Monday, 5 August 2013

Book review: Basara Style volume 1

I was originally planning to summarise the whole of Basara Style in a single review since it's ancient, however there ended up being so many interesting pieces of information to include that it would have been impossible to organise it neatly! Please note that some of the details in these reviews will be outdated due to the age of the books.

According to the creators, Basara Style is a 'stylish contribution magazine made by the fans x Capcom'. The format is halfway between being a deluxe magazine and a standard fan book; each volume comes with a slipcover and pull-out posters. The Basara Style series ran for seven volumes in total between late 2006 and early 2009 - effectively covering the whole Sengoku Basara 2 period but stopping before the second major wave of fan activity which was triggered by the anime adaptation and Sengoku Basara 3.

Basara Style vol. 1 was originally released on 21st November 2006, a few months after the arrival of Sengoku Basara 2 on Playstation 2. It's the shortest of all of the books at just 96 pages, and it cost ¥1,260. Date Masamune has the honour of appearing on the front cover.

The fold-out poster in this volume is double-sided, with Masamune's CG artwork on one side and a beautiful illustration of him fighting with Sanada Yukumura on the other. The art is credited to Suekane Kumiko, a mangaka perhaps best known for her character design work in Capcom's Gyakuten Saiban (Ace Attorney) series.

This leads nicely into the main feature: Sengoku Heroes, a set of character introductions with comments from series director Yamamoto Makoto. There are character relationship diagrams as well as detailed explanations of their famous lines, equipment, moves and storylines. Each character's section also includes an illustration by a professional artist, so I'll list the contributions below.

Date Masamune 
Illustration: Okamoto Masaki
Includes a column explaining what some of Masamune's famous English lines mean in Japanese so that fans can learn how to use them in everyday conversation.

Oda Nobunaga
Illustration: Ishikawa Hideki
His special column is about the American adaptation of Sengoku Basara, 'Devil Kings'. Nobunaga was made the main character because he's considered to be the most famous Sengoku-era warrior in the west.

Chousokabe Motochika
Illustration: Itsuizumi Mone
Includes an introduction to famous pirates in world history, such as the Vikings, buccaneers, wokou and privateers.

Uesugi Kenshin
Illustration: Okamoto Masaki
Includes information about Naoe Kanetsugu and the symbolism of the ai ('love') kanji on his kabuto helmet, which was said to be an abbreviation of Aizen Myouou (more details). There's also a section about the 'deep-rooted' theory that the real-life Kenshin might have been female. I'll translate that part as it seems to interest a lot of people and this is how Capcom presented it in the magazine: "While it's commonly believed that Kenshin was a man, there are examples of poetry and literature which indicate that he was female. There's even a theory that he was a woman in real life; the famous portraits showing Kenshin with facial hair were painted later on by artists who used their own imagination and there isn't a single picture of Kenshin left which was drawn while he was still alive. Furthermore, with a story circulating about how he suffered from monthly abdominal pains, his gender remains a mystery even now."
Yamamoto added more information in his personal comment on Kenshin's design: "Though we're asked a lot about the matter of Kenshin's gender, even the developers don't know and it's never mentioned. I consider it a taboo area; if you touch a rose carelessly, you'll be pricked by a thorn."

Itsuki
Illustration: Itsuizumi Mone
Her column is about the group of die-hard Itsuki fans from her village who protect her, and there's a section explaining some of the silly jokes in her dialogue like when she addresses Nouhime as the 'demon bride'.

Azai Nagamasa
Illustration: Akutagawa Akira
Includes a large section about the Gohonyari and the concept of justice. The article points out that heroes usually have a rival character, but Nagamasa does not...

Oichi
Illustration: Ishikawa Hideki
Oichi's section is shared with Nagamasa's (since they're a couple), so she doesn't have her own special column.

Yamamoto mentioned that the characters are designed around a 'colour' and a 'silhouette', and he comes back to this several times, noting the similarities between the colours used for Nobunaga and Nagamasa (silver/red). The character selection is a little strange, until you take into account the fact that they wanted to hold back some of the other popular leads to headline future volumes of Basara Style.

