For a review of the full Legend of Basara series, please watch for a future entry. This is a single episode synopsis and will contain spoilers.
The Legend of Basara anime began in 1998, coinciding with the conclusion of Yumi Tamura’s 27-volume epic Basara manga. At only thirteen episodes, the animation only scratches the surface of the story — and there’s no (legal) English-language version — but it’s quite faithful and worth watching to get a glimpse into what Basara has to offer. As the second episode starts, and the blind sage Nagi recaps the events thus far, I’m struck again by how heartfelt the main instrumental theme sounds. The opening J-rock theme is goofy, but the rest of the soundtrack is golden.
When we left off, the “child of destiny”, Tatara, had been decapitated by the Red King’s army. As the village burned, Tatara’s twin sister chopped her long locks and assumed his identity. The true child of destiny — Sarasa, taking her slain brother’s place — charged headfirst at the enemy army, shouting “I AM TATARA, THE CHILD OF DESTINY!” Her goal for such a foolish act? To distract the enemy so that the villagers may escape!
Seeing General Kazan’s stunned face was priceless. He had just beheaded Tatara — or at least, he thought he had — so the familiar face of Tatara charging straight at him on horseback was not something he anticipated. Unlike right-hand goons in most anime, Kazan quickly showed why he had risen to the rank of General. Instead of being overcome by the shock, he ordered the Red King’s archers to loose their arrows at the charging warrior. We may use the expression “fight or flight”, but most people choose the third option when faced with true danger: “dawdle”. Kazan doesn’t dawdle, although he does ponder the situation after Sarasa rides beyond the range of their arrows.
“If that’s Tatara, then whose head do I have inside this bag?”
This episode also demonstrates that the Red King is an insightful tactician. As General Kazan and the royal aide Asho argue over Tatara’s head, the Red King informs them that it doesn’t matter whether or not that was Tatara. What’s clear is that the rider was a decoy, meant to distract them from . . . something. He calls his troops back, and not a moment too late; the villagers’ gunpowder trap is sprung and causes an avalanche. The Red King’s army would have been smashed without their leader’s intuition.
Most “motley crew versus army” series let the rebels’ plots work wonders. In Guin Saga, the hero routed an army. In Macross and New Generation, Robotech’s crew regularly outsmarted their enemies. Heroic prince Arislan ended a civil war with only a few loyal followers. Legend of Basara makes it clear that the villagers’ opponent won’t fall so easily. All they’ve succeeded at is escaping. The Red King’s army remains intact, and they’ll be back. They’ll scour the neighboring cities and hunt “Tatara” down, no matter where he hides.
Moreover, the Red King’s not only got the head of someone he can claim is Tatara, but he’s got the legendary blade Byakko. If Tatara still lives, then he’ll come for the sword, which has been put on public display beside the severed head. Whether Tatara is already dead, or whether Tatara still lives, the Red King wins.
The scheme that Sarasa comes up with to get the sword back is overdone, in a good way — a way that made me rub my hands together in anticipation as soon as I figured out what was up. This is another instance where keenly-chosen music helped the moment.
. . . but the Red King was ready and waiting.
Tatara’s girlfriend is introduced in this episode, as she enters the strategy tent to bring Tatara (Sarasa) some water. This could have led to wacky hi-jinks — the girl thinks Sarasa is the real Tatara — but the moment is downplayed as a sad lie that Sarasa knows she must maintain. Meanwhile, while visiting a hidden spring (away from the peering eyes of her followers), Sarasa encounters her own potential love interest: a handsome devil named Shuri who hails from a distant land.
Shuri has no idea that Sarasa is actually the rebel prince Tatara — he just thinks she’s a pretty girl. He even steals a kiss: Sarasa’s first kiss, at that. After they part, Sarasa returns to her camp to again assume the role of Tatara.
Meanwhile, Shuri dons his red cape and armor to resume the manhunt.
From a design standpoint, I’m impressed by how often the animation mimics the poses and angles used in the original manga without looking forced. It’s natural but familiar; this is how Basara was meant to be animated. It’s a pity that the series was cut so short, but we’ve been left with something very, very good.
Also, for those who are wondering — Tatara had a high-pitched voice for a male, and Sarasa has a somewhat deep voice for a female. If you were able to believe that Himura Kenshin was a guy, then you’ll have no issues with that detail here.