Basara Volumes 5 and 6

Basara Volume 5

As horrible as many people think the Red King is, the Blue King is clearly worse. People are starving in his lands, to the point where infanticide and suicide are common occurrences, sometimes at the same time. Sarasa and Shuri are captured by the Blue King’s most visible subordinate, a crafty captain of the King’s elite ninja/bodyguard squad. They’re placed in a holding cell with a bunch of other prisoners and forced to run an uneven race where the elites have horses and everybody else has to run on foot. The course is booby-trapped to an astonishing degree, and there can only be one winner of the race even if the semi-finalists are forced to kill each other. One of the things it is fun to observe is the way Shuri expresses the depths of his feelings for Sarasa. When one of the contestants asks if she’s Shuri’s girl, he replies “Someday she’ll be a woman the likes of you won’t even be able to address.” Which prompts the question “Is she going to be queen or something?”

Sarasa somehow ends up being able to inspire revolution wherever she goes, because when she sees the corrupt Blue King rooting for the slaves in the race to kill each other, she makes an impassioned speech. While the Blue King is unmoved by the words of someone he deems as his property, Shuri declares that she’s a good woman and proposes marriage if they manage to live. The Blue King decides to use Sarasa as a sacrifice in a bizarre ritual, while Shuri appears to die in an escape attempt. Of course, with over twenty volumes yet to go, he’s not actually dead. Sarasa is determined to bring down the Blue King, not as Tatara but as herself. Ageha in his guise as an androgynous dancing performer arrives in town, and he seems to know absolutely anyone who is anyone judging from a charged conversation he has with the Blue King’s Captain.

Sarasa befriends a local rebel leader, and he rallies the depressed subjects of the Blue King. Sarasa wonders if she’s started something that can’t be controlled, and he says “History brought you here. This may be a river we cannot swim against.” Shuri’s been alive and disguised the entire time, and he makes a move against his older brother. As the Blue King is destroyed the Captain of the Guards Asagi feels nostalgic for the death of his unwitting duplicate. Shuri and Sarasa are briefly reunited only to be torn apart by an inconveniently timed flash flood. Those flash floods, always interfering with young love!

Basara Volume 6

One of the nicest things about rereading a series that I was pretty much following from the beginning is that I’m able to go back and appreciate again some of the details I’ve forgotten. I’d forgotten how great Ageha was in these earlier volumes. He’s so enigmatic and merciless, yet the reader assumes he’s going to be taking action to support Sarasa at some point. When Asagi decides that he’s going to go undercover in Tatara’s organization and manipulate everybody there like puppets, Ageha silently hears all of his plans and says nothing to Sarasa because if she gets fooled by Asagi, she’s not worthy of being the “boy of destiny.” Asagi just keeps hugging Ageha, declaring that he’s the only one who understands him, while Ageha silently muses that “There will always be a destroyer at the boundary of a new age…Now it’s getting interesting.”

When Asagi and Shuri confront each other, Shuri’s internal poor little rich boy tendencies are in full force. When Shuri hears that Asagi’s mother protected her son from his father by sending him away to be raised and swapping in a changeling baby in his place, he thinks about how his own mother never made an elaborate attempt to protect him. Asagi assumes the pose of an abused servant of the Blue King and immediately gets to work making everyone who supports Tatara start being suspicious of their young leader. Hayato is particularly susceptible to Asagi’s insinuations. While Sarasa doesn’t trust Asagi at all, she plays into his plot by being secretive about her plans to go off on her own to rescue her mother from General Kazan. Asagi’s entrance to the story as a foil for Shuri and Sarasa means that Basara will keep being interesting from a more cerebral standpoint as opposed to fights that are only determined on the battlefield. Asagi’s intercepting secret letters between the lovers, sending out mystical spies, and generally being evil. While Sarasa doesn’t trust him, she hasn’t yet uncovered the truth behind his manipulations.

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