The next feature in the magazine is a two-page introduction to the original Sengoku Basara game, then there's a 'special talk battle' between series producer Kobayashi Hiroyuki (KobaP) and seiyuu Nakai Kazuya (Date Masamune). A 'talk battle' is just an interview with a more exciting name than usual. Even though I'm sure other people must have translated this kind of content before, I'll summarise the most interesting points.
  • KobaP had decided that Masamune would be the main character of the game series right from the beginning, with Yukimura as his rival.
  • Choosing their voices was a major part of the character design process.
  • KobaP didn't know Nakai's work well back then, but by chance he'd heard him in his role as Mugen in Samurai Champloo. 
  • In person, Nakai was very quiet and KobaP had heard that he wasn't good with English. But they went to try it out in the studio anyway. 
  • Fortunately it went really well, and Nakai's voice brought the character to life!
  • Nakai felt very nervous; he didn't think he'd be able to handle the English words alone, never mind in front of people watching him scarily. It made him want to run away.
  • Although there was still a lot of work to do, KobaP thinks of that day as the moment Sengoku Basara's Date Masamune was 'born'. It was the day before Christmas Eve, or the 23rd December 2004.
  • It took two months to record all of the main dialogue for Sengoku Basara 2.
  • Nakai's part was recorded in one day on 15th February that year, working from afternoon to night. 
  • Other actors spread their recordings over two-day periods. The examples KobaP gave were Morita Masakazu (Maeda Keiji) and Okiayu Ryoutarou (Toyotomi Hideyoshi); of course, both of them were playing characters who were new to the series at the time and had no previous recordings available for use.
  • The seiyuu were recorded individually for Sengoku Basara and Sengoku Basara 2. There was no opportunity to record in groups for the games.
  • Nakai finds it very difficult to recall and visualise his English lines.
  • Introducing Katakura Kojuurou in Sengoku Basara 2 was a significant change for Masamune. Nakai said that he listened to some of Kojuurou's lines before starting recording and felt that he was the kind of guy who would take care of things.
  • When they were recording a drama CD after the first game, KobaP felt it would be difficult to expand the story of the series without giving Masamune some kind of partner. The Takeda forces had three members but Masamune was alone.
  • During the promotion for Sengoku Basara, KobaP often heard people associate Nakai with Zoro (his character from One Piece). However, lately there had been a strong image of Nakai as Masamune. The character's popularity at the recent Basara Matsuri had been overwhelming.
  • Nakai thinks the secret of Masamune's popularity is his image as a 'fighter'. 
  • KobaP observed that it was a little unusual for a Japanese hero to wear blue. Heroes should wear red, like Yukimura! Of course, the hero of Sengoku Basara 2 is Keiji, whose colour is yellow. Together, the three of them are like a set of traffic lights (note: KobaP isn't making a mistake - in Japan, traffic lights or shingouki are described as red, yellow and blue, rather than the red, yellow and green we use in English). 
  • If he became Masamune for a day, Nakai would prefer not to kill people - he's no good with a blade. Instead, he'd like to ride a horse around, perhaps touring with Kojuurou.
  • KobaP thinks that a lot of the girls who like Sengoku Basara would like to ride a horse too; he was amazed at how many of the 1,000 attendees at Basara Matsuri had been female. He had struggled to spot male fans in the crowd.
  • Even KobaP couldn't explain the reason for the series' tremendous popularity among female fans in particular. He suggested that the acting might be a factor; aside from that, the story contains battles between men, friendship and loving husband-wife couples. Perhaps people found it approachable and easy to empathise with?
  • KobaP was unable to answer a question about what they hoped to do next, but Nakai was more than happy to. He wanted to use Masamune's popularity as a weapon and rule over the country.
  • When he was told that some people had told KobaP they wanted to see Masamune fight with Kojuurou, Nakai was shocked at their cruelty.
After the interview there are no fewer than nine full-colour pages of fan art, followed by another two pages of submissions introduced by guest writer Yumekichi(!). Countless art styles and character groupings are represented in the selections. Cosplay tips and merchandise information follow, then there are another nine pages of drawings and fan letters, a four-page fan fiction story and numerous four-panel comic strips.

The next information column is 'Staff Favorite', which takes a selection of Capcom staff members who worked on the games and asks them about their favourite things. Several of them are no longer with the company so I'll quickly list the odd selection of characters they mentioned as their favourites rather than translating everything.
  • Yamamoto Makoto (director) loved all the characters.
  • Tatsumi Nobuhiro (2D design) chose Shingen.
  • Shiojiri Hideki (head of the 'object team' and in-game events) listed Masamune, Yukimura, Motochika and Hideyoshi.
  • Ootsubo Tomoya (motion) was interested in Keiji, and also in the fourth stage of Kenshin's story mode where he fought at Shingen's side.
  • Yonezuka Hirokazu (backgrounds) liked Kennyo!
  • Okamura Shino (planning, dialogue/text) said it was very hard to choose, eventually settling on Hanbee and Kojuurou.
  • Hama Wataru (sound direction) liked Nouhime and Matsu.
  • Saitou Yasuyuki (main programmer) chose Kanetsugu.
  • Shimamori Akihiro (programmer) said he liked Ujimasa. He remarked that he adored the third stage of Keiji's story mode where he fights Yukimura.
  • Takano Mitsuhiko (background music planning) loved Kojuurou most, followed by Shingen.
The next two pages are devoted to the results of a public questionnaire originally posted on the Sengoku Basara 2 website. I love surveys, so I'm going to translate the results in full. First of all is the traditional character popularity ranking (numbers in brackets are the number of 'points' each received, whatever that means):

