Dear loved one, please go to hell…
This world was quite generic at first glance. In fact, what made it special was how this world seamlessly combined many generic features into itself. Basilisk: Kouga Nippou Chou was particularly praised for its character building rather than world building. But the world is not made of only trees and stones, it is made of the people and the stories behind them as well.
The setting: confined historical world
The familiar feudal Japan, political turmoil, power struggle and brewing civil war served as the background of the story. The stage was set in the sea of deep forest and the reclusive ninja villages lying within. It was just a game for the politicians. The shogun feared that the power of the Ninja might be used against him. So he set the two rival ninja clans (Iga and Kouga) against each other hoping to eliminate both of them and the battle’s outcome would also settle the quarrel between the two heirs of the throne. Ten elite members from each ninja clans were chosen to participate in this battle to the death. This battle was announced just before Gennosuke (heir to Kouga clan) and Oboro (heiress to Iga) could get marry. The battle commenced in the deep forest where the ninja clans resided.
Characters with special powers: secret ninja arts
Special powers are of paramount importance in order to fascinate me (wait until you read other posts in this series and you’ll know). The twenty ninjas in Basilisk all practiced extraordinary arts. This was where the anime took a big step away from reality but the anime also used theses arts as climatic point for many of its subplots. Ninja arts were supposed to be a secret and most people who had seen them didn’t survive to tell the tale. For me, I was most impressed with Kagero’s ability to breath poison and Koshiro’s deadly whirlwind. But my favorite character remained Hotarubi.
Complicated love story: it’s actually Romeo and Juliet
I have to admit that this Romeo and Juliet thing is a universal theme and if correctly utilized, it can capture me every single time. But the love between Gennosuke and Oboro did not interest me as much as other characters’ more subtle love. I am talking about the love between Akiginu and Koshiro, between Hotarubi and Yashamaru, between Saemon and Okoi or even between Ogen and Danjo. These love existed through subtle actions, brief talks and flashbacks. They could never hope to withstand the tide of destiny like the love between protagonists. But they were right there, making the whole world bitter sweet.
This was the juiciest part. It’s where all the plotlines, complicated love and characterization met and lead to multiple, memorable ending for each character. Each death was unique due to the preceding context but all deaths were quick, brutal and emotionally devastating. Hotarubi’s death was the worst for me. It made me sick with sadness. But in retrospect, the more I loved the character, the more beautiful that character’s death became. That was kind of sick and I knew it.
The war between shinobi is a hell of blood. And I couldn’t stop thinking about it for a long while. I first read the manga which was exceptionally beautiful. Then I watched the anime series and the live action movie (named ‘Shinobi’). If I had written down my thoughts on this story every time it passed through my head, I would have a phonebook-sized fan fiction by now. A story and characters like this could be used as a blue print for endless additional stories and possibilities. You have no idea how many times I have roamed the forest as an Iga (yes, I preferred Iga, in case you wonder) and saw turn out in countless different direction.
On a different note, have you watched the 2005 film ‘Shinobi’? It was a lovely film with great cinematography, nice original score and exciting action sequence. And though the numbers of character were cut down by half due to limited running time, the essence of the manga remained. I believed it made quite substantial money in Japan.
There will be more universes similar to Basilisk. I have a soft spot for the kind of situation in which two powerful factions clash under complicated conditions.
Stay tuned for the next one.