How to watch
Now that the official simulcasts are beginning it's been confirmed that the alternate title Sengoku Basara -End of Judgement- is being used outside Japan. I'll keep using Judge End for consistency but they're the exact same show.
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. 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 2:20pm Eastern Time with English subtitles. They've added the first three episodes now with the next two scheduled for next week, to catch up with the Japanese broadcast. From episode five onwards, subscribers will be able to watch the latest episode on the same day it's available in Japan while free users have to wait a week. 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, the first two episodes are 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 show's broadcast was announced as being 'day and date with Japan' so I'm guessing they'll appear every Saturday afternoon once the service has been set up. So far, two episodes are online with English subtitles with a promise that the third is due soon. 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 four 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. Ieyasu travelled around the country trying to forge alliances with other rulers while his old friend Motochika allied himself with the Toyotomi. Meanwhile, the Saika mercenaries refused to take sides and joined forces with Maeda Keiji to find out whether Ieyasu really abducted Keiji's aunt, Matsu, as rumours suggested.
How many more people will end up being pulled into the growing conflict between Ieyasu and Mitsunari?
Episode 4: Meisou ('Astray')
After his wavering in the previous episode, Yukimura has now decided to take action. Donning Shingen's headgear and enormous gunbai axe, he musters the Takeda army.
Yukimura's plan is to directly confront Shingen's rival, Uesugi Kenshin.
I loved the way they crammed in a Sengoku Basara 4 reference by using a Basara-zu illustration! Is that picture (of Bishamonten, presumably) going to be Kenshin's Basara-zu when he finally becomes playable in the games again?
Though Sasuke is extremely wary of Yukimura's plan, his attempts to advise his master fall on deaf ears.
Moments after arriving at Kawanakajima, Kenshin appears out of the mist with his army in an ambush. It seems that he was expecting the visit.
As Sasuke tries to negotiate, Yukimura challenges Kenshin.
The 'God of War' willingly accepts, keen to see how much of a 'tiger' the younger man has become.
Although he attacks fearlessly, Yukimura is swiftly overwhelmed.
He finds himself flung into the water, where all of his self-doubt comes rushing back.
Kenshin shows his wisdom once again by giving Yukimura a frank pep talk.
It's difficult for Yukimura to take everything in as he wrestles with his whirling emotions, but it's exactly what he needs to hear.
With everything settled amicably for now, the troops relax and look to their leaders.
Kenshin asks Kasuga to accompany the Takeda army as they depart from Kawanakajima.
With Kasuga nearby, Yukimura apologises to Sasuke; he's finally found his resolve for real this time and decided to side against Ieyasu in the coming war. That means that they will have to join the ever-growing Western Army led by Mitsunari, if possible.
(Sorry, I couldn't resist using this picture. Kenshin is so dashing.)
Ieyasu has been continuing his travels across Japan in the meantime, making as many alliances as he can. This time, his destination is Ujou (Okayama Castle).
He meets with the naïve Kobayakawa Hideaki (hereafter referred to as 'Kingo' to match the dialogue). Kingo is completely charmed by Ieyasu's respectful approach.
However, he's far too afraid of his 'betrayal' being discovered by Motonari or Mitsunari to make any firm promises. He's absolutely terrified of what they'll do to him if they learn that he's been speaking with Ieyasu.
The news travels to Mitsunari quickly, as always. He's absolutely livid to hear that Ieyasu has approached Kingo.
Back in the Saika village, Magoichi and Keiji are investigating what might have happened to Matsu (Keiji's missing aunt) while Tsuruhime has disappeared to look for Ieyasu. There aren't many leads until Magoichi learns about some unusual movements from the Kobayakawa forces. She becomes suspicious.
Mitsunari has since arrived at Ujou with Motonari and Yoshitsugu in tow. He interrogates Kingo at once and demands to know what he told Ieyasu; Kingo grovels desperately in response.
Deciding that threatening Kingo is a task best left to Mitsunari, the others chat to Kingo's advisor, Tenkai instead.
As it turns out, Tenkai has a way to prove that the Kobayakawa forces are loyal to Mitsunari: he's been manipulating the rumours about Ieyasu having abducted Matsu. She's really been imprisoned in their base the whole time.
Satisfied by the results of the visit, the Western Army leaves Ujou with the knowledge that they have a few more allies in the campaign against Ieyasu.
Late at night, Sasuke and Kasuga sneak into Osaka Castle to speak with Yoshitsugu in private.
Their original plan fails disastrously when Yoshitsugu calls out to Mitsunari to warn him about the intrusion. The two ninja end up face to face with Mitsunari and Motochika.
Thanks to some clever teamwork, the two intruders take Yoshitsugu as a hostage in the middle of the fight.
This forces Mitsunari to listen to what they have to say.
Sasuke explains that the Takeda forces want to ally themselves with the Toyotomi army.
Mitsunari's reaction is as intense as ever, but Yoshitsugu analyses the situation more carefully. The men talk it through.
While all of this is happening, Date Masamune is still riding furiously towards Osaka Castle and his planned showdown with Mitsunari. The Sanada clan's stronghold at Ueda Castle lies directly on his route.
Yukimura is waiting for Sasuke to return from his mission when he receives word from his soldiers that the castle is under attack.
Yukimura rushes out to confront the enemy. The two old rivals exchange a few words and prepare to do battle.
Before they have a chance to fight, Sasuke arrives back with Mitsunari in tow.
Yukimura tries to welcome Mitsunari but he's cut off mid-sentence by Masamune, who is thrilled to see the man he's been looking for right in front of him.
He asks for a rematch there and then.
However, Mitsunari doesn't recognise Masamune at all.
Infuriated at the insult, Masamune loses his temper and throws himself towards Mitsunari.
Yukimura lunges between the two of them and blocks Masamune's attack, protecting his new ally.
There are now 69 days remaining until the Battle of Sekigahara.
So, we finally see what's happened to Matsu and it turns out that Mogami Yoshiaki (probably) wasn't involved after all! With Yukimura having chosen his path the main conflicts are rapidly falling into place; I like how they've managed to expand some characters' roles by blending material from Sengoku Basara 3 Utage into the main plot and adapting other parts to make the story tighter. The little Sengoku Basara 4 reference was awesome, too.
I'm looking forward to next week when it looks as though we'll finally get to meet most of the other key characters. Once all of the introductions are finished, it will be down to the Sengoku Basara: Judge End staff to show us how the story is going to play out this time around.
Next week's episode will be titled Haiboku ('Defeat'). The details from the official preview can be read here (they include spoilers).