Nobunaga the Fool – 14

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Since some French was spoken in this episode (albeit not much…and not well), I’ll use some as well: this episode lacked the particular je ne sais quoi of previous episodes that had held everything together and held my interest. This episode was kind of a mess, and rather boring even when it was supposed to be at its most exciting. I chalk this up to a combination of disappointment that the trip to space was postponed, and the fact Nobu’s latest Round Table adversaries are lame as hell.

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Honestly, I don’t know why the show bothered wasting names like Hannibal and Charlemagne on such hollow, silly, short-lived characters, who show up in a menacing cloud of frost with fangs bared, but it turned out to be all bluff and bluster. Once Caesar and Uesugi arrive, the battle is essentially over, and there wasn’t anything particularly memorable or satisfying about it. Ranmaru means well, but is too quick to believe Hannibal’s promise and gets abducted for her trouble.

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I’ll admit I thought it was pretty great that Ichihime picked up a spear and told Caesar if he wouldn’t go to the aid of her homeland, she would. Caesar had earlier gone against traditional role of an Eastern man by baking her a chocolate cake. She, in turn, goes against the traditional role of an Eastern woman, and reminds me that she’s one of the few reasons I’m still watching the show. If her role diminishes in the second half, someone else will be hard-pressed to pick up the slack, because Ichihime is The (Wo)man.

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Nobunaga the Fool – 13

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Halfway through The Fool, with a new alliance forged (and a new peace along with it), Nobu casts his gaze upward towards the stars, and upon King Arthur, the adversary he must defeat if he’s to follow through on his promise to unite heaven and earth. Thanks to more scienticious mumbo-jumbo by da Vinci (I conceded long ago that the show will allow him to do practically anything), Himiko’s flagship is souped-up for a trip to the Western Star.

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Considering the threat he posed earlier, right up to the time Nobu invited him for tea, it’s strange seeing Caesar on the same side as Nobu & Co., and I’m not quite ready to believe he has the East Star’s best interests at heart – in fact, I’m inclined to think he only really cares about himself, and will betray his allies as soon as he no longer needs them. I’m hoping the show proves me wrong. Meanwhile, Arthur, whose star is crumbling, isn’t your typical evil villain, even if his designs clash with our heroes’.

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This episode is dominated by preparation for the coming journey, but also serves as a vehicle for Mitsuhide and Ichihime to offer proper goodbyes that acknowledge their deep affection for each other. Da Vinci starts the prodding by having him draw a card (Ace of Swords reversed, signifying obstinance), while Hideyoshi completes it with plain talk. Mitsu and Ichihime’s solemn, graceful goodbye hits all the right notes.

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Nobunaga the Fool – 12

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Nobu’s plan has failed, his army is in tatters, and scores of his people are dead or maimed, but you’d never guess he was in trouble from his demeanor. We were also a bit surprised that Caesar, still sore over being outsmarted by Nobu in the past, agrees to any sort of truce. We’ll call it an act of deference to Nobu’s sheer grit and audacity. Not only that, but this week, for the first time, you get the feeling Caesar would prefer it if Nobu were an ally rather than a foe.

Almost as much as the tea ceremony itself, we enjoyed the preparation that went into it, particularly that of Nobu and of Ichihime, who insists on being the host. We’ve always really liked the serene strength of Ichihime’s presence, but we always had precious few scenes with her; this episode corrects that by giving her a nice little brother-sister moment at the waterfall, and having her play an unexpectedly crucial role far beyond her services as tea-maker (at which she excels, by the way).

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The show has perhaps been wise to keep her on the periphery, somewhat out of focus, much like Mitsuhide’s trio of kunoichi; these women feel like mysteries compared to the comparatively open books of Jeanne and Himiko. The truth of the matter is, Ichihime is just as bad-ass as her brother (if not moreso)…she’s just quieter and classier about it. And while she’s vowed to always stay by Nobu’s side and support him in all things, you get the feeling she does it because it’s what she wishes, not simply because she’s expected to.

That independent will is put on full display at the tea ceremony, which starts out normally enough, but when Nobu notices Caesar is uncomfortable sitting in the traditional manner, he relaxes the protocol, which relaxes Caesar. When things come down to brass tacks, Caesar wants the regalia in exchange for an end to hostilities and a military alliance. At this point we were thinking Nobu could answer either way and figure something out, but he decides to firmly refuse, while still insisting they stop fighting.

