Saturday, 5 July 2014

Anime review: Sengoku Basara Judge End episode 1

I don't usually do episode-by-episode anime reviews but this series is special. Given that so many reviewers complained that the earlier Sengoku Basara adaptations were difficult to follow I wanted to gather as much information as I could to help new viewers.

This is my second time watching the first episode; I already posted some spoilers from it earlier in the week. Animate TV posted some teaser screenshots yesterday too. I can now confirm that the music is credited to Tokuda Masahiro and the new female narrator seems to be Saiga Mitsuki.

How to watch

I'm going to edit this part of the post a few times as more announcements are made.

These are the official ways to watch Sengoku Basara Judge End at the moment:

Television (Japan only)
The initial television broadcast on NTV is at 1:50 every Sunday morning (this is written as 25:50 in broadcast notation). The first episode's broadcast time was later than normal since it was scheduled for 26:05. The YTV and BS Nittere broadcasts are shown a week late.

NTV On Demand (Japan only)
This is a premium service. Fans can pay ¥900 to watch the whole series or ¥300 to see an individual episode. The previous week's episode is shown for free on Fridays and Saturdays. The series airs slightly early at 24:00 local time on Saturdays.

Hulu (Japan only)
Fans who pay the ¥933 monthly fee can watch the episodes slightly ahead of the broadcast time.

d Anime Store (Japan only)
Another premium service. The latest episode will be made available as part of their ¥400 monthly subscription.

These Japanese services will also be streaming Judge End; if you can't wait then it might be worth checking them to see whether any work in your region. I imagine they'll make the episodes available shortly after the television broadcast.

AcTVila, Bandai Channel, Best Hit Anime Douga, DMM.com, Google Play, GyaO Store, Happy Douga Anime, Hikari TV, JCOM On Demand, Movie Full+, Nico Nico Official Channel, Rakuten Showtime, Tsutaya TV, TV Dogatch, U-NEXT, Video Market

I'll add links to the official international streams as soon as they're announced:

FUNimation (US only)
The episodes will be streamed weekly on Saturdays at 12:05pm CST with English subtitles. FUNimation also have the home video rights, so if the stream is popular the series might eventually be dubbed into English.
Source

Anime Digital Network (France only)
ADN will be offering the series online with French subtitles. They charge a monthly fee for the service.
Source

J-ONE (France only)
A French-subtitled broadcast will take place on J-ONE - Canalsat (50) and Numericable (38). The full details are coming soon.
Source

Like many fans around the world I live in a country which has been excluded from the licensed simulcasts so far (thanks, anime industry!). In spite of this treatment I feel very strongly about supporting the official western version when it's available rather than resorting to piracy. The Japanese distributors will use the official viewing figures to see how successful the show has been while the US anime distributors like FUNimation use them to decide whether to give new titles home video releases, whether to dub them and whether to go the extra mile and produce a high quality premium release. If we want Sengoku Basara Judge End to receive a decent western release and raise awareness of the series, we need to make sure people are watching the official streams if possible. Please get your friends to watch it too if you can so that the industry can see that there's an audience out there.

I'd rather not say how I'm watching the Japanese streams but it's not that difficult to find a method with some searching.

Summary

The rest of this post contains spoilers for the first episode of Sengoku Basara Judge End and some very low quality screenshots.

This was my second time watching the episode. It was every bit as exciting the second time around; I really loved this alternate take on the story even if it had a different tone to the previous anime.

Since it's a retelling of the story from the Sengoku Basara 3 game (released in the west as Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes), many fans will already have an idea of what will happen even before they start watching. I recommend checking the game out if you've never played it or are new to the series.

The most important thing to understand about Sengoku Basara Judge End is that it has nothing to do with the previous anime adaptations other than sharing some characters and settings. The timeline is different, the character relationships are different and if the staff are telling the truth, the ending is going to be very different as well. Trying to match what happens to events from the earlier anime will be extremely frustrating.

Before the series starts

Prior to the events in Judge End, the warlord Oda Nobunaga was betrayed and killed at Honnouji by his retainer Akechi Mitsuhide. It's not mentioned in the anime's introduction but both Nouhime and Mori Ranmaru were said to have gone down with Nobunaga.

Akechi Mitsuhide was then defeated by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who went on to lead his powerful army across the land.

Episode 1: Ketsubetsu ('Farewells')

The episode begins by introducing the setting and treating existing fans to a familiar scene. The Toyotomi army is attacking Odawara Castle and Sanada Yukimura is eager to discuss the matter with his lord, Takeda Shingen.


