To give some backstory for the benefit of readers who come across this review in the future, Sengoku Basara 4 was announced back in March and one major character from the history of the series was particularly notable for his absence in the line-up. Capcom had been teasing that Yukimura would be the cover star of the second issue of the magazine for months, but after its release date had slipped by a month and the cover artwork still hadn't been confirmed, even the most optimistic fans had started to become concerned about the Takeda's 'young tiger'.
Consequently, the final unveiling of the magazine's cover late at night on the Sunday before its Tuesday release date was big news, finally confirming that Sanada Yukimura would be appearing in the newest game. A flood of relief and delight swept across the Japanese fandom when people finally saw his face on the cover with the announcement right beside it.
Now that the excitement has (mostly) settled down, I can review the full 120-page magazine at my leisure to see if there is anything else to confirm hidden within its pages. Tousaku has been working hard posting detailed translations of most of the magazine's contents on Tumblr. It doesn't make any sense to duplicate all of that information so instead I'll link to the excellent Tumblr posts, only including notes on the Sengoku Basara 4 content where I might want to refer back to it myself in future.
So, onto the magazine. The bonus items are similar to before: an exclusive Mame Sengoku Basara rubber strap featuring Yukimura and the newest Showgeki Basara Talk! Masamune & Kojuurou No Maki Vol. 2 CD with Nakai Kazuya (Date Masamune) and Morikawa Toshiyuki (Katakura Kojuurou). The CD contains three skits. The first two are a response session where they go through questions from readers and a 'live' drama performance, 'Basara Challenge!'. This is all about Masamune and Kojuurou trying out some fine cuisine in one of the series' many absurd 'what if' scenarios. The third segment is a 'Basara Fever Game', where the pair have to keep coming up with words relating to a theme without breaking the game's rhythmic chant. Strangely, they had the most success when the theme was US states. There are also the usual opening/closing greetings from the two seiyuu. It's a great CD, and I love the way the two of them suddenly slip into character when required. Hearing them squabbling good-naturedly is worth the price of the magazine!
Speaking of the magazine, it opens straight into the Sengoku Basara 4 feature collating information about the thirteen commanders we've seen revealed for the new game. The information is strewn haphazardly over each page and includes profiles, quotations, comments from the creators, information about the historical figures and large versions of the character artwork we've seen before. I'm just going to list the key points I thought were completely new for the magazine; read the page I linked to above for full translations of the character pages and the quotes!
- Sanada Yukimura has become even more hot-blooded, and even more pure this time. We'll see that they've created a 'powered up' Yukimura with a new feel. He had a depressing time in Sengoku Basara 3, so now he's going back to his original straightforward, hot-blooded self after getting over those heavy experiences. Aside from the newly-announced Yukimura, they still can't say who else will be representing the Takeda forces this time...
- Highlights of Date Masamune's story will include his first meeting with Kojuurou as Bontenmaru and his deep relationship with Katsuie. Masamune will be able to offer Katsuie guidance despite belonging to different factions. The younger Masamune will look the same as he does now, though Nakai Kazuya will give him a younger voice. The idea behind Masamune calling himself the 'Dragon King' is to put him on the same level as Nobunaga and Hideyoshi (the 'Demon King' and the 'Conqueror King').
- A 'happy' Ishida Mitsunari will be seen since the game depicts the time when Hideyoshi is still alive. There's a scene showing the first meeting between Mitsunari and Sakon. Does the name Sakon goes by (Sakon means 'close to the left') derive from Mitsunari's nickname of 'Hideyoshi's left arm'?
- Shima Sakon feels the same way about Mitsunari as Mitsunari feels about Hideyoshi. The staff chose 'gambling' as the keyword this time, likening switching between his two fighting styles (kicks and twin swords) to the concept of gambling on odds or evens.
- Shibata Katsuie's portrayal is based on the idea of how things might have turned out if the real Katsuie was unable to get over the failure of his second rebellion against Nobunaga. KobaP joked that his kabuto resembled an electrical plug. His bobbed haircut was chosen to evoke the image of straight lines, and his signature colour isn't green but iridescent, appearing green or black depending on the light. (Note: the Japanese word for iridescent refers to the tamamushi insect which can often appear a brilliant green, so please have that kind of hue in mind rather than the more ethereal colours that the English word might insinuate.)
- The real-life Yamanaka Shikanosuke was a warrior who persistently fought to restore the fallen Amago family, yet here he appears as a boy detective who travels searching for a missing person!? He's summed up as a 'transforming hero + boy detective', and on that note Yamamoto said he wanted to try something like Saint Seiya. The relationship between Shikanosuke and Oyassan is like that of a veteran detective and a junior. Amago Haruhisa's popularity in the BSR48 character ranking was noted in the main article; Shikanosuke calls him 'Haru-sama' as he goes around searching under the protection of Yoshiteru, to whom he has a deep connection.
