First Impressions Digest: Nobunaga Monday – Nobunagun, Nobunaga the Fool

Nobunagun - 01-7 Nobunagun - 01-23 Fool-1 Fool-14

The fascination never ends.

Nobunagun – 01

Nobunagun - 01-1 Nobunagun - 01-2 Nobunagun - 01-3
Nobunagun - 01-4 Nobunagun - 01-5 Nobunagun - 01-6
Nobunagun - 01-8 Nobunagun - 01-9 Nobunagun - 01-10
Nobunagun - 01-11 Nobunagun - 01-12 Nobunagun - 01-13
Nobunagun - 01-14 Nobunagun - 01-15 Nobunagun - 01-16
Nobunagun - 01-17 Nobunagun - 01-18 Nobunagun - 01-19
Nobunagun - 01-20 Nobunagun - 01-21 Nobunagun - 01-22

It’s no exaggeration to say that Oda Nobunaga is one of the handful of most important and legendary figures in Japanese history.  Even so, it’s remarkable the degree to which anime and manga is obsessed with him.  I can’t think of another characters that’s been reimagined in so many ways, never mind the shows that more or less deal with him on a historical perspective.  In many ways, I think the popular impression of Nobunaga is something like an anime character, so I guess it isn’t all that surprising.

I didn’t have terribly high expectations for either of the Nobunaga shows this season, which is why I didn’t preview them.  If anything this one was even further below the radar – it certainly came in as the less hyped of the two, not that that’s predictive.  But darn it if Nobunagun didn’t turn out to be considerably more interesting than I expected, especially in the first half.

My first reaction in watching this premiere was “Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge” and sure enough, when I checked the credits Art Director Takahashi Maho filled that role on Crime Edge.  There’s a commonality in the sense of style here, and both shows are using mostly unknown actors in the lead roles.  I guess if I were to take a stab at describing Nobunagun I’d call it a mix of Symphogear and Crime Edge, with a bit of Sengoku flavor for seasoning.  And the result is pretty interesting.

My favorite parts of the episode, more than the plot or the characters themselves, are its manic energy and unusual visual flair.  I loved, for example, the way we saw the schoolgirl classmates of lead Ogura Shio (Mutou Shiori) as an easel for animated flowers while Shio herself was shaded in camouflage.  Shio herself is likeable enough – an awkward and socially inept girl who’s obsessed with weaponry.  I actually found the moments before the shit went town on the class trip to Taiwan and the plot kicked in to be the better part of the episode, but the action sequences – while lot lavishly animated – were drawn with panache and originality.

The plot is out there – historical figures as “E-Genes” reincarnated as weapons in the bodies of modern humans (so far we’ve seen the likes of Jack the Ripper and Gandhi) fighting off undersea invaders presumably from outer space.  This isn’t even the first time we’ve seen Nobunaga reimagined as a cute teenaged girl, but the overall delivery here is stylish and snappy enough to keep me engaged for at least two more episodes.  When so many new anime look and feel alike one that’s as singular as Nobunagun deserves a look just for that, but above and beyond that the first episode was pretty entertaining.

Nobunaga the Fool – 01

Fool-2 Fool-3 Fool-4
Fool-5 Fool-6 Fool-7
Fool-8 Fool-9 Fool-10
Fool-11 Fool-12 Fool-13

This is getting downright silly.  Not only two Nobunaga premieres on the same day, but they start at the same place and time – Honnou-ji in Kyoto, on the night Oda died when Mitsuhide betrayed him (as history tells it, though not always anime.  A seminal moment in Japanese history, no doubt.

That’s where the similarity ends, for me.  I didn’t get a lot of enjoyment out of Nobunaga the Fool, which came off as ponderous and silly.  There’s good silly and bad silly, mind you, but for me this is bad silly.  To be honest I’d pretty much shut down before the interminable introductory exposition had finished droning on and on.

No doubt, this is the more hyped of the Nobunaga series.  A cast full of huge names, most of whom are very good actors (though not all).  And of course a story created by Kawamori Shouji, one of the biggest names in anime.  As a mecha designer I’m OK with Kawamori but I won’t pretend I like him as a writer – “ponderous and silly” is pretty much his stock and trade.  This episode was, for me, full of the same sense of bloated pretension that characterizes much of Kawamori’s work.  It’s not a face of anime I especially like, and Nobunaga the Fool is no exception.