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This is because Nobu suspects that Caesar’s boss Arthur, whom Caesar claims to be a Savior King as Jeanne insists it’s Nobu—perhaps there really are two of them?—is a pragmatic sort who’d prefer a minimum of collateral damage in his quest for the Holy Grail (or, like whatever). Caesar agrees to a temporary alliance if he can have Ichihime…and everyone protests but her. Knowing what it would mean if Caesar kept his word, and warning him she’d kill him if he didn’t, she makes another choice for herself and accepts his terms.

The tarot Jeanne draws this week is “The Fool”, and she immediately thinks of Nobu, especially when he loosens protocol at the ceremony. But the real “Fool” turns out to be Ichihime. Freedom, nonconformity, innocence, purity, cheer, possibility, imagination, and genius: these are all qualities she embodies more than anyone else at that juncture. She has become the wild card that could shape the fate of both worlds as much as Nobu, if not more. And after being so cold to her earlier, Mitsuhide seems particularly troubled by her choice. Sorry dude; you had your chance!

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Nobunaga the Fool – 11

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The Death card: we knew it had to be drawn at some point, and we knew it would mean big changes; it rarely represents a literal, physical death. After last week’s humiliation, Caesar’s anger and desire to put Nobu in his place are great. He stops sitting on his hands and brings all of his power to bear on Owari.

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Beset on all sides by attackers, it’s a destroy-the-head-and-the-body-will-die strategy, with Nobu, Ranmaru and Hideyoshi having to work together with Himiko in the sky to negate Caesar’s big attack and take him out. Everything hinges on a smooth execution, and it seems like they’re well under way to that.

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Then, out of the blue, Caesar refuses to accept defeat and asks for more power, and the Star of the East grants it to him. He unleashes a new, more powerful weapon that puts Nobu & Co.’s backs against the crumbling walls of Owari. Ranmaru deflects the attack, but right into the evacuee settlement, killing a great deal of the Oda clan’s people.

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This is obviously a setback, nay, a huge catastrophe, but as we’re nearly to The Fool’s halfway point, it wasn’t unexpected. Seemingly no one near the guy should expect an easy (or long) life. But when Caesar halts his attack and asks Oda to surrender, Oda doesn’t sweat the massive civilian casualties, as Jeanne does. Instead, he invites Caesar to a tea party to settle the score.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Nobunaga the Fool – 10

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In response to the Shingen-Uesugi alliance, the Oda clan has been forging alliances of its own with neighboring clans and amassing an ever larger opposing force. This is actually what Uesugi wanted all along, since he/she is kinda insane and think a war’s worth having unless it’s as big and violent as it can possibly be.

The consequences of such a cruel, overindulgent way of thinking will be hardest felt by the masses of peasants living under the lords, as it always is. Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s family suffered due to the costs of war the Oda waged years before, and starvation claimed his little sister. Learning Nobu’s clan is responsible for that makes us (along with Ranmaru) see Hideyoshi in a whole new light.

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Meanwhile, the Knights of the Round Table, old softies that they are, decide to reward Caesar’s continued failures with delivery of new sets of giant war armor at Takamagahara, a base high in the clouds where trade between East and West takes place. When Mitsu learns about this, he and da Vinci devise a bold plan to steal the armor, employing infiltration, decoys, sabotage, electronic warfare, swordplay, and archery, and Caesar fails again.

Virtually everyone lends a hand in the elaborate operation, and it’s all very entertaining, if tactically silly (par for the course with this show). Hideyoshi is paired with Ranmaru, he confides in him/her (rather out of the blue) that he’ll kill Nobu himself if he shows weakness. Nobu saves Hideyoshi’s life even knowing this possibility, probably because if he ever was truly weak, he thinks he’d deserve the cutting down Hideyoshi promises.

Yes, when you’re Oda Nobunaga, your even your friends threaten to kill you to keep you on your toes!

