As far as historical figures go, Nobunaga is something of rockstar and over the past few years, been in more anime series than I can count one way or another. He has been re-imagined as female (Battle Girls Time Paradox, Oda Nobuna no Yabou, Sengoku Collecton), a living weapon for a girl (Nobunagun), a mech pliot (Nobunaga the fool), and in a dozen of titles I care not to name. What is harm of him taking on that mantle as a dimwitted teenager from modern times? Eh…worth a try!
Title: Nobunaga Concerto
Studio: Fuji TV
Genre: Historical Drama, Action
Due to some unlikely events, Saburou is flung back in time to the Sengoku Era. In the past, he meets a young, but sickly Oda Nobunaga, one of Japan’s greatest warlords. Unable to shake Saburou’s uncanny resemblance to himself, Nobunaga asks Saburou to take his place as warlord. Equipped with knowledge from the modern era, will Saburou be able to unite Japan?
Over the years, there have been countless theories surrounding the Sengoku period and many of its timeless warlord’s, Oda Nobunaga being no exception. Most of the evidence around his life is variably mixed – more of it conjecture than pure fact, but for all the video game and anime re-imaginings, Nobunaga Concerto is no different from the rest of the historical drama crowd – typical in its premise. Of course, where a more fragile Oda Nobunaga abdicating his responsibilities and life to his modern-day dopperganger, Saburō – the typical meets the atypical of one part historical grit and another wild imagination to create an experience that is sadly less than the sum of its distinctive parts.
During the beginning of the series, Saburō is a very strange fellow and to say the least, reluctant to accept his new found duties. Instead of concerned with ruling, he rather play other village kids or take Kichou on dates. However, this is flippant behavior is not too far off from the real historical Oda’s life – a bizarre teen doing abnormal stunts that gained him the “Fool Of Owari” title His lack of discipline, admiration for firearms, and even perilous conflicts – these idiosyncratic details do manifest themselves into the narrative as well as play against Saburō’s idiot savant persona. Surely yet slowly, he does mature into competent warlord as many of the famous events and tales are spun (or slightly modified) that shaped who Nobunaga turned out to be. Sadly, from a purely storytelling perspective, for all the creativity with historical events and lore – very little of it is used or put to good use rather than flashing visible hints that you hope to happen as things progress.
For example: the “real Nobaunga” goes under the guise of Akechi Mitsuhide – an adviser of sorts to Saburō. If you know anything of history and the part Mitsuhide played in the Honnō-ji Incident and event even referenced to him by Saburo: his unwavering conviction to prevent it from occurring – well, I let you be the judge to fill in the blanks of where all that buildup goes. Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of the other pivotal characters probably has to be the most interesting as he plays close to his historical counterpart expect for his adversarial relationship with Saburo. He is actual one of my favorite characters and at least shown for some his favorable (or unfavorable) assets such as being a masterfully negotiator – one scene in particular highlighting this as one of many plots against the assumed Oda to gain his favor and use it against him. Again, for all of the schemes and ventures setup, the idea is frequently presented and nearly in this case, sort of used and never visited afterwards.
While the time travel plot device is a contrived one and something of a strange MacGuffin, the show does utilize it in an equally bizarre fashion, if not creating a few problems of it own. Nothing wrong with a ex-cop, ex-yakuza member, and even baseball player called “Young” (a clever reference to Yasuke
) showing up for no reason, yet the series never does anything with these characters that are relevant….and even if they are (like with the ex-cop) never comes to fruition – at least in this rendition. However, beyond relevance, Saburō’s journey through time does beg to mind some interesting questions like his age, since even through some the most pivotal events in the warlord’s life he always appears the same. For example, during a meeting with the soon to be Ieyasu Tokugawa, Saburō’s goes into a small flashback when he met him as a child – although now, he is around the same age as him. Not weird, right? With no possible hunches for why such an oddity is referenced back to so many times during the course as pertinent, in the end, it gets reduced for the sake of comedy.
Wholly rendered in CGI, the series look as an CG production would, but slightly above average and budgeted. Most the effects like lighting looks very crisp and cinematic – the bulk of where most of the atmosphere is concentrated at. For any CG dependent title, the actual animation of characters movements and facial expressions do overall look unnatural – robotic to an extent, but not as grimacing as one would expect. The musical elements do a lot better job coming from Masaru Yokoyama with heavy use of woodwinds and strings in various scenes that call for it to set the mood. The soundtrack is not as diverse or noteworthy for titles like Queen’s Blade or Unbreakable Machine, however it the gets the job done.
Just like with Saburō, Nobunaga Concerto does have some brilliant moments, but overall, they are few and far in between. To the bitter end it remains a mildly conservative interpretation of the Warring States era: playing with history in an amusing way, but playing with it too safely. There are very few adaptions that sticks to the history book guns like Nobunaga Concerto does along with the creativity, yet it simply just lacks any of the heart and willingness to do anything significant with it. And if sitting through 10 episodes of wasted potential interest you, it is not bad a choice. Although, knowing what I seen is far from the realm of mediocrity, it certainly could have been better than what it was.
—————————————————————————————————————— Pros: Creativity re-imagining of the Sengoku era and Nobunaga’s life, great soundtrack, crisp CG animation, small references to historical events.
Cons: ends too abruptly, most of the creative details are not capitalized on/ left as an afterthought.