Ahhhhhh, I get it now. So THIS is what Shinobi -- Heart Under Blade was trying to do. Basilisk is the name of the manga/anime that Shinobi was based on, and now I know that Shinobi was really just a shorthand version of the tale in its entirety. Not that Shinobi -- Heart Under Blade was less than awesome, but this 24 episode series (Basilisk) is even more cut-ass rugged. They double the number of ninjas, they triple the action, and they quintuple the drama. Quin-fucking-tuple, whore!
Whoever thought that an animated show about uber-powered ninjas killing each other could be so emotional? Cool and dramatic, yes, but I never thought I'd get so engrossed in the characters themselves. Whereas in the live-action movie you barely get acquainted with any of the ninjas involved in the plot, here, you really get to know all the little ninja-lambs as they head for the slaughter. And boy-howdy do they get slaughtered. That's the basic plot of this show (ninjas killing ninjas), but alas I am getting dishonorably ahead of myself as I am wont to do.
So, Basilisk goes a little something like this... It is 1614AD, and the two separate ninja clans of the Iga and Kouga have been detesting and killing each other for generations. But peace between the two clans is at hand, for Gennosuke (of the Kouga clan) and Oboro (of the Iga) are set to marry, and thusly heal the hate -- or at the very least hopefully stop all of the unnecessary killing. But of course this would make a boring as fuck storyline if things were allowed to continue along this path. So it turns out that the two grandsons of Tokugawa Ieyasu-shogun are vying for control of the shogunate themselves, and each has the support of either the Iga or the Kouga clan. So instead of fighting for the throne with their own armies (and thusly tearing the country apart) it is decided to let their subservient assassins of the night do battle for them. Good news for the potential Shogun and us, the viewers, but alas bad news for the ninjas as an all-out MASSACRE then commences. And hot damn is it sweet to watch.
The first half of the series takes place in both (the Iga and Kouga) ninja villages as the clans find out about the breaking of their peaceful treaty, and then subsequently begin stealthily slicing and dicing their way to (hopefully) ultimate victory. Before long, those who remain take the fight on the road to the capital to either find out why they can't live in peace anymore, or to hunt down and kill those who are only going to find out why they can't live in peace. Brutality of the highest degree then kicks into overdrive as we watch the ninjas use their special powers (a la Ninja Scroll) to trick and bump off their opponents before they are done in first. And the special powers are pretty cool to see in action: there's one ninja who's body is pure poison, one who's like a human-spider, one who (like Zartan before him) can impersonate anybody he encounters, one who can drain the blood of anybody she touches, one who's hair can be used like extra arms and weapons, one who's power is to cancel out other ninjas' powers, etc. etc.... Honestly, there are in total like 22 powers we see, save some of the surprise for when you watch this show yourself.
The tragic play is well paced and addictive to watch -- there's a kill ratio of close to one ninja-death per episode, and guessing who's going to bite the sword next makes it hard to stop -- but it's not without its faults. The faults are as follows:
Well, one thing I didn't get was that they're all ninjas (they're all sneaky, deceptive, backstabbing sons-of-bitches), yet they ALWAYS fall for their attacker's bluff. Whenever a ninja feigns weakness or pretends to be taken off guard the attacker consistently lets his/her own guard down and is constantly surprised that the "cornered" ninja had something up his/her sleeve. Shouldn't that be the first fucking thing they teach at ninja pre-school? "Don't believe ANYTHING another ninja says. Ninja = lyer." I found myself shouting at the screen "Oh my GAWD! Don't fall for that crap! That asshole is just gonna-- Goddamn it! You fucking idiot!! How did you not see that coming?! Great, now you're fucking dead. Dipshit..."
This goes along with the previous paragraph a bit, but the way some of the ninjas died just rubbed me the wrong way. Everybody in this battle has supposedly been trained since childhood to be the baddest ass they can be, yet in the heat of battle they suddenly become stupid and die totally lame and sometimes meaningless deaths. Take the giant, bald, morpho-guy for instance. His termination was total gey b.s.. ANY toughened soldier would have seen past that retarded trap! Using that boy and his dead father to get to him... Ugh. Plus, why are ALL kid characters in these shows such stupid and unthinking retards? That kid was old enough to understand 100% that his father died because of HIM, not a super-powered ninja...
