Manga Review: Basara (バサラ) by Yumi Tamura

Yumi Tamura
27 Volumes
From Wikipedia
In Basara's post-apocalyptic setting, Japan has been controlled by a succession of corrupt and oppressive rulers of Saffron Clan. The current one is the Golden Emperor, a sovereign so obsessed with maintaining his power that he has had most of his children killed. He later appointed territories to the remaining children, allowing them to rule as subordinate kings and expend their energies in rivalries amongst each other, instead of trying to dethrone him. As a result, most of the Kings neglect the people they rule.

Though the peasants have been downtrodden for decades, they have not completely lost their rebellious spirit. Four swords named for the Ssu Ling gods - Byakko, Suzaku, Seiryū and Genbu - forged for fallen rebel leaders two generations past, are the symbols of underground resistance groups across Japan. The sword of Byakko is kept in Byakko Village, and according to a prophet, a child of fate who will lead a revolution will be born there. When twins are born—a girl and a boy—the prophet says that one of them is the child of destiny. Villagers believe the boy, Tatara, is the child of destiny, but ultimately the girl, Sarasa, is the leader. When the local ruler, the Red King, destroys her village and has her brother beheaded, she assumes his name and duty to lead her people in rebellion.

Sarasa undergoes psychological strain over having to pretend to be a boy. As such, she often visits hot springs to 'let her hair down.' During these visits, she runs into a mysterious young man named Shuri, and they fall in love with each other.

Unknown to Sarasa, Shuri is really the Red King, upon whom she has sworn revenge for destroying her village and killing her family. The Red King is likewise unaware that Sarasa, in her alter ego, is the rebel leader he is trying to kill. As the story progresses, the pair's relationship deepens even as their struggle becomes more bloody.

Shinbashi you cutie you
At first glance, you wouldn't think that Basara is a dystopian (Wikipedia says it's post-apocalyptic but I'm going with dystopia) manga. Well, the opening pages describe what has befallen Japan - from a mountainous land filled with rainforests and natural wonders, most of Japan has become a desert. Except for northern Japan where it reverted back to being the unassailable, snowy north. And Okinawa - Okinawa will always be a tropical paradise where our main characters, Sarasa and Shuri spent their last happy days together before everything went downhill.

Actually, everything went downhill in the first two chapters. You see, the mangaka loved to torture her characters especially the main ones. One minute they are meeting in the hot springs naked, the next thing they were I'll kill you! I'll rip you into shreds! Of course, neither one knew the real identity of the other not until the latter volumes when they went into existential crisis. I honestly thought they were going to spontaneously combust because of the sheer, jaw-dropping revelation. 

The angst and confusion, the anger and passion, the dark, sadistic nature of this one character that even if you really wanted to hate him you couldn't because he was also a victim of circumstance and manipulation. Oh yeah, bishounen abound here like my favorite Ageha, a cross dresser. No whiny female characters here like *cough*Miaka*cough* although Sasara had her crying jags here, typical of Japanese shoujo manga. Shuri, you little sh*t, I love you you imperfect creature. Though, now that I think about it, something about your nature will be unhealthy for me.

You have to read the manga in its entirety to really feel the full impact of the story. It's described as a "highly Shakesperean story" by its English-translation editor due to its convoluted plot. I even forgot that this was a dystopia and was set in Japan and just imagined it as an alternative universe. Honestly, I really don't know why this manga is not as popular as others - IT IS REALLY VERY GOOD. It was popular in the 90s in Japan but it was relatively unknown worldwide (or maybe just here in my country). Some may categorize it as shoujo manga but to me it is not. DEFINITELY not. Sailor Moon is shoujo. Magic Knight Rayearth is shoujo. 

Basara is somewhat geared towards mature audiences. Uhm, no erotica here. It's just that there are "themes and languages that are not suitable for very young audiences". It covers almost anything you can think of - action, adventure, romance, betrayal, torture, journey, twists, girls-disguised-as-boys, rape, boys-disguised-as-exotic-dancers, Asagi's tongue, WTF-I-thought-he-was-the-real-villain, beaches, snowy mountains... you get the idea.

Go read it. It's only 27 volumes including appendices, omakes, epilogue. Also there's an anime (yes, I'll watch tomorrow) but it's only 13 episodes. I don't know why they didn't continue it. It's not that long compared to others.

Ayanami Faerudo

1 comment:

  1. Hi! You read manga too? It is pleasure to meet you :) I can't find people who read manga especially Shoujo <3 I never heard this one but I just added my to read list! :D I usually read yaoi but I love shoujo too :) Anyway Nice to meet you :)

    If you want, you can check out my blog too! Have a nice days&Readings.


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