Basara (バサラ) by Yumi Tamura
Before anyone even thinks it, I know this series is woefully out-of-print. However, I was finally able to read more of it thanks to the library so I’m hoping others can do the same. And amazingly, it is available digitally!
Basara is a classic, fantasy series set in a future (yup!) Japan which has been devastated by war and environmental destruction. A loss of energy and technology has pushed people back to a simpler time and allowed for the country to be conquered by the harsh, oppressive Saffron Clan. In the desert region controlled by The Red King, there is a small village with a prophecy about The Child of Destiny that will lead the people against their oppressors.
That child is a young boy named Tatara. But unlike some other stories, this king does not let it go unchecked or laugh it off, oh no he roots out the rebellion while the child is still young. Tatara is killed when the village is attacked; the army leaves believing they have eliminated their problem. (This part, by the way, is very violent and sets the tone for much of the series.) But Tatara’s twin sister Sarasa makes a hasty decision: pretend she was killed instead, and become “Tatara” with the help of a small group who know the truth. Sarasa sets out to unite the villages and bring down the tyrants who have taken so much from her.
Sarasa becomes “Tatara” in everyday life, so much so she can start to forget herself. The exception is when she sneaks away to the secluded hot springs; on one such visit she meets a boy her age and ends up starting a distant love affair. Little did she know the man she met is The Red King whom she has sworn to destroy; and little did he know she is The Child of Destiny he is so desperately trying to snuff out.
Sarasa is wonderfully headstrong, and so fearless to the point of undervaluing her life. She has lost her identity and it shows so well as she becomes the idea of “Tatara.” Sarasa struggles with all the aspects of her life she has lost: the villages’ relief that Sarasa died instead; the constant masquerade; not being able to experience developing into womanhood in any normal way. But even if it stemmed from a lie, she is truly changing the course of her world and doing things she never thought herself possible of. She is surely a better “Tatara” than the namesake ever would have been.
The melodrama is high as the manga barrels toward revolution. Sarasa sets in motion a bloody conflict, spanning the continent, which is fraught with secrets and danger. And of course many surprises along the way, do not believe for a second The Red King is what he seems. An epic fantasy sure to satisfy.