Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Jul 1st 2014
Nobunaga The Fool
13 - 24 Streaming
As the battle between East and West heats up, players switch sides. Jeanne begins to have doubts about her visions of Nobunaga – what if he really is the Destroyer-King and not the Savior-King as she had supposed? How will that effect her allegiance, to say nothing of that of Nobunaga's other retainers? Meanwhile Nobunaga seeks out ever greater power in his quest to combat King Arthur and Himiko's star grows ever dimmer...
Back when CLAMP's X/1999 was first running in English, someone made the passing comment that perhaps it would eventually be revealed that card 0 of the Major Arcana, The Fool, would simply be a mirror, showing us that we were the fools for following the convoluted story. While that is not an accurate representation of what the card means in Tarot, the second half of Nobunaga the Fool engenders similar feelings in the viewer – that maybe we were the fools for watching this show to the end.
The second half of the historical mash-up/action hybrid takes what was once an enjoyably silly premise – that King Arthur and Oda Nobunaga must face off as rivals to save and/or destroy the world, which in this case is comprised of two planets, east and west – and tries to make it a serious action show, which was not necessarily a good idea. With Caesar's marriage to Ichihime in episode thirteen, it looks as if Nobu's camp is growing, but as viewers will recall, Mitsuhide is madly in love with Ichihime, and thus Nobu stands to lose as much as he gains. This sort of back and forth is the rule of the rest of the show, with players questioning their loyalties at every turn. The most faithful characters appear to be the women on both sides. Once Jeanne, Himiko, Cesare, and Hannibal have chosen their heroes, they are ready to stay there, even if Jeanne suffers some qualms at times. This makes Ichihime stand out among the rest of the female cast. She is easy to overlook since she is not one of the fighters, but in her way she is the strongest of all of the women. Ichihime never backs down or suffers from attacks of insecurity in the same way that Jeanne does, making her decisions with her head rather than her heart, like Himiko tends to do. Simply put, Ichihime comes off as a more relateable heroine than her counterparts, not running to extremes but nonetheless making her mark.
Much of this set of episodes revolves around the emotional crises suffered by the other characters. Many of the people on King Arthur's side are quite simply unhinged, as can be seen in Machiavelli's love of torture – some of the scenes of her working on Jeanne are difficult to watch – and Alexander's single-minded need for battle and victory, which he takes to a level somewhere beyond normal. Jeanne continues to waver between overwrought and capable, and Mitsuhide, whose emotional issues have been central to the story since he killed Nobukatsu, struggles to reach a balance he can live with. This is perhaps the most interesting part of this second half, with Mitsuhide's inevitable betrayal of Nobu (remember, we saw that back in episode one) creeping ever closer. We know what he's going to do, but Mitsu's still struggling with it, and his wavering thoughts and feelings make for some interesting viewing.
Sadly as these twelve episodes move onward they begin to get less and less coherent. We go from near-death to betrayal to epic battle with little to hold it all together in the way of logic, and relationships are rushed to the point that we really don't care about anyone. Some interesting things are done with Arthur and his trick of being all things to all people, but otherwise the viewer is often left wondering what just happened and why it matters to the main plot. A couple of “power up” episodes give us a break while several characters try to increase their skill via dragon, but these drag more than the regular ones. The real deal-breaker is the final episode. We can see that it wants to pull an amazing last minute game-changer that will totally change the way you think about everything, but it really just comes off as a combination of “cop out” and “WTF.” It gives us a post-credits scene and a kiss to try and make up for it, but the only real relief you are likely to feel is that the show is over.
Nobunaga the Fool began as a flashy, goofy reimagining of world history that ripped historical figures out of their contexts and played with them. That was a fun show. Unfortunately in its second half it begins to take itself far too seriously, and all of the flashy battles and sparkly effects that Satelight throws in cannot make this ending a success. It tries, perhaps too hard, to get us to take it seriously, when it would have been better to keep it off-beat. Beware when you look in the mirror after finishing this – The Fool just may be those of us who watched this to its conclusion.
Overall (sub) : C-
Story : C-
Animation : B-
Art : C+
Music : C-
+ Ichihime becomes an interesting character, battles are nice and flashy. Pace is generally fast.
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