- Gotou Matabee is described as comically dark, and watching him stalking the people he has a grudge against should cause some laughs. He harbours ill feelings towards Yukimura too because of their historical ties at the Osaka sieges. The late arrival of the Sanada forces led to his defeat at the hands of the Date army. KobaP describes him as a 'revenge demon' - the kind of person who will sneak up and kill you in your sleep.
- It's the first time that Katakura Kojuurou, beloved by fans, has been playable from the start in a main 'numbered' Sengoku Basara game. They want to explore his feelings as the Date army grows in scale.
- Toyotomi Hideyoshi's revival is a signal for the revival of the Toyotomi army. Hideyoshi and Hanbee will have some new moves since they didn't appear in Sengoku Basara 3; in a sense that they're like completely new characters. Furthermore, there was a live dialogue performed at the Busho Matsuri 2013 event where Hideyoshi spoke about Ieyasu's estrangement - will the future of the Toyotomi turn out differently to the way it did in Sengoku Basara 3..? (Note: Ieyasu featuring in Sengoku Basara 4 has to be one of the worst-kept secrets of this entire magazine...)
- We can look forward to seeing how Mitsunari and Sakon grow more involved with the Toyotomi forces and how Takenaka Hanbee might take charge of them. Hanbee is Hideyoshi's 'right arm', so seeing him alongside Mitsunari is something that fans have been hoping for. In Sengoku Basara 2, Hanbee tormented the Date and Takeda forces with ingenious tricks. In Sengoku Basara 4, which other warriors will be harassed by this guy's intellect?
- Oda Nobunaga will have confrontations with Hideyoshi and Yoshiteru and takes no notice of Katsuie following his change in position. When asked why he thought Nobunaga didn't kill Katsuie after his second rebellion, Yamamoto answered that he wouldn't have been worth killing. Much to his despair, neither Mitsuhide nor Nobunaga treats Katsuie as anything more than a regular soldier.
- Mitsuhide and Nobunaga are the same as ever, both going at their own pace - but Nobunaga is alive again this time around instead of dead the way he was in Sengoku Basara 3. And Mitsuhide is Akechi Mitsuhide rather than Tenkai. He's wandering around working towards some kind of hidden agenda.
- Ashikaga Yoshiteru's 'restoration of heavenly rule' is a reference to the 'restoration of imperial rule' (Taisei Houkan) which occurred during the Bakumatsu period in real-life history and brought an end to the Tokugawa shogunate. Yoshiteru is someone who sits above Nobunaga and Hideyoshi - like a celestial being or a god. When asked whether Yoshiteru was a seiyuu parody, KobaP laughed and protested that there was no way that was the case - his armour was reddish from the outset and it had nothing to do with that character Ikeda Shuuichi is famous for playing.
Another interview follows to start off the Yukimura-themed coverage. It features both of the main actors for Yukimura, i.e. seiyuu Hoshi Souichirou and stage actor Hosogai Kei. The text is accompanied by a large number of photographs of the pair of them fooling around (even though Hoshi always looks serious). They're both adorably devoted Yukimura fans, and for some reason it always seems as though they work together perfectly. The interview flowed really well. Hosogai mentioned that he was sad that he was going to be separated from everyone in the Takeda group when it was decided he would graduate from the stage play.
Then it's full throttle for the 'Yukimura Chronicle' feature, which traces his appearances through the past games, anime and drama CDs. YamamotoD added some comments too at the bottom of each page which included these tidbits.
- Along with Date Masamune, Sanada Yukimura was one of the characters created right at the very start of the series. At first a jinbaori costume was under consideration since Masamune was wearing armour like a Sengoku-era military commander, yet they settled on a modern-style leather jacket for Yukimura. Well, leather goods were around back in those days... Yamamoto noted that he was pleased that the design turned out nicely.
- The Takeda Dojo story was really popular, and they were able to remake it for the drama CD and anime series. Yamamoto even personally requested it at the Bushou Matsuri 2013 event. Masamune's side story from Sengoku Basara 2 Eiyuu Gaiden (Heroes) was huge too.
- Yukimura's links with Yoshihiro in Sengoku Basara 3 and the anime are deliberate, a reference to a real member of the Shimazu clan reportedly naming him 'Nippon Ichi No Tsuwamono' ('The Number One Soldier In Japan') out of respect.
The next feature article is a large interview with Hosogai Kei (again) and Kubota Yuuki, Masamune's stage actor. The two of them discuss their graduation from the Butai Sengoku Basara plays. It was very difficult to read this interview; it made me feel emotional seeing them both graciously passing the torch to the new actors.
