You can’t get the truth. You can’t. There’s a larger truth, though: that you can’t harness the forces of the cosmos, but you may find somebody else. You may find another human being. That may be kind of corny and all of that, but that’s really it: Love is the only truth we can hope to know, as human beings. That’s what Mulder and Scully found after nine years. And that’s a lot.
In August of 2013, I spent two days and three nights devouring a story called Basara.
And boy, is it beautiful. While Basara follows a Shakesperean kind of romantic tragedy, it is not complex, deep, nor brutal. There are no twists you can’t see coming from miles away, and the writing is deliberate as it is careful, leading you chapter by chapter to care about even the most mysterious and cruelest of figures, from the elusive Ageha to the deceitful and lonely Asagi. Shuri and Sarasa themselves are fantastic, supported by a large cast of dynamic types: pirates, assassins, soldiers, orphans – you name it, and Basara has probably woven it into its tight knit tapestry of flowing colors and journeys. Each character is like a string that is part of a greater epic at hand, telling its own distinct tale and perspective, bound to others’ stories through fate and coincidence alike. And so what you have at the end is a rich finish, with nearly every character (and there are a lot) having some sort of arc being completed and satisfied. Very few mangas tend to feature such magnificent and equal character development, and fewer mangas manage to make a lasting conclusion for each one of them.
There is also just such a profound and simple beauty to be held in every page of the series, from settings of long and lonely deserts, to the ice cold snowstorms, to the richly decorated tropical islands. Or the diverse types of people: hungry and isolated children, to ruthless kings, to solemn seers and honor-broken warriors. Basara encompasses everything that I’ve wanted to find in an epic without actually being one. Not because the story is as vast and empowering as the amounts of characters and journeys it contains, but simply because there is no experience quite like it. To tie down Basara as a simple love story, or a transition of a young girl to a leader, would be a shame. It is much more than that. It is a tale about love, loss, separation, union – the spectrum of the human condition and the girl who experiences and perceives every color of it.
It only makes sense then, that the center of this work lies between the strange and fated relationship between Shuri and Sarasa, whom unknowingly are each other’s enemies in their journeys. Coincidence again and again allows them to meet and eventually, they fall in love. Two distinct identities form for each individual. Sarasa is Sarasa, but she is also Tatara, leader of the rebellion. And Shuri is the Red King, who also leads his own rebellion against the Capitol. Of course, as with any play regarding a tragic romance, we all know what happens eventually: the two meet as both their personal and leader counterparts, and tragedy befalls. Shuri tries to commit suicide, and Sarasa eventually becomes catatonic, unable to do anything but eat and sleep.
Despite hardships however, the two make it out alive. They lead their own armies, holding onto their beliefs and what they think is right while still holding their love for each other. Eventually, they manage to find their own way of surviving in the world and are able to accept both themselves as who they are. You can be both a warrior and a lover. You can struggle for your own personal justice, but be tied to another human being as well. The ending to Basara is romantic, dramatic, and perhaps even a little sappy. But it asks some very personal and beautiful questions: at what point in love do two people become separate entities? Can we be ourselves but be together as well?
It’s a similar question that’s asked by one of my all time favorite TV dramas, The X Files, when Mulder and Scully are repeatedly forced to confront of what they know of the world and what they wish to believe. For Mulder, the world is rooted in the unreal and unquestioned. For Scully, reason is what dictates every facet of life. The two come head to head with their perceptions and beliefs, but walk to the ends of the earth for each other despite that. They are themselves first, but they are also lovers, finding the strength to believe in one another and fighting on until the very end, where they depart from the system that has utterly broken them to reclaim whatever is left of their lives. They are Mulder and Scully, but also, just Mulder, and just Scully. Much in the same way that by the end of Basara, Sarasa and Shuri are themselves as well as Tatara and the Red King. It’s a beautiful way to approach a relationship, and Basara and The X Files do it with such justice.
“….Rich and layered, deep and alternatively light and tragic, it’s the show that changed, well, everything really, about how television drama was executed. It was beautiful and asked the most human of questions regarding our existence and our beliefs, but more than anything, it was a love story in every possible regard— the love for life, the love for truth, and of course, the love for each other.”