12 of 12 episodes seen
The storyline and plot development of Sengoku Basara is barely worth mentioning – it is barely developed whatsoever, and the skimming over of the events of the period made trying to follow such an unexplained story fairly confusing for someone like me, who does not know much about the events of the Sengoku Period themselves. It becomes obvious that the bare threads of story only serve to connect the fights of the series, and this in turn contributes to the rushed feeling of the series itself. The basic time-worn concept of good vs. evil presents the main plot of the series, a very stereotypical goal for the demographic.
The cast of characters for the series is quite large, surprising considering the fairly short length of the series itself, and because of this large cast/short series imbalance, character development is practically paper thin. Some characters only show up for one episode or so before being offed, or in some cases, only appear for two or three moments in the series, despite being seemingly interesting characters (prime suspects for this being Mouri Motonari and Chousokabe Motochika, the latter only being revealed at the end of the series and basically has around 5 minutes of screentime in total). Also, opposite to the above point, several characters that are featured prominently in the series have barely any interesting fight scenes or development whatsoever (prime examples being Sarutobi Sasuke and Kasuga). This presents a very ‘half-finished’ view on the character development of the series, which is never a good thing. Despite this, however, there are some characters that are developed more than others, such as Date Masamune or Yukimura Sanada, for example, but these characters still are not developed very much, and their dialogue mostly delves into a sea of predictable phrases later on in the series. Interactions between characters are fairly unremarkable, unless they are fighting between each other, and many of the ‘gags’ that occur throughout the series (such as Yukimura’s exchanges with Takeda Shingen, or Kasuga’s interaction with Uesugi Kenshin) are very repetitive and don’t really add much whatsoever, they just end up being fairly silly and irritating as time goes by.
It is clear from the very first episode that the primary focus of Sengoku Basara is with its action scenes, something which the war-time setting caters to greatly. However, many battles simply degrade into one of the main characters using some kind of absurdly powerful attack to tear through legions of nameless weak soldiers, and this does become repetitive quickly. Despite this, the majority of the battles take place between the main protagonists and antagonists of the series themselves, and these battles can sometimes be fairly fun to watch, but most delve into the limitless vault of shonen series tropes such as powering up/energy blasts etc., which really hampers the uniqueness of the fights, even if interesting elements are involved.
Visual direction of the series is quite well done, the fight scenes are fluid and transition well, and generally in itself the animation is quite detailed. Frequent splashes of colour and sketching effect are used very liberally throughout the series, to highlight the flashy special moves that the characters exhibit, which is somewhat interesting at first but is not particularly explored. There is a surprising lack of blood, even for a shonen series of this kind, which does make the battles somewhat disappointing to watch.
Audio wise the series does not present a particularly memorable soundtrack, most of the series’ background music consists of either stereotypically created hard rock tracks for the fight scenes or somewhat traditional sounding music for the scenes that were not taken up by fighting, which is not very many whatsoever. The opening and ending themes are also fairly unmemorable rock pieces which contributed to the series’ tone itself in principle, but really were not notable in any other merit.
In conclusion, Sengoku Basara is a very average and overrated series. A lack of coherent story beyond an excuse for characters to fight, poor overall character development due to a large cast and not enough screentime, subpar and derivative action sequences with too much incessant energy blasts/special attacks, a fairly unremarkable soundtrack and a lack of veritable historical accuracy for the period translates to a measly 5/10. Some may find this entertaining as merely a baseless and flashy piece of media, but these features should not be treated as compliments.
11 of 11 episodes seen
The plotline is very interesting and is revealed at a well managed pace, and this pacing creates the many moments at the end of each episode which leave the viewer wanting more and more from the series. However, the ending is somewhat abrupt, and does not really provide any full closure to the series itself – but when it is factored in that the series’ ending is actually presented in two extra movies, this ‘ending’ can be forgiven for its somewhat sudden stopping point. The intricacies of the story and the unfolding of the plot are very complex and rewarding to the viewer when uncovered, most of the time giving new questions to the viewers with each revelation. The character development is also handled well – Akira Takizawa, being the main character, of course has the most detailed development of the characters, but it is arguable that his actions practically push the plot entirely throughout the series, and his endearing personality and the hook of the mysterious events surrounding his past make him into an incredible main protagonist. Being a source of many different film references that he mentions frequently throughout the series also gives him a sense of realism that not many other protagonists can match, allowing the viewer to further understand his character.
Compared to Akira Takizawa’s well developed personality, the female protagonist, Saki Morimi, does not match up as well. Granted, she does provide a plethora of interesting character interactions between her and Akira, along with her interactions with other characters. However, due to the progression of the plot, Saki, despite being a character that is likable due to her sudden involvement in Akira’s world, she doesn’t seem to do much at all to the plot itself, and it almost seems as if her entire characterisation results in her simply running around after Akira, rendering her character somewhat useless. Saki’s friends are also not particularly developed, but this is not required, as they only serve as another viewpoint to Akira’s and the other Selecao’s actions throughout the series, occasionally providing their own support and launching their own investigations into the actions of Akira, giving them a surprising amount of depth for side characters. The Selecao members themselves are almost as interesting as Akira himself as far as character development goes – it is clear that each Selecao is radically different from each other, and have their own motives for their participation, be them benign or malicious. In fact, even though several of the Selecao members do not appear for more than one or two episodes each, they are developed quite well, and provide a great contrast to the actions of Akira, serving as a good selection of what could loosely be referred to as ‘antagonists’, but the reality of the each Selecao member’s individual motives are much more complex.
