In the world of anime, there are a wide plethora of genres. There are two that have recently seen a minor resurgence, Feudal Era and Mecha. Now what if I told you there was a show that combined the two in a fairly seamless way that is also very entertaining? Enter Nobunaga the Fool. A manga that turned original series created by Shoji Kawamori (The Vision of Escaflone, Macross Frontier) that has two components, a live action stage play with animation added to it, an animated show. The series just recently completed its run and is currently available for streaming on both Crunchy Roll and Hulu. Now, on to the review!
Nobunaga the fool draws from three sources of inspiration and a blend of history from both East and West (Or should I say the East and West stars?). In the universe of Nobunaga the Fool, the world as we know it is broken up into two different worlds, The Eastern Star and The Western Star. The Western Star is representative of Europe during the medieval ages Centers around King Arthur and his round Table. While the opposite star represents Feudal Japan with Oda Nobunaga, a young prince whose true purpose and destiny are about to unfold. The primary conflict begins when the west attempts an invasion of the east to manifest the Holy Grail and save the western star. One wonders why would King Arthur go that far? The worlds are built around a heavy concept of the ley lines that not only course through the planets, but tie the two worlds together in a cosmic swirl. The Western Star, while beautiful and technologically more advanced, is slowly but surely dying. On the converse, The Eastern Star is thriving, though they are not as advanced in the technology department. The two will soon clash in a battle for not only their stars survival, but the right to rule both stars.
The Story and Characters
The Cast is one of the shows greatest strengths, despite being fairly heavily steeped in anime stereotypes. Nobunaga is the immature young man who knows not his own prowess or his true destiny. Jeanne is a slightly ditzy but determined woman, etc. One truly interesting thing this series does is that it takes important figures from both culture’s history, and place them together in the same time and place. This makes their motivations believable and adds a dash of anime flair. This includes Leonardo DaVinci, Alexander the Great, Cesare Borgia, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Akechi Mitsuhide, Takeda Shingen and many more. This brings up another issue, there are too many “important” characters. As impressive as the repertoire of characters can be, not utilizing them is almost a cardinal sin. If you want to include these characters and have a real impact, don’t hype them up to be a decisive force and then kill them off in the same episode. It is a waste of time for both story and further developed characters we like.
The character design in this series is really well executed. The only character’s design that didn’t really hit home for me was Mitsuhide. Something about his face and hair style just doesn’t strike me right. The Mecha and Ship design are also fantastic. They fell appropriate to their pilots and move very organically despite being machines.
The Story is mostly believable and very entertaining. Its biggest shortcoming and consequently the show’s is its pacing. The show moves quickly, but it feels like the stakes are raised at a lightning pace. It moves from conquering the homeland to trying to save the world entirely too fast. Nobunaga the Fool’s characters, settings, drama and action scenes are all very well-choreographed and thought out, trying to cram it into a 24 episode series does it an injustice. I suspect the anime would have been better in a 50 episode range. It crams a lot of great moments into such a short time but leaves some of them feeling frayed at the tips.
Animation and Sound
Another aspect that Nobunaga the Fool excels is in the animation department. The hand dawn parts of the animation were handled by Sateworks. The art is very crisp and it uses a wide range of color pallets. The animation is both smooth and very easy on the eyes which is also nice, because the character designs often have a lot going on. The backgrounds range from beautiful to desolate, but they are consistent in their quality. The Mecha suffer from a minor drawback that is really more of a sign of the times than the designer’s decisions. The mecha suffer from a case of cgi. While their designs are generally something to applaud, (I was especially fond of Usuegi Kenshin’s mecha) they looked kinda odd. I couldn’t really figure if it was just the way it was or if there was another factor that detracted from its quality.
The sound effects fit well and does not sound cheap. The voice work that was done for this show is also worth a mention. The characters’ voicecast was perfect and it is a large part of the immersion. I must applaud Tomokazu Sugita for his work as DaVinci, I have not been as charmed with a voice job in some time. This and the soundtrack composed by Masaru Yokoyama (Queens Blade, Hyperdimension Neptunia) added to the experience and made it very immersive. The soundtrack feels like it was tailored to the series and it has some very moving pieces. Sateworks and Yokoyama should be proud of the work they have done for this series.
Nobunaga the Fool has a lot going on for it. Despite its pacing issues and slightly awkward cgi, It is fairly easy for me to recommend this show to anyone who likes mecha and Medieval/Feudal themed shows. The art, characters and interesting plot twists are wrapped nicely into a package that is easy to watch in small sittings, or to whittle away a Saturday afternoon with. I only wish it had lasted a bit longer to bring certain pieces of the story it left somewhat frayed to a better close, but that’s neither here nor there. I can recommend this show without feeling guilty.
Overall Score: 8 out of 10
Great Character designs, Mecha designs, and Over all art style
Interesting, believable characters
Excellent soundtrack and voice work
Awkward CGI moments
Some parts of the story feel frayed and cut off early