As the two exchange punches, the battle at Odawara is raging on and things don't look good for the Houjou forces. The men standing at Hideyoshi's side are Takenaka Hanbee, Ishida Mitsunari, Tokugawa Ieyasu and Ootani Yoshitsugu (often referred to as Gyoubu).

As he struggles with his aides (and bad back), the ageing Houjou Ujimasa cries out for support from one of his key fighters, legendary ninja Fuuma Kotarou.


Meanwhile, Kotarou is watching the ninja defenders being torn apart by the Saika faction's guns.

The Saika-shuu didn't appear in the previous anime series so for the benefit of newcomers I'll explain that they're a group of mercenaries led by Saika Magoichi, a strong-minded woman with plenty of firearms at her command. 'Saika Magoichi' is the title for the group's current leader rather than an actual name. They're working for the Toyotomi forces at the time of this battle to help them take the castle.


While all of this has been unfolding, Date Masamune has charged ahead of his army and is heading towards Odawara. He's pursued by his retainer Katakura Kojuurou, who is furious. Masamune intends to make a quick strike in the middle of the fighting. As he thinks of his rival, Yukimura, word of the Date intrusion reaches Kai. Yukimura is thrilled at the prospect of battle, but Takeda Shingen reacts with caution, warning Yukimura that there are other forces at work.


Ieyasu takes a group of his troops to meet with some Houjou soldiers. Flying warrior Honda Tadakatsu and the new anime-only character Sakai Tadatsugu are both at his side. As the soldiers gingerly step outside the safety of their castle gate a gunshot rings out, and a squad of Toyotomi soldiers led by Yoshitsugu ambush them and take the gate. Yoshitsugu thanks Ieyasu - who is mortified - for tricking the soldiers into trusting him in order to make the plan a success.


While neither Takeda Shingen nor his rival Uesugi Kenshin are at the battlefield in person, their ninja spies are watching from the sidelines with great interest. Sasuke teases Kasuga as usual.


The Toyotomi forces hear about the approaching Date army and Hideyoshi gives Mitsunari permission to head them off. He furiously rushes away to confront the aggressors.


Meanwhile, a disillusioned Ieyasu meets with Hideyoshi - who has been left completely undefended. Ieyasu tells him that he disagrees with his methods, observing that Hideyoshi has changed. Hideyoshi brushes off Ieyasu's objections and Ieyasu casts his spear aside, rising to Hideyoshi's challenge for the sake of his ideals.


Far away from the main camp, Mitsunari confronts Masamune and Kojuurou by himself.


The battle is fierce; the maedate crest on Masamune's helmet is broken and a great deal of blood is spilled.


Back at the Toyotomi camp the fight has become so intense that it destroys the entire building. Hideyoshi seems to be dominating at first.


Hanbee sees the glow of Ieyasu's counterattack from his vantage point and panics. At the same time, Mitsunari abandons the defeated Masamune and Kojuurou and dashes back towards his lord. He comes across a fallen Hanbee who tells him to carry on to Hideyoshi. Mitsunari rushes off again after moving Hanbee to safety.


On the way, a wounded soldier reports that Ieyasu has rebelled. Mitsunari strikes him down without a moment of hesitation, saying that Ieyasu isn't that kind of person.

Moments later, Mitsunari is faced with Hideyoshi's broken body. He eventually spots Ieyasu watching over them and confronts him, but he's unable to understand the other man's words. Ieyasu finishes by telling him that this is farewell. He flies away on Tadakatsu, leaving Mitsunari alone with his grief.


Mitsunari carries Hideyoshi's body back to where he left Hanbee, who treats it as a happy reunion.


Hanbee's weak voice then fades as he falls to the ground himself, dead. Mitsunari breaks down in horror.


Yoshitsugu calmly watches over Mitsunari as he curses Ieyasu's name, vowing to kill his old friend.


A handful of shots show what's happening elsewhere in Japan. Maeda Keiji appears first; he has a personal history with Hideyoshi so these events will come as a shock to him.


