I'm a fan of Basilisk, and since this is from the same creator, I thought I'd give this manga a shot. Let me warn you though; this manga contains lots of abuse and nudity, so I wouldn't recommend it to people who can't stand such themes.
I didn't have high expectations regarding the art style, because I remember being put off by Basilisk's art in the manga version. The use of photographs and the somehow overly photoshopped feel of the art wasn't to my liking (with Basilisk), but this manga was a pleasant surprise.
I think the artist's style had developed during the making of Basilisk,
so the use of photographs was more subtle and thus less noticeable for me. Overall, the drawing style has evolved. It's a shame though that almost all the female characters suffer from the same face syndrome. As the plot is heavily centered around women, the similar character designs made it hard to distinguish the ladies. But, it doesn't matter, because it wasn't really neccessary to make them distinguishable, because the plot didn't really require that. Which is a shame, I think.
The same face syndrome seeped its way to the characteristics of the female cast. The only ones I can remember and distinguish are Ofue (the tomboy), Tenjuuin (leader of the nunnery) and Oyura. The first two I can distinguish by the style, but the last one only by her manners. The other women are just copies of each other, except maybe for Otone, but only through the special role she has. I think there are too many characters introduced in this manga that they could get enough screen time to be memorable, and the similar faces don't help at all. That might be the reason why the creator needed to write the characters' names several times beside the characters, so as to remind the readers who they were.
Unsurprisingly for those who have read Basilisk, the male cast doesn't suffer from the same face syndrome at all. I have never been sure if I should admire or detest the vile character design the creator uses on males in his mangas. But, even though the men can be distinguished, their characters are quite bland, be it the bad spearmen or the good monks. It seems to me that all the effort in character design has been poured into Juubei, Takuan and the big bad guys. All the others seem to be lacking in motives and goals, and they are remembered only by their techniques.
Despite the shortcomings of the character design, I enjoyed the characters that had more polished personalities. Also the plot was quite enjoyable with Juubei's tricks against the villains, though there were a few boring phases too. The plot did grip me well enough to make me read this in one sitting, so something was done right. If this had had less characters (or merged a few together), it might have made the plot more focused. Even though I liked Basilisk for its darkness and hopelessness, the brighter touch of Yagyu Ninja Scrolls didn't make me regret reading this.