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Nobunaga the Fool – 09

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Jeanne wants to stand beside Nobunaga the Savior King and protect him, but that means she needs a giant war armor. Happily, da Vinci just happens to build Orleans out of spare parts in what seems like no time at all, proving he truly was the MacGyver of his age. The only problem is, Jeanne can’t seem to get the damn regalia activated.

Nobu is as tactful and patient as he is modest, offering Jeanne no comfort for her struggles. As for Himiko, she’s caught on that “Ranmaru” is a potential rival in the fight for her betrothed’s heart. Then there’s the matter of Uesugi Kenshin deciding to ally with the Caesar-led Takeda clan, despite not liking the guy. This sends Nobu’s advisors and subjects alike into a panic. Some even bring up the prospect of simply surrendering.

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Jeanne’s tarot draw is The Moon, reversed: to advance without hesitation. Jeanne removes the hesitation by vowing not just to protect the Savior King, but all of heaven and earth he’s destined to rule. With her way of thinking shifted and her power unlocked, Nobu meets with his advisors and da Vinci has him mic’d up as he gives one of his uber-motivational speeches. Seriously, if we heard all that blaring from “speakers” we never knew existed, we’d totally turn around and head back home.

In addition to Nobu rallying the troops and Jeanne finding her groove, the episode gives us a little more of a glimpse into Mitsuhide’s tortured existence, as he awakes from nightmares about Nobukatsu, his arm wavers as he reaches for his demon mask again (to deal with more treasonous advisors), and he dismisses Ichihime’s advances. Caesar is still around and has powerful new allies, but at least they don’t like him. Also, Himiko tells Jeanne she considers her a rival for Nobu’s heart, but she doesn’t intend to lose. Unfortunately, Nobu ignores her the entire episode.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Nobunaga the Fool – 08

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This week Jeanne/Ranmaru draws “Ace of Wands” signifying the start of a “great journey of dreams and ideals” on which the wand serves both as a weapon, a guide, and a beacon. After seeing a vision of what might come to pass (Nobunaga getting skewered dead by Caesar), drawing this card places the ball squarely in Ranmaru’s hands, and she’s forced to act to change Nobu’s fate. She does so, and Nobu becomes the wand in the card, serving those three purposes. But ultimately it only happens because, Ranmaru steps off of the sideline and does something, for which we’re relieved and intrigued.

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This episode is also all about the regalia. We also knew they were important in the grand scheme of things, but da Vinci further underlines their value: whomever controls and masters them, controls the world. Since that’s Nobu’s goal in a nutshell, his next move after defeating Shingen is clear as crystal: get back the wind regalia Caesar stole. His advisers look ready to bristle at his call to table the investigation of Nobukatsu’s murder, but Himiko makes a surprise appearance—frail but alive and kicking—to support her husband’s call to look outward and move forward. This inspires Ranmaru to a degree, and she’s inspired further when she sees Ichihime’s inner strength, her unswerving faith in her brother, and her plea for Ranmaru to also have faith.

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It’s a good time to be behind Nobunaga, who has changed after fighting and defeating an honorable and worthy adversary in Lord Shingen, but also after almost losing Himiko. He is quicker to acknowledge not only her existence, but her contribution to his rise as his partner. It’s not lovey-dovey as Himiko would probably like, but it’s a start. He is also far more receptive to alternative opinions on how they should go about defeating Caesar. He’s a crafty Western bastard after all; even Nobu admits force won’t be enough. Nobunaga plenty strong on his own, but taking full advantage of the efforts of everyone around him—Himiko, Mitsuhide, da Vinci, Monkey, and Ranmaru—he augments his strength exponentially, and with it his odds of victory.

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Caesar still bears the look and aura of a formidable warrior and legitimate challenge to Nobu, but only for a time. He starts to look considerably less invincible when he learns that wwah-wwah, he can’t actually use the wind regalia he stole; it was entrusted by its former master to Nobu, and only Nobu will it answer. Caesar doesn’t expect that setback, nor does he prepare for the possibility Nobu will employ Western-style trickery in the battle. But his most egregious oversight was Ranmaru (though who can blame him considering how little she’s done in the last few episodes). She jumps into the middle of battle just as her vision is about to come true, and changes the future by activating the regalia of purity she’s been wearing all along but only recently realized its import. She’s decided henceforth to put her life on the line to support him.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Nobunaga the Fool – 07

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The twin shocks of the serious wounding of Himiko (who seems to be alive for the time being, if barely) and the news that Nobukatsu has been killed shake Nobu out of his pity party. Now, whether his advisors like it or not, he’s their last hope at surviving the coming onslaught against Takeda. However, Nobu doesn’t immediately lash out in rage. After hearing his counselors debate the next step, he makes the decision to meet with Shingen and ask him face to face if he sent the assassins.