We also see Uesugi Kenshin, Kasuga's master and Shingen's longtime rival:


Oichi, wandering alone surrounded by dark hands:


The chipper Kobayakawa 'Kingo' Hideaki, munching on his favourite nabe stew. His advisor Tenkai is standing in the background, looking away at the sky:


Tsuruhime, a character who didn't appear in the previous anime adaptation:


Kuroda Kanbee, another new face for anime-only fans. He seems to be locked away in a cell rather than helping on the battlefield (that's where he was at the beginning of the game):


Mouri Motonari, the cunning tactician with a cruel streak:


Shimazu Yoshihiro, the grizzled old warrior who appeared in the previous anime:


...and Chousokabe Motochika, Motonari's bitter rival:


The straggling soldiers from the Date army find Masamune and Kojuurou lying defeated on the ground, forgotten. The episode ends with a splash screen announcing that 100 days remain until the Battle of Sekigahara.


I like the pleasant ending sequence and Ishikawa Chiaki's song, Hokkyokusei ~Polaris~.


The next episode will be titled Ranse ('Troubled Times'). I'm looking forward to it!

16 comments:

  1. Over all it was a good episode, and I was very exited about it . I dont mind Mitsunari with Hideyoshi and hanbe, but when he is by himself .... I just dont understand how he defeated Masamune and Kojuro TOGETHER. Hideyoshi was easily defeated too. It is a very good anime of Basara but I never liked the story of the 3 and I played all the game.

    Thanks a lot for the summary

    ps: Why is it not T.M. revolution who sing the opening? Do you know? ^-^

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    1. I'm not sure why T.M.Revolution isn't performing the opening this time; the only thing I can think of is that he'd already signed up to too many other commitments (the summer festival season is starting off and he's also promoting his new song for Disk Wars at the moment. Or perhaps someone on the team is a fan of Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas and thought a different song would help set the series apart from the previous adaptation...?

      I hope we get an exciting T.M.R. song for the next game, at least. Hopefully they'll be ready to start promoting a future Sengoku Basara 4 expansion after the anime finishes ^^

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    2. That would be so great to have a T.M.R. song for the next expansion. I hope they will begin to talk about it after the anime . I have faith in the come back of Nohime and Ranmaru lol I just so much love Basara :) And thank for the anwser!

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    3. Yeah, we need to see Nouhime and Ranmaru in the game series again soon!

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  2. My thoughts:

    The feel is very different. It starts with music that sounds like it’s from an epic Western,
    and yes the animation is much more low quality. Some characters like Yukimura look quite different, (Yukimura looks good though) I’d like to know how Otani got so buff.

    Holy shit it was fast paced. Unfortunately, because of that fast pace and low budget, I thought that the emotional scenes like Mitsunari meeting Ieyasu again and carrying Hideyoshi, didn’t have the impact they should have. What happened to Hanbei still makes me feel ╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ though, he was all cute and wore a yukata then he died at the same time screw this. Hope H&H gets to be in flashbacks.

    The fightscene between Mitsun and Masa/Koju was great. Bloody and intense so it felt more dangerous and urgent unlike some previous anime fights were they just beat on each other for a long time with not much effect. Total schadenfreude when Masa didn’t get to finish his usual cool intro phrase. He did have some nice English as usual ”GO STRAIGHT! STOP!” Lol. Some viewers must be so confused now - he rides an ordinary horse!

    Very nice to see Magoichi appear & the glimpses of the other characters.

    The lack of budget and lack of Sawano or composer of the same calibre is sad.
    The plot is what makes this interesting, and hopefully there will be more good fight scenes. I feel both disappointed and also excited about this anime!

    Good thing Funimation picked it up.

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    1. Well as a fan I'm comparing this to the previous SB anime. I wonder what first time viewers of anything Basara-related think of this.

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    2. This new, more muscular Gyoubu is quite strange, indeed! I like that he was shown to be quite cunning and difficult to read; he's already had better characterisation than in The Last Party and it's only been one episode.

      Even though I like Masamune and Kojuurou, I was happy seeing them crushed so overwhelmingly this time. I'm not sure how Mitsunari's attacks managed to take them by surprise so effectively but it was great to watch (´∀`)

      The French screening was strange because when Hanbee was slipping away the whole room seemed to be holding its breath in horror. And people had been cheering so much when he first appeared; I had no idea there were so many Hanbee fans in Europe. Hopefully we'll see a few more glimpses of the two of them later on ;_;

      The pacing probably feels very different depending on the viewer. Since I'd gone through the drama of Mitsunari denying that Ieyasu could have betrayed him then gradually coming to terms with it quite recently again in the stage plays, I think I subconsciously 'filled in the gaps' and felt the same kind of emotions in response. But as you say, if I imagine watching it after playing the game series or as a new viewer, the emotional moments would probably fly by way too quickly.