1. Date Masamune (301)
2. Chousokabe Motochika (154)
3. Sanada Yukimura (146)
4. Mouri Motonari (98)
5. Maeda Keiji (91)
6. Sarutobi Sasuke (85)
7. Katakura Kojuurou (77)
8. Takenaka Hanbee (62)
9. Akechi Mitsuhide (58)
10. Nouhime (54)
11. Kasuga (45)
12. Oichi (41)
13. Takeda Shingen (36)
14. Itsuki (32)
15. Miyamoto Musashi (27)
16. Mori Ranmaru (23)
17. Gohonyari (18)
17. Oda Nobunaga (18)
19. Yumekichi (17)
20. Toyotomi Hideyoshi (12)

The results are pretty weird. Aniki beat Yukimura, and somehow Yumekichi beat Hideyoshi. Kenshin isn't even in the list but unplayable characters like the Gohonyari are there with as many points as Nobunaga!

The next poll was for fans to vote on which lines from the game left an impression on them:

1. Oyakata-sama~! (Sanada Yukimura)
2. Inochi mijikashi, hito yo koise yo! (Maeda Keiji)
3. Sekkaku no Party da, hade ni tanoshimeyo? (Date Masamune)
4. Anata no jikka ni kusatta ika wo okurimashita yo. (Zabii)
5. Oretachi ha ki no muku mama...kaze no fuku mama da!! (Chousokabe Motochika)

Finally, the third survey asked people which military figures they wanted to see in a sequel:

1. Date Shigezane (121)
2. Sasaki Kojirou (97)
3. Sanada Nobuyuki (75)
4. Ishida Mitsunari (63)
5. Hattori Hanzou (46)
5. Naoe Kanetsugu (46)

Well, I see that Capcom has so far steadfastly ignored most of those requests!

Turning the page provided a break from all of the statistics with a selection of four-panel manga. The comics featured are Matsu, Mairimasureba!! by Shimanda Kiyono, Saitemidareta Sengoku Ranse by Kikuyarou and Nousatsu☆Sexy Body by Mochizuki Kazuomi.

I was wondering why KobaP wasn't included on the staff page and it turned out that he has his own column later on. 'Kobayashi-Producer's Room' contains the following snippets of information:
  • His youth was filled with Super Famicom games such as Super Mario Brothers and The Adventure Of Link. Later on, he got into Weekly Shounen Jump titles such as Saint Seiya and Dragonball, and even now he loves the Mobile Suit Gundam anime series.
  • Back in Sengoku Basara, KobaP's favourite character was Date Masamune.
  • In Sengoku Basara 2, his favourites are Nagamasa and Oichi.
  • His workload is heavy, but on his days off he likes to watch movies, catch up on anime/drama shows he recorded during the week or go shopping (or at least, he did back in 2006 when this article was written). 
The final pages of the book are devoted to a short chapter from Kuori Chimaki's Sengoku Basara 2 Groove'n Dragon manga. This story continued to run in Basara Style throughout its release and was eventually published separately in book form; I plan to review it separately at a later date.

Basara Style vol. 1 is long out of print, though Yesasia still lists it as available at the time of this post. Otherwise, checking used bookstores, online auction sites or Amazon Marketplace is probably the best way to obtain a physical copy of the book. It's surprising how interesting it is to read it again properly so many years after its original publication.

13 comments:

  1. It was especially interesting/funny to read about Nakai. That he was scared of speaking english in front of people, that if he was Masamune he would just ride around on a horse and not kill anyone and that he thought people were cruel to suggest that Masamune and Kojuurou would fight.
    He sounds so sensitive and well, nice! Perhaps it shouldn't be so surprising but his character is so tough and appears to speak english effortlessly.

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    1. Hehe, yeah! I got the impression he was quite introverted from his (infrequent) event appearances but he was especially sweet in that interview.

