There still seems to be some kind of problem with the official simulcast arrangements outside Japan. Viewster managed to get the first episode online this week, but everyone else is still waiting for their local distributors to fulfil their promises three weeks into the series' run. Let's hope things finally improve in the next couple of days.
How to watch
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 01:50 every Sunday morning, though today's episode is scheduled for 02:50 instead. 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 first episode is free and the previous week's episode is shown for free on Fridays and Saturdays. The series airs slightly earlier than the television broadcast at 24:00 local time.
Hulu (Japan only)
Fans who pay Hulu's ¥933 monthly fee can watch the episodes slightly ahead of the broadcast time.
The following Japanese streaming 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 and some will be showing it for free.
AcTVila, Bandai Channel, Best Hit Anime Douga, d Anime Store, 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
FUNimation (US only)
The episodes will be streamed weekly on Saturdays at 12:05 CST with English subtitles. FUNimation also have the home video rights, so if the stream is popular the series should eventually be dubbed into English.
Anime Digital Network (France only)
ADN are offering the series online with French subtitles. So far, only the first episode is available. They charge a monthly fee for the service.
J-ONE (France only)
A French-subtitled broadcast will take place on J-ONE - Canalsat (50) and Numericable (38).
Viewster (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway only)
The episodes will be 'day and date with Japan' so I'm guessing they'll appear every Saturday afternoon once the service has been set up. So far, one episode is online with English subtitles. Viewster is a free ad-supported service.
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. It might help to visit the official streaming sites and leave supportive comments there too, even if you live in a country where the video itself is blocked and you had to watch it some other way.
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.
Sengoku Basara: Judge End is not a continuation of the previous anime adaptation. It's a brand new story and none of the events in Production I.G.'s version of Sengoku Basara have taken place in its timeline. Please don't get confused trying to match the old story to the new one; this anime is a complete reboot of the entire Sengoku Basara scenario. The story takes place after the fall of Oda Nobunaga.
The rest of this post contains spoilers for the first three episodes of Sengoku Basara Judge End and some low quality screenshots. Please note that I'm watching the show in Japanese and using my preferred spellings for character names; they won't necessary match the localised spellings if you're watching one of the subtitled versions!
The story so far
Prior to the events in Judge End, the warlord Oda Nobunaga was betrayed and killed at Honnouji by his retainer, Akechi Mitsuhide. Mitsuhide was subsequently defeated by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who went on to lead his powerful army across the land.
In the first episode of the series we saw the Toyotomi army launching a major attack on Odawara Castle, home to the Houjou clan. The Date army tried to interfere with the battle and were brutally defeated by Ishida Mitsunari, a loyal warrior renowned as 'Toyotomi's Left Arm'.
Despite their overwhelming strength, the Toyotomi attack was cut short when Tokugawa Ieyasu rebelled against Hideyoshi's methods and killed him in combat. Hideyoshi's loyal strategist Takenaka Hanbee died at Odawara too, leaving Mitsunari behind to curse Ieyasu's name and swear revenge against his former ally.
In the aftermath of the battle the defeated Date army returned to its territory of Oushuu, being spared by the 'God of War' Uesugi Kenshin along the way. Over in Kai, Shimazu Yoshihiro joined forces with the Takeda army to fend off a show of strength by Ieyasu; however, the fighting ended in tragedy when Takeda Shingen suddenly collapsed in his camp. As the Takeda forces withdrew, the bewildered Tokugawa troops were attacked by someone long presumed dead: Oda Nobunaga's sister, Oichi.
Elsewhere, Chousokabe Motochika was horrified to discover that his land had been attacked by his old friend, Ieyasu, while he was out at sea. Motochika was overwhelmed with fury at the betrayal as he saw Ieyasu's flag and spear amongst the debris.
With the leadership of the Toyotomi army having been passed down to Mitsunari, it looked as though the whole country would be bathed in the fires of war once again. How many more people will end up being pulled into the growing conflict between Ieyasu and Mitsunari?
Episode 3: Doumei ('Alliance')
The episode begins with Ieyasu addressing his soldiers, telling them about his firm belief in the power of bonds. When Tadatsugu approaches him to voice his concern, Ieyasu says there's nothing to worry about - he has Tadakatsu by his side, after all. It's plain that Ieyasu has some concerns of his own deep down, but he's committed to the path he's chosen.
After a sombre scene with Sasuke trying to help Yukimura pull himself together at Shingen's bedside, the focus shifts to Osaka Castle. Yoshitsugu interrupts Mitsunari's quiet contemplation to bring him some important news.
It seems that Ieyasu is heading to the Saika village to make an alliance with the Saika faction, a powerful group of mercenaries. Since they had previously made a contract with Hideyoshi and fought on his side during the battle at Odawara Castle, Mitsunari believes that the Saika faction should continue to remain loyal to the Toyotomi forces. He proclaims that he won't forgive the Saika if they ally themselves with Ieyasu.
