SENGOKU BASARA: A HELPFUL GAY SAMURAI PRIMER
So for vaguely-Fate/minus-related purposes, I recently sat my beloved mithingthepoint down and made her watch Sengoku Basara. I saw the first season at my college’s anime club a while ago but never caught the second (until now), and though I had pretty fond memories of it, I’d somehow forgotten exactly how awesome it was.
And I now feel compelled to share some of that awesome with the good people of tumblr, because seriously, Date Masamune’s horse has motorcycle handlebars and exhaust pipes and Honda Tadakatsu is a Gundam, and that alone should be incentive to watch this.
(Disclaimer: I haven’t played the games, since PS3 ahahahaha what is that, though I kind of know what goes on in them. I will therefore focus on the anime, because unlike some videogame-to-anime adaptations, the anime’s easy to follow even if you know jack shit about the game. Or so I found, at least.)
Hundreds of years ago in Japan, the Sengoku period happened. It more or less started with the Onin War and ended when Tokugawa Ieyasu completed the unification of Japan that began under Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. This historical background is not actually very important, because Sengoku Basara takes a lot of the famous historical figures from that period, gives them all even more levels in badass, and shoves them in a blender with equal parts crack and GAR. If you’re looking for a series with complicated political intrigue and painstaking historical accuracy — well, you’re shit out of luck. If you are looking for a series where Takeda Shingen punches ninjas in the face, congratulations!
And then after the first season whaps you upside the head with Gurren Lagann-style historical reimaginings, the second season introduces a few villains you actually kind of feel for and injects some legitimate character development and emotionally affecting moments into the mix, and you suddenly find yourself making dying whale noises all over the place.
So in Sengoku Basara’s Japan, a bunch of warlords control various provinces, and a most of those warlords have designs on conquering the rest. Some of them fight for the hope of peace afterwards; some of them pretty much want to conquer Japan to prove to everyone that they can. But all of them generally act like fine upstanding samurai who beat the crap out of each other honorably, until one dude says “fuck the rules of engagement” and goes on a big old murderunification spree across Japan. The other warlords eventually team up to bring him down, so they can go back to fighting each other in (relative) peace.
One of those warlords (though he’s quite reluctant to team up with the others at first) is Date Masamune.
He’s one of the main characters, and the warlord of Oshu. A lot of people call him the One-Eyed Dragon, which sounds really naughty but is a reference to, well, the fact that he has one eye. His army calls him “hitto,” which can be roughly translated as “Boss.”
That’s his army, by the way. They look and act like a delinquent biker gang, and they are, like everything else in this series, awesome.
The Date Army also include Masamune’s second in command, Katakura Kojuro, also known as the Right Eye of the Dragon.
I’m passing this over to Mith, because Kojuro is Mith-catnip. This is because (hi this is Mith writing now) Kojuro is a Battle Butler margarita with perfect proportions of competence, devotion, and repression, and in a really hot twist the repression isn’t sexual, it’s RAGE. Kojuro talks all deferent to Masamune and only Masamune and is basically a gangster the rest of the time (even when he is running Oshu and planting rice with the commoners). He stands back and says “I will not interfere” when Masamune wants to get his freak on with Yukimura, but the rest of the time he considers Masamune’s welfare his personal responsibility and takes his duties seriously to the point of offering to or attempting to commit seppuku. (Masamune, thankfully, puts his foot down each time.)
However, instead of angsting about his admittedly complicated relationship with his impetuous and hot-blooded liege, he whups Masamune’s ass in a duel, takes his swords, and hands them over to the bad guys because the Dragon is the treasure, not his claws.
He’s also a strategist. And a southpaw. And a gardener.
Ahem. Now that Mith’s worked herself up to a full-on fangirl swoon, back to the One-Eyed Dragon (heh) himself. Masamune wields six swords, Wolverine-claw style:
inserts Engrish phrases into his speech whenever possible:
and his horse is outfitted with handlebars and exhaust pipes.
love interest rival both is Sanada Yukimura, the other main character of the series.
So you know how in history, Yukimura charged right the fuck into Tokugawa Ieyasu’s camp during the Siege of Osaka and tore down Ieyasu’s flag? (If you didn’t before, you do now!) Sengoku Basara bases most of their characterization of the guy around that.
Yukimura is a promising, if rather hot-blooded, young general under the command of Takeda Shingen, dual-wields a pair of spears (that he sometimes sets on fire), and has no indoor voice. Whatsoever.
The image only gets so much across. Watch this. You will understand.
Interestingly enough, even though Yukimura always shouts, he shouts very politely. Like, Himura Kenshin levels of crazy politeness. He uses “de gozarou” instead of “desu” at the end of most of his sentences, refers to himself as “soregashi,” and uses the “-dono” suffix for pretty much everyone, even foot soldiers. That combination of BURNING SPIRIT and humble devotion is really frickin’ moe.
