Anime Review: Nobunaga the Fool

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When it comes to Japanese pop culture, Nobunaga Oda appears to be everyone’s favorite historic figure to place in parody situations. While I am a fairly new anime fan who didn’t watch as seriously until about 3 years ago, I have seen Nobunaga portrayed (in no particular order) as a reincarnated weapon, a woman in an alternative universe of Japan, a woman from an alternative universe who was transported to modern Japan, and a Pokemon master.

Considering all the weird things Nobunaga Oda has been in Japanese media, it honestly doesn’t surprise me that he’s a mecha pilot in this series; but at least he’s a man, a general, and is accompanied by several other historic figures from the Sengoku period of 16th century Japan… plus various Western figures who span over 1500 years of history!

Oda Nobunaga

Nobunaga Oda (center) along with Mitsuhide Akechi (right) and Hideyoshi Toyotomi get ready for another Sengoku parody!

Nobunaga the Fool is an original drama animation that puts several of our favorite Sengoku heroes (and some Western historic figures) in an alternative universe. This universe consists of a two-globe system, elaborate architecture that’s inspired by various different cultures, spirit magic, and mecha piloting technology. At first glance, this series will probably make every history professor in the world cry for how preposterous the premise is, but I’m not a history professor!

Among the characters in this series, many of them are inspired by real people, as is evident of their names and oddly enough their personalities and character dynamics. Sure, we have our three main heroes (above) along with other Sengoku period heroes, but we also have gender bend characters, characters who never met each other regionally speaking, characters who never met each other chronologically speaking, characters who seem to advance in their generations, and characters who play more than one historic figure.

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But despite the a few hiccups here and there, plus a setting that can only be conjured up in the minds of an anime lover, this series does actually have decent references to historic truths, be it a handful of them. If anything, I found it to be interesting to see how something like Alexander the Great may have treated Nobunaga Oda, had they not been separated by over a thousand years of history; and they do at least hold on to certain character traits like Jeanne d’Arc‘s visionary ability. The dichotomy of certain characters that overlapped, such as Julius Caesar/Nagamasa Azai also proved to be an interesting thought, considering how much those two historic figures had in common.

Of course, they also seem to get too original, turning male figures like Hannibal or Niccolo Machiavelli into women or calling Kenshin Uesugi the “One-eyed Dragon,” a nickname solely ascribed to Masamune Date. But all of this is just me being a very picky history nerd.

All of the events in this anime are inspired by Nobunaga’s ambition to unite Heaven and Earth (in reference presumably the two globes, as opposed to the Japanese islands) along with his mech armor he affectionately calls “The Fool” (in English, I might add). With mechas in the mix, our historic figures fight for control of regalia, which are rights to certain elements of the world(s) that bind their power through spirit energy.

The Fool

Nobunaga the Fool prepares for battle.

Interestingly enough, the original anime also adds the theme of tarot card readings to the mix. Each episode is titled after a different card, and in each episode, that card is drawn from Leonardo da Vinci’s tarot deck. As you might guess, “The Fool” is among these cards.

Tarot Card

Da Vinci peers down at Judgement reversed on the floor, realizing his predictions aren’t always finite.

Lastly, as far as predictions are concerned, there are obvious times when knowing historic references don’t really help at all; but on the other hand, knowing a little bit of history does help in piecing together the ending. Just a SPOILER: Nobunaga’s ambition doesn’t end happily, even in history. However, if you can appreciate at least that much of the accuracy to the story, the ending will probably make some sense; and honestly, it couldn’t have ended any other way for me.

If you are expecting a historic fictional retelling, you will be disappointed. If you are expecting a saga of epic heroism, you will be disappointed. But if you believe that fusing original storytelling with historic accounts can make a decent storyline, Nobunaga the Fool is definitely one of my recommendations to you. It’s entertaining, it got me interested in history again, and if anything, it’s one of very few “Nobunaga” animes that I took seriously.

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