The Summer 2014 Anime Preview Guide
Nobunaga Concerto

Jul 16th 2014

Bamboo Dong

Rating: 1

Review:

Nobunaga Concerto is irritatingly bad, having what is perhaps one of the laziest set-ups in the history of Random-Retellings-of-Oda-Nobunaga. Seconds after the Everyday Normal High School Boy says, "I don't need history!" or whatever, he falls off the school roof, only to be caught in a web of plot contrivances. You see, he's traveled back in time to the Sengoku Era, and he's a dead-ringer for the sickly real-life Nobunaga. So, Nobunaga scurries away to go rest in a cave somewhere, and Everyday Normal High School Boy steps in for him. At first everyone thinks he's a fool (aha!), but he manages to woo his wife with a date, and convinces everyone that he's going to rule the country.

Basically, most of the first episode is lazy, hand-waving away logic and questions to try to get to the story as quickly as possible. I'm all for some magic storytelling and fantasy mumbo-jumbo, but don't tell me this high school slack-off knows how to ride a horse, and no one questions why he has a history book from the future. They're all plot conveniences slipped into the anime to make the story easy to tell, all while basically saying, "It doesn't really matter; we just wanted this Everyday Normal High School Boy to be Nobunaga, because that's a thing that just happens in anime these days."

As irritated as I am about the horse-riding nonsense, even hours later, I still can't get over the first few minutes of the series, in which we go from "Classroom" to "Guys Falls Through A Magic Time Portal" in less than two minutes. It's made worse by the fact that once he's in Sengoku Era Japan, he's already pretty much accepted his situation, and decides within the span of a couple days that he's going to just do his best and be Nobunaga.

However, I will say this. If that's the kind of protagonist you like—the take charge, grab the bull by the horns, etc. kind of dude—then you will probably really dig Nobunaga Concerto. The chance to lead Japan essentially leaps into this guy's lap (or… he leaps into it?), and he decides, "Welp, I'd better do it if I don't want the country to fall into ruin" and starts fighting people and yelling in their faces about how he's going to be a mighty king, like no king was before. By the end of the episode, his usurper-wannabe brother is locked in a temple, everyone thinks he's great, and his super hot wife really enjoys spending time with him. Basically he's Alpha Dog Extreme, and everyone kind of wants to be him.

The only thing that's really a hindrance is the character designs, which is really hard to adjust to. Everyone's faces are really flat, which reminds me a little of Chinese comics from the 1980s, or homemade ONAs animated using free software (pick whichever you most relate to). It's not to say that the movements aren't fluid, but it just looks awkward, like androids gliding through old-timey Japan.

Nobunaga Concerto is a series that will probably be a little polarizing. Either you'll dig it for its cool-cat protagonist and its nods to history, or you'll dislike it for its stale story and slapdash writing. For now, we should instate a ban on all Nobunaga-related stories for the next five years.

Nobunaga Concerto is available streaming on Crunchyroll.


Rebecca Silverman

Rating: 2.5

Review:

Oda Nobunaga certainly is the man of the moment in anime, and in his latest incarnation, he's a weak, sickly young man on the run from his duties. Fortunately for him, modern day high school slacker Saburou has just fallen off a high fence and into the past, and wouldn't you know it, Saburou looks just like Nobunaga. He takes the future warlord's place (and hot wife) and decides to make the best of his situation: armed with his high school history book, Saburou will become the Nobunaga history knows. It's not a new premise, but Saburou is a different enough protagonist that it works decently well. He's an amiable guy, cheerfully taking his “wife” on dates and calling his retainers “-chan,” but once he realizes that he's stuck, he really does try to do what he's supposed to...even if his history book seems to be more an outline than a detailed recounting. There are some nice touches here too, like the use of modern bug spray on superstitious minds and the fact that Saburou simply refuses to wear pants (hakama) because they're hard to move in.

The biggest strike against Nobunaga Concerto is really the animation. It looks like a video game from the early 2000s, with awkward rigging and faces that lack nearly all expression. Everyone's skin is an unsettling shade of pasty and there's a real disconnect between the characters and the backgrounds they're moving against. The voices are far more expressive than any movements made, and since this isn't a radio play, that's a problem. Landscapes are really lovely in the past and detailed when there's a city involved (past or present), but the jerky, vaguely creepy movements distract from them. Since this is a largely visual medium, that's a pretty hefty problem. But if you can get past that, Nobunaga Concerto is kind of fun and is certainly a different take on the warlord than in recent seasons, so if you aren't thoroughly sick of the guy and enjoy the time travel conceit, it's worth checking to see if you can stomach the visuals.