All the while, Mitsu sits there, concealing the knowledge that it was he who killed Nobukatsu, clearing the way for Nobu to take unchallenged leadership of the clan. The episode begins with Mitsu remembering the day his father committed seppuku, and it’s possible that Mitsu will one day have to do the same, but as long as his life serves Nobunaga, he doesn’t really matter how it ends. Jeanne, meanwhile, has decided to stay by Nobu’s side for the time being, accompanying him to Takeda’s main camp.

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The bawdy encounter between Nobu Lord Shingen is a pleasure to watch, with Nobu satisfied Shingen is telling the truth that he did not send assassins, and Shingen impressed at Nobu’s cajones for even showing up. To Jeanne’s dismay, however, their cordial talk turns into a duel, not because of any slight enacted upon the other, but for the simple fact that neither can sully their reputation by avoiding a fight with the other. They want to fight each other, as do Shingen’s men. A fight is what they get, and a glorious one, at that.

It’s hella fun to watch these two dyed-in-the-wool warriors whaling on each other in their regalia-infused war armors, reveling in every moment of it. It is here where Shingen is revealed as an honorable foe, one who will abide by the laws of the duel, keep his men on the sidelines, fight Nobu one-on-one, and admit defeat and the loss of his two regalia (fire and wind) when Nobu bests him. Caesar proves far less principled, stabbing his business partner Shingen in the back and snatching the wind regalia, and then framing Nobu for the act, enraging Takeda’s army. Nobu still comes away with the fire regalia, but a Roman thorn remains in his side.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Nobunaga the Fool – 06

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In the aftermath of Lord Nobuhide’s death, the Oda clan is embroiled in doubt, uncertainty, and disunity that threatens to tear it apart. Nobu is taking it particularly badly, and only makes his detractors hate him more when he shows up to the funeral late and improperly attired and makes a mess of the place. He doesn’t so much as utter a word to Jeanne, which for her is the last straw. She packs her horse and prepares to set off.

Nobukatsu’s supporters continue to scheme against his older brother, leading the younger to consider acquiescing to their demand that he take over as clan leader for the time being. But with enemy clans no doubt preparing more assaults, he simply isn’t the kind of leader the clan needs. The fact that he allows himself to be manipulated by his subordinates and his desire for peace is proof of that. With things the way they are, peace means surrender and subjugation.

While troubled after the disastrous results of holding Nobu back from battle, Mitsuhide still knows he can’t allow that to happen. Nobu is AWOL during a crucial transitional period, but even if he were present, there isn’t enough time to allow everyone to come to “understand” him.

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Like Nobukatsu’s detractors, Jeanne is simply sick and tired of trying to figure him out; but as da Vinci elegantly puts it, their inability to observe him objectively keeps them from understanding him. Just because he’s a rude, impulsive asshole doesn’t mean he’s not the Savior King Jeanne seeks.

Himiko doesn’t seem to mind him ignoring her, because it’s enough for her fate to be tied to someone with so much potential. Like her, Ichihime, Mitsuhide, Hideyoshi, and da Vinci are all willing to give Nobu the benefit of the doubt, and are certain that no matter what happens, he’s the one to keep an eye on and remain beside. But if he is the lion in the “Strength” card, his betrothed Himiko is the woman supporting it with her own kind of strength.

Prior to this episode we would never have believed Mitsuhide would turn a sniper rifle on Nobukatsu, but the case is coldly but convincingly made. Just as shocking was Himiko’s demise, but it’s her strength, devotion, and love that saves Nobu’s life, so it wasn’t in vain. Nobu appears just as shocked by her action, and the only word he utters this week is “Himiko.” And it’s probably no accident that Jeanne was drawn to where Nobu was just as that tragic scene unfolded.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Nobunaga the Fool – 05

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This episode took a little while to get going, what with the tedious scenes revolving around Nobu learning how to activate his regalia, which could have been edited down. Pretty shoddy of him to outright ignore the existence of Himiko unless he needs something from her, but he can only handle one thing at a time: in this case, using his war giant to defeat Takeda and all his other sundry foes.