Here, have some more Yukimoe:
When he is sad, you want to HUG HIM FOREVER. Witness:
I’ll stop before I decide to upload my entire fanart folder to further prove the point, but he’s an enormous cutie-pie and I love him.
He has an, er, interesting relationship with Shingen. Since Yukimura has, as TVTropes puts it, “roughly the ambition of a shoe,” Shingen is always trying to get the guy to think about the future and have ideals other than eternal devotion to his oyakata-sama. Shingen accomplishes this through motivational punching.
Don’t worry, none of this actually damages Yukimura. In fact, in the above scene, Shingen’s punch actually seems to cure Yukimura’s injuries. I am not kidding.
Shingen, as mentioned, is also adept at punching ninjas.
And at ignoring the laws of probability and physics.
In the above screencap, Shingen is indeed standing on top of two horses, his axe resting between them, as he rides almost vertically up a wall. Because he is that much of a fucking badass.
Like his protege Yukimura, Shingen also has a rival, one Uesugi Kenshin.
When they aren’t clashing on the battlefield, they’re quite friendly and team up with each other against other warlords a lot. It’s like Worthy Opponent and Friendly Enemy cranked up to eleven, and it’s rather sweet. (Incidentally, their relationship in SenBasa is pretty close to the relationship that the real Shingen and Kenshin apparently had. They clashed at the same battlefield at Kawanakajima five times without either of them scoring a decisive victory, which also basically happens over the course of the series. And when Shingen died, Kenshin wept openly and went into mourning for a long time. tl;dr I love them in basically every incarnation.)
Kenshin is calm, composed, brilliant, a devout follower of Bishamonten, and oh so very pretty.
Incidentally, Kenshin’s gender is rather ambiguous, and this is also Based On Actual History, or at least based on some rather persistent speculation that the historical Kenshin might have been a woman masquerading as a man. Kenshin’s voiced by Romi Park, and the producer of the anime didn’t give a straight answer about whether Kenshin was male or female. I like to imagine that Kenshin’s a crossdressing lesbian, but I freely admit that my reasons are shallow as fuck and mostly have to do with wanting a crossdressing lesbian general. And it also makes Kenshin/Kasuga really hot.
Let’s take a closer look at Kasuga’s character design:
Yep, that about sums it up.
Kasuga is a kunoichi in Kenshin’s service who was initially sent to off Kenshin but ended up falling hard instead. Whenever Kenshin compliments her or calls her “my beautiful blade” (which Kenshin does a lot), Kasuga does this:
Which speaks well to either Kenshin’s mastery of the sexyvoice or Kasuga’s responsiveness.
Kasuga’s not a bad ninja, but there’s this one guy who keeps getting in her way:
Sarutobi Sasuke, a member of what Funimation’s subs translate as the Sanada Ninja Corps but might actually be (and should be) the Sanada Ten Braves, I’d have to check. Why anyone would put this Yukimura in charge of a ninja corps is beyond me, but I think it’s part of his inheritance or something.
Sasuke’s life can be difficult sometimes, as he is a ninja who works for two men who love nothing better than to SHOUT EACH OTHERS’ NAMES AT THE TOP OF THEIR LUNGS WHILE PUNCHING EACH OTHER IN THE FACE.
Over the course of babysitting Yukimura, and watching Yukimura repeatedly ignore all laws of common sense — and occasionally causality — Sasuke has exhausted his lifetime supply of fucks and has none left to give. He’s snarky, laid-back, kind of a troll, and just plain fun to have around. Plus, his seiyuu is Takehito Koyasu, and Takehito Koyasu’s presence is never a bad thing.
The final major character in the first season is Maeda Keiji.
Keiji really really wishes that everyone in Japan would sit back, drink sake, enjoy a festival or two, and stop fighting each other all the time. Unfortunately, Keiji lives in the Japan of Sengoku Basara, in which “honored opponent” and “love interest” basically mean the same thing. He also harbors the unfortunate delusion that the villains of the series are actually interested in talking instead of, you know, wholesale slaughter accompanied by loud German chanting. But he’s a cool guy, and devoted to his family underneath his scampish ways, and a lot smarter than he seems, and his monkey is adorable.
The lineup shuffles around a little in the second season, but Masamune, Yukimura, and Keiji largely remain the primary protagonists.
In the first season, our heroes are up against Oda Nobunaga.
It’s like Capcom took a look at Koei’s Nobunaga and went “you know, the pitch-black feathers all over the place and evil-infused lightsaber weren’t enough.”
This is what Nobunaga likes to do when he’s not burning/slaughtering/shooting everything in sight:
Yes, he is indeed sitting on a throne of skulls twirling his mustache while wearing enough spiky plate armor to make Sauron jealous. And drinking sake out of another skull. SenBasa takes that whole Devil King of the Sixth Heaven thing pretty literally. I think even Luca Blight is more subtle than this guy.
He gets away with it by being just as badass as he is evil.
