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 – 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)