Jun 23, 2016
gwern (All reviews)
Ninja battle to the death royale in the spirit and '90s-esque visual appearance of _Ninja Scroll_ (despite its 2005 production). What makes _Basilisk_ special is that it resists the trend towards dilution of the 'ninja' concept into just super-powered samurais throwing chi-balls and shuriken in the vein of _Naruto_ (although there are still plenty of bizarre powers and characters such as the snake-like Jimushi Jubei) but takes a much more brutal and yakuza-film-like approach: "all warfare is deception". _Basilisk_ plays with deception, information, and vision to an extent I can't remember seeing in any other series. For example, based on the first episode, one expects a quick descent into all-out warfare, and the tragic Romeo & Juliet ending of our two protagonists blatantly foreshadowed and my own reaction was to wonder how this plotline could possibly take up a full 2 cours/24 full episodes and whether I had perhaps made a mistake - and episode 2 totally confounds my expectations by *one side stealing the announcement* while the other side remains totally unaware that there is even a war on! This provides tremendous dramatic tension as they must balance the reward of ambushes and surprise attacks against the risk of alerting the others that they are no longer at peace. The issue of knowledge remains a theme throughout with shapeshifter Saemon's many appearances, particularly in impersonating a dead ninja and fooling his girlfriend Hotarubi; cruel as that was, the knife is twisted even further in one of the most memorable deaths in _Basilisk_. The protagonists are too good and pure to be at all sympathetic or interesting, but thankfully they only occasionally take center stage and the other characters get ample time on screen, the better to enjoy the twists and well-animated violence. (While many ninja shows set the action at night almost to a fault, _Basilisk_ fairly evenly allocates day/night scenes.) Overall, definitely one of the best ninja anime I've seen.