Nobunaga Concerto is available streaming on Crunchyroll.


Carl Kimlinger

Rating: 2.5

Review: An historical adventure about a boy who time-slips back to the Warring States, Nobunaga Concerto offers up the tantalizing prospect of a Nobunaga-eye view of history, but unfortunately faces too many hurdles to work the way it should. Hurdle one being the time-slip business. You'd think that the space-time continuum is riddled with peculiarly choosey holes the way Japanese teens keep slipping through and ending up in the midst of momentous historical events. It takes a good while before we can shake the resemblance to, among other things, the silly pachinko-game adaptation Battle Girls (in which a modern girl ends up taking on the role of Hideyoshi Toyotomi in an all-female version of the Warring States). In Concerto, it's a boy and he ends up replacing Nobunaga Oda, but the parallels are still acute.

Hurdle number two is Saburou, the time-slipping teen. He's a callow, shallow youth—willful, self-centered, and full of the unexamined privilege of the middle-class teen who can't imagine a world where anything might endanger his precious first-world hide. The way he acts after a sickly young Nobunaga asks him to play kagemusha at his estate—romping unprotected through the countryside, taking Nobunaga's tender bride Kichou to perfect kidnapping spots—is selfish at best and suicidal at worst. The 3DCG character animation (hurdle number three) further wounds him by adding stilted body language and facial features that don't express so much as drift around in an eerie parody of feeling.

Still, enough of Concerto works after the bruising it takes to make for a fitfully entertaining experience. Kichou is refreshingly resourceful (she terrorizes her kidnappers with a can of bug spray) and enough of Saburou's innate capability makes it through his worst qualities to keep you interested in the kind of commander he would be. If it straightens Saburou out in particular, the show might yet pull off something fairly interesting.

Nobunaga Concerto is available streaming on Crunchyroll .


Theron Martin
 
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Review: In modern times Kinoshita Tokichiro is a dedicated slacker who makes the mistake of wandering out loud why he needs to learn about Japanese history while walking on a fence. He falls – straight into the Sengoku period and practically on top of a young man on horseback, who is a dead ringer for him. The young man turns out to be a very young Oda Nobunaga, who has decided that, because of his fragile health, he's going to flee from the intrigue he sees coming. He begs Kinoshita to be his decoy, which results in Kinoshita being mistaken for Oda when searchers catch up to him. Hence future slacker gets caught up in playing the part of Oda, and naturally his very different behavior dismays most people around him but delights his wife Kichou, whom the real Nobunaga had largely ignored but who has Kinoshita's full attention since she's rather hot. The big problem is that Kinoshita never really paid attention in history class, and the textbook he has with him only hits the major points, so there will doubtless be some stumbles on the path to making sure that history plays out the way it should – because, of course, Kinoshita doesn't want to have to relearn what history he did learn.

The concept in this shonen manga-based series is not anything particularly innovative, but its first episode executes the set-up surprisingly well. Sure, there are some logical gaps; for instance, Kinoshita seems amazingly proficient at horse-riding for someone who grew up in an era where such activities are rare outside of farms and sport. The story makes up for that, though, by showing Kinoshita behaving very naturally comfortably on his “dates” with Kichou and by showing that he can be clever when he wants to be. (That Kichou also turns out to be at least a bit clever is a bonus treat, but she was known historically for being quite intelligent, and the “super hot” comment that Kinoshita made concerning her also seems to be historically accurate.) The intended appeal here is, of course, to see how much the details get twisted around in bringing the actual history to pass, and of course the “wink-wink” here is that Kinoshita's behavior, which seems erratic to those used to the real Nobunaga, is the reason why the historical Nobunaga earned the title “Fool of Owari.”

Exactly who did the animation work for this series is not specified in any English language source that I could find, but whoever did it apparently used either cheap motion-capture or a heavy amount of CG or both and not particularly skillfully, as the awkward-looking animation and stiff faces take a while to get used to. The artistry is otherwise pretty enough, but the animation aesthetics are enough of a detracting factor that they alone may drive some viewers away. If that aspect isn't an issue, though, then the series has some potential for fun in a “playing with history” kind of way.

Nobunaga Concerto is currently streaming on Crunchyroll .


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