Tokyo Ghoul 2 – 12 (Fin)

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Tokyo Ghoul Root A delivers a finale as still and austere as the previous episodes were flashy and frenetic. It was a hauntingly gorgeous episode so quiet and deliberate, every gesture and breath and ambient sound contained multitudes. Aside from the insert song, a stripped down version of the first season’s OP, there isn’t even any music telling us how to feel. It’s all in the artistry of the camerawork, lighting, and, of course, the characters we’ve come to know.

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More than anything, there’s a palpable feeling of finality to this finale, that a page is about to be turned. Ken starts in a kind of limbo, in the place that held so many happy memories for him. It’s as good a place as any for Hide to finally tell Ken that he knows he’s a ghoul.

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But Hide is in a bad way. The reveal of is injury is a masterpiece of careful unveiling, and the first sign that this truly is the end. Hide was an almost casual, neutral observer of everything Ken and Touka and everyone else have been through. Now that the show is ending, there’s no longer a need for such an observer, so in a way it makes sense for him to die here.

For Ken, his connection and lasting friendship with Hide, someone he had been estranged from going back to the first season, is the only bridge forged between ghoul and human. It was a bridge that was there from the start. If everyone in the CCG had a loved one turned ghoul, they’d likely all be a little more tolerant…and vice versa.

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Touka arrives at Anteiku to find it ablaze, apparently the work of Ken, again closing a door to the past before walking out with Hide. Touka sees his human eye and moves to meet him, but wreckage nearly crushes her; wreckage that came loose due to a ghoul’s weapon.

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Touka still follows Ken and finds him approaching the fortified CCG staging area bearing Hide, who may or may not be dead. At this point Touka’s path is barred again by Yomo, and my suspicion that Ken and Touka might never meet again is confirmed.

The episode really takes its time with Ken’s slow walk, both to and through the CCG ranks, but while it’s not perfect pacing-wise, it’s still some very powerful work, and it’s a credit to the show that it was able to slow things down so we could savor the end rather than choke it down.

Like a carefully-made cup of coffee, it takes quality ingredients, the proper tools, patience, and restraint, and TG exhibited all of the above with aplomb.

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Ken’s final scene is carrying Hide (echoing the show’s promo art) as various CCG soldiers gawk at him and helicopters swoop menacingly above him. These moments were suffused with thick tension as I pondered if and when the CCG would make a move.

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Ultimately, it falls to Arima to face Ken, who stops and puts hide down. But true to this finale’s minimalist atmosphere, we never see a fight, one-sided or no; only the click of the briefcase containing Arima’s quinque. I can’t imagine it’s a coincidence they both have white hair.

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Dawn rises upon Tokyo, Anteiku’s fires are out, and only Arima and a rapier-like quinque stand where Ken once was. The snow has stopped falling, the storm is over, and peace has returned to the city. Was it peace attained by Aogiri’s tactical withdrawal, in which case it’s only temporary? Was some kind of deal struck between Ken and Arima?

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“All we can do is live as we endure loss,” Yomo says to Touka as he stops her from going to Ken, who wasn’t coming back. And he’s right. You can’t just stand still and wallow in despair until it consumes you. The fact som many people on both sides did just that is what put them all on that costly collision course.

After the credits we see Touka has opened a cafe of her own. While cheerfully opening up, she allows a brief moment to gaze wistfully out at the block before her; perhaps she saw something or someone in the corner of her eye? But it’s only a brief moment that passes, and she goes on with her morning with a smile on her face, remembering, but enduring and living. Because that’s just what you gotta do.

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Tokyo Ghoul 2 – 11

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Both the Ghouls and CCG take heavy losses this week—starting with Shinohara in the first two minutes—as the show perpetuates the idea that even those who desire peace are caught up in the tide of war, and be it honor, obligation, revenge, or simply love for one’s family (whatever form it may take) and home, there will never be a shortage of reasons to fight and keep fighting.

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CCG can’t rest on its laurels after defeating Anteiku, as Aogiri Tree descends upon them in force. Ken is among them, but he’d rather Kotarou simply let him pass so he can get to Anteiku. Nothing doing.

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Both remember their first encounter, in which they each blamed the other’s side for continuing the war. Ken spared Koutarou’s life and even saves some CCG grunts from falling debris right in front of him, but such small gestures, while appreciated, cannot make up for all of the death and destruction the Ghouls have caused to those Kotarou knows and loves.

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This unending urge to fight with one’s last breath, in order to pay the enemy back for a wrong, is illustrated by Juuzou’s attempts to fight Eto, who killed his adoptive father Shinohara and laughed about it. Eto flicks Juuzou away dozens of times, and breaks his leg, but Juuzou keeps getting up, until he’s laying hapless punches on Eto. No matter how little effect they have, Juuzou won’t stop fighting until his tank is empty.

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Under less drastic circumstances and with hands less tied by bad blood, Kotarou and Ken could simply sit down and have a nice long chat. But they can’t do anything here and now but fight and try to kill each other.

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And they come very damn close, fighting to a stalemate in which both of them fall. Ken falls last, however, and wanders around later, while Koutarou doesn’t get back up.

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Juuzou, and possibly the rest of the ravaged CCG, are saved by their version of Eto: Arima, a dude who doesn’t wear an Arata but has two ridiculously bad-ass quinques that allow him to calmly and methodically fight on the same level as Eto; perhaps above it, considering Eto is angry about Yoshimura being defeated, while Arima doesn’t seem to express any emotion whatsoever.

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Touka remained out of the fight, which was probably for the best, but while I was hoping she’d find Ken bleeding to death in the alley, the episode ends without them crossing paths. Frankly, I wonder if they’ll ever meet again, considering we only have one more episode to work with.

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No, it turns out to be Hideyoshi who carries Ken to Anteiku, which is ironically a pretty safe place to be now that the battle is pretty much over. It occurs to me I may have been all wrong about Koutarou being the human representative to entreat with Ken to hammer out some kind of peace or at least cease-fire. Hide is human, after all, and by all appearances he continues to consider Ken a friend, if not his best friend.

So after an episode of pointless fighting, death, and despair and futility, we end with an ever-so-slight glimmer of hope, with two old friends reuniting for the first time in a while.

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Even that glimmer is threatened by the post-credits scene, where Eto spits out Yoshimura, who breathes still, and returns to her human form (a pretty awesome sequence to behold, I might add). Another reunion is achieved, though at this point I’m not sure what Eto intends to do with Yoshimura, or if she’d have the slightest interest in peace with humans.

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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 – 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 – 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!

Nobunaga the Fool – 01

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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.

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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.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)