Oda Nobunaga, Akechi Mitsuhide, and Toyotomi Hideyoshi: prominent warriors of Japan’s Sengoku period. Jeanne d’Arc, Leonardo da Vinci, Ferdinand Magellan: all prominent European figures. The ambitious Nobunaga the Fool gives its characters iconic names form real-world history which is, if we’re honest, a little jarring at first. Sure, the names are easy to remember, but if those names are lifted from true history in an audacious attempt to tell better stories than the ones these characters actually lived, the show is setting itself up for failure.
But we don’t think Nobunaga is trying to tell better stories, just wildly different ones, answering a question few have probably asked: what if all these historical figures were made to cross paths? For a good long time, the Eastern and Western regions of the real world were indeed quite separate from one another; here they’re literally different worlds, or “stars.” It was the West that was first able to traverse the vast oceans and reach the East; here it’s an ocean of space. There’s a lot of potentially interesting stories in this re-imagined clash of East and West.
We want to like Nobunaga the Fool. Its creators have taken pains to render an intricate alternate universe and history with clever thematic similarities to our own. This introductory episode also does a good job of immersing us in that universe; after a brief voiceover going over the basics, we’re thrown into the deep end, and get swept back and forth between East and West as disparate events gradually lead to the fated encounter at episode’s end, with Jeanne d’Arc in Nobunaga’s arms, in the cockpit of a mecha meant for him.
This is all a bit…silly, in the same way songstresses have so much influence in the universe in Macross Frontier, or how being as naked as possible is crucial in Aquarion Evol. Those two shows were able to embrace the silliness and balance it with drama and peril, resulting in imminently watchable entertainment. Beyond the tongue-in-cheek nature of the borrowed historical names, Nobunaga commits to its apocryphal tutti-frutti milieu with a certain dignified staidness, but we wonder if it’s trying too hard. Our first impressions can thus be best summed up by Nobu himself: “I have no idea what’s going on, but sure!”…for now.
Rating:7 (Very Good)