But he’s pissed off enough people that they’ve arranged for him to be assassinated in the heat of battle, so it’s up to Mitsuhide to first warn him, and then preemptively serve him a drink laced with a paralytic, to keep him out of said battle. Only the gambit backfires, and Lord Nobuhide leads the fight. For the record, Nobuhide is pretty badass, going up against a far superior foe in Shingen, and after receiving a thorough beating, barring the path of a new-on-the-scene Caesar.

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For his part, Caesar seems singularly interested in breaching the castle so he can pluck Ichihime away, having become smitten at first glance. It’s disappointing that with all the technological liberties thos show takes, it couldn’t take some societal ones while they’re at it, but alas, Himiko and Ichi are stuck standing around watching the men fight. At least Jeanne eventually suits up and provides a crucial assist for Nobu, but in the end, Lord Nobuhide is killed by Caesar, pissing Nobu off to no end (perhaps the “divine anger” the Tower card portended).

While tragic, Nobuhide remarks that his passing, and the passing of the old guard, is necessary so that the new ways that are coming to be in the world can take over; he is the “ice that melts in the spring.” Nobu is now the de facto leader of the Oda clan, but will he rule, or leave that to his brother while he battles rival clans and Caesar? It’s still up in the air for da Vinci, Jeanne, and us, whether he’ll be the savior-king of the star, or its destroyer. In any case, we wouldn’t mind a change of scenery; we’re starting to feel a bit cooped up in Oda Castle.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Nobunaga the Fool – 04

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Between gaining command the war giant The Fool, befriending da Vinci, fighting a seasoned foe to a draw, and becoming betrothed to the Queen Himiko of Yamatai, Nobunaga certainly seems to be amassing the means with which to make his own destiny, something he imparts to his brother is crucial to living life.

As his father and other clan leaders consider the benefits of their new alliance with Yamatai with regard to shoring up their defenses, and plans for a betrothal (not wedding) ceremony are underway, all Nobu wants to do is take his new regalia and stove in the heads of his enemies as soon as possible. “The woman is extra”, he says coldly. Nobu: Male chauvanist.

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Himiko remember being lovingly tossed about by Nobu as a child, and so sought him out for marriage as soon as she was able. Beyond the puppy love, we sense some ambition in her: she’s forming a bond with someone she knows will be going places in the near future, while at the same time she’s a big part of why he’s going places, by giving him the regalia. Their ceremony itself is a mad marvel of excess and theatricality, blending both Eastern (kabuki stage) and Western (wedding gown) tradition and ending with the traditional cutting of the (ten-story) cake with a regalia-boosted katana strike.

Part of why everyone calls Nobu a ‘fool’ is the way he jumps headlong into things; his character also fits much of the symbolism of the tarot card of the same name, a card that inspired the modern Joker, which is often “wild.”  We’ll see whether these nuptials are win-win for all or have unforeseen ill-effects. We’re also curious to see if Jeanne, now believed by most (but interestingly, not Himiko) to be a dude, will continue to be sidelined. We’d like to see her pull a knife (figuratively speaking) on Nobu more often.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Nobunaga the Fool – 03

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This week we have a battle in which guys with rifles, bows and arrows fight beside mecha, which is patently ridiculous on its face, even if you accept that mecha exist in feudal Japan. Furthermore, Nobunaga is able to take out most of Takeda’s war armor with said bow and arrow, simply by killing their performers, which begs the question, why don’t they have more protection? Fortunately despite how absurd these battles are, they still make for a thoroughly entertaining spectacle.

More to the point, the battles and their outcomes are stylized in the same manner as the flowery dialogue most of the characters employ. Nobu in particular has some particularly juicy lines that seiyu Miyano Mamoru sinks his teeth into with aplomb. If legendary times call for legendarily silly battles, then they also call for legendary words. We also have Jeanne transforming into the male Ranmaru (she looks like a girl to us, but whatever!), and Nobukatsu begging her/him to stand by his elder brother’s side.

