Like kunai in the throats of our hearts, these are the days of our…intergalactic photo shoots.
Basilisk: Kouga Ninpo Cho (just Basilisk in its English distribution)
American Distributor: Funimation
When I say “love story”, what comes to mind? If you’re a literary sort of any kind, or if you ever attended a New York school like myself, then whether you like it or not, the first thing that pops into your head is, of course, Romeo and Juliet. The tale of a true, deep love unfulfilled due to the cruel auspices of fate, and the warring passions of two families, R&J has been captivating audiences for almost half a millennium now. On the other side of the coin, we have the world of Anime, where everything, even the most staid premise can be made anew by the creative madness of the men and women who make these things. So what does this have to do with today’s subject? Well, if I was to describe Basilisk in a sentence, it would be to say that someone looked at that old tale of love and loss, and said “You know what would make this story AMAZING? Ninjas.”
In fairness though, despite that rather silly description, Basilisk is a mighty enjoyable, occasionally heartrending and endlessly creative (yes, creative) little gem for anyone who’s in the mood for some high romance, but feels that there should be a body-count. Just like any true-to-life love story…
I want you to remember a time that you watched a really funny internet video. You saw it, and you said to yourself “Wow, this is hilarious! I have to show my friends!”. And so you posted it on your facebook, or showed it at a group hangout. Sure, it was stupid and devoid of any real meaning, but everyone laughed and had a good time, and it was quickly forgotten. If the mood strikes you, a long time later on you might still reference said video with a knowing wink and a smile, and a few people will chuckle and move on with their lives. And you will too.
This is kind of what Shootfighter Tekken is in a nutshell. A three episode OVA utterly devoid of any real intellectual or emotional depth, but still a ton of fun to watch while it lasts. Is it one of the greats, destined to stand with the great artworks of anime? No. But I deny you to not have a blast while watching this gaudy, ridiculous, and awesome little gem.
In a world torn apart by violence, greed and death, one man wanders the desolate wastes on a mission of vengeance. His swordsmanship is unmatched by any of the hundreds who have challenged him, and his name is whispered fearfully in many a den of scum and villainy. Stopping nowhere, and proceeding ever onward toward his destination, his only companions are his sword and his fast talking counterpart. He is recognized by his dark skin, his cold, piercing eyes, and by his…gigantic black afro hairstyle, with a smidgen of green, of course.
Yup, that last part sure throws a wrench into things. Welcome to the world of Afro Samurai, where the baddies are brutal, the bitches are bangin’, and blood bathes the battlefield like a lackadasical hotel waitress spraying too much bleach on your end-table. The title alone seems too ludicrous to be accepted, and for a long time I myself had turned away from the show, expecting it to pander to the lowest common denominator. But if you look past the exploitative title, and are able to stomach a veritable cavalcade of sex and violence, then you will find an orgy of cool fights, cooler characters, great production values, and yes, even the occassional bit of depth.
From left to right: Nagamimi, Mataichi, Ogin, and Momosuke.
The anthology series is certainly an interesting creature. Relying on smaller, bite-sized stories, usually with little or no connection, this type of show relies on writing more than possibly any other type of series. In anime, the problem is exacerbated by the smaller episode counts (usually 12-24) and smaller budgets than most TV shows. Because of this, several shows of this type (most recently for me, “Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales”) tend to be decent, but not amazing. Some of them are downright awful.
But Natsuhiko Kyogoku’s “Requiem From the Darkness” is a unique gem even in this unique category. It is, ostensibly, an anthology of horror stories, each connected by a central cast of four characters and each one focusing on the myriad of awful things people are capable of doing. But unlike most of its ilk, Requiem carries itself with an interesting sense of style (and, dare I say it, a bit of swagger) that elevates it from “a solid horror series” to an altogether unusual experience all its own.