The Winter 2014 Anime Preview Guide Nobunagun
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)
Review: Sio Ogura is a female military nut who generally tends to enjoy herself just fine on her own, which is probably why she's a bit of an outcast in school. She also has funky dreams about Oda Nobunaga. These traits both come into play when a school trip to Taiwan puts her in a dangerous situation: a huge buglike creature apparently called an Invasion Object is crawling ashore despite the military's best efforts to stop it. Then a super-powered individual named Jack the Ripper, who seems to be part of a larger organization and has allies named Gandhi and Newton, shows up to fight the monster, but even he ends up being hard-pressed. When Asa, a girl who was trying to be friendly with Sio, also winds up in danger, she does the only thing she can: realize that she is the reincarnation of Nobunaga and use that and a sphere obtained from Jack to manifest the weapon of her choice: a massive gun to shoot the monsters down with. Thus she becomes Nobunagun.
Oh, yeah, this is as corny and generic as it sounds like it is, but it is also actually quite a bit of fun. Unglamorous Sio has a certain geeky appeal, a trait that is rare in a female lead protagonist in anime, and the wicked expression on her face when she realizes her power (see screenshot) is quite the stand-out for a role like this, as is the more manic interpretation of Nobunaga. Naturally the episode ultimately comes down to how flashy and impressive the big fight scene is, but despite the show's innumerable predecessors in the “discover your powers in time to fight off the monster(s) gimmick, this show gets it right. All of this stuff about the Invasion Objects, E-genes, secret organizations, and whatnot can wait until next episode to be explained because we have a potential winner of a heroine here.
Animation studio Bridge showed with Devil Survivor 2 The Animation that it understood how to do action scenes, and it brings that expertise to play here. Also mixed in are some decidedly weird patterning and texturing effects which are used occasionally on characters other than Sio. But all of the artsy gimmicks wouldn't work if the series does not otherwise entertain, and that it does.
Nobunagun is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Review: The phrase “style over substance” comes up a lot when discussing action anime, particularly those from the Gainax school of slipping, sliding, and slamming colors and lines over any consistency of character model. Nobunagun, an apocalyptic war adventure starring the reincarnations of famous figures from history who use their predecessors’ souls as giant weapons in combat against alien monsters, is a solid example of this. (Isaac Newton, Jack the Ripper, Gandhi, and yes, Oda Nobunaga are the few we've met so far.) Clearly a show with a premise this ludicrous would have to be style over substance to soar, and it is. Storywise, we learn very little in Nobunagun. Sio Ogura, dorky military otaku girl, goes on a school trip to Taiwan, is attacked by giant aliens, and summons an enormous gatling gun housing the spirit of Nobunaga to fight them. That's pretty much it. With a story that thin, the presentation has to more than compensate for it, right?
Well, the problem is that Nobunagun's “style” is duller and sadder than the creative staff seems to think it is. This is, point blank, a cheap-looking show. The action is a rough approximation of Gainax-style action, with heroes running up the sides of monsters dragging a giant blade through their guts, but the excitement of a Kill La Kill-style action scene is nowhere to be found. There are too many long holds, cut frames, and indistinct poses in muddy shots to get the blood pumping. The action is poorly directed, and at times you'd be hard pressed to explain where characters are in relation to one another or the city at large. Nobunagun's animation is just too low-budget and amateurish to carry an “action” show. In non-action scenes, the visual flair is entirely composed of elements borrowed from SHAFT productions, like shadows with gradients in them, oblique perspective, and cheeky commentative subtitles. At first, it seems unique and fun, but it wears on the viewer quickly when it all seems like random ideas, form with no function, and not enough money to claim “spectacle!” as an excuse.
Nobunagun isn't a terrible show, it's just completely composed of tricks used better elsewhere. It's a cheap imitation of other styles and ideas, and without the looks to compensate, its lack of brains isn't very entertaining. Yawn.
Nobunagun is available streaming at Crunchyroll.