I guess this is sooooort of cheating because it’s a game screenshot, but he bitchslaps people with his cape in the anime, too, so it’s all good.
This is his theme. It plays pretty much every time he appears. It’s usually accompanied by thunder and lightning in the background. And I’ll give you three guesses who his seiyuu is (and if the first one isn’t NORIO WAKAMOTO, you haven’t watched enough anime). It is all completely unsubtle, and awesome in its unsubtlety. But come on, in a series like this, you need a villain who can be as gloriously over-the-top as all the protagonists are.
Those of you who know or vaguely remember something about the Sengoku period might recall that in history, Nobunaga was betrayed by one of his generals, Akechi Mitsuhide, and forced to commit suicide at Honno-ji. So with a Nobunaga this evil, Mitsuhide must be a pretty swell upstanding kind of guy, right?
Huh? Why do you say that, Nobunaga?
SenBasa’s Mitsuhide is a psychopathic sadomasochist with Sephiroth hair and a mean set of scythes who practically moans in ecstasy every time he’s injured in combat and likes tormenting Nobunaga’s enemies and erstwhile allies even more than Nobunaga himself does. He’s like Starscream meets Bellatrix Lestrange meets Grell Sutcliff, and should probably not be allowed anywhere near children just in case he decides to roast and eat them or something.
Speaking of! This is Ranmaru. This is also probably one of the least girly depictions of Ranmaru out there; in SenBasa, he’s mostly just a bratty kid with terrible taste in idols. Surprisingly, Capcom missed out on the opportunity to depict Nobunaga as a pedophile on top of everything else, but that does not stop me from making shota jokes. (What? It’s history. No, seriously. Google “wakashudo” some time.)
And this is Nohime, Nobunaga’s wife.
The above picture highlights Nohime’s most important attributes. Lady has fantastic legs. And a fan that opens up into a gatling gun.
Like I said. She also pours sake into skulls for her husband, although the most he does to acknowledge her existence is to not kill her. She’s still pretty badass, though. And a fox.
A few other important figures:
This is Oichi. She’s Nobunaga’s sister. It doesn’t go well for her. That’s not a spoiler so much as it’s common sense. Oichi spends most of her time blaming herself for absolutely everything that goes wrong ever — she probably blames herself for global warming — and murmuring her husband’s name. She’s a few Froot Loops shy of a full box, that’s all I’m saying.
She also has Dark Powers (TM) in the form of shadow
tentacles hands, which are just begging to be put to unsavory uses. And by “unsavory” I mean “where’s the porn.”
That works. Thanks, canon!
This is Oichi’s husband, Azai Nagamasa:
GEE I SURE HOPE NOTHING BAD HAPPENS TO HIM
These guys are Maeda Toshiie and his wife, Maeda Matsu.
They’re Keiji’s uncle and aunt, respectively, and are always trying to get him to settle down and stop goofing off, but he’s not listening. Toshiie and Matsu, despite being kindhearted and upstanding people, always seem to end up allied with the bad guys in any given conflict. The Maeda clan: not renowned for their good judgment.
This is Chosokabe Motochika:
He’s a one-eyed pirate warlord with a parrot and a giant cannon ship fortress thingie and his crewmen love the hell out of him and call him “aniki.” He’s a lot like Masamune, but more of a bro and less of a coolkid.
His anchor-surfing (he also fights with said anchor) is right up there with Shingen’s style of horse riding in terms of sheer GAR.
He keeps trying to get some rival-loving from Mori Motonari, but Motonari ain’t having it.
This is Motonari. He’s supposed to be a brilliant strategist, but his abysmal taste in haberdashery makes it hard for me to take him seriously.
Seriously, look at that thing.
He may well pull the “JUST AS PLANNED” thing even more often than Light Yagami does. He also views his soldiers as expendable pawns, which is one of the many, many reasons why dude basically has no friends. Not that he particularly seems to want them.
Neither the Maedas, Motochika, nor Motonari pop up much in the first season, but they become a lot more prominent in the second.
The other major thing to note about Sengoku Basara is that it’s really
I should note that none of these screencaps are taken out of context, all the text comes from either official subs or fansubs, and Mith has vouched for the accuracy of all the translations. There’s a reason why the fanbase has a 3:1 girl-to-guy ratio, that’s all I’m saying. And the creators are oh-so-aware of the fact.
So that’s Sengoku Basara. If you want to get your hands on it RIGHT THE FUCK NOW, you’re in luck! Both seasons are up and streaming on FUNimation’s YouTube channel, and I think they’re on Hulu, too. (You’ll have to look elsewhere for the OVAs and the movie, but they’re not hard to find.) FUNi only uploaded the first four episodes of the dub, but the dub’s pretty good. You lose Masamune’s Engrish, but you gain Johnny Yong Bosch as Yukimura, which is just too perfect.
To close it out, here’s a preview of Hondam Tadakatsu, as he’s affectionately known:
Now LET’S PARTY!