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 02:55 on Sunday morning (Japan time). 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, even when the Japanese television broadcast is delayed. 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 nine episodes are available. They charge a monthly fee for the service.
J-ONE (France only)
A French-subtitled broadcast is taking place on J-ONE - Canalsat (50) and Numericable (38). 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 took a while for them to catch up. They seem to have settled into a rhythm now and the first eleven 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 whole 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 known as the 'Demon King', 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 devoted 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 worked to expand the former Toyotomi army by building alliances with the Mouri, Kuroda, Shimazu, Ootomo, Tachibana and Kobayakawa clans. Chousokabe Motochika participated for a short time before discovering that his original reasons for siding with Mitsunari were based on deception. After some soul searching, the newly appointed general of the Takeda clan - Sanada Yukimura - decided that the Takeda forces would join Mitsunari's growing 'Western Army' too, accompanied by Uesugi Kenshin's trusted ninja, Kasuga.
While all of this was happening, Maeda Keiji joined up with the powerful Saika mercenaries, his aunt Matsu and the oracle Tsuruhime to thwart a plot by Tenkai - actually Akechi Mitsuhide in disguise - to revive the terrifying 'Demon King', Oda Nobunaga. They finally succeeded just in time to prevent further chaos on the battlefield at Sekigahara.
At last, Ieyasu and Mitsunari approached one another for the decisive battle to determine the fate of the country.
Episode 12: Shirube ('Guide')
The episode starts with the battleground of Sekigahara shrouded in the darkness of the eclipse.
Only Mitsunari and Ieyasu are bathed in light, within the glowing tunnel created by their fallen retainers.
Their ideals clash in a frenzied argument.
The force of their blows sends ripples across the shining arena.
Mitsunari can't help but think of the way Ieyasu used to be.
A flashback shows that Ieyasu respected Mitsunari very deeply.
But now, all Mitsunari sees in him is a liar and hypocrite.
Mitsunari seems to be stronger early in the fight. He demands that Ieyasu tell him why he killed Hideyoshi, once and for all.
At one point, Mitsunari completely loses it, viciously cursing Ieyasu's 'bonds'.
He eventually calms down a little as tears of blood begin to flow from his eyes.
(Seki's voice cracked beautifully at this point, you could really feel Mitsunari's raw emotion.)
Outside, Masamune and Kojuurou speculate on the current state of the duel.
Yukimura observes that it's a tragic situation.
Mitsunari's blade cuts into Ieyasu's neck...
...but Ieyasu manages to counter with a powerful punch.
It's the final blow of the battle.
The eclipse comes to an end, and the glowing battlefield shimmers away.
Seeing that both leaders have fallen, the soldiers call for a retreat. They carry the bodies of Yoshitsugu and Tadakatsu away to safety.
Both Ieyasu and Mitsunari lie defeated on the ground.
With their closest remaining allies at their sides.
Elsewhere, things are more peaceful, and Toshiie is at last reunited with Matsu.
Magoichi asks Keiji whether he's ok not joining them. He's pretty relaxed.
Magoichi points out that Keiji still owes her for the work she did for him under their contract.
She asks him to repay her with his body.
By doing chores, of course. Keiji decides that the two of them should part ways for a while, after all.
However, they separate on good terms.
Ieyasu is alive, though wounded.
He visits Tadakatsu, who has survived as well.
Elsewhere, Mitsunari is waiting in silence at Yoshitsugu's bedside when his friend's eyes reopen for the first time.
The credits suddenly start rolling at this point, but it isn't the end.
It seems that Sourin has managed to open his Xavi Land theme park.
With Revolution working there as a dancer and Muneshige dressing up as the mascot 'Jumbo Xavi-kun', the Ootomo Army's efforts to promote their strange religion continue.
Kanbee is still airborne, pursuing the bird who has the key to his shackles.
Houjou Ujimasa has rebuilt his castle, but Tsuruhime is hot on Kotarou's trail.
Unfortunately, her bouncy personality results in another back injury for poor Ujimasa.
Kenshin and Kasuga are the same as ever!
Motochika is back at sea with his crew, and it seems that even Motonari has survived his loss.
Perhaps the 'sacrificial pawns' in his army took care of their leader in spite of the strong words Motochika had for him during their battle.
Shimazu Yoshihiro is relaxing on the beach, with Miyamoto Musashi training in the background.
Oichi is living a quiet life with the Maeda family.
As Kingo sadly munches on his nabe stew, someone dressed in grey hakama appears behind him.
The timid lord's expression changes to an ecstatic smile.
Yukimura reports back to Shingen at his bedside.
He rises swiftly when Sasuke comes to fetch him.
Masamune declares the 'revival' of the scramble to seize control of the land.
The two rivals clash in classic style.
And at their backs are their allies. The new bonds made during unhappy times have now been strengthened.
Together, Mitsunari, Yoshitsugu, Yukimura, Sasuke and Motochika form the 'Sanada Western Army'.
It's good to see that Motochika appears to have reconciled with Mitsunari now that he's no longer being tricked.
The alliance of Ieyasu, Masamune, Kojuurou and Tadakatsu is now the 'Date Eastern Army'.
But there's more to come: Shingen and Kenshin suddenly arrive on horseback flanked by the entire Uesugi army.
They're joining in too as the 'Kawanakajima Army'.
Sasuke expresses his disbelief...
...and ends up on the receiving end of one of Yukimura's powerful punches.
All of the assembled warriors end up in a crazy Sekigahara rematch.
And this time, everyone will be fighting for the right reasons.
LET'S ENDLESS PARTY! YA-HA!!
That was one heck of a crazy episode, but it managed to wrap everything up and ended on a great note even if it wasn't the most logical script ever written.
There were definitely some highs and lows in tone and execution but overall I found Judge End very enjoyable. If they'd had a few more episodes to be able to extend the Tenkai storyline properly and give the characters who barely had any lines more of a role, it could have been even better.
The decision to start the two popular leads off in such a slump was a brave one, perhaps even more so in the anime than in the Sengoku Basara 3 (Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes) game. Masamune got his butt kicked right at the start of that, too, but the player could still appreciate his cool move set and fly through his story in a single afternoon. Here the sense of failure hangs over Masamune for several weeks, making it seem much more severe. I thought that Yukimura came off much better than he did in the game this time around, but he suffered from a similar problem to Masamune at first; he had to be shown to fall down to rock bottom before working his way back up. It must have been a terrible shock for fans of the older anime.
Ieyasu and Mitsunari, on the other hand, enjoyed a much better portrayal than they received before - especially Ieyasu, whose role in Sengoku Basara -The Last Party- was almost pointless. Judge End does a great job of explaining these two characters and their motivations, and I think they'll both get a boost in popularity from the anime-only fans now their tragic relationship has been given the focus it deserved.
With that, I guess that Sengoku Basara Judge End is finally over! Hardly anyone seemed to be watching it outside of the hardcore Sengoku Basara fandom, so I feel lucky that the staff continued trying their best and gave us this little oasis of Sengoku Basara to enjoy each week all summer.
The way that so-called news sites insisted on calling it a third season of the old anime rather than promoting it as a separate spin-off didn't help; even FUNimation contributed to the confusion via their website.
Personally, I'd rather like it if they can continue to produce short series like Judge End in the absence of another high budget spectacle like the previous anime adaptation. There's plenty of material that could be adapted, from the wacky Mame Sengoku Basara to any of the dramatic stories which weren't covered in the existing anime. I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens next.