Remember when anime was all about gruesome amounts of sex and violence? That was great. Now it’s just about gruesome amounts of sex and video games. Oh, how time has evolved.
In all seriousness though, Basilisk isn’t all about sex and violence. It’s mostly about violence, with a little bit of sex sprinkled in. It highlights an issue that screams old Japanese culture with ninja and honor and clans and grudges and yadda, yadda, yadda. Basically, the premise of Basilisk is nothing new. Two clans are fighting each other after an anti-war pact is nullified after so many years with a number of specific ninja from each clan needing to be eliminated in order to “win.” Win what, you ask? I don’t know. Something about someone’s place on the throne or something. It’s never really explained. But never mind that, we’ve got sex and violence!
To its credit, Basilisk at least tries to set up a logical and stable story to base its violence around. This turns out to be its greatest strength, too, as the story of Basilisk is easily immersible and interesting to predict. The story alone was enough for me to continue watching the series, even if it tried fairly hard to make it as vague as possible.
Another interesting strength I found is one I typically garner disdain for. In this show, each character has a single ability that makes them a threat to anyone else. Typically in shows like this, the author takes advantage of the fact that the viewer knows nothing of the powers of an opponent and constantly pulls the “I haven’t shown you my true power!” cliché. For this show, the subject of the story are ninjas, who are trained to give as little away as possible and to always remain discreet about their abilities, killing any who may have knowledge, if at all possible. It gives reason to have the battles that take place in Basilisk fast and without many surprises, much like any ninja battle should be. It also gives a greater sense of dramatic irony when the viewer is aware of the powers of the ninjas when other characters do not, heightening the tension and suspense that will inevitably arise out of a given situation. All ninja only have a single secret ability, giving no possibility for loopholes in battle.
Even so, the story can be somewhat overdramatic, especially in regards to its characters. While the story in its own right is interesting and takes advantage of its own potential, it falters greatly when focusing on its characters and their motivations. The story is predictable and doesn’t step outside the boundaries, but tells the story in a fashion that is enjoyable to view even without and flash or flare of anything innovative. The characters are dumb.
Not to say the characters’ logic is dumb, only that they are largely forgettable, without much personality, and have copy/paste motivations. Remember the “sex” I keep mentioning above? Of the five important female characters in Basilisk, three of the five’s secret ability involves them being exposed. A lot. There is enough fan service to conclude that the author is clearly exploiting this, or taking advantage of the male gender’s weakness to sex. Either way, the result is that if a woman is shown in this anime (and is young and attractive), they will be semi-nude at one point. It’s almost like that’s all they’re good for or something. But that’s not all. Four out of the five female characters have a love interest. When those love interests are inevitably killed, they go insane with “vengeance” on their mind. The same goes for the male cast. If they have a love interest killed in battle, they go insane with vengeance. If they have a family member killed in battle, they go insane with vengeance. Everyone goes insane with vengeance. That’s basically the entire cast: insane with vengeance.
Motivations aside, the characters themselves are largely forgettable. Most have the casual “gritty, serious” mannerisms that anyone would have in a state of war or battle. No one outside of Jousuke, who is a tired pervert stereotype, and Oboro, who is a sweet and innocent girl raised without war in mind, act differently from anyone else, sans the male characters being more cruel and the female characters being more caring, typically. There are segments in the anime where a few characters have regrets about the war between clans and show some remorse for the people they’ve killed, but that bares little to development of the characters, since a character’s past is usually delved into either after or shortly before they perish. Not to mention, most of those killed early on in the anime barely escape before giving their name and secret ability. A recap episode shown later attempts to salvage any humanity in them, but does little in regards to my, and perhaps others’, empathy towards their death. It’s more fun to keep track of who dies and in what order. The characters are basically puzzle pieces sacrificed for the big picture that is the story of Basilisk.
Looking at Basilisk was typically pretty good. You see those tits up there? Those were nice. Though, I will highlight something specific: the anime is better at night. There’s a reason why Basilisk primarily takes place at night or in the dark. The atmosphere of the show is far more immersive and impressive when the characters can hardly be seen… wait. Jokes aside, ninja are stealthy and quick, hiding from plain view and waiting to strike at the best moment. The night (or dark environments) highlight the spirit of ninja battles and the overall tone that Basilisk tries to showcase with its grim story. The characters are actually pretty distinguishable (albeit somewhat easy to identify as “more good” or “more evil”) and are pretty stylish for the time period. No complaints animation-wise, though only because the fight scenes aren’t supposed to be long, drawn-out, or spectacular. Maybe too much blood?
I listened to this anime, too, amazingly enough. I liked the tunes that Gennosuke played to Oboro, but otherwise, I didn’t think the soundtrack was all too spectacular. I don’t listen to the OP or ED when watching anime, by the way. So don’t ever ask me about that. I will likely never have an answer. The voice acting was fine. It didn’t kill my ears, so there’s that.
My feelings for Basilisk are similar to my feelings for Baccano!: good story, bad characters. The characters felt too much like walking sacrifices for the outcome of the story, exhibiting no or little personality to distinguish themselves from the rest of the cast or from any standard archetype. However, the story is interesting in the fact that it stays true to ninja tradition and exudes that important sense of honor and loyalty that eastern nations hold to such a high standard. That and the deaths are deliciously gruesome (see: above picture). It’s entertaining enough, but nothing that would be worth a re-watch or an Akeginu body pillow.
The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.