I won’t say this premiere was excruciatingly bad, though when you get Kaji Yuuki as Hideyoshi you know you’re in trouble.  But it was a real snooze for me, and falls short of Nobunagun on almost every level – premise, cinematography, background art, characters.  The only pleasure here, really, is hearing some of the big boys like Mamoru Miyano and Sugita Tomokazu ham it up, but this is certainly nothing exceptional by their exceptional standards.  No three-episode rule for me on this one.

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19 comments

  1. .

    I see you have very discerning tastes in anime titles, as evidenced by this post…You have been watching anime for quite some time?

  2. D

    Nobunagun was the most non-SYD related fun I've had all season. The directing was good and the ending had me in stitches (a triumvirate of maniacal laughter, that awful pun and the amazingly cheesy metal(!) credits song).

    Sign me up for an entire season of that, please.

  3. J

    Had to look it up, but the F-CK1 is a real plane. Headline from Defense Industry Daily: Taiwan Seeking a Better F-CK, With Possible Longer-Term Aspirations.

    I hope they will be able to put some of the charm of the first half of the episode into the rest of the series.

  4. Z

    I'm somewhat tired of hearing Miyano to be honest. Kaiji Yuuki wasn't even that bad though. I'll concur with your sentiments on the series itself though.

  5. M

    Agreed, Kaji was a champ. Miyano is becoming a bore; especially the hyperventilating laugh.

  6. M

    My, my, if Shoji Kawamori hasn't fallen from grace. I'm as much as fan of his older (read: 80s/90s) work as the next guy, but this was a travesty and probably more reflective of his current style which I haven't payed much mind to tbh. I couldn't even appreciate the mech since the CG was cancer. The rest of the episode didn't look too bad, but far from special.

    Nobunagun was great on the other hand (best premier of the season). I did have suspicions about the art direction looking familiar, although I wasn't so big on the photoshop layers. Nice visual design and art all round – and the closing scene was brilliant. Refreshing backdrop to set-up the story, too.

  7. k

    "though when you get Kaji Yuuki as Hideyoshi you know you're in trouble. … he only pleasure here, really, is hearing some of the big boys like Mamoru Miyano and Seki Tomkazu ham it up"

    Oh come on. This is getting silly. I seriously don't know what you have against Kaji Yuuki who is a perfectly good seiyuu (the roles he gets is not exactly his fault) and did nothing wrong in this episode; but to declare a show "in trouble" just because he's cast in it as a secondary character is getting really close to just plain hater behavior. And then you praise Miyano Mamoru who plays the lead character and yet again he was utterly unconvincing every time his voice dropped below his normal usual speaking range which is a recurring issue with his acting.

    (Also, Seki Tomokazu wasn't in the episode. You're probably thinking of Sugita Tomokazu.)

    As for Nobunaga the Fool I liked it a lot, but then I'm a sucker for Kawamori's brand of crazy, so I'm biased.

  8. Yes, I was thinking of Sugita Tomokazu. To be honest I wasn't intently obsessing on writing about Nobunaga the Fool, because it's not the sort of experience you want to linger on for a moment longer than necessary.

    You have your views, I have mine. While I find Kaji Yuuki's usual complete lack of range grating here, as much as anything it says something about what kind of show you're going to get when he's cast as someone like Hideyoshi – who can either be treated as the important, cunning and complex figure he was (who succeeded where Nobunaga failed) or treated as an idiot monkey, depending on the writer.

    As for Mamoru Miyano (and Tomokazu), as I said their work is nothing exceptional here, though I know that doesn't mesh with your diatribe so you left it out.

  9. k

    Toyotomi Hideyoshi has been already written as everything from a little girl or a literal monkey to a noble and honorable warlord (that he wasn't IRL), having him as a character is no indication of anything at all, quality-wise. (And expecting a show like this to be historically correct is not a wise idea, I think. This is a story where Akechi Mitsuhide is BFFs with Oda Nobunaga.)

