Review: Basilisk (Volume 1) Manga | My Reviews 01 SEP 2011

The Iga clan and the Kouga clan have been sworn enemies for more than four hundred years. Only the Hanzo Hattori truce has kept the two families from all-out war. Now, under the order of Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa, the truce has finally been dissolved. Ten ninja from each clan must fight to the death in order to determine who will be the next Tokugawa Shogun. The surviving clan will rule for the next thousand years.

But not all the clan members are in agreement. Oboro of the Iga clan and Gennosuke of the Kouga clan have fallen deeply in love. Now these star-crossed lovers have been pitted against each other. Can their romance conquer a centuries-old rivalry? Or is their love destined to end in death?

Volume 1 throws us right into the middle of our first ninja battle, as Yashamaru of the Iga clan squares off against Shougen from the Kouga clan, pretty much letting us know what we are in for the rest of this battle-a-minute adaptation of Futaro Yamada’s 1958 novel. Writer/artist Masaki Segawa skillfully guides us through the story as he sets up all the elements necessary to spark the upcoming violence and then hits the accelerator as he unleashes all manner of fierce and grotesque ninja, each possessing some or other very strange and unexpected secret technique as the two clans battle it out for the main prize.

The writing on Basilisk is very steady and very detailed, and Masaki ensures that you are onboard at all times. This is not an action comedy, but when some comedic elements need to be thrown in courtesy of some of the more larger than life characters, Masaki proves he is as adept at making us snigger as what he is at cleverly setting up scenarios and keeping us guessing as to what might happen next! There is a lot of clever scripting that intertwines with his often clever and sometimes purposefully vague visuals to create a very compelling and exciting ninja-fuelled read.

In terms of the artwork Masaki proves to be very skilled when it comes to designing and depicting a huge assortment of people, with him often taking certain characteristics of the various ninjas and drawing them out, thereby creating some very interesting and often quite twisted character designs. His sense of motion, action and fighting is also well captured in his visuals, making for some great looking sequences indeed.

However, the one thing I didn’t really appreciate was his complete and utter seeming refusal to draw any background imagery whatsoever – instead relying on PhotoShopping in photographs and messing with their opacities and focus in order to blend in and provide the backgrounds for the characters.

Sure, sometimes the effect did work, but for the most part the beautiful lines of his drawn characters simple don’t mesh all that very well with the often obvious photo work, and on top of this, because the photos are often dark in nature, he is often forced to give all his characters very noticeable white halos for contrast purposes – which then completely detracts from the pictures because the backgrounds and characters no longer blend in correctly!

Still, despite this Basilisk does actually look very good, is engaging to read and will please any ninja action junkie thanks to its wide variety of characters and abilities. On top of all of this, it also happens to be cleverly written with a good plot, making it a thoroughly enjoyable read for anyone who enjoys a good book in this often over-used genre.

Just a note though, it is definitely for mature readers only, as there is a lot of violence and bloodshed, as well a some nudity in terms of Kimonos which often come flying loose. But hey, if you are old enough then this one is definitely worth the read!

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About Craig Lotter

South African software architect and developer at Touchwork. Husband to a cupcake baker and father to two little girls. I don't have time for myself any more.