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We even see a little of the old guard bristling at the ideas of the new, with Nobu’s suggestion that the Owari clan hire da Vinci being dismissed as foolish drivel. Nobu and his father aren’t very chatty, either. But whether the old dudes are on board or not, when it comes to technology, it’s Adapt or Die for Owari, who are no match for Takeda’s forces, which are led by Shingen himself, piloting a bigger, shiner war armor than Nobu’s, with a difference: he has a regalia, which lends him godlike power and control over flame.

When Shingen’s army first approaches, The Fool isn’t ready to go yet, so Nobu has to hold them off with horse and bow. Jeanne, who is by his side, witnesses him as he single-handedly, single-mindedly decimates the Takeda war armor and rallies the troops, and halts his duel with Shingen to save her life.Then the skies open and Queen Himiko of Yamatai offers Nobu a regalia of his own in exchange for a bond of matrimony, which he accepts. On top of that, Julius Caesar and his pals headed to the Star of the East. Things are getting very interesting.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Nobunaga the Fool – 02

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In this day and age, the word “epic” is exceptionally overused (there’s even a nondenominational Epic Church in our neighborhood), and we’re just as guilty as the rest of society, but in the case of the story rapidly unfolding in Nobunaga the Fool, we feel the term is apt. After a somewhat breathless introduction, things are allowed to settle down a bit, but the fact remains a grand adventure is afoot, one that will shape the future of the Eastern and Western Stars.

Once Nobu has successfully translated his not insignificant combat skills in operating da Vinci’s newest war armor, he and Jane formally meet, and while things get off to a somewhat bellicose start, things simmer down with da Vinci as affable moderator laying out the scenario. He believes Nobu to be the “savior-king” of the East, and lends him the use of his masterpiece (which Nobu christens “The Fool” or “Za Fuuru”) that he may show him the “truth of the universe.”

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Da Vinci has already risked quite a bit to get to where he is, but he strikes us as a man of singular conviction; he has faith that the universe will show him what he wants to see, thanks to the equally extraordinary individuals he chooses to consort with. He’s regarded as perhaps the finest mind of his world, and that world believes he’s defected, so it’s good that he’s met powerful, charismatic new friends.

Nobunaga comes off as a bit of a cocky show-off at times, but never annoyingly, Naruto-ingly so. He doesn’t appear to be that much of a chauvinist, either; that trait is reserved for Toyotomi “Saru” Hideyoshi, who seems to think ogling Jeanne’s bust and grabbing her golden locks is appropriate behavior for an adult (Akechi Mitsuhide is more refined, while Nobu falls between the two in personality). Nobunaga simply warns Jeanne as he’d warn any man, not to draw a blade again unless she intends to take a life with it. We only see him interact with his sister Ichihime for a moment, but it looks like he holds her esteem; such that he insists Jeanne hide herself lest Ichi get the wrong idea.

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There’s a rooted logic and equity to the alliance of da Vinci, Nobu, and Jeanne that forms this week. One seeks answers he can’t get anywhere else; one seeks the power to defeat his foes; and one seeks her destiny, a venture Nobu scoffs at, because ‘why trust your fate to strangers?’ His skepticism aside, the fact da Vinci draws the same cards the episodes are named after indicates that even Nobu isn’t entirely free from destiny’s embrace.

Jeanne’s quest may intrigue us the most, since its true nature is as inscrutable to her as it is to us. She only knows Nobu just might be the right person to help her find it, coarse and bloodthirsty a fellow as he may initially seem. She may not come to love the guy, but mutual respect and cooperation are in order.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • While pulling a dagger on Nobu in such an awkward position probably wasn’t prudent, Jeanne can clearly take care of herself, as evidenced by the punitive blow she delivers to Saru.
  • There’s an Eastern girl with two-tone hair voiced by Touyama Nao who’s looking forward to meeting Nobu. Wonder what that’s about.
  • In addition to the Armor, da Vinci also gifts Nobu with an intricate clock of his own design…which Nobu immediately re-gifts for his brother’s coming-of-age ceremony.
  • Historical figures gathered round the, er, Round Table include Gupta, Hannibal, Alexander, and Julius Caesar. It’s like Civilization: The Animation!