    And as for Miyano (and Sugita), you said his performance was a pleasure though "not exceptional by [his] exceptional standards" – I may be misinterpreting it but this sounds like praise to me.

  10. Compared to how I felt about Yuuki's performance it was. But we don't see eye to eye on that.

  11. S

    Interestingly enough, he was Seiyuu of the year over on RC. I have a feeling he won't get the same praise on LiA.

    I rarely pay any attention to seiyuus, because if I recognize one while watching I'm going to be constantly reminded of his/her previous roles (disrupting some of the immersion for me). Not only is Yuukis voice super easy to recognize, it also means that the character will have almost zero emotional depth, or fail to portray that emotional depth.

  12. Tell me about it – I almost handed in my employee discount card over that…

    Well – not really. But hell was definitely given.

  13. R

    I personally find Nobunaga the Fool a bit boring. The only thing that held me in finishing the first episode was really the seiyuus, but this episode didn't allow them to go wild. I'm unsure if I will have the time to continue with the series…perhaps I will just wait for next week and see. As for Nobunagun, I wasn't planning on watching it, but after reading your review, I may give it a try.

  14. t

    well you somehow targeted my general feeling from the two Nobunaga series.

    in general, I know Oda Nobunaga is famous and important figure in japanese history. and it's no secret that a lot of anime are revolves around him. some others are presenting his character (like Gifuu and others).
    still, I was surprised to get 2 Nobunaga series, and both with strong affinity to action.

    I have to say. in both series Nobunaga is really some sort of a fool. but I like the cultural tribute here in both. it;s not typical history anime. it's another world, but still, it's dealing with important figures and events in the past in way that is indeed a tribute to the past. I found it genuine like the fire-event in Nobunagun or the characters (Hideyoshi for example) in Nobunaga the fool.

    now let's start with Nobunagun. it was good. indeed giving me vibes of "crime edge".
    it took the whole episode until it really took off. but it did so.
    TBH, it's not that amazing in plot having reincarnation with DNA of important figures all over the world such as Nobunaga, Newton (can't wait!!) and jack riper and Gandi (how is he suppose to fight I am not so sure…). more info about possible characters is in MAL so beware!
    but yeah, it's that brilliant, but the execution is nice. the action with the gun in the gun produced the vibes I wanted..and it became a strong potential sleeper.

    as for Nobunaga the fool. well he is indeed a fool. I loved the explaining of the world with the whole east and west star, King Arthur and so…what I am saying is that the story at the beginning present nicely.
    nothing here in terms of characters and I am for the action and Mecha mostly.
    potential for nice plot development with the woman and the story of east/west star.

    overall, 2 Nobunaga series which I didn't expect a lot of them.
    I am here for the action mostly. for now, Nobunagun impressed me more.
    but I'll see where those 2 will go.

  15. S

    I’m with you on these two Nobunaga shows. Nobunagun is fun and exciting to watch, possibly the best first episode of the winter season so far, while Nobunaga Fool was mind-numbingly dull. Good call to drop it.
    Commenters on RandomC however, seem to really dig the show. Seems like there is a big discrepancy of opinions between that site and your blog. How is that possible?!

  16. I kid, but I think it really boils down to the fact that this is a site with one writer's opinions, and that a site with a bunch. It's inevitably going to draw a wider range of tastes than LiA, because most (not all) readers who generally don't share my tastes in anime and manga aren't going to be regulars here.

  17. J

    Quite surprised to find that I enjoyed Nobunagun a lot more than Nobunaga the Fool. Nobunagun gave me a nice streamlined intro with an intriguing premise. All "the Fool" gave me was a whole lot of information crammed into one episode. There were things happening left and right and I couldn't follow any of it.

  18. w

    Pretty brave of a series to introduce it's lead with the 'late for school' gag (bread and all). Nobunagun was a lot of fun though, I can see it Shooting up on many peoples watch lists this season.

  19. R

    Generally with yanderes it is made clear that they are fun characters but NOT OK. Nobunagun disturbed me, because her bloodthirst was portrayed as righteous.

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