Basara Volumes 3-4 by Yumi Tamura

I continue my rereading adventure through the delightfully epic manga Basara. There are female pirates, evil kings, and death races to look forward to! I’ll keep referring to Sarasa under her own name when discussing her internal thoughts, and as Tatara when people are reacting to her male disguise.

Basara Volume 3

Sarasa is continuing her semi-solitary quest, determined to succeed without the support of the villagers who she has sworn to protect. When she reaches the region where Suzaku village should be, she finds out that the village has sunk to the bottom of the sea. Instead she encounters rival pirates and an unexpected role model. Chacha has her own ship and when she captures the famous “boy of destiny” Tatara she promptly challenges him to a drinking game for his freedom. Sarasa gives it a try, but find an unexpected pinch hitter among Chacha’s crew to continue the contest. Kaku (Sarasa’s village adviser) drinks himself into a stupor in an attempt to help. Chacha is impressed with the loyalty that Tatara seems to inspire while Sarasa concludes after seeing Chacha “seeing a strong woman reminds me of what I should be.”

Sarasa vows to help her new pirate friends against the evil Shojo clan, and finds herself committed to a one-man mission where she has to steal a cannon and return to her companions quickly where they are pinned down in a race against the ocean tides. One of the things that I find admirable about Sarasa as a character is that she keeps moving forward even when to all outward appearances she is clearly over her head. While she might have internal doubts, she doesn’t spend too much time hesitating if it is clear that she has to take some sort of action. She’s rewarded by some strange quirks of fate, to the point where the reader begins to wonder if the land of Japan itself might be rooting for change in the form of Tatara. Tamura weaves together multiple storylines effortlessly, as while Tatara is battling on the high seas, Shuri deals with diplomatic intrusion from abroad in an explosive fashion and Shuri’s right hand man Shido is headed out to hunt for Tatara despite the tears of the new wife he is leaving behind.

Basara Volume 4

The fourth volume shows Sarasa wondering about the changes in her personality as she observes her enemies and thinks that she has the power to annihilate them. She wonders “When did I get so heartless? When did I start thinking like this?” The cost of war suddenly becomes more personal when she finds out that Shido and his men have captured Ageha. Seeing Ageha the former slave with his old master fills in details about his personality for the reader. Ageha knows he’s going to be used at bait to draw Tatara out, but he doesn’t stop taking the opportunity to needle Shido whenever possible, asking “Have you ever wondered between you and Tatara which of you is moving with the flow of history? Which has been chosen and which is fated to become obsolete?” Shido has unbreakable faith in Shuri the Red King, but it is clear that he’s been headed for tragedy from the moment of his introduction. Sarasa and Hayato head out to rescue Ageha and succeed against impossible odds yet again. While war on the high seas wasn’t particularly bloody, Shido’s death is both graphic and emotional as he realizes the truth of Sarasa and Shuri’s relationship and their false identities towards each other, thinking “They love each other, and they don’t know!” Ageha is both bitterly triumphant and sorrowful when his old master dies. Hayato struggles with his actions even though he essentially saved Tatara’s life.

Scarred by death, Sarasa and Shuri seek each other out. Shuri is facing a new threat in the form of his brother the Blue King and wants to scout out the situation while at the same time the Blue King has proposed an alliance with Tatara. It is the height of tragic irony that the only times Sarasa and Shuri can feel like they are being themselves is when they are together, unknowingly lying to each other but still finding a moment of respite in knowing someone who is unaware of the burdens of leadership and war that they both have to deal with. Tamura is great at creating dramatic tension because just as the reader wants to root for Sarasa and Shuri to get together and live happily ever after, it is easy to see that Tatara and the Red King are heading towards a potentially fatal confrontation.

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  1. Yay for Basara! You’re making me want to reread it!

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