We are with no hesitation treated to some great and awesome lookin' battles upon the first three episodes of Basilisk. Like really, some of the best anime has to offer combining strategy with aesthetic value, and with the way the plot set itself up, ten ninjas on one side and ten on another, it looked like it was going to remain this way for the rest of the way. Though there really needs to be a clause in anime where producers can't spend more than half of its budget on just the first couple episodes, cause although the show has some great fight scenes, most of them are in the beginning.
Animes are normally built on the strength of its story and characters, though with Basilisk's action oriented approach, this looks like one anime that you would rather watch for its fights, cause there really isn't much story to it. Basically the shogun are presented with a conflict of choosing their next heir, so they pit two ninja villages who hate each othe against each other, and the winner will decide the outcome of the next shogunate. The plot is remarkably thin and doesn't have much going for it in the form of plot twists.
Character development? This is something that Basilisk handles better than the story. Ten ninjas on each side, there's surprisingly good character development amongst all of them. Each with their own personality, history, etc. The down side? A character dies every episode. There's no problem with that, except that other than the two main characters, most of the character development for each of the characters happens upon the episode that they are killed in. So the pattern is rather predictable, and we really have no opportunity to fortify ourselves with the characters, since they all just die off.
A story thinner than noodles and characters that can't seem to stay alive, doesn't sound like a show that has anything going for it, right? The charm comes from its fights and the concepts behind each battle. The ninjas all possess powers as diverse from a Marvel or DC comic. One guy has elastic skin where he can stretch his legs and arms, a woman can kill you with her very kiss, another guy whose whistles can create blackholes, an immortal who has lived for centuries, etc. The creativity behind all the fights are sure enough to keep your attention despite the lack of character development and story.
Now the problem is that all the good battles occur in the first half. The first three episodes give us some super juicy looking battles, then the aesthetic value slowly tones down every episode, and then eventually the battles become somewhat average. In addition, Basilisk opens up action oriented, and suddenly changes its focus on a hardcore love relationship. No problem with this, except that because of this change, Basilisk feels like it lacks an identity and there wasn't enough committment on any of its themes that it feels incomplete.
Basilisk for half the way looked like it is going to be a rare exception where its great looking and well thought out battles is pulling it forward and not the characters and story, and then the battles get worse, an instant change of heart midway through, somewhere along the way you think to yourself "where did it go wrong?" Though it does have an epic "tragic romance" ending like William Shakespeare himself wrote it. In the end though Basilisk is without an identity that lacks enough development in any of its areas to feel really whole.