Another thing that I thought could have been handled better was how we viewed both clans as third party viewers. Everybody that I know who's seen Basilisk has been in support of the Kouga clan. Despite some of their appearances they were all pretty much cool people. People I would have liked to hang around with if they were real or if I was in a porno-cartoon myself. But the Iga clan... Assholes. Pretty much every ninja was either a dick or a mongoloid (except for Oboro). The Iga pretty much started the whole mess when they intercepted the messages about the break in their uneasy truce, and began the attack on the unsuspecting Kouga like a surprise attack on a US naval base in the South Pacific... I guess it's just in the Japanese people's blood. Anyway, the Kouga were almost all nice and (fairly) noble. Well... about as noble as a ninja can really be. Plus the Kouga had Okoi on their side. She was the hottest ninja babe in the whole thing.
The last thing that kind of bugged me about this show was the merciless slaughter of all those involved. I take that back, I didn't mind the bloody deaths of most of the Iga ninjas, but it really kind of pissed me off when one of the nicer (or hotter) Kouga shinobi were wasted. And the killing is pretty much one sided for the first few episodes (with the Kouga getting their ninja asses handed to them at the end of a bloody katana over and over again), which really got me bummed. But then the Kouga got back on their feet and slapped the Iga around a bit in order to even things out again... But my beloved (hottie) Okoi was already gone by the time the story moved along to the road to the capital. *Sigh*... Hot ninja babes should never meet horrible horrible ends. Never.
Beyond those paltry faults though, Basilisk had by far the GREATEST use of a flashback episode I have seen in a long time. No, we don't flashback to earlier episodes (in order to save some bank), we instead go back to a time before this bloody battle between the clans. We get to see all the characters who have died up to that point alive and happy before all the shit eventually hit the fan. It's extremely touching, and extraordinarily well played. Hats off to you, Basilisk writers!
Robot Pedro hates ALL hu-mans, chu already know that by now -- and if chu do not, then when I eventually robot-kill you in your sleep it will be a very nice surprise to you. This rule of hating hu-mans even extends to both ninjas and pirates. Fuck you, both suck.
Yes, if Robot Pedro were to run into either a ninja or a pirate -- or both -- in a dark alley, I would first see what kind of weapons they possessed. If they only had a weak, flimsy sword, or a one-pellet gun, I would immediately begin to laugh at my opponent, then I would ask them if they would prefer to have their necks snapped, or if they'd prefer if I turned them into a hu-man-liquid concoction and drank them, whereby I would then robo-defecate their remains into the nearest sewer grate.
Ninjas and pirates do not scare Robot Pedro, for they are only hu-mans underneath their schway uniforms. Ninja-pirates, or Pirate-ninjas however, they scare the electronic fecal matter out of me. THEY are most certainly NOT hu-man in the least. By my robo-calculations Ninja-pirates and Pirate-ninjas are the equivolent of sword-wielding, scurvy-filled, meat-eating sasquatch with halitosis. Sasquatch could rip even your mightiest hu-man warriors -- like Hulk Hogan or Rowdy Roddy Piper -- new hu-man assholes. I have seen it done many times on fieldtrips to the past and future. Do you truly think the immortal known as Jesus of Nazareth was killed by being stapled to a piece of a tree? Pathetic hu-mans, believing everything you read in books.
Normally I don't like martial arts movies or shows. Especially those concerning ninjas. They're usually the same thing over and over again (at least the ones my brother makes me watch are): martial artist gets trained, his master or his family gets killed by the bad guy, then revenge is dished out. Yawn.
But THIS series, although violent and focusing on some really ugly ninjas, was a love story at heart. The two lead characters were going to be married, but alas, the world was against them and their holy union. Isn't it always.... *Sigh*... Totally a martial-arts filled Romeo and Juliet. Only not as tragic. And not as violent (ever see that Shakespeare play? Yikes!). And the characters were not as devious. And not as noble. And a bit dumber. But other than that, totally Romeo and Juliet set in Japan. With ninja powers.