Thursday, 13 November 2014

Manga review: Sengoku Basara Comic Anthology 'Setouchi Chronicle'

Sengoku Basara Comic Anthology 'Setouchi Chronicle' was released by ASCII Media Works in the Dengeki Comics EX line on 21st December 2013 after a month's delay. Priced at ¥850 before taxes, this 116-page manga can still be purchased from all good import book stores and specialists such as Yesasia, Amazon Japan or CD Japan.

Setouchi Chronicle is the third (and presumably, final) book in this particular series of manga anthologies, following on from Dategun Chronicle and Takedagun Chronicle released the same year. Each volume focuses on a particular army, making them a real treat if you happen to be a fan of the characters being highlighted. I'm still amazed that there was no Toyotomigun Chronicle given the faction's popularity - perhaps Sengoku Basara 4 will provide more spin-off opportunities later on.

Setouchi Chronicle is based on the Setouchi region, so naturally most of its content revolves around the eternal struggle between Mouri Motonari and Chousokabe Motochika. In that respect it's a little different from the previous volumes; the heroes are bitter enemies this time rather than allies working alongside one another. Fans of other characters with links to the Setouchi region will also find a few stories which might satisfy them - Tsuruhime guest stars in several of the strips - but Motonari and Motochika get the lion's share of the pages all to themselves. The stories are mostly comedic in nature.

Regular Sengoku Basara manga readers may notice a number of familiar names in the list of contributors, ranging from regular manga artists to doujinshi creators. There are a few samples on Dengeki's online reader website here.

Cover artist Ashika Nozomu has captured both of the characters' personalities on the eye-catching pink/green dust jacket. Inside, the first two pages are full-colour illustrations: Sasakura Kou has drawn
Motochika and Ieyasu back-to-back while Mizuno Sao chose to depict Motochika and Motonari clashing in battle. Both pieces of art are superb.

The rest of the book is made up of black and white manga as usual. Many of the titles are puns based on songs or popular culture, and the Sengoku Basara 3 storyline seems to be popular - most likely because it offers a rare chance to show both characters working together without having to establish some reason for them to cooperate within the limits of a short story.

Gassantodajou De Himatsubushi ('Killing Time At Gassantoda Castle')
from Sengoku Basara 3
Arai Karo
Motochika brings Motonari along to Gassantoda Castle as his ally (i.e. his bodyguard, for players of Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes). He is forced to endure an endless stream of abuse and heckling as he tries to keep his attention on the fight with Amago Haruhisa. There are numerous references to the original game in this very funny story.

Umi Wo Mamoru Monotachi ('Those Who Protect The Sea')
from Sengoku Basara 3
Satsuki You
Tsuruhime disguises herself with a traditional Okame mask and confronts Motochika, angry that his men have been dumping rubbish in her beautiful ocean. Of course, the sea-loving pirate has done nothing of the sort, so it's down to him to clean up the mess and figure out who is really behind the crime!

Kyogi No Yoi ('An Evening Of Deception')
from Sengoku Basara 3
Taki Hiromu
Motochika gathers the other members of the Western Army together in Osaka Castle for a celebration, intending to improve his allies' relationships with one another. He wasn't expecting to be thrown out of his own party after arguing with Motonari, though, and the two of them end up talking alone instead of partying with the others. It's impressive how Taki is able to steer the tone of this story from comical to serious in just a few pages.

Sengoku Kyoutei: Kinsenpai ('Sengoku Boat Race: Money Cup')
from Sengoku Basara 3
Tane Jugou
Motochika discovers that Motonari doesn't seem his usual self after a tangle with the Xavists - why does he keep brandishing that creepy doll? Things become even more confusing when Tsuruhime gets involved.

Aidokusho Okarishimasu ('Borrowing A Favourite Book')
from Sengoku Basara 3 Utage
Kyunkichi
Kanbee is savouring a rare moment of peace after Mitsunari and Gyoubu leave him alone in Osaka Castle one evening. Unfortunately, his plan to settle down and read one of his books is ruined when Motonari suddenly appears before him.

