Saturday, 2 August 2014

Manga review: Sengoku Basara 4 Dengeki Comic Anthology

The Sengoku Basara 4 Dengeki Comic Anthology is a 132-page collection of manga based on the Sengoku Basara 4 setting and characters. It was originally released by ASCII Media Works in the Dengeki line on 25th April 2014, priced at ¥850, and it's still readily obtainable from all good online bookstores such as CD Japan, Yesasia and Amazon Japan. A Kindle version is also available.

With this being the very first anthology to feature the seven new Sengoku Basara 4 characters, it was a real treat for fans who want to see more of them in manga form (outside of the two series being serialised monthly in Dengeki Maoh). The regular cast members show up too, of course, but their roles are far smaller than those of the newcomers.

The cover depicting the game's four leads with antagonist Yoshiteru looming in the background was illustrated by Ayamura Kirihito. Sadly, it doesn't wrap around to the back of the book to depict the rest of the characters; I'd have loved to have seen them drawn in Ayamura's style as well. There are two additional colour illustrations on the first few pages: Satsuki Yuu has drawn an amusing picture of Shingen, Naotora and Yukimura, while Yamada Uiro presents a cool confrontation between Katsuie and Sakon. The pictures make for a stunning start to the book and really set the scene.

The rest of the anthology is made up of short manga.

Matsuri De Chouhan Shoubu ('A Chouhan Match at the Festival')
Ashika Nozomu
Sakon goes to visit the festival with the intention of speaking to Keiji and gathering information about Ieyasu. Not long after he arrives, however, Tsuruhime and Magoichi turn up and propose a gambling match, supposedly acting on Himiko's orders. It's a proposition that Sakon can't resist, but with all of the cheating going on it seems unlikely that his original mission will ever be a success...

Ashikaga Yoshiteru: Tomo Ha 100-Nin Keikaku ('Ashikaga Yoshiteru: The 100 Friend Plan')
Ashika Nozomu
This is a short two-page skit. Yoshiteru and Hisahide share their thoughts about friendship in a strange conversation.

Iza, Medatta Toko Shoubu!! ('Now, A Contest Of Distinguishing Features!!')
Tane Jugou
Sakon wants to stand out more and impress Mitsunari. Fearing that the other newcomers have better distinguishing features than he does, he works hard to try to solve the problem. At the same time, he's completely oblivious to the irritation he's leaving behind everywhere he goes - even when Matabee loses his temper right in front of him.

Naotora Otome Doujou! ('Naotora's Girlish Dojo!')
Mizuno Sao
Since Yoshiteru plunged the land into chaos, everyone has been scrambling to try to earn the right to conquer it for themselves. Except for Yukimura, head of the Takeda army, who has somehow ended up in Naotora's dojo for special training on how to understand a woman's feelings. Sasuke can only watch as his poor master is forced to endure baffling lectures on a subject he knows absolutely nothing about.

Mitsunari-sama Sousakutai!! ('Mitsunari Search Party!!')
Katou Michiru
Sakon turns up at Osaka Castle to plead for help from its current owners, Masamune and Yukimura. Lost in grief, it seems that Mitsunari has gone missing and Sakon is desperate to track him down. Kojuurou and Sasuke are sent out to join Sakon in his search and it's not long before the trio come across stories of a wandering ghost who has been terrorising people by wailing Hideyoshi's name...

Gyoubu No Oshioki ('Gyoubu's Punishment')
Akaboshi Tatsumi
Yoshitsugu catches Sakon trying to sneak out of his quarters late at night to go gambling - and not for the first time. Rather than simply chastising him, Yoshitsugu decides to have some fun at Sakon's expense, quickly turning the moment of innocent mischief into something out of a horror story.

Sai No Yukusaki ('Where The Dice Land')
Suzuka
Sakon is enjoying his day off when he comes across Tsuruhime and asks her to read his fortune. This is the first in what turns out to be a chain of unfortunate encounters. As his day gets worse and worse, Sakon wonders whether his beloved dice could really be the source of all of the bad luck.

Nadetora Ga Hokorumono ('That Which Nadetora* Takes Pride In')
Yoshii Aki
After all of the silly stories it's time for a change of pace. An encounter with Yukimura and Masamune at Osaka Castle has Naotora looking back at her past, remembering the bitterness she felt when she learnt that her betrothed had abandoned her.

