Friday, 12 July 2013

Manga review: Sengoku Basara Comic Anthology 'Dategun Chronicle'

The 126-page Sengoku Basara Comic Anthology 'Dategun Chronicle' was released by ASCII Media Works in the Dengeki Comics EX line on 27th March 2013. Priced at ¥850 (¥893 with taxes), it can be purchased from all good import book stores and manga specialists such as YesasiaAmazon Japan or CD Japan.

As the title implies, Dategun Chronicle is the first of the many Sengoku Basara manga anthologies to be themed around the Date army. That doesn't mean that other characters don't show up - it's just that when they do, it's usually during one of the scenes from Masamune or Kojuurou's storylines in the games. Each strip tends to have a humorous atmosphere loaded with in-jokes. Because I already follow most of the artists in the doujinshi world, the entire book feels like a fan doujinshi anthology; it's incredible that it's an official release.

The cover art was contributed by artist Ashika Nozomu and the same picture is included inside as well without the text covering it. Sazanami Ichiya and Tsutsumi Yoshisada provide additional colour illustrations at the front of the book.

The rest of the anthology is composed of standalone manga stories, each just a few pages long in order to cram a huge number of contributing artists into this slim book. I've summarised the contents below.

Oushuu Udezumou Matsuri (The Oushuu Arm Wrestling Festival)
from Sengoku Basara 3 Utage
Sasakura Kou
There's trouble brewing amongst the soldiers which can only be solved by...an arm wrestling match. Things start to get silly when Masamune and Kojuurou join in and raise the stakes, and it's only a matter of time before their contest is interrupted by the arrival of Yukimura, Mitsunari and Ieyasu. It's wonderful to see Sasakura drawing Sengoku Basara again (she was the artist for one of the official manga adaptations and used to be very active in the series' doujinshi scene).

Ubawareshi Migime No Are (That Of The Stolen Right Eye)
from Sengoku Basara 3 Utage
Arai Karo
As the Date forces retreat from their defeat at Odawara, Kojuurou encounters Hisahide. Masamune is incapacitated on his horse so it's down to Kojuurou to negotiate his way past the unwelcome guest. Perhaps he can convince Hisahide to be compliant with some vegetables?

Oosakajo No Himitsu (The Secret Of Osaka Castle)
from Sengoku Basara Battle Heroes
S. Kosugi
Masamune charges to Osaka Castle to rescue Kojuurou from the Toyotomi army, only to find him relaxing and growing vegetables in the castle's vast grounds. Before the pair can make their getaway, they spot Hideyoshi and Hanbee picnicking nearby and Masamune ends up in a heated argument with his enemies.

Oni [Tengu] No Kakuran (A Tengu Falls Sick)
from Sengoku Basara 3
Ashika Nozomu
The title of this story is based on an idiom: 'oni no kakuran' refers to a sickness which affects someone who is normally healthy. Since it's about Kojuurou and he occasionally appears as Tengu Kamen, the title uses tengu as an alternative to the usual oni. The setting is a simple one; Kojuurou falls ill during an ambitious campaign and keeps fussing about Masamune despite his obvious suffering.

Ryuu No Daigo (The Dragon's Finest)
from Sengoku Basara 3
Ameno Rona
After Kojuurou grabs his master's sword to stop him killing Yukimura at Ueda castle, Masamune is troubled by his retainer's lack of caution. He scolds him for being so reckless in his usual gruffly affectionate way.

Souku Mamire Deathmatch (A Deathmatch Smeared Azure And Crimson)
from Sengoku Basara 2
Tane Jugou
Masamune and Yukimura are excited about meeting up for a good fight. They're so excited that they're both having difficulty controlling their wild imaginations, and their long-awaited encounter ends up going wrong in all kinds of ways.

Ryuu Ha Akatsuki Ni Mau (The Dragon Dances At Dawn)
from Sengoku Basara 2 Eiyuu Gaiden (Heroes)
Kuromura Moto
Masamune receives an unexpected pep talk from two of his soldiers as he worries about Kojuurou, who has headed off in pursuit of Hisahide.

Masamune-sama No Zunda Mochi (Masamune-sama's Soybean Rice Cakes)
from Sengoku Basara 3
Kyunkichi
Kojuurou becomes distraught when he finds that the precious zunda mochi Masamune made for him have become mouldy. The disappointment soon turns to panic when Masamune arrives before he manages to dispose of the evidence.

Hana To Haranari (Flowers And Rumbling Stomachs)
from Sengoku Basara 3 Utage
Tanso
The Eastern Army has gathered for a hanami party. As they watch the blossoms, Kingo - who is also present, for some reason - babbles happily about Kojuurou's delicious vegetables, eventually irritating Masamune.

Aratanaru Tatakai (A New Battle)
from Sengoku Basara 2
Taki Hiromu
Sasuke is shocked to hear that the Date army is fighting within itself and rushes to investigate. When he gets there, he sees Masamune and Kojuurou facing one another with their weapons drawn, surrounded by fallen Oushuu soldiers. What on earth is going on?

Oyasai Tamashii (Vegetable Soul)
from Sengoku Basara 3
Yamamoto Akko
Masamune proudly tells Kojuurou that he'll take good care of his garden while he's away. Unfortunately, the instant that Kojuurou leaves the Maeda family arrives and things start to go wrong very quickly.

Tsuki No Ken (Sword Of The Moon)
from Sengoku Basara 2 Eiyuu Gaiden (Heroes)
Tachibana Akira
After the tense ending to Kojuurou's storyline from the game, Masamune is training alone when he encounters two of his loyal soldiers. While they're worried about their master and want to help him relax, they're shocked when he tells them to join him for some sparring. Will they even survive the experience?

Kojuurou No Honki (Kojuurou's Seriousness)
from Sengoku Basara 2 Eiyuu Gaiden (Heroes)
Kurubushi
Left behind to nurse his wounds after Hisahide's meddling, Masamune anxiously follows a path of destruction in the hope of tracking down his Right Eye. He's astounded by the carnage.

Saiki No Saki He (To The Rallying Point)
from Sengoku Basara 3 Utage
Kohtake Hiroyoshi
A collection of 4-koma gag strips chronicling Kojuurou's entire story mode in the most recent game. He encounters Hisahide, visits Kenshin and Kasuga and then runs into Ieyasu, occasionally chatting with the soldiers as he goes.

Ten Wo Kake, Chi Wo Kakeru (Soar In The Heavens, Run On The Ground)
from Sengoku Basara 3/Sengoku Basara 3 Utage
Hakyu Shou
More 4-koma comedy spanning two full games. This set of strips is more character-based instead of sticking to the storyline for inspiration.

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In summary, this is a fantastic volume of manga for anyone who loves Masamune and Kojuurou. Hardcore fans of the other characters would be better off sticking to the earlier anthologies as they have a much more balanced roster; it's not really worth picking up Dategun Chronicle if you don't like the leads. With the Takedagun Chronicle coming out later this month it's possible we'll see more of these themed books in the future to give all of the main factions a chance to have their turn in the spotlight.

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