Iyo No Kuni No Otetsudai-san ('The Little Helper Of Iyo Province')
from Sengoku Basara 3 Utage
Kyunkichi
Motochika is delighted to see Masamune, Magoichi and Ieyasu gathered together as he runs an errand for Tsuruhime. He's excited to see Tadakatsu most of all, and he asks Ieyasu to join him in a bet. If Motochika wins he gets Tadakatsu - but if Ieyasu wins, he'll get Motochika's ship!

Setouchi Sounan Mokushiroku ('Setouchi Shipwreck Apocalypse')
from Sengoku Basara 2
Mizuno Sao
An odd sequence of events leads to Motochika taking on the Xavists singlehandedly, then becoming trapped on a desert island on the way home. Unfortunately, he's trapped there with Motonari, who is as prickly as ever after his brush with Xavism. The story is told over the course of a series of 4-panel gag strips.

Ika Doonattsu ('Squid Doughnuts')
from Sengoku Basara 3 Utage
Mizusawa Michiru
Motonari is furious to discover that someone has swapped his weapon for a huge doughnut. It gets worse, though; everyone else seems to be experiencing the same kind of problem, and he ends up rushing around the country with Motochika to try to find out which villain is behind the heinous crime.

Ima, Soko Ni Aru Sengoku Saikyou ('Now, The Strongest In The Warring States Is Over There')
from Sengoku Basara 3
Horiguchi Reo
The reader gets a rare glimpse at the complex battle strategies which Motonari and Yoshitsugu come up with together as they discuss countermeasures for Ieyasu's powerful ally, Honda Tadakatsu. Are these two tacticians really as cunning as they appear?

Kinou No Teki Ha Kyou No Tomo!? ('Yesterday's Enemy Is Today's Friend!?')
from Sengoku Basara 3
Nagao Uka
Motonari asks to spend some time with Motochika in order to improve their relationship now that they're both allies in the Western Army. Neither of them are entirely happy with the arrangement. An awkward fishing trip shows that old feelings of resentment are difficult to forget even during times of peace.

Makezugiraitachi No Heiwa Na Hi ('The Sore Losers' Peaceful Day')
from Sengoku Basara 3
Sakaduki Ran
Motochika gets more than he expected when he accidentally infiltrates the Mouri ranks away from the battlefield and finds out more about the 'sacrificial pawns' he often faces in battle.

Maru Maru Setouchi ('Round Round Setouchi')
from Sengoku Basara Battle Heroes
Sanjou Kiiro
A collection of 4-koma gag strips about Motonari and Motochika bickering, with a guest appearance from the eccentric Imagawa Yoshimoto and a few other familiar faces.

Sengoku Seto Ranse ('Turbulent Times Of The Sengoku Seto')
from Sengoku Basara 2
Ikuhashi Muiko
More 4-koma gag strips, with Motochika fussing over one of his moves and Motonari trying to snare Motochika with his latest evil scheme. Ikuhashi's use of repetition and visual humour is a good combination.

Setouchi Ni Sumu Oni To Nichirin No Ko ('The Demon And The Child Of The Sun Who Dwell In The Setouchi Region')
from Sengoku Basara 3
Hakyu Shou
Another set of 4-koma comic strips, this time concentrating on the various character relationships in the turbulent Western Army.

Kiraboshi No Gotoku ('Like The Shimmering Stars')
from Sengoku Basara 2 and Sengoku Basara 3
Kohtake Hiroyoshi
The final set of 4-koma strips pokes fun at scenarios from the games. Kohtake's hyper-expressive artwork is very cute.

--

It's taken a long time for me to get back to reading this volume after its release was delayed; Sengoku Basara 4 coverage was taking up most of my time by January! Even though I don't tend to follow Motonari and Motochika as closely as some of the others, Setouchi Chronicle is a fun anthology with a lot of entertainment value. The contributors clearly love the characters they're drawing and the jokes are genuinely funny. I couldn't stop laughing at the deadpan humour in Mizusawa's story.

It's also a good book for fans of less popular characters who don't get to appear in many of the manga spin-offs, since minor characters show up just as much as major ones in these stories.

C'mon Capcom, I'd like to see a Toyotomigun Chronicle and Odagun Chronicle next to give the two leads from Sengoku Basara 4 and their armies a chance to feature in this kind of wacky comedy too!

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