OP: 「Link」 by Aimi
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「信奈とサル」 (Nobuna to Saru)
“Nobuna and the Monkey”
Many weeks ago, I had placed Nobuna at the very bottom of my coverage picks, solely listing the reason as ‘for the lulz’. The premise seemed silly (though “Sengoku Paradox” has already done something similar), and the PV looked decent, so at the very least I would check out the first episode.
Fast forward now. Famiglia is doing terrible with female leads and suddenly Nobuna doesn’t seem so bad. In fact, it’s way better than I expected it, so much that I asked Mochi if I could do this series introduction instead. [thank her for all the amazing screenshots though!]
Before we delve into the impressions, let me clear up a few things. This is my absolute first anime concerning the Sengoku period. I am quite aware that there are quite the number of Sengoku period anime. Therefore, my impressions may come off a little too ‘fresh’ for some of you Sengoku veterans. Also, my knowledge of the Sengoku period (before spending hours researching after watching) has been limited to Total War: Shogun 2. I apologize if any of my facts come off wrong, but I did attempt a fair bit of research afterwards.
Impressions and Thoughts
Nobunaga is now Nobuna: a teenage girl who has banded with other female generals in order to lead the Oda clan to victory against other female generals. Hideyoshi is now dead, and a protagonist with an obsessive knowledge of the Sengoku period takes his place, high school uniform and all. Yup, we’re in another historical Japan anime. However, what is it that makes this title worth giving a shot amidst all the other shows this season?
First off, the visuals and cinematography are definitely above average. The character designs are tastefully done without going overboard on fanservice, for which you can thank the same designer who worked on character design for High School DxD, Miyama-Zero. The character detail is good enough that concerns with quality aren’t an issue, especially during critical scenes. The animation might be standard during downtime, but the animators took care to put their resources into the action scenes, something visibly seen in each action sequence. However, even during those non-animated scenes, post-production did a wonderful job of using pans, fades, and jitters to enhance the mood: an aspect of the visuals that often gets underworked and underappreciated. Of course, the fanservice that’s granted is not disappointing, both in terms of visuals but also with embarrassment.
Sound and music are used effectively as well. The key to a good war historical is conveying the epic mood of the events that radically shape history; what better way to do that than to add some epic horns and strings? It may not be Fate/Zero quality, but it definitely fulfills its duties in setting tones fairly well. Only once in the episode did I feel the music mismatch and even then, it was excusable considering the audible buildup before that. Takanashi Yasuharu’s experience with the action genre definitely reflects in his choice of compositions.
Finally, the cast of seiyuu does its job properly, with the more recognizable actors being a pleasure to hear as always. Check out Divine’s preview for the listings to see if any catch your eye!
Nobuna and Friends
However, what ultimately draws me to Nobuna is the inherent presence of strong female cast members. I don’t consider myself a feminist, but I sure do like it when female leads actually end up being strong and staying strong. Nobuna, like her historical counterpart, was known as a fool. Both had a fascination with guns, both had their qurky behavior, and both had a drive to mold Japan into a strong unified nation. The Sengoku period occurs as the Japanese slowly begin to realize the power of their ‘barbarian’ neighbors, and Nobuna (and Nobunaga) spearheaded that pride to not become inferior and weak to the outside world. Even though they may have switched genders, Nobuna stays true to her counterpart personality-wise.
Perhaps that’s why ‘samurai girls + history’ works. The great leaders of feudal Japan had to have strong personalities in order to leave their mark on history, which in turn leaves little room for their future representations to be weak. It’s a restriction which ends up being absolute gold for those who wish to see strong female protagonists. Even though Nobuna is not a complete tomboy, she still retains her command of authority for 95% of situations (the other 5% unfortunately being the male protagonist’s fault). Take for instance the meeting with Dousan. It is obvious she is using her feminine charms, but she uses them in a way that strengthens her position rather than for personal gratification. Her core character emanates ability, even without the protagonist’s assistance. In fact, she’s so independent that the show could run just fine if Yoshihara disappeared. Despite this, the male protagonist isn’t THAT bad compared to others in similar positions. He possesses a useful talent and uses it bravely, showing a mature understanding of the Sengoku period, albeit through games.
Although there are other female characters that are pretty much moe stand-in right now, that’s actually alright. A diverse cast of varying abilities makes for a more interesting show. After reading up on a brief history of the Sengoku period during Nobunaga, it’ll be fascinating to see how the dynamics between characters pans. Will the adaption be more modest in its interpretation of events, or will we actually get to see some real tension and grief in the air? Personally, that’s still up in the air with me. The diversity that is Madhouse doesn’t give any clear indication, and Studio Gokumi isn’t helping either despite its modestly sized resume. All I can say is that such dynamics will be exaggerated, though that’s to be expected. When in a premise such as this, being overly serious just kills the mood that people came looking for, and I doubt another Madoka is going to be pulled here.
In closing, check out Nobuna because it looks like it’ll work. The three episode rule definitely applies here, and even if you are an avid veteran of the genre, give it a shot. Feudal Japan is a popular setting for a reason: it’s a tried and true environment that elevates characters to be stronger and more fulfilled. This show is no exception. Don’t make the mistake that I made and quickly dismiss it for its premise, give it a shot and see if the whole package catches your eye.
Historical Notes and Differences: Spoilers Possible.
Finally, instead of doing alt-texts (at least immediately), I have listed some interesting comparisons between the events of Nobuna’s universe and that of our own. I try my best to point out changes that the author has made to make the plot flow better, as well as uncover interesting facts about the timeline.
ED: 「ヒカリ」 (Hikari) by みずたまきの (Mizuta Makino)
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