Anime Review: Nobunaga Concerto

Camellias
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I’ve talked quite a bit about the famous (or infamous) Nobunaga Oda on this blog on several occasions, particularly in how he is portrayed in Japanese media. But as far as I can tell, most of these series did not portray him very accurately! The warlord of old is so skewed in pop references, you wonder if he could ever just be himself!

Well, this series finally puts Nobunaga Oda in his own realm, and also does the history some justice! But in terms of characters, this series has to be one of the most unique of them all.

In this series, there are TWO Nobunagas!

Two Nobunagas

STOP THE PRESSES!!

Nobunaga Concerto introduces us to the Sengoku period by bringing in Saburo (VA: Mamoru Miyano, who has played Nobunaga Oda before), a high school student who knows very little about his own history. One day, he is brought into his past and meets the younger version of the warlord. In a twist of fate, Nobunaga and Saburo look exactly alike in terms of facial features! So Nobunaga Oda asks Saburo to be his double while he goes off on a journey of his own because he was sickly, so Saburo assumes his role as Nobunaga Oda. And as one might say, the rest is history.

The animation for this series is quite unique when comparing it to the styles of other anime out there. Because of its historic nature, Nobunaga Concerto is animated with flat, robust images that look like it could have come out of a picture book. I think this style was used in an attempt to portray the entire story as if it were on a scroll, giving the series an historic feel. It’s unfortunate that a lot of fans were turned off by this animation style, because I found the series to be one of the best (and most underrated) shows from last year.

But if you don’t like the anime, you can always watch the TV Drama.

Saburo

Saburo as Nobunaga Oda.

But the animation isn’t the only aesthetic that makes this series feel like we’ve jumped back in time. The character designs, clothes, and coloring also portrayed the time period as accurately as possible. In other Sengoku period pieces in anime, each samurai is seen as unique with very “modern-looking” armor and, in the case of women, more revealing garments. They rarely come out of that armor as if it’s attached to them or something! Nobunaga Concerto not only portrays the samurai look in a way that is more accurate to the time period, but we also find characters in kimonos and other garments that were also fashionable for the time. The facial gestures are also much more “natural,” where characters have more slanted eyes and dark hair colors. This also adds to the ambiance of a series that focuses more on its subject than its entertainment value.

Honnouji

Okay, so it’s historic and artistic. But how the heck is this a COMEDY?

But of course, we have to remember: Saburo is a product of our time, and he knows almost nothing about history! He passes by Honnouji Castle (above) trying to remember why this location is significant to Nobunaga Oda; only for his retainers to scratch their heads, trying to figure out what the heck he’s talking about. Little moments like these bring a more comedic sense to the series, because it plays with the fact that he is clearly NOT from the time period. Of course, there are other moments when Saburo just acts like an idiot.

Prefecture

This is the Sengoku period, which happened in the mid-16th century. Prefectures didn’t exist in Japan yet!

But not everyone is a stoic Sengoku period person in this series. Since we’re already talking about time travel, the story also adds other characters that assume new roles, just as Saburo did for Nobunaga.

Dousan

Dousan Saitou, Nobunaga Oda’s father-in-law, is also from another time period!

I mean, why stop at Saburo as the only guy who participates in reliving the Sengoku period as one of its famous players? Saburo is also joined by alternative characters for Dousan Saitou, Hisahide Matsunaga, and Yasuke. Each one of these characters also came from another time period; and they’re not even from Saburo’s time either! There is also an alternative Mitsuhide Akechi, the infamous betrayer who kills Nobunaga Oda, but I’ll hold back from revealing at least one SPOILER!

But when it comes to history as a discipline, one must remember that there is more to the Sengoku period than simply knowing the facts and how they’re related to the events of that period. Historians are called to interpret history in a way that critiques it. And since this series is a fictional account anyway, manga artist Ayumi Ishii writes HER story in a way that hypothesizes, debates, or otherwise reveals more about this time period than one may encounter just by reading about it!

Saburo and KichouThe historic Nobunaga Oda did have Kichou (Noh-hime) as his primary wife, but it is said that he never loved her. However, Nobunaga Concerto brings in the hypothetical where Saburo (allegedly Nobunaga) did actually love her as a wife.

Hideyoshi ToyotomiHideyoshi Toyotomi had several names throughout history. Known in pop culture and literature as the legendary Son Goku, it is suggested that he began his career in the Oda clan as Toukichirou Kinoshita, who acted as a spy for Yoshimoto Imagawa. It wasn’t until later that he earned Nobunaga’s trust and became a retainer as Hideyoshi Hashiba, formed by taking one kanji from each of Nobunaga Oda’s other generals.

MomotaroIn appreciation of the times, the Tale of Momotarou (Peach Boy) only became part of Japanese folklore in the latter half of the Edo period, which comes after the Sengoku period.

HistoryActually, the battle that night WAS at Okehazama. The gorge where most of the battle took place was at Dengaku-hazama.

Nagamasa and Oichi AzaiOichi Oda, Nobunaga’s sister and one of the most influential women of the Sengoku period, stayed with her husband Nagamasa Azai during the internal conflict between the two clans. As Nobunaga Concerto suggests, she stayed behind because she wanted to convince him to stop the rebellion! This is one of the accepted theories, but no one really knows the truth to this day.

nobunaga-09As I had mentioned in my Great Moments of Summer 2014 Anime review, Saburo gives us a different side to Nobunaga Oda that is not as familiar. Japanese history and media portray the warlord as aggressive, idealistic, or both. In one instance however, he is seen as a responsible father figure to Yoshinari Mori‘s sons after Yoshinari was killed in battle.

Finally, as I had stated at the beginning of this blog, there are two Nobunagas in this series. Saburo is only acting as the famed warlord, but the real Nobunaga plays his own part throughout the series. As the series title might suggest, Saburo assumes the main part of the concerto, which refers to orchestrated music focusing on a single instrument. However, the real Nobunaga isn’t going to stand idly by; and when it is revealed to him that a united Japan exists in the future, he assumes a concerto of his own.

Nobunaga Oda

Nobunaga Oda: the Devil King of the Sixth Heaven, who fears not even the Buddha himself!

If Saburo embodies the foolish, idealistic side of Nobunaga as he is often portrayed as a hero, Nobunaga himself assumes his aggressive, demonic side as he is often portrayed as a villain. I’d say more about this, but SPOILER ALERT! This is how the anime storyline ends!

And while this anime ends at a very comedic turn of events, historians know: this is only the beginning!

Camellias

The red and white camellias have already revealed their fates!

So if you’re looking for a good historic anime that not only does justice to the Sengoku period, but also critiques it within its storyline, watch Nobunaga Concerto. And while the series didn’t get as much praise by audiences in general, I find this to one to be one of the gems of anime in recent years.

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