For years, the Kouga and Iga clans have lived uneasily under an enforced peace- a peace that should only be strengthened by the marriage of their leaders, Gennosuke and Oboro. Before that can come to pass, however, outside forces annul the truce between them- and now, anything goes. From each side, ten hand-picked and highly talented ninja will pit themselves against each other, and victory will go to the last one standing- no matter what they have to do to eliminate the enemy.
The battle royale format has always been a popular one, and when combined with the general appeal of ninja, it seemed likely that Basilisk would have no problem in finding an interested audience. The question that remained was simple- would it be worthy of the attention?
As it turns out, Basilisk isn’t really one of those series that inspires strong feelings either way. The entire plot of the series revolves around characters trying to eliminate each other with the aid of supernatural ninjutsu and underhanded tricks, and that is pretty much all the series has to offer. There’s plenty of gratuitous violence, and more than a few evil nipples and other fanservice shots, but as has been so often proved, this type of action isn’t easy to convey in manga form. Any battle will lose something when conveyed in the form of black and white still images, and this is Basilisk’s main problem- a serious flaw in a series that is trying to sell itself on its action content.
Participating in the battle royale are an eclectic bunch of protagonists, each with their own unique skills and a variable life expectancy. Although some of them live long enough to receive back story and development, the transient nature of our relationships with them mean that it is hard to really care about any of the characters- with the sole exception perhaps being the inevitably tragic love between Oboro and Gennosuke.
Visually, Basilisk uses a bold, high-contrast style that is memorable if not always aesthetically pleasing, with character designs that are best described as “weird and wonderful”. If exaggerated features such as thick eyebrows, large breasts and even a man without limbs are to your tastes, then you’ll find much to like here. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, the action scenes are not always particularly clear or easy to follow.
Basilisk is one of those series that is best described as ‘solid’- enjoyable enough, not particularly flawed, but still lacking in anything to set it apart from the crowd. If you have an appetite for ninja action, then by all means sate it with this, but if you consider yourself to have broader tastes, then it isn’t really a priority read.