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Review: "Sengoku Basara--The Last Party": Chaos Beats Coherence

Early on in Sengoku Basara: The Last Party, two characters joyously receive news so good that they proceed to beat the crap out of each other. In fact, it leaves them so deliriously happy that during the fight one of them actually kills the other. The killer feels kind of bad about this for a few minutes, but then just gallops off so he can kill some more people.

Normally this is the kind of what-the-heck moment to make me just give up on a series, but I’d already sat through a seven-minute expository recap so complicated it made the War of the Roses sound simple, and a third character had just come surfing in on the back of a rocket-powered robot. Fifteen minutes in, then, and I’d already given on expecting such mundane notions as “logic” or “coherent motivation” and decided to take whatever entertainment might be on tap. So that moment of “Happy Happy Joy Joy Death Death” just left me draping a “Mission Accomplished” banner over my screen and settling back to see what other surprises Sengoku Basara might have in store.

Really, I don’t know what to say about this OVA. I don’t even know what it was about or even what happened in it. The story is set in late-medieval Japan, with various war bands riding around fighting to unify the country, or fighting those who would unify the country, or revenging themselves upon those who had thwarted earlier attempts to unify the country. There are heroes and villains, and there is some kind of attempt to resurrect a demonic force–an earlier, vanquished would-be conqueror, I think–and it features something like magic and something like steam-punk technology and something like mixed martial arts. Characters punch each other so hard they fly hundreds of yards through the air and crash into mountains and gouge out huge craters. They yell at each other. But I had no idea of who they were or what they wanted or why they wanted it so badly.

Still, I guess I had fun watching as one dang thing happened after another. I didn’t care about any of it, but I didn’t worry about it either, and there’s never a dull moment. It doesn’t take itself very seriously, and is content to gallop about with an Are-we-having-fun-yet-oh-yeah-I-think-we-ARE grin on its face. Not once during its fleet 95-minute running time did I look at the clock or pause the disc or give in to the urge to go do laundry or something–anything–else. It’s been a long time since I’ve watched anything that made me just surrender like that.

I have no idea what viewers familiar with the series will or could make of it. And if it didn’t leave me wanting to check out the series itself, it didn’t raise my hackles either. Would others, similarly uninitiated into Sengoku Basara, find it worthwhile? Maybe. There are much worse ways of passing a Saturday afternoon, though whether you find it more entertaining, more dramatic, or more absorbing than a ball game will depend more on your taste in sports entertainment than in anime. Sengoku Basara: The Last Party has the same kind of anarchic but kinetic flow.

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