“Days of Youth”
In a season seemingly almost totally devoid of sleeper potential, Kochouki: Wakaki Nobunaga was a series that struck me as having just a wee bit of it. We’ve seen no many screwy and frankly dumb takes on Nobunaga in anime in recent years – I don’t think there’s any question he’s the single most popular historical subject for anime (and manga), but almost none that have taken on his life in relatively straightforward terms. Hyouge Mono was of course far and away the best, but Oda was a peripheral figure in that story – important, but more for the impact he had on events than for his life itself.
Kochouki not only presents a take on Nobunaga lacking any bizarre gimmicks, but that take is on Nobunaga’s adolescent years, when he was just starting to become the man who would unite Japan. Still, this show was pretty much a cipher going in – it’s an original and writer Yamaguchi Ryota has penned almost exclusively adaptations. Director Abe Noriyuki is one of anime’s real war horses though – not just much-tenured, but generally very good. His presence as much as anything made me hopeful Kochouki might surprise to the upside.
After one episode, I’d say it still has a chance to do that. Noriyuki’s sure hand at the wheel is quite evident here, as is the fact that this is very much a DEEN series. It looks pretty cheap animation-wise but has some quite pretty backgrounds (a common DEEN profile) and they know exactly who their primary audience is. Kochouki: Wakaki Nobunaga definitely presents an Oda of the bishounen variety – pretty much all the young dudes here are bishies, for that matter – and there’s a fair amount of posing for the camera in the premiere. But it’s pretty harmless on the whole and doesn’t really detract from the narrative much.
The first episode shows us a Nobunaga just before his coming-of-age ceremony (at 14), a clever lad who mixes with some street urchins to pilfer Western goods his father is trading in and generally seems to be held in ill regard by his parents. He already has a fascination with “barbarian” items (especially muskets) and a keen strategic mind. And in the climactic staredown with his father Nobunaga shows he has nerves of steel, too. All in all it’s pretty entertaining, and knowing where Oda ends up it’s interesting to speculate on how Kochouki will show him getting there. It’s way too early to jump to any conclusions and I’ve no doubt this series will be roundly ignored, but I kind of liked the premiere and I’ll give it at least a couple more episodes.