Another season, another anime featuring Oda Nobunaga. This time he isn’t cross dressing, a woman or a parody of himself, but instead he and other historical figures from history (and I do use the phrase loosely) are in an alternate universe altogether, with impossibly futuristic technology that marries a steampunk style with early 20th century valve technology, all set in the past. So what does this technology power? Oh, only space ships, giant armoured mecha and tanks. The men on the ground fight with swords (not even muskets I might add), while those above are using auto-cannons, guided missiles and magical elemental weapons. This is why I started on the gin early and why I needed to sleep on what I had just watched before I put fingers to keyboard.
A bit of background first though. Nobunaga the Fool, or just The Fool, is a franchise borne from the brain of Shouji Kawamori. This fact alone is the reason why I had to take a look at the series after comments were made at his conference earlier this year. The franchise is unique as it is both a stage play and an anime series and as far as I can tell, they are both running concurrently.
Nobunaga the Fool is set in a universe where Earth has been bisected into two worlds, the Eastern Planet (where all mythos is based on Chinese and Japanese lore) and the Western Planet (which is inhabited by European and Middle-Eastern descended legends). The planets are connected by a magical force which bind the planets together and, it seems, unleash judgement on those dwelling on them. Although the exact time is unknown, the story is grounded well within the Japanese Sengoku Era on the Eastern Planet, and the Early European Renaissance Period on the Western Planet.
The two planets are perpetually at war, both internally and between themselves. A less chaotic future has been forseen by the heretical female warrior Jeanne (Kaguya) D’Arc. In her dreams she sees not only her own fiery death in her true history, but also the rebirth of their own twin worlds via the birth of a great king, whom she believes to be Oda Nobunaga, the Great Fool of the Eastern Planet. She travels from West to East with Leonardo Da Vinci on a ship captained by the Admiral Magellan to find this king. However, she finds herself at odds with those ruling the Eastern Planet, the “Knights” of the Round Table who send their armies to the East to stop her.
A few comments on the “Knights” of the Round Table, and why I have the word knights in quotation marks. I mentioned previously that several historical figures feature in this anime - not only do we have Oda Nobunaga and his friends Hideyoshi and Mitsuhide, plus the upgraded-in-a-specific-area Joanne D’Arc and the great genius Da Vinci, but a great number of other unlikely individuals also star. In loose alphabetical order there is: Alexander the Great, Brutus, Charlemagne, Hannibal, Julius Caesar, Machiavelli and Magellan, all of them lead by a non-female child-like representation (I think, as we never actually see his face) of King Arthur.
How do these people wage war? Well that’s simple. With giant mecha, with even more giant mecha piloted by the leaders and endowed with magical elemental force given by “Regalia”, gems that are bestowed upon great leaders or people. Oda Nobunaga gains a mecha, which he calls “The Fool” after it falls from the sky. The Fool is a special mecha, constructed by the great Da Vinci himself with the capability to be piloted only by the great king and with the hidden power to change the world.
The fights that ensue are, in a word, brilliant. I love the idea of mixing technologies together and having Nobunaga and The Fool fight against adversaries armed with modern weaponry, guns, and other giant armours to be quite lovely. At this point of the series, I was well onto my second gin and tonic, and the grin actually just got wider as more and more mecha were turned into technological trash using the power of Oda Nobunaga’s arrogance and spirit. I may have said to myself at some point “Shouji Kawamori, you glorious bastard”, but I can neither confirm nor deny this.
For the most part, I did find myself ignoring a lot of the dialogue. Like Sengoku Basara did before it, Nobunaga the Fool assumes that the viewer has a good grounding in the history of Japan’s Sengoku Period and therefore gives minimal introduction to any of the figures starring on the Eastern Planet. Also like Sengoku Basara before it, the characters are written very similarly with the only exception being that they are dressed slightly more sensibly, don’t have magical powers, and they pilot giant robots.
On the subject of mecha, I found it highly amusing that Takeda’s giant armours have facial grills rather than all-around enclosures like every other mecha so far in the series. It made their mode of defeat - via a single arrow - truly hilarious.
Three episodes in and its already clear to me that while Nobunaga the Fool isn’t meant to be a comedy, it clearly ticks enough of the ludicrous boxes to make for very fun viewing. Although I think the series is going to try and get a lot deeper bringing in new character dynamics, the backstory with the Western Planet, and the alliance of Eastern States which Nobunaga is known for, at the moment it’s just bloody good fun. So far, it is about as deep as the film Pacific Rim was. Time will tell of course, and no doubt I’ll continue grinning as the series progresses.
You can currently watch Nobunaga the Fool in streaming form via Crunchyroll.