Please note that this weekend's episode of Judge End is being broadcast on Japanese television a couple of hours later than usual due to a football show.
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)
This week's initial television broadcast on NTV is at 03:55 on Sunday morning (Japan time), a few hours later than usual. The YTV and BS Nittere broadcasts are shown over 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 are streamed weekly on Saturdays at 14:20 Eastern Time with English subtitles. Subscribers can 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. Even though the videos are region-locked, fans outside the US can still visit the site and rate the videos to show that there's demand!
Anime Digital Network (France only)
ADN are offering the series online with French subtitles. So far, the first four 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). It now seems to have begun, so the schedule can be viewed at the link.
Viewster (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway only)
The show's broadcast was announced as being 'day and date with Japan' but it's taken a while for them to catch up. They seem to have settled into a rhythm now and the first six episodes are already 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. In spite of this I feel very strongly about supporting the official translated 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 seven episodes of Sengoku Basara: Judge End and some low quality screenshots. Please note that I'm watching the show in untranslated 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.
The series began with the Toyotomi army launching a major attack on Odawara Castle, home to the Houjou clan. The Date army tried to interfere and were brutally defeated by Ishida Mitsunari, a loyal warrior renowned as 'Toyotomi's Left Arm'.
Despite their overwhelming strength, the Toyotomi attack was stopped 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.
Since that day, Mitsunari and his loyal retainers have been working to expand the former Toyotomi army by building alliances with the Mouri, Chousokabe, Shimazu, Ootomo, Tachibana and Kobayakawa clans. Although they sought an alliance with the former Toyotomi retainer Kuroda Kanbee as well, he has since left to search for Fuuma Kotarou - the legendary ninja employed by the Houjou clan - who might hold the key that can unlock Kanbee's shackles.
At the same time, Ieyasu is travelling around Japan to unite other commanders and form an 'Eastern Army'. Aside from the shattered remnants of the Houjou clan, Ieyasu has been struggling to gain supporters; his respectful approach is no match for the scheming of the Western Army's tacticians. In addition, Ieyasu is keeping Oda Nobunaga's sister, Oichi, locked away beneath Sunpu Castle after an unexpected encounter, even though her supporters from the former Oda army have been pressuring him to hand her over to them.
After some soul searching, the newly appointed general of the Takeda clan - Sanada Yukimura - decides that the Takeda forces will join the growing Western Army, while his longtime rival Date Masamune declares his allegiance to Ieyasu's Eastern Army.
Elsewhere, Maeda Keiji has joined up with the powerful Saika mercenaries and the oracle Tsuruhime to try to locate his missing aunt, Matsu, who was reportedly abducted by Ieyasu. In reality, Matsu is secretly being held captive in Kobayakawa Hideaki's castle under the watchful eye of his inscrutable advisor, the monk Tenkai.
During the investigation, Saika Magoichi challenges Chousokabe Motochika to question the truth of Ieyasu's attack on his homeland - the attack which led to him joining the Western Army and turning his back on his old friend. With both Keiji and Motochika uncertain about Ieyasu's real intentions, it seems there are some lingering mysteries which need to be solved...
Episode 7: Ankoku ('Darkness')
Motochika and Keiji ride to Sunpu Castle together to confront Ieyasu. Their approach is watched by Masamune and Kojuurou.
The pair overhear a pair of Tokugawa soldiers anxiously discussing Motochika's arrival, and become suspicious.
Ieyasu greets Motochika warmly, as a friend. Encouraged by Keiji, Motochika asks whether Ieyasu was the one behind the attack on his men back in Shikoku.
Ieyasu is plainly baffled.
Motochika wavers and wonders who was really responsible if it wasn't Ieyasu. At that moment, Masamune turns up to reveal what actually happened. The two terrified Tokugawa soldiers explain how the flags, which were used as evidence of Ieyasu's guilt, originally fell into enemy hands.
Tadatsugu is furious at the way the soldiers acted.
It gets worse, though; when pressed for more details about the attack, the soldiers implicate Motochika's bitter enemy: Mouri Motonari of Aki.
Motochika is both enraged and heartbroken.
Elsewhere, Yoshitsugu meets with Yukimura and tells him that Oichi is currently being held prisoner at Sunpu Castle.
Yukimura is to sneak into Sunpu Castle and retrieve Oichi.
Yoshitsugu tells Yukimura that he won't be working alone.
Tenkai and the former Oda retainer Isono Kazumasa will accompany him.
They'll be assisted by Tenkai's 'ninja', a withdrawn woman who strongly resembles Matsu.
Back in Sunpu, Masamune wants to know more about what the Western Army is up to after what happened with Motochika. He decides that a trip to Osaka is needed.
With Motochika's problem settled, Keiji takes the opportunity to privately ask Ieyasu about what happened with Hideyoshi.
They talk about the way that Hideyoshi changed and bond a little.
