by Yak Haibara, historical/fantasy (2012)
UDON, $19.99, ISBN 978-1-926778-59-4
Sengoku Basara: Samurai Legends Volume 2 is, predictably enough, the sequel to Sengoku Basara: Samurai Legends Volume 1. Bet you didn't see that one coming, and it's best that the books are read in order.
Anyway, this one takes off where the previous one ends, so I can't really get into much detail without spoiling the previous book completely. Let's just say that the Takeda and Uesugi armies are in tatters after the event in the climax of the previous story, and Date Masamune manages to move in to seize some of the Uesugi holdings and consolidate his power. However, Toyotomi Hideyoshi is no slouch either, and he now has Masamune on his radar. Who is going to be the boss of Japan now?
I sort of expected this, as it is actually more usual than I'd have liked for comic series to be rushed to an unsatisfying and even rushed closure after some solid build up, and this is exactly what happens in this one. After all this talk of war, and it all boils down to some one-on-one battles? Everything feels anticlimatic after a while, although Hideyoshi and Masamune have a long-drawn fight.
Speaking of that confrontation, it's not as entertaining as it could have been, mostly because by that point, Masamune basically screws up only to rebound by going berserk after Hideyoshi taunts him with his failures. This is a standard trope in animes and manga, but in this instance, it's a disappointing turn of event because Masamune doesn't seem to deserve his victory at all. His followers are loyal to him and they are willing to die for him because of blind loyalty. I know, back in those days, obedience and loyalty are two important tenets to live by, but it would be nice if Masamune has actually earned their respect instead of having them prop him up. His personality would have worked better if Masamune had been a mere samurai instead of a leader of men, because he never comes off as a capable or decent leader of men worth rooting for.
Another disappointing thing about this compilation of the final four comics in the series is the inability of anyone on the "good" side to stay dead. Many potentially poignant scenes are completely cheapened when a character's sacrifice turns out to be anything but - they all show up alive even when they have received a severe beatdown, while the villain that administered the beatdown ends up dead despite having received what seems like less severe injuries. I know, perhaps Capcom would throw a fit if any of the main characters bite the big one here, but that doesn't change the fact that the story is worse for this inability of the good guys to stay down.
And, honestly, Sanada Yukimura is easily the most irritating imbecile ever and I still have no idea what he is doing here other than, perhaps, Capcom insists on the appearance of that idiot in anything related to the Sengoku Basara franchise. He's just a waste of space here - his role could have been fulfilled by any other character on the same side.
Sengoku Basara: Samural Legends Volume 2 is not exactly the most exciting conclusion to a comic arc. While the previous volume is predictable and even clichéd, it managed to be entertaining. This one just rolls downhill until there is nowhere lower to go.
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