Ieyasu is already at the Saika village explaining his situation to Saika Magoichi, leader of the mercenary group. In spite of her lack of enthusiasm for his plan, he leaves with a smile and hopes she'll come around later on.
At that moment, Chousokabe Motochika is also heading to the Saika village to speak with Magoichi.
As he approaches, he's suddenly attacked by Tsuruhime.
She's determined to protect Magoichi from Motochika, viewing him as nothing more than a despicable pirate.
The pair's fighting is interrupted by the arrival of Ishida Mitsunari. Tsuruhime is amazed at how popular Magoichi seems to be all of a sudden.
As Mitsunari heads away towards the village, he overhears Motochika muttering about Ieyasu and confronts him. Motochika explains that he's one of many people on the opposite side to Ieyasu - but that just enrages Mitsunari further, since he wants to be the one who gets revenge against his archenemy.
The two begin to fight until they see Ieyasu and Tadakatsu flying in the sky above them. Mitsunari loses interest in Motochika and continues on his way to meet with Magoichi.
He presents himself to Magoichi and demands the loyalty of the Saika faction. Magoichi reminds Mitsunari that her contract with Hideyoshi has been dissolved and she will pick her allies as she sees fit.
As Mitsunari is leaving, Motochika calls out to him.
Back in the ruins of Odawara Castle, a broken-hearted Houjou Ujimasa is wondering what to do next. His only companion is the legendary ninja, Fuuma Kotarou.
Ieyasu approaches Ujimasa and asks him to lend him his strength. He's coming as a potential ally this time, not the enemy he was before. Ujimasa sheds tears of joy.
Back at the Saika village, yet another man is approaching.
As Tsuruhime and Magoichi discuss their options, Maeda Keiji arrives. He's hunting for Ieyasu to try to locate Toshiie's wife, Matsu - she's been abducted and it seems that Ieyasu is responsible.
This interests Magoichi, and she asks Keiji whether he truly believes Ieyasu can be the one behind Matsu's disappearance.
Keiji is wavering because he's still shocked that Ieyasu killed Hideyoshi, but the two talk it through. Magoichi tells Keiji that it would be wisest to gather more information at this stage.
The chat with Keiji has helped Magoichi make up her mind, and she marches out to declare who the Saika faction will be allying themselves with this time.
Surprisingly, she chooses the Maeda family - even though Keiji didn't go there intending to make a contract with the mercenaries in the first place.
Mitsunari arrives back at Osaka Castle with Motochika in tow. Yoshitsugu comes out to greet them.
There are some soldiers causing a commotion nearby. It seems that they're former troops from Oda Nobunaga's army who have begun to rally now that Oichi has returned.
Mitsunari admits that the negotiations with Saika Magoichi didn't go too well. Yoshitsugu welcomes Motochika and updates the pair on the alliances that Ieyasu has been making elsewhere.
Ieyasu's next target is Uesugi Kenshin. After a tense start they converse amiably. Still unsettled by what's happened to Shingen, Kenshin isn't willing to join up with Ieyasu. He remarks that there's another tiger out there.
Ieyasu was thinking the same thing, and heads off to pay Yukimura a visit.
Yukimura reacts to Ieyasu's arrival with hostility, expecting a fight. As Ieyasu tries to start a discussion, Sasuke explains that with Yukimura in his current state it's better for Ieyasu to depart.
Ieyasu takes the hint and leaves, saying he'll see Yukimura again later.
After being reminded once again that he's supposed to be in command, Yukimura goes back to Shingen's bedside and tries to understand what his master would do. He finally seems to be finding his resolve.
Still unconscious, Masamune is dreaming of battling with Yukimura once again. His dream takes a dark turn towards the end when he remembers Mitsunari.
Reminded of the shame of his defeat, Masamune finally awakens and runs wild, brandishing his weapon.
The Date soldiers rush to subdue their lord in a way that Sengoku Basara 4 fans might find all too familiar.
Masamune's rampage comes to an end with the arrival of Ieyasu.
Though the intruder only wants to negotiate, Masamune has just one thing on his mind: Mitsunari.
Masamune announces that he's heading straight out to ride for Osaka Castle to get his revenge.
Kojuurou is a little taken aback but within moments Masamune has donned his armour and hurtled away on horseback, ready to challenge Mitsunari to a rematch.
There are now 77 days remaining until the Battle of Sekigahara.
This episode seemed slightly less action-packed than before as it was mostly devoted to Ieyasu rushing around Japan trying to build alliances. That said, it was an important episode to set up the pivotal character relationships. Tsuruhime's big anime debut was probably the highlight for me!
The next episode will be titled Meisou ('Astray'). The (spoiler-filled) details from the official preview can be read here.