The art direction of this series is extremely well done, with both the character designs and the backgrounds handled efficiently, creating a real sense of detail and distinctiveness throughout, applying especially to the characters – their designs fit their character personalities excellently overall. The animation for both the opening and ending sequences is also very unique and stylish, with special commendation going to the creation of the ending sequence, which must have used a lot of paper to produce. Even the segments in which there are CG, it tends to blend in with the backgrounds and the other elements of the environment so well that it is difficult to notice – a very commendable feat.
Audio in this series is also another element in which this series shines – the OP and ED themes are very fun to listen to, and also contribute well to the theme and progression of the series. The lyrics of the OP and ED themes, notably, are very relevant to the events of the series as well, specifically ‘Falling Down’ by Oasis. Even the background score is very well designed and fit very well to the situations in which the individual tracks are presented in. Voice acting is generally very well done, and the performances bring out the personalities of the characters, from the civilians to the Selecao, extremely well.
The series is very enjoyable to watch, and the ending begs for the viewer to watch the movies to close the curtains on the storyline once and for all, and that is something I almost certainly will be doing. My final rating of 9/10 sums up very well the incredible combination of fantastic, well paced and gripping storytelling, the detailed and unique artwork, the amazing soundtrack and the well developed characters throughout the series. The one point deducted can only be attributed to a perhaps weak offering in Saki’s characterisation and a fairly inconclusive ending, although the presence of the movies as a follow-up production practically invalidates the latter point. Anyone who is looking for the next great modern mystery and suspense series, you will do well to find better than this gem of an anime.
6 of 6 episodes seen
The story of the series is quite strong, with an interesting premise with the introduction of Stands to the series - psychic manifestations of the user’s fighting spirit. The somewhat formulaic presented goal to ‘defeat the big bad and save the damsel in distress’ may seem a stereotypical goal, but it is drastically subverted throughout the series, and this is one of the primary reasons as to why JoJo’s continues to excel as a brilliant series through its intuitive and genre-breaking storylines.
The characters are well developed, despite the condensing of much of the manga storyline into the creation of the OVA – Jotaro’s badass demeanour and sharp wit are complimented well by the supporting protagonist cast – the humble and loyal Noriaki Kakyoin, the lecherous and somewhat ‘comic relief’ character of the series Jean Pierre Polnareff, the light-hearted and intelligent Joseph Joestar, the direct and intimidating Muhammed Avdol and the rebellious but occasionally helpful Stand-using dog Iggy. As you can probably tell, these personalities clash quite frequently, and the character interactions are quite meaningful in allowing the audience to interpret the characters fully and become really drawn into the plot’s progression.
Stands are the primary innovative feature introduced in this series in particular, and the Stand concept is present up until the current part, Part 7 in the manga, and there are plenty of reasons as to why this is. Stands add a new dimension to combat, and just because many of the Stands look physically bulky does not mean the battles become fistfights – the vast majority of battles in JoJo’s are won not by the physical strength of the users, but by their wit and cunning, and the usage of the environment and their powers to secure an advantage. Expect many underhanded tricks and death-defying attacks, and these only add to the trope-breaking that JoJo’s exhibits.
In terms of visuals, it is clear that the directors have put a lot of effort into imitating Hirohiko Araki’s distinct and interesting art style, and in some ways, they manage to succeed, but it was always going to be difficult to recreate the flamboyant poses and eye-popping visuals that Araki creates in the manga. The 90’s animation in the later episodes is well done for its time; despite some niggles with jagged edging, but these can really be overlooked. The prequel episodes created in 2000 have a much darker and deeper animation style, and this is also quite visually impressive. The variety of clothing and fashion sense that Araki creates exudes brilliance, and this is well replicated in the OVA, adding to that same atmosphere that was created in the original manga.
Despite the lack of an opening or ending theme, the audio in the OVA is also very well done – the backing music adds a very eerie and mysterious feel to the series, and the score backs the events of the series well, with no particular songs standing out over the others, but still managing to capture the emotion and tension of the situation. The voice acting was also excellent and in character, particularly the voice actors of Jotaro and the supporting protagonists, along with Dio’s voice actor, who breathed life and emotion into the characters and captured their essence and personality that was presented in the manga.
My final rating of 9/10 is a result of the combined praises that I have given the series over the past paragraphs. The only lost point was due to the condensing of the storyline, which was indeed required to fit into the 13 episode limit, but still leaves several loose ends which can only be understood if the watcher has already read the manga, which, to be fair, really should be the only reason as to why you are planning to watch this (if you have or are planning to read the manga). While this OVA series is very exciting to watch, it does not match up to the excellence of the manga, and should not be viewed as an alternative to reading the manga, as you will simply miss so much of the experience which makes JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure so captivating.