Normally I try to avoid spoilers in my reviews, but this time it isn’t possible. You have been warned. Do not read any further if you don’t want to be spoiled. This remains the only review that I’ve done that contains major spoilers.
Basilisk has a simple plot. Two star crossed lovers with families that hate each other end up dying tragically. Sort of like that really famous story… what was it called? Pyramus and Thisbe. In spite of the simple concept it’s capably done. The basic premise is that these two ninja clans, Koga and Iga, had a treaty that stopped them from killing each other for several years. This treaty is dissipated because the shogun is retiring and hasn’t chosen a successor. He has two choices so the clan leaders are asked to choose ten people each. They’ll fight to the death to determine which of the two candidates will become the next shogun. This comes at a time when the clans are about to be unified by their next leaders, Gennosuke and Oboro, marrying. The fact that the clans start out in a truce and the tragedy comes from the truce being annulled and them allowing old hatreds to destroy their hope of peace rather than the two lovers not being able to get together is a nice change from the usual story and provides for some good tension. Tenzen makes for a legitimately creepy antagonist. The fact that he comes back to life whenever he dies makes him a significant threat and the fact that he attempts to rape several women and tortures Kagero makes him the kind of unapologetic git who you want to see die. The flashbacks are an effective way to help develop the characters, especially those who die early on. The only major problem with the story is that there’s a plot hole. In the beginning Iga finds out that their clans are officially at war first. So they trick Gennosuke and Josuke, another Koga ninja, into visiting their village while five Iga ninja, Tenzen, Hotarubi, Nenki, Koshirou and Rousai, try to secretly kill as many of their opponents as possible. This is a good tactic, the problem is that they leave Gennosuke alive, in spite of secretly killing Josuke. The reason given is that Tenzen doesn’t know what Gennosuke’s ability is and wants to attack him with caution, but it’s a weak explanation since Tenzen and his group attack several other ninja that they don’t know the abilities of. They even sneak up to the Koga village where several ninja with unknown abilities are. So, they’ll go to an area where there’s a virtual army of enemy ninja but they won’t execute a sneak attack on one solitary man who’s surrounded by their people? That is idiotic and doesn’t make any sense. Hooray for plot armour.
Moving on to the characters. Most of them are pretty three dimensional and developed either through flashbacks or through the main narrative except for Josuke who’s a perverted moron, Tenzen who’s a complete sociopath and all of the female characters who fit simple tropes like the frail love interest, the woman defined entirely by her lover or the jealous girl. The character designs are varied, for the men, the women are all traditionally attractive with large breasts and full lips. The abilities are also interesting and range from being able to kill somebody by looking them in the eye, to stretching, to shape shifting to butterflies… Okay, the women have ridiculous abilities. Most of which are virtually useless from a practical standpoint. You have Hotarubi who can distract people with shiny butterflies. Akeginu who can slow people down but, for some reason, has to take off her top to do so, no that isn’t a joke, Okoi who can drain someone’s blood by entangling them with her body so that she touches their skin with as much of her skin as possible, I know that might seem useful but consider how unlikely you are to be able to do that during an actual fight, and Kagero, who can poison men with her breath when she’s either having sex or aroused. We’re told that it doesn’t work on women, probably because they didn’t want to introduce the possibility of yuri. I swear I’m not making that ability up either. You never see Ogen’s ability since she dies in the first episode. Oboro doesn’t actually have any powers. She can cancel out a person’s ninja arts by looking at them, but it’s made clear that that’s just something she was born with rather than actually developing. They make a big deal about how Oboro tried to learn to fight but remained useless anyway. Okay, martial arts, throwing shuriken, and sword fighting don’t work that way. These are all things that you learn through practice and dedication not through having some kind of inborn talent. But she’s the frail love interest so she isn’t allowed to be competent. All of this makes me think that Segawa Masaki is a misogynistic prick
Basilisk earns a yuri factor of 1/10. All of the women are canonically straight and none of them get scenes that are even slightly suggestive with each other.
The voice acting, at least in the Japanese version, is very well done. The art is incredible. The fight scenes are awesome, even though most of them end very quickly. My final rating for Basilisk is a 6.3. I considered giving it a 7 but the sheer level of misogyny is just so unpleasant that I couldn’t do it. But if you can forgive the gross levels of misogyny it’s worth watching once.