come by introducing the new main characters and the persecution of Japanese nationals overseas. Even the series' trademark geass powers barely appear at all.

I was startled when the episode came to an end as the fifty minutes had flown by with very little appearing to have happened. The next episode preview which follows is a dreadful tease with a glimpse of a familiar face from Lelouch's story. With the character introductions complete, it looks as though things are going to become much more dramatic from now on.

Visually, the new series is lush. The switch to computer-generated imagery during battle scenes is well done, if rather noticeable. The designs are great, too; the new lead female is sexy with endless legs and Akito himself is a typically attractive (and scrawny) young man with a permanent pout. They'd fit in perfectly next to the original cast.

Code Geass: Boukoku No Akito is available now as either a limited or standard edition Blu-ray. Both versions have English subtitles on the disc, while the limited edition also has an audio commentary, drama CD, deluxe packaging with a textured slipcase, a 24-page booklet of liner notes and a collection of art cards. There's no mention of any region lock on the packaging, though if they are locked it will be to region A, just like standard American anime releases. According to Amazon, the DVD edition also comes with English subtitles. However, I would definitely recommend paying the extra thousand yen for the BD if possible; this is a series which looks stunning in high definition.

With Australia's Madman Entertainment having already staked a claim on the rights to Akito The Exiled and European anime distributor Kaze recently rescuing the original Code Geass: Lelouch Of The Rebellion in the UK, I imagine it's only a matter of time before the other western licensors announce a local edition of this new series. With it coming out one episode at a time in Japan, there'll be pressure from the overseas marketplace to wait until more episodes are available before producing a localised version; buyers have the choice to either wait for that and see the series relatively cheaply, or pick up this excellent Japanese edition complete with English subtitles and get involved with this exciting new Code Geass spin-off sooner rather than later. I already made my choice, and look forward to episode two finally making its way to Blu-ray later this year.