Short photo reports about the two last stage play events come next: Butai Sengoku Basara 3 Utage and Butai Sengoku Basara Bushou Matsuri 2013. All of these photo reports tie in nicely with the advertisements running in the magazine convincing people to buy the upcoming event DVDs.
The cross-promotion gets more blatant on the handful of pages which round up the newest Sengoku Basara merchandise on offer, then the charming fan contribution section provides a mix of enthusiastic amateur artwork sent in by readers. Right at the end of the fan submissions are some special survey results! The ranking comes from the questionnaire in the first issue which was themed around Date Masamune, so there is a mild bias visible in the responses. However, it seems that Mitsunari's dominance over Yukimura in recent polls isn't completely set in stone...
Favourite warrior in the series:
1. Date Masamune
2. Katakura Kojuurou
3. Sanada Yukimura
4. Ishida Mitsunari
5. Chousokabe Motochika
6. Mouri Motonari
7. Sarutobi Sasuke
8. Takenaka Hanbee
9. Tokugawa Ieyasu
10. Saika Magoichi
10. Maeda Keiji
Favourite line of dialogue in the series:
1. Let's Party! (Date Masamune)
2. Dokuganryuu ha Date ja nee...You See? (Date Masamune)
3. Are you ready guys? (Date Masamune)
4. Oushuu Hittou Date Masamune, oshitemairu!! (Date Masamune)
5. Miro! Zouo ga! Eigou ni! Rinne suru! (Ishida Mitsunari)
Favourite scene in the series:
1. The confrontation between Masamune and Kojuurou in Sengoku Basara 2 Eiyuu Gaiden (Heroes)
2. Masamune versus Yukimura from Sengoku Basara 3
3. Sasuke scolding Yukimura in Sengoku Basara 3 Utage
4. Masamune beating Hideyoshi using Kojuurou's sword from Sengoku Basara Two
5. Masamune versus Mitsunari from Sengoku Basara -The Last Party-
Next comes the manga. The first two stories are continuations: Satta Naoto's Sengoku Basara ~Soul Revolution~ takes Masamune and Kojuurou into the heart of the endless antagonism between Motochika and Motonari (via some very unorthodox riding double on a horse), while Sumeragi's Mame Sengoku Basara (Shucchouban) explores Yukimura's Sengoku Basara 3 story with a twist as his recurring dreams are haunted by Kingo and Kanbee.
KobaP's tiny-yet-awkwardly-titled column Kobayashi HiroyukiP No Kyou Mo Basara Na Hi is slipped in before the next comic. While he doesn't reveal anything new his column is very sweet this time, praising the series for the encounters that it's enabled him to have and enthusing over how it's special amongst all of the games he's worked on. YamamotoD has a new column on the next page which is the start of a new series about the process of turning a historical commander into a Basara commander. The first article is all about Mitsunari. Most of the content has been well known since the Sengoku Basara 3 era as Yamamoto has already spoken at length about the design of the characters from the previous game; still, I always love reading his insights into blending history with fantasy to create the series' signature style.
The third manga in this issue of the magazine is a sample from the recent Sengoku Basara Comic Anthology 'Takedagun Chronicle' book, with the 4-koma gag collection Takeki Koto, Homura No Gotoku ('Ferocious, Like A Blaze') by Hakyu Shou. I read this just the other day after buying the book so it was probably the least interesting part of the entire magazine.
The magazine wraps up with the preview for volume three which is scheduled for release in autumn 2013, once again priced at ¥2,400. Ieyasu is going to be the star and appear on the cover, in a special article and on the rubber Mame Sengoku Basara strap. The main feature will be another look at Sengoku Basara 4 - it teases that there might be some new commanders to look out for - while the next Showgeki Basara Talk! bonus CD will be presented by Hoshi Souichirou (Sanada Yukimura) and Koyasu Takehito (Sarutobi Sasuke). It's marked as 'volume one' so it will probably run for two issues like the first set.
There will also be more manga: Mame Sengoku Basara (Shucchouban) will include an appearance by Ieyasu next time, Soul Revolution will explore the connection between Mitsunari's arraival and the ominous black mist, and there'll be a brand-new Wan-Nyan Sengoku Basara (tentative title) slice-of-life manga by Tane Jugou which reimagines the commanders in the series as cute animals. It's said to be a one-shot rather than an ongoing series, sadly.
Like many Japanese magazines, Sengoku Basara Magazine comes with a special survey card you can use to provide feedback with the incentive of a prize. Some of the questions are a little interesting, asking which illustrator or manga artist fans would like to see create a Sengoku Basara comic or illustration in future ("it can be anyone"), which of the new characters most interests them and who they want to see in Sengoku Basara 4 other than the characters announced so far. The results will be published in future.
Well, that wraps up my thoughts on the second issue of Sengoku Basara Magazine. Let's hope the third doesn't suffer from any delays!