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  2. I am very disappointed that CAPCOM didn't list in Shigezane as one of the main generals considering the number of votes he received, in the later series but instead did include Mitsunari and Kanetsugu (Kanetsugu isn't a main but still more popular in the fandom).. But that's because I'm biased to Shigezane, haha..

    Though I was looking at thes magazine again and saw that one of the fans requested to include Shigezane even as NPC and I guess CAPCOM did made that one true, since we have Shigezane as an ally starting at SB3..

    I really do hope to play as Shigezane one day..

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    1. I have a feeling they don't like having more than one character from each family in the game, so they pick the most famous individual from each. Shigezane's ally NPC design seems very popular, so they must have noticed that by now...

      Hopefully the new pair combat system will mean that if Shigezane returns as an ally (he must!) it will be possible to do more with him. It would be really nice if he could get to feature in the main story, too!

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  3. Oh yes, I really do hope he'll be back as an ally (without the diorama kabuto hopefully haha) since the new system looks really cool..!

    If Shigezane does get his feature in a main story (fingers crossed), doesn't that mean that there's a high chance that they'll change his design like our 3 newer characters..? But I'm also betting on the chance that they won't because most of the fans are already familiar with his NPC design.. I really love his NPC design already changing it would be like he's a different character altogether..

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    1. Yeah, I think all of the poor ally NPCs who got stuck with the silly diorama kabuto should get to look more sensible next time. I really like Shigezane's Sengoku Basara design too (it's intimidating, in a cool way) but would you like to see him with his famous kabuto or his hair loose, if he ever gets to appear in the main story? :)

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    2. Ummm since in SB3 or Utage (I forgot) they changed his costume entirely to match the rest of the Date and in that change they also included his centipede kabuto, so I guess I don't need to wish for that anymore, haha.. To me his centipede kabuto is very special because it symbolizes his loyalty to the Date.. Except that he doesn't wear it and just hangs it around his neck.. But I'd like to see him wear it sometimes like in Heroes, I realised that there are times that he wears his face mask and then sometimes he doesn't.. I'm not sure if that's just random or depends on which character you play (because I've heard that when you're playing as Masamune, Shigezane's design is the one we know but when you play as another character, Shigezane is a different person)..

      But tbh I really prefer his old costume in Heroes with his dragon decorated long coat because that costume has so much details on it..

      Well, I'm not sure how I feel about changing his hairstyle.. BSR's Shigezane is the version that first made me into researching more about the real historical Shigezane and made me to love the guy as much as I am now, so BSR's Shigezane is very special to me..

      I'm sure you know that Shigezane's design is pretty much the stereotype yakuza/bousouzoku underling design that wears a face mask and have a bob style cut lol and I've long since accepted that.. In fact his face mask was the first thing I realised about him because he's the only one who wears it..

      There's no doubt that if they did change his design at some point, I'd love it as much too but it'll still be kind of weird in a sense.. ^^;

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    3. I don't think I'd ever realised Shigezane's outfit sometimes changed a little. I'm going to play again this weekend and take a closer look to see the difference (especially as it sounds like a good excuse to play as Masamune again to compare).

      That's amazing, that the BSR Shigezane started you on the path to a full-power Shigezane addiction :) I think someone at Capcom must like him too to have given him such a distinctive design.

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  4. I hope you'll review Sengoku Basara 2 Groove'n Dragon someday. I saw several pages from it, and Oichi vs Mitsuhide and Nagamasa allied with Itsuki looked rather intriguing.

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    1. Thank you for the comment. It's in my (very long) queue of titles to review so I'll move it closer to the top! :)

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  5. :I Kenshin and Itsuki not even ranking in spite of the Gohonyari smells fishy. Do you have any clue what happened there? Maybe there's some anti-ice conspiracy?! xD Just kidding. Still, weird...

    Thanks again for providing this info.

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    1. Itsuki made it in! I have absolutely no idea why the voting was so strange. Did all of the Nobunaga and Kenshin fans conspire to vote for Nouhime and Kasuga instead? But even so, losing to Yumekichi and a bunch of comedy characters seems very difficult to believe...

      I should really finish reviewing this series of books. The magazine reviews take so long now that I end up never getting around to the rest of my review backlog ;_;

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    2. I feel embarrassed, I somehow overlooked her, huh! But yeah, something odd definitely happened...

      Well take your time. It's more a service to those fans who can't really read these things in detail anyway, I think, and we all appreciate whatever information you can glean from it for us, I'm sure.

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