Keiji asks Ieyasu about Hideyoshi's last words, and sheds tears when he hears that his old friend was thinking of Hanbee right at the end.
Ieyasu heads off with Tadakatsu, leaving Keiji with his complicated emotions.
Magoichi and Tsuruhime interrupt Keiji's reverie to bring him news.
Magoichi has discovered where Matsu is, and she's already on her way to Sunpu!
The scene shifts to the rescue party making its way from Osaka to Sunpu. Kasuga and Yukimura are leading the column of soldiers on horseback.
Sasuke teases his teammates with his usual banter, then quietly swears to take care of Kasuga if anything happens to her.
The trio also wonder about Tenkai's mysterious new 'ninja' with obvious suspicion.
Motochika has finally reached Mitsunari and confronts him, asking whether Shikoku was attacked on his orders. It turns out that Mitsunari doesn't know anything about it.
Motochika is still furious though since the scheme was organised by Mitsunari's friends, even if he didn't know what was going on. He announces that he's leaving the Western Army.
This gets Mitsunari's attention; he's not prepared to tolerate betrayal!
In the end, Motochika leaves, muttering that he doesn't dislike the earnest look in Mitsunari's eyes.
Mitsunari goes straight to Yoshitsugu and speaks to him quite harshly, telling him that he mustn't lie to him and that he doesn't want Yoshitsugu to be like Ieyasu.
Mitsunari then rides away from the castle.
The rescue party has reached Sunpu Castle under cover of night.
After the ninja investigate, Tenkai discovers Oichi's whereabouts more directly by threatening a Tokugawa guard.
Yukimura and Sasuke sneak under the castle. Yukimura makes their infiltration attempt a little less subtle by calling out to a mysterious figure he takes to be Oichi.
It's actually a trap, and Fuuma Kotarou attacks the intruders.
Tenkai and his ninja appear on the scene just in time for the four of them to be surrounded by Keiji, Magoichi and a group of Tokugawa soldiers. Keiji yells when he recognises Tenkai's ninja as his missing aunt. But Matsu seems to have been drugged; she doesn't react to Keiji at all.
Although Sakai Tadatsugu thinks that his troops have the upper hand even with the hostage, Tenkai is strangely relaxed. Suddenly, the Oda soldiers break through in a surprise attack!
Tenkai introduces himself and describes Matsu as an old friend. She turns her blade towards the attackers without saying a word.
Unnoticed by the ambushers, Kasuga is sneaking deeper beneath the castle when she comes across Tsuruhime. By following her, the two of them discover Oichi. She appears confused, addressing Tsuruhime as Ranmaru.
The blood shed by the fallen Oda and Tokugawa soldiers begins to seep down through the floorboards into Oichi's prison. The blood agitates the dark hands, which begin twitching violently and free themselves.
Kasuga reveals herself just in time to save Tsuruhime from the dark hands, and stands her ground against Oichi.
Tenkai recognises Oichi's power awakening as dark tendrils snake through the castle's narrow corridors. Moments later, everyone falls through the floor into the caverns below the castle.
Sasuke spots Kasuga slumped unconscious in one of Oichi's dark hands. Oichi seems confused and euphoric at the slaughter taking place around her.
Kazumasa rushes towards Oichi to save her, but Tenkai backstabs him right in front of her.
Thinking back to the past and his days as Akechi Mitsuhide, Tenkai tells the other warriors about his plans for an 'Oda revival'.
When he moves to strike Matsu down, Yukimura leaps up to stop him while Keiji rushes to protect Matsu.
At that moment, Oichi howls and Magoichi is forced to fend off the rampaging dark hands. The heroes are forced to retreat.
Tenkai laughs as the caverns crumble around him. Sasuke and Yukimura successfully escape through an underground waterway, though they aren't able to bring Kasuga with them.
When Matsu regains consciousness, Keiji and Magoichi are overjoyed to discover that she is back to normal.
Far away from the dramatic events unfolding in Sunpu Castle, Mitsunari has gone to visit Hideyoshi's grave.
He's not happy when he hears Tadakatsu approaching.
Ieyasu tries to get through to Mitsunari, telling him that it's still possible to avoid a fight.
Of course, Mitsunari isn't willing to listen after all that Ieyasu has done.
When it becomes apparent that they can't resolve this with words, Ieyasu leaves, telling Mitsunari that he'll meet him again at the promised place.
This episode contained a large amount of original content and lots of different warriors all clashing together, which was great. I really enjoyed it! It's a shame that the mystery of Matsu's disappearance was over so quickly, but everything's now in place for the Battle of Sekigahara and Tenkai's plot is out in the open, so there's a lot of potential for unexpected twists. It was only a week or two ago when the Western Army was looking unbeatable!
Kazumasa didn't last long. I hope that Kasuga will be ok. She's replaced Matsu as Tenkai's hostage; a very dangerous position to be in now that he's stopped pretending to be honourable.
Next week's episode will be titled Yakusoku ('Promise').