After the defeat of warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the heroic samurai of Sengoku Basara have to once again put aside their infighting and petty squabbles, and band together to face down a new threat: Hideyoshi’s minion, the revenge-obsessed Ishida Mitsunari, who wants everyone’s blood on his hands ... and is even prepared to bring his master back from the dead to do it.
A feature-film conclusion to the events of the first two Sengoku Basara TV shows, Sengoku Basara: The Last Party plays like a longish episode of the show. It’s built from all the same ingredients and delivers all the same variety of enjoyment, but it breaks no new ground.
- Rollicking fun in the spirit of the show.
- Spectacular animation courtesy of Production I.G.
- Plays like an extended episode of the TV series, rather than something with the full scope of a movie.
- Despite an introduction, it relies entirely on the show for its setup.
- Director: Kazuya Nomura
- Animation Studio: Production I.G
- Released By: Pony Canyon / Shochiku Film
- Released Domestically By: FUNimation Entertainment
- Audio: English / Japanese w/English subtitles
- Age Rating: TV-14 (stylized action violence)
- List Price: $34.98 (Blu-ray / DVD combo)
Macho men, back for more
A while back I wrote of the series Golgo 13, “There's enough testosterone seeping off the screen in any one episode to put chest hair on a potted plant.” The same thing applied to Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings, a feverishly gung-ho take on Japanese martial history adapted from a popular Capcom video game series. It shows, not just for being stylized to within an inch of its life, but being gloriously macho in every respect. It isn’t enough for warlord Date Masamune to fight with one sword or even two: he uses six, three in each hand gripped between his fingers.
Now comes Sengoku Basara: The Last Party, a feature-film-length follow-up to the events in the two seasons (26 episodes) of the TV series, a (very) loose version of the pivotal battle of Sekigahara. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the heft of a feature film; instead, it feels more like a longish episode of the show, or maybe a few of them stuck together back-to-back. That doesn’t make it bad, just less impressive that it might have been.
Ultimate showdown of ultimate destiny ... part three
The Last Party follows the same basic premise as the show itself. During Japan’s Sengoku period, or “warring states” era, various fiefdoms all clashed with each other for control of the land. Some formed alliances; others stood their ground. The period and its clashes have been the subject of any number of romantic treatments in Japanese popular culture, but Sengoku Basara turns it into superheroic mayhem of the kind that you’d see in films like 300. Here, a duel between two warriors doesn’t just disturb the air, it sets off mushroom clouds and rips the roofing tile off buildings for miles around, and leaves red-and-blue contrails in the sky.
Most of the show revolved around the mix of admiration and rivalry between two diametrically-opposed warlord heroes: the one-eyed Masamune, with his icy sarcasm; and the hot-blooded Sanada Yukimura, whose passion for battle is only exceeded by his loyalty to his master Takeda Shingen. A running gag from the show, about how Shingen and Yukimura express their mutual affection by beating each other to a pulp, continues here unabated. (Not that I minded.)
The movie uses the setup to focus on one key struggle: the appearance of Ishida Mitsunari, the white-haired vassal of the now-defeated Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Like most everyone else in the show, Mitsunari is defined by one key attribute—his thirst for revenge—and so most of the complexity of the story is provided through auxiliary plotlines. E.g., Oichi, Nobunaga’s sister, whose unexpected command of black magic creates a major obstacle for the heroes. Clearly, “inspired by” history doesn’t mean “confined to” history—especially since the concluding fight owes more to the screen-shattering, high-tech Armageddons of the likes of Evangelion or Akira than it does any conventional samurai-era story.
You ought to say yes to another excess
Other shows have concluded, or at least been extended, with a feature-film production. Eden of the East comes most readily to mind: it ended with not one but two movies, both of which took the action of the show into new realms and were also direct continuations of the story. This stands in contrast to the way feature films for franchises like Bleach, Naruto or One Piece are mostly side stories to the main action.
The Last Party may not be a side story, but again, it doesn’t feel as full-blown as it should. Part of this is rooted in the show being more about attitude than actual story—and while it worked the vast majority of the time in the show, the movie needs a bit more meat it can call its own. It also ends on yet another open-ended note, a hint that there may be yet more installments—maybe another movie, as per Eden?—in the pipeline. But for what it is, it’s an enjoyable addition to a franchise that always says yes to another excess.