      I hope that Funimation can get the first episode online quickly. It's annoying that they have it as it always means that the rest of the English-speaking world is left out (why can't everything have a global simulcast like Sailor Moon as well?), but it's encouraging that they're continuing to support the series. At the AX panel where it was announced they said something about it being a special moment for them because they'd announced the acquisition of the previous anime at the same convention in the past, so it sounds as though they're going to take good care of the show.

      On that note I'm a little discouraged at how few people seem to want to the show so far. Hopefully that will improve as soon as there are subtitles available so more viewers can understand what's going on; newcomers probably aren't going to want to check out the raw Japanese versions. I'm tempted to check out Funimation's subtitles too when the time comes - it won't hurt to watch the episode again for the sixth time, right?

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    3. Well Mitsunari IS incredibly fast. It makes sense that they weren’t prepared for that. It was surprising to see them without their army also.

      The French audience clearly had good taste :)

      I’m glad Funimation has SB again because that means future DVDs and they have done a generally good job before with the dialogue/voices. It *is* annoying though that their streams are only aimed at the U.S audience. I wonder when they will start streaming it, seems there are many impatient english-speaking fans.

      Everything might have happened so quickly in the first episode because they were in a hurry to get the background story over with. Can’t properly judge Judge End until after more episodes. I really want to know what will happen next!! Will it be based on certain character’s stories or make up something new? Who will form alliences with whom?

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    4. Yes, I really wish FUNimation would stream worldwide (outside Japan and countries with local streams already). There are 22 ways that fans in Japan can watch, and so far none anywhere else other than the US and France! It doesn't seem right when there are fans spread across so many countries.

      It would make much more sense if one of the free Japanese broadcasts was worldwide and they put FUNimation's subtitles onto it to cater for the potential audiences out there instead of forcing everyone to watch unofficial versions. Region locking makes me so mad ;_;

      I'm hoping we get a nice Blu-ray/DVD option from FUNimation eventually, at least. It's great news for those people who like the English dub since this situation is the best chance for a faithful continuation.

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  3. I'm watching the Japanese version, I'm afraid. FUNimation should have their English-subtitled edition ready for US fans (and fans outside the US who can get around the region lock) very soon, and I'm hoping for more announcements over the next few days from other parts of the world.

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  4. Can't believe NO ONE has subtitled it yet ç_ç

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    1. I don't think many fan groups actually exist for English subtitling any more when they can just steal the commercial subtitles nowadays. I wonder when FUNimation will finally post it online (I'm not familiar with how long it usually takes them at the start of a new season...).

      Apparently France is getting it too (perhaps unsurprisingly after they hosted the premiere).

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  5. Why didn't this episode air before SB4 was released oh god my heart won't survive this ending
    Even ripped Gyobu and Magoichi's below-waist pants a'la Yukimura from P.I.G. didn't help

    Overall this episode was rushed to hell and back, but with good reason and it didn't really omit anything important. Hideyoshi's death was even more bullpoo than the one against Masamune: really, one SS1 was all it took? Mitsunari vs M&K was more satisfying (jeez, he brutalized them). And then there is Mitsunari believing in Ieyasu and not understanding him till the end and Hanbe and he sounded in so much pain in the beginning and and he says Hideyoshi's death line from SB3 and dies promptly (Keiji's purple - did I catch that right? I think I did) oh no the feels I thought I couldn't be caught if I knew what will happen this franchise I swear

    The music was certainly different, but not bad - I guess the better tracks are to come. Maybe we'll get a few notes from the game (wishful thinking)...
    I can't get over how this episode looked so pretty in stills and some dynamics and so crappy in others (Mitsunari running sideways in the opening, really?! Aren't OPs usually a showcase of 'look, this is our best!'?). The designs... will need some adjustments/getting used to (Shingen's mane changing its size, Yoshitsugu having as much brawn as Haou, details like Kasuga's BLOWN THE HELL OUT TITS).

    Overally, I'll continue watching not only because I'm a fan; also, because I think the studio can show us a good story (oh no not this again)
    Dragonglish of the day: DES WANG

    PS Tadatsugu still stands out like a sore thumb

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    1. Great review, thanks for sharing! I had fun reading it. The animation quality is very uneven, but I'll take cheaper animation for the sake of having another Sengoku Basara anime to enjoy after all this time :D

      I hope Tadatsugu gets to do something in episode 2 (they need to let us get attached to him before they brutally kill him to continue the depressing theme, don't they?). I think I'd quite like to see how he interacts with Yukimura at this point.

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