Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Feb 27th 2014
Nobunaga The Fool
Episodes 1 - 6 Streaming
In an alternate version of our world, there is an East/West planetary split, with people living on the Eastern Star and its Western counterpart. Once connected by a bridge, now the two are separate, and have developed their own unique cultures. As the West enters into a renaissance, the East stagnates, and now heroes from both Stars will unite to change their worlds. Jeanne d'Arc is brought from the West by Leonardo da Vinci to meet Oda Nobunaga, the so-called and prophesied Savior-King, and with them they bring new fighting technologies and a chance for the young lord to prove himself. But when Gaius Julius Caesar, the priestess-queen Himiko, and other historical worthies are thrown into the mix, how will our heroes handle it?
In another version of history, east and west were separate planets joined only by mystical energy. Jeanne d'Arc (or Joan of Arc, if you prefer) lived on the Western Star, where she had visions of a great Savior-King. One day Leonardo da Vinci came to her from King Arthur and told her that the savior-king she dreamed of was one Oda Nobunaga, a young lord on the Eastern Star. It was, therefore, her duty to go to him to help Arthur and to fulfill the destinies of all.
If your reaction at this moment is “WTF?”, it would be easy to understand. One of the stranger history mash-ups of recent memory, Nobunaga the Fool is like a cross-cultural League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, only with more mecha. But putting aside the fact that Jeanne would never have worked for an English king, that she and Leonardo da Vinci (to say nothing of Julius Caesar or, for that matter, Nobunaga) come from completely different time periods, and that most of the plot is more contrived and bizarre than it ought to be, Nobunaga the Fool is a strangely enjoyable show. Aggressively silly, it nonetheless manages to engage the viewer and, in the case of episode six, tug on some heartstrings as well.
The majority of the story in the first six episodes takes place in what, for the sake of ease, we'll call Japan. Jeanne has been brought there by da Vinci in order to meet the brash young heir of the Oda clan, a fellow generally known as Nobunaga the Fool. Nobunaga doesn't do well in court situations and can be very over-the-top in his actions and reactions, but it is clear that underneath it all, he's got a good heart and really cares about his family. We see this the most in his interactions with his sister Ichihime and his brother Nobukatsu, with both of whom he takes on a much gentler role. He's more excited to see the stunning mecha that the Westerners have brought with them, known as “regalia,” than the people themselves, but neither does he throw Jeanne out on her ear when she announces that she's going to stay. In fact, he has her disguise herself as a man in order to keep her safe, although given her figure, that ploy doesn't work well. Despite all of this, however, Nobunaga really does come off as a jerk, and it is easy to forget his softer side when he's in the throes of battle fever or being a pain, which is often.
More interesting characters are Jeanne herself and Nobunaga's constant companion Akechi Mitsuhide. History (and the first episode) tells us that this man will eventually betray his friend, and with that knowledge it is fascinating to watch his actions, particularly in episode six, which really is the strongest of this set. Jeanne is clearly at war with herself over her decision to accompany da Vinci to Nobunaga's home, and all of the gentle (and not so gentle) hints from other characters can really make her believe that Nobunaga is the Savior-King she's been waiting for. Despite that, she has budding feelings for the man, which leads to some of the more unsettling moments of the show.
Viewers familiar with the story of Joan of Arc, or who regard her as a holy figure, may have some difficulties with the show's portrayal of her. While she is undoubtedly a strong figure who knows how to use a sword and holds fast to her beliefs, she is also very much the boobs of the show, and given her reputed purity a romance plot between she and Nobunaga is somewhat problematic. Not that other characters don't get their stories significantly rewritten – who knew that Caesar was a hot young buck with silver hair and an eye-patch? - but most of the others don't hold the religious significance that Joan does.
Visually the show is a fun mix of traditional and science fiction. The more technologically advanced Western Star has gears on its surface, and most characters dress in a hybrid of historical fashion and cyber punk. (Ichihime and Nobukatsu are the notable exceptions.) The animation looks pretty good, although some of the mecha's movements are clunky. All of the characters look unique, and Mitsuhide's creepy Noh masks are enough to send chills up your spine. The architecture of the Oda compound is also very interesting to look at, and even if the same courtyard is shown multiple times, it is still possible to spot something new with each viewing.
On the whole, Nobunaga the Fool doesn't care if you think it's kind of silly. By episode six it has established that despite a set up that would make a historian cry, it still is capable of genuine feelings, and that even its gimmicky Tarot card usage has a point for the characters. It isn't a show you watch for the deep emotions or the thought-provoking plot, but it is a lot of fun and very infectious. If you're just looking for some easy viewing, you could absolutely do worse than Nobunaga and his merry band.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : C+
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : B-
+ Fun and never really has a dull moment. Episode six proves that it has a heart as well; Mitsuhide and Jeanne are interesting characters. Love the Oda compound.
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