The Winter 2020 Anime Preview Guide
Oda Cinnamon Nobunaga
How would you rate episode 1 of
Oda Cinnamon Nobunaga ?
What is this?
Oda Cinnamon Nobunaga is based on a manga. It's available streaming on Crunchyroll, Fridays at 2 pm EST.
How was the first episode?
I was actually on board with Oda Cinnamon Nobunaga for about three or four minutes. I'm no aficionado of Japanese history, and I usually start to check out whenever an anime goes whole hog on the Warring States trivia. I have to admit, though, the concept of this, the millionth series to be somehow based on the life of Oda Nobunaga, had me giggling. The stoic and noble Oda, reincarnated as a cute Shiba Inu? The jokes practically write themselves!
They write themselves so well, in fact, that you can call every one of them from a mile away, which really starts to suck the fun out of the premise. “Oda Nobunaga wouldn't ever go soft at the mere mention of belly rubs, would he?” “The once mighty Oda Nobunaga, having to go on walks with a bubbly teenage girl?” “Did you know that dogs like to sniff each other's butts as a greeting? Well, look what happens when Oda runs into another reincarnated-Japanese-warrior-turned-cute-pooch, oh ho ho.” And so on. Speaking of those other Japanese legends, a lot of the humor feels tailored to those fans who would both recognize all of the famous military names that show up throughout this premiere and appreciate the new fluffy forms they've taken on. I did not, so a good third of this episode flew right over my head, and there are only so many times a show can have the voice of a cranky old man come attached to the face of a cute cartoon dog before the shtick gets old. Another thing that only gets less funny the more it is repeated: The suspiciously large emphasis on close-ups of dog buttholes.
With the noticeably cheap artwork and corny vocal performances, Oda Cinnamon Nobunaga feels like another one of those series that probably would have worked as a short-form series, but becomes achingly repetitive when stretched across a full twenty-two minutes. It isn't the worst animal-centric anime to come out this season – and there sure are a lot of them this winter, aren't there? – but be sure to check your expectations at the door.
Oda Nobunaga has probably seen more different incarnations in anime than any other historical figure, whether it's the shrewd innovator of Drifters, a teenager in Kochoki, or even a young woman in Sengoku Collection or a number of other titles. Both his sword and his wife have also been characters in assorted series. So why not reincarnate him and a number of other Sengoku-era figures as dogs?
That seems to be the entirety of the concept here: have all of these illustrious figures now be dogs who may still have the minds of who they were but are still subject to all the normal canine urges. The content spends a lot of its time contrasting what Nobunaga wants mentally with how much ecstasy a good belly rub from his owner puts him in or the delight he gets from digging holes even though he knows he shouldn't. For every slightly more serious lament about how baths are now unpleasant experiences or he can't go anywhere without his owner, there's a more lighthearted lament about how he's stuck with the inglorious name “Cinnamon” or his cute form. Some of the other dogs have similar concerns, though they also spend time commenting on how being reborn as a dog may be karma or his behavior as a dog is inconsistent with what he was before. Oda's internal voice keeps this lively.
Since these are Sengoku-era figures who were mostly known to each other, meets at a dog park allow them to discuss pertinent matter from their time, such as who might have really been responsible for killing Nobunaga. This was somewhat interesting as well, especially if you know the history of the time period, and I expect that we will se more of it as the series progresses. There's something inherently humorous about watching a bunch of dogs discuss such weighty matters. The reappearance of a certain character in human form provides a late twist which could have interesting consequences. Meanwhile, the artistic effort does a good job of portraying the dogs (we get to see the real-life models for some of them in the closer) and provides all of the expected visual gags but isn't anything special.
I am definitely not a dog lover but I did find this one amusing enough to overcome that and be at least barely worth my time. While I don't think that you necessarily need to be familiar with the history of the characters involved to appreciate this one, it would help.
Generally, each new anime season comes with a production or two that immediately prompts the question: “why is this a full-length production?” What about this story's structure, ambition, or base premise made its producers think it'd be an effective story for twenty minute stretches? And my god, how many minutes can there still be left in this episode? For winter 2020, the first and hopefully only production in this category is the baffling Oda Cinnamon Nobunaga.
Oda Cinnamon Nobunaga has precisely one joke: what if Oda Nobunaga were reincarnated as a shiba inu. That's it, that's the whole show. There's no “and he's forced to accomplish BLANK” twist on that idea - this entire episode is just Oda Nobunaga walking around as a shiba inu, acting vaguely indignant about being forced to live as a shiba inu. Eventually some other general-dogs are introduced, but they don't really alter the show's dynamic in any way. From start to finish, this whole episode's entire purpose is demonstrating that Oda Nobunaga is a dog now, and Oda Nobunaga being a dog is funny.
Perhaps, if I had more intimate familiarity with warring states-era generals, I'd see more of an element of satire or social commentary in Oda Cinnamon Nobunaga. But honestly, while I often consider that a valid critique when it comes to these endless warring states general transposition vehicles, it seems too charitable to apply that to Cinnamon. This is a repetitive, simplistic show that should never have been adapted into anything beyond five minute segments, with no real aesthetic strengths to speak of, and no actual ideas beyond its one and only joke. If you've seen the trailer, you've seen the entire show; feel free to skip this one.
You've seen Oda Nobunaga as a fierce warlord, a busty girl, and a hot guy. You've seen a teenage girl be able to channel his powers. Maybe you've even romanced him in an otome game. But have you ever seen Oda Nobunaga as…a fluffy Shiba Inu named Cinnamon? Well, you have now, and that's basically the entire premise and plot of Oda Cinnamon Nobunaga: that after making a passing remark in front of a Buddha statue before his death in 1582, Oda Nobunaga finds himself reincarnated as a pampered pooch, a turn of events he finds upsetting.
It's not a bad concept, really, but it also doesn't have quite enough humor power to make it through an entire full-length episode. That it might not have that for a full three-minute episode is also considered, given the fact that this one is made up of many short segments featuring fun things like “Nobunaga pees on a utility pole” and “Nobunaga gets tummy rubs.” That all his old warlord pals (and enemies) have also been reincarnated as fluffy puppies does add a bit of interest to the proceedings, especially since most of them aren't upset at all to be living this new life and can't quite figure out why Nobunaga's so upset. That the man he believes responsible for his death may have gotten to be reincarnated as a Shiba-loving human is just salt in his wound, at this point. Whether or not it can add humor and/or plot to the show remains to be seen.
Given the fairly limited animation and lackluster designs, I have to admit that my favorite part of this show is the ending theme and preview, which are done with real live (female) dogs. I'd probably have liked this show a bit more if live-action segments had been added in, because watching adorable real dogs talk like weird old men is rather more appealing than faintly animated ones. The juxtaposition between the voices, and occasional side-by-sides of human and dog selves, do work decently, but if you're hurting for cute, Uchitama is the better bet right now, even if this does have one delightfully self-aware moment when Nobunaga grumbles about how often his story is told.
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