* The title is a cheeky play on words with several meanings; the first character in Naotora's name has been changed so it means 'stroking' (the 'tora' part still means 'tiger'). As well as making it sound much cuter the new compound can technically be pronounced 'nadeshiko', the Japanese word for 'carnation' which serves as a reference to an 'ideal woman'. Yoshii indicated it should be pronounced the way I wrote it, though.

Kenkou No Hi ('Day Of Splendour')
Ishida Hayanori
Keiji responds to a summons from his friend Yoshiteru, who wants to go out for the day. Unfortunately, the place he's selected for their excursion is Xavi Land, and Keiji isn't all that enthusiastic about the prospect of tangling with the Xavists again.

Onore No Fuurinkazan Wo Motomete ('In Search Of My Own Fuurinkazan')
Nagao Uka
Yukimura is on a quest to discover what the Takeda motto 'Fuurinkazan' means to him, and as part of his duties he has to locate the Takeda Dojo. After mistakenly going to Xavi Land instead, he proceeds to storm through the theme park, destroying everything in his path and steadfastly ignoring all of Sasuke's pleas to calm down.

Otsukai Sakon ('Sakon, The Errand Boy')
Mizusawa Michiru
Hanbee sends Sakon out on a mission to Matabee's base to attempt to negotiate with the crazed ronin in his stead. Subtlety isn't one of Sakon's strong points, so a simple misunderstanding ends up spiralling out of control very quickly.

Kokuhaku ('Confession')
Horiguchi Leo
A collection of ridiculous 4-panel joke strips, mostly revolving around the enemy soldiers who throw rice balls in Sengoku Basara 4 for some reason known only to the artist. Naoe Kanetsugu also receives a reasonable amount of attention.

Enmachou Shoukaroku ('A Deep Understanding Of The Enmachou')
Horiguchi Leo
Matabee has lost his precious Enmachou mark book and as a result he can no longer remember who he has a grudge against! Overjoyed that they no longer have to fight against the Date and Uesugi armies, Matabee's soldiers try to manipulate their despondent lord.

Takenoko No Kuni ('Land Of Bamboo Shoots')
Sanjou Kiiro
Convinced that Amago Haruhisa's disappearance has something to do with Princess Kaguya and The Tale Of The Bamboo-Cutter, Shikanosuke begins a strange investigation with a little help from Tsuruhime.

Kachiku No Hanran! ('Mutiny Of The Cattle!')
Sanjou Kiiro
A collection of 4-panel gag comics making fun of various situations from the original game. The art style is very exaggerated, especially when it comes to Oyassan.

Shujuu Ga Iku! ('Go, Lord And Retainer!')
Shimesaba
More 4-panel comedy, this time following the misadventures of Yukimura and Sasuke as they rush around the country in a funny parody of their Sengoku Basara 4 stories.

Sengoku Making ('The Making Of The Warring States')
Hakyu Shou
Yet more short jokes with 'behind the scenes' moments from the game. There's a good balance of different characters in this batch.

Mattemashita No Ooichiban!! ('What We've Been Waiting For The Most!!')
Koutake Hiroyoshi
The final chapter of the book is another set of 4-panel gag comics, again focusing on the whole cast.

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As could have been expected when the list of contributing artists was first published, each story is only a few pages long. This prevents any of the stories from having much depth, and indeed most concentrate on parodies of classic scenes from the game to pack as many laughs as possible into their allocated pages. It also means that there's a broad variety of art styles on display as well as a large number of characters appearing. I don't think that it would be an exaggeration to say that the Sengoku Basara 4 Dengeki Comic Anthology probably contains something for everyone.

There's one exception though, and that's people who don't like Sakon. Because he's so easy to poke fun at, the happy-go-lucky fool seems to feature heavily in this book, even in stories which are actually about other people. His simple attitude helps bring out the others' personalities in a limited number of pages but if you can't stand him then you're not going to have much fun with this book. Fans of Maria or Katsuie might question why Sakon was given such a starring role when they barely feature at all.

Fortunately, I like Sakon so I rather enjoyed this book. Most of the contributors will be familiar to fans of other Sengoku Basara manga anthologies (and the doujinshi scene) so the quality of the artwork and storytelling are solid. Since there wasn't a single story I disliked, I'm hoping that this won't be the last anthology based on the Sengoku Basara 4 setting!

2 comments:

  1. Nice to see that they're pushing Keiji's friendship with Yoshiteru :D

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    Replies
    1. Yes, it's good that Yoshiteru has someone more cheerful to talk to instead of just Hisahide (their friendship was joked about in one of the shorter joke strips :D). Keiji's reactions to the Xavi Land idea looked so funny!

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