The Winter 2014 Anime Preview Guide
Nobunaga The Fool

Jan 6th 2014

Hope Chapman


Rating: 3

Review:
Take Oda Nobunaga, Leonardo da Vinci, Joan of Arc, Magellan, and a host of other famous figures, toss 'em in a mixing bowl and bake 'em up in twenty minutes and you end up with a surprisingly dry pastry, if Nobunaga The Fool is any indication. Sporting a routine hodgepodge of elements from retelling Nobunaga's legend (been there) to mech warfare (done that) to THE CHOSEN HERO OF LEGEND (bought the t-shirt,) Nobunaga The Fool seems content to play to the cheap seats not only with its premise, but its crop of "as you know" dialogue and big dumb archetypes. Nothing much to get excited about here.

That said, it's not a dull sitdown; on the contrary, it's reasonably entertaining and gets a lot done in one episode's worth of action and yammering. There are two star-crossed lovers, evil machinations outside of our optimistic hero's control, and a passion for revenge that gets Nobunaga and friends involved in the war. It all moves along at a brisk pace and the environments and animation can be quite beautiful and striking, although not always in good taste. Hilariously overdesigned RPG wardrobes run rampant and the CG robots are ill-advised as always. But another thing Nobunaga can claim that pushes it just past its many identical cousins is a little heart. Our lead characters have already been given strong motivations and some tender scenes both happy and sad that let us peek into their minds a little bit, past all the jagged hair.

It's nothing novel, it's nothing unique, but Nobunaga The Fool at very least boasts snappy pacing, competence and charm, which can go a long way in a serial story. For the time being, it also looks nice, so if its particular gaggle of fantasy cliches turns your crank, it might be worth a shot.

Nobunaga The Fool is available streaming at
Crunchyroll.

Carl Kimlinger

Rating: 2

Review: Operatic sci-fi setting? Check. Impressive visuals? Check. Creative muscle? Check. Good show? Not so much. As they say, quality ingredients need a good cook to become a great dish. And director Eiichi Sato is a fry cook working with prime rib. The result is edible, if only just, but man, does it hurt watching all that juicy meat get terminally overcooked.

The setting and the creative muscle come courtesy of Escaflowne architect Shoji Kawamori. As original creator and script supervisor he delivers a typically mythic setup: Two worlds, one based on Western civilization, the other on Eastern, separated by the void of space and evolving independently. On one world, heroes of Western civilization are enjoying a renaissance of peace and unity. On the other, heroes of the East (mainly Japan) are living in a politically fragmented era of constant warfare. Two such heroes are connected, by prophecy and shared ancestral memory, across the planetary divide: Western warrior-saint Jeanne d'Arc and notorious Japanese conqueror Nobunaga Oda.

Satelight supplies top-notch visuals, Kawamori himself supplies knockout (culturally appropriate!) mechas, and the premise gives us legendary figures plucked from all eras and places—mixing it up in a single, gorgeously realized, far-future setting. And Eiichi Sato takes it all and squishes it beneath his giant ham-fist. Sato appears to be under under the impression that mythic storytelling requires lots of grandiose shouting and offensively overplayed cinematic flourishes. Any dialogue that can be delivered like a climactic monologue from Macbeth is. If the hero must agonize, he will scream his agony to the sky (while the camera pulls dramatically away). When characters meet and interact, it's with a stylized fakeness that is meant to evoke myth but instead feels forced and, well, fake. If you're going to watch, watch for Jeanne. Not only is she cute, she's the only character with a measure of reserve.

Nobunaga The Fool is available streaming at Crunchyroll.


Rebecca Silverman

Rating: 3  (out of 5)

Review:

Joan of Arc and Oda Nobunaga are destined to be together. Also, Leonardo da Vinci and Magellan work for King Arthur and samurai fight each other in squat mechs in a medieval/steampunk hybrid of a world. Welcome to Nobunaga The Fool.

One of the more creative historical mashups, this show's first episode makes a brief stop by reality before passing along into creative anachronism. We open with Jeanne d'Arc being burned at the stake while Oda Nobunaga learns that his trusted Mitsuhide has betrayed him. The two experience a strange link across the centuries before Jeanne wakes up in her (very nice) bedroom in France. She's not yet gone to save the French realm and she's been having strange dreams about a man named Nobunaga...dreams he shares over in Japan. But while Nobunaga gets to discuss things with his buddies Mitsu and Monkey, Jeanne is damned as demon possessed and shunned by the townsfolk. All of this changes when a strange and dapper violet haired man shows up with a tuba, proclaiming himself Leonardo da Vinci, trusted knight of the great King Arthur. Da Vinci knows about Jeanne's voices and visions, and he whisks her away on Captain Magellan's starship to go find the man in her dreams. Meanwhile Nobunaga gets a taste of the horrors of war, which whets his palate for revenge when Jeanne and her European technology (read: cooler mech) show up.

While my inner historian is weeping, the rest of me is having a pretty good time with this show. It's sheer weirdness is captivating, and the utter lunacy with which the Europeans are portrayed is enough to make one come back to find out who else they'll throw in. That the interiors of the medieval ships are drenched in Renaissance ornateness certainly helps, as does the color contrast between the rich hues of the European scenes and the smoke tones of the Japanese. It also has eye candy for everyone – dapper dudes and winsome (and buxom) females make up the cast.

If Nobunaga The Fool can keep up this craziness and throw in a decent plot, there's some real potential here, even if the idea of watching Joan of Arc's breasts jiggle is kind of awkward.

Nobunaga The Fool is available streaming at Crunchyroll.


Theron Martin


Rating: 3 (of 5)

Review:
This one has the curious distinction of being associated with a stage play of the same name which also features animation by series producer Satelight. The whole project is much more notable, though, for being the brainchild of Shoji Kawamori, the creator of the Macross, Escaflowne, and Aquarion franchises (amongst others) and a mecha designer for several franchises beyond that. Elements prominent in all of those previous projects are at least vaguely apparent here: a mix of love, war, and mecha played out on a world-shaking scale. This, however, is Kawamori's most unconventional take on those elements to date, an apparent tale of king-making with some very odd twists so far. The verdict is still out on whether or not that originality is a Good Thing in this case.

As the prologue tells us, the world of this setting has literally been split into two bodies: a West Star and an East Star. Each is inhabited either by alternate versions of historical and legendary figures or some reincarnation of them; the story so far is not clear on which is the case, but characters like King Arthur, Jeanne d'Arc, and (naturally!) Oda Nobunaga and some of the figures associated with him pop up. Despite bucolic settings, ultra-high technology is present, as mecha freely exist in both and spaceships exist in at least one. Jeanne from West Star and Oda from East Star each dream of the other and hear voices, dreams and voices which, with the help of a flamboyant Leonardo da Vinci and starship captain Magellan, eventually drive Jeanne to travel to East Star, crash-land there, and hook up with Oda as he takes control of an apparently super-powerful mecha that can only be piloted by the “Savior-King.” The title comes from the fact that Oda in this setting is apparently a bit of an unruly wild card.

Those expecting Satelight's normal super-sharp artistic style may feel slightly let down here, as while the artistry is still appealing, only in its landscapes does it actually impress. Still, the character designs are uniformly pretty or handsome, with a sexy-looking Jeanne and bishonen Oda and crew providing eye candy for each gender/orientation. The plotting is going to need more time to set a clear direction; will this merely be a heroic mecha series or is the romance going to amount to more than Jeanne fawning on Oda? Still, mixing Western and Eastern historical figures creates an offbeat feel that is enough of an attracting factor to hold interest while the rest of the series sorts itself out.

Nobunaga The Fool is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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