Review: Take the basic premise of The Severing Crime Edge, hitch it to the Warring States obsession and over-the-top proclivities of Sengoku Basara, and stir in the invading kaijuu from the super robot genre, and you get a rough idea of what this wacko action vehicle is like. Sound ridiculous? It is. Ridiculously so. But it's also ridiculously fun. Weapons otaku Shio Ogura goes on a school trip to Taiwan, where a giant, multi-eyed ocean behemoth almost immediately begins laying waste to the surrounding area. Caught up in the carnage, Shio rushes to a classmate's rescue. Amidst flashing claws and mangled military weaponry, just as all seems lost, a man—the reincarnation of Jack the Ripper, armed with a weaponized sphere that transforms itself to suit his reincarnated soul—shows up to fight the seaborne menace. Jack is badly wounded in the fight and Shio feels compelled to take up his sphere. Whereupon she discovers that she's the reincarnation of infamous Japanese warlord Nobunaga Oda. The incredibly destructive, totally unhinged reincarnation.
You have to have a taste for the ludicrous to enjoy Nobunagun. If the idea of Mahatma Gandhi's reincarnation fighting giant monsters strikes you as pure genius, Nobunagun is your baby. If not… bail now or forever hold your peace. For those who remain, buckle in. The series may start mundane—with Shio doing a fair impression of your average ‘90s shojo heroine (albeit one who really loves military hardware)—but it quickly goes hurtling off the rails. The buildup to Shio's ending rampage, as the creature bombards the shore with exploding fish scales(!), as Jack arrives via surface-to-surface missile, as a biological landing vessel delivers a cargo of crustacean shock troops and Shio discovers an unknown reservoir of courage, is a thing of deranged, hyper-stylized beauty. And the rampage… simply delicious. This kind of thing self-destructs easily, so beware, but until it does, enjoy.
Nobunagun is available streaming at Crunchyroll.
Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)
Sio is having a dream – Oda Nobunaga has just found out that Mitsuhide has betrayed him and – wait, wait, wait. Didn't we already see this this season? The answer is yes – the opening scene of Nobunagun is almost exactly the same as part of the opening scene of Nobunaga the Fool, and the two shows have more in common than this. However, where Nobunaga the Fool takes a more light-hearted approach to historical figure Oda Nobunaga and the other random famous names it throws in, Nobunagun is a harsher, more graphically violent story with a harder sci-fi edge.
Sio Ogura, as it turns out, is the odd duck of her high school class. She's a weapons otaku for one, but that's not really why she doesn't fit in; it appears to be more that she's awkward and uncomfortable in a group. She nearly misses the departure time for the class trip to Taiwan, only to find out that her teacher had totally forgotten about her anyway. Once they land and start exploring, only popular girl Kaoru Aso seems to care that Sio is even there. Before this can turn into a story of a high school misfit, however, Sio notices a fighter jet flying overhead...and it suddenly releases its bombs. This signals the beginning of a horrific war scene, where tanks and other weapons of war suddenly start fighting against alien creatures to a backdrop of dark primary colors. The sudden shift in color scheme and tone is very effective – even though we see only one death and minimal blood, the scene is suddenly overwhelmed with a sensation of horror. We see Sio quake in fear and slowly begin to hear screams in the background, another effective detail that helps to drive home how scary what is happening is.
It is at this point that we become aware that there is a group of people on some sort of high tech ship who are monitoring the situation and sending out people to fight known as “e-genes.” Names such as Jack the Ripper, Newton, and Gandhi are all mentioned, and by the time Sio gets to the reason she had that dream twenty minutes ago we can pretty much see where the show is going – reincarnations of historical greats fighting aliens.
It all actually makes for some pretty compelling viewing. Mostly this is because of the visual tricks mentioned earlier – they really work on your emotions so that you can almost ignore the craziness of Gandhi's reincarnation flying in to help Jack the Ripper fight an alien fish monster. Sio is a nice change from the sort of military otaku we usually see – she seems like a normal kid who just likes weaponry in the same way another kid likes trains. Her relationship with Kaoru has some possibilities (could Kaoru be Mitsuhide?), and all in all this could be the start of an interesting show.
Nobunagun is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
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