So at this point I’m convinced Nobunaga the Fool is a tragic case of greatness held back by superfluous mediocrity, a little like the anime industry. An intriguing fantasy world, noble mad-man main character, giant robots, historic archetypes, vast cultural influences, mech/samurai action, great character designs, technically superb and appealing visual, and clever scripting brought down by loli waifu, fanservice, poor animation direction, boring scripting, lack of direction, useless characters, But before I give my update on the show as of episode 4, I’ll admit my own idiocy. Star of the West = Europe; Star of the East = Japan. How did I miss that?
Episodes two and three capture a lot of the good and bad of the show so far. Two has some of the best writing and art, while lacking much action. And three has bland character work, weak pacing and animation direction, but some cool action. The animation is the only thing I’m going to go into regarding them, as everything else I can talk about with a deeper focus on episode four.
My problem with the animation is that the show has what a lot of others don’t, technical quality. Things look smooth and crisp, so action scenes should be the shows highpoint. But the direction of them is so bad that it ruins it. When some time passes in-between cuts, even if it’s only a few seconds, there should be something to slow the pace between them (like the space between panels in manga), otherwise the pacing becomes confusing (imagine a manga where all the panels were connected; it would look as if everything were happening simultaneously, and characters were talking over each other). And the camera angles used makes this problem worse by not showing enough background to get a proper perspective or scale. Pacing a scale are the subtle challenges in animation, and when not handled right they make even simple scenes very confusing, or at least difficult for the viewer to engage with.
When the action’s limited to the ground, and Nobunaga’s taking out enemy mechs with a bow while riding his pet dragon, it looks fine. It’s when he gets in a mech himself that these issues start to appear, as we no longer get a proper view of the ground and landscape, and a lot of the scene is looking into the cockpit of the robot where the flow of time seems to slow down awkwardly. Also, whoever at Studio Satellite said “I like that samurai dragon mech fighting thing, very cool, very original, but we’re just gonna have giant robots rough each other up a bit instead.” should be fired.
Episode four avoids this problem but not having any action. It’s a more political part of the story, in which a wedding is staged in order to create alliances that would deter war. Why would there be war? I don’t know, I guess the show just wants us to assume it’s for reasons. An episode about a fake political wedding, which doesn’t give us any insight at all on the politics of the land; brilliant.
The premise is: near the end of episode three Nobunaga accidentally agreed to marry a Queen from another dynasty in order to get a regalia to power up his mech. In episode four we find out that was useless because he loses anyway, but now that the ideas been put forward, Nobu’s dad wants him to do it anyway because the two dynasties will be stronger united. Instead of focusing on the political landscape behind this, the episode is used to develop the characters further.
After some episodes of bland character work where everyone just tells us how awesome Nobunaga is and we’re supposed to take their word for it, episode four finally does more to show us his dimensions, and it’s actually not bad. He’s mostly a tough angry grump here because he’s not exactly happy about having to give up his bachelor lifestyle, but there are deeper levels that shine though. He clearly not as much of a madman as he originally came off as, but it seems like that’s only because he’s had to tethered back to earth now that he’s back home, and whatever hardships and struggle he’s been through come front and center.
There’s one scene where Jeanne wants him to help her practice fighting, and he’s dismissive of her because he doesn’t think there’s any point teaching her since she’s too weak to actually take a life. In another scene his younger brother, Nobukastu, tells Nobunaga that he’s too weak to be like his older brother, and Nobunaga threatens him to show him that his being scared won’t protect him from the things he’s scared of. These two scenes alone already make an interesting character; telling the one who wants to be strong that they can’t escape their weakness, and telling the one that wants to hide in his weakness that it won’t protect him. Is this just Nobunaga forcing others out of his life in a self-destructive lone wolf complex, or a double standard, or legitimate advice? I don’t know, but there’s one character worthy of attention to find out.
Akechi Mitsuhide is Nobunaga’s foil. Back in episode one we already learned that the two of them are close friends, and since then it’s been interesting the way the handle things. They’re always on the same side, but where Nobunaga is blunt and forceful, Mitsuhide is cautious and persuasive. And where most of the time when characters talk about Nobunaga it’s just a cheap way for the writers to hype him up, when Mitsuhide talks about him he sounds less admiring and more envious, as if he wants to live more like Nobu, but knows better (similar to Sumire from Toradora). On top of that, the card Nobu got from Leonardo Da Vinci was The Magician; when Mitsu gets one it is The Magician reversed. His character has yet to go anywhere, but it does look like the writers are setting a good foundation to work from.
Leonardo’s still around and being interesting. And he’s finally getting to what he’s known for, inventing cool stuff. A couple of iconic Da Vinci designs are floating around, and hopefully will be implemented soon. One thing I can’t stand about the way he’s portrayed is that they make him right handed. It’s a minor mistake but much of Da Vinci’s work and who he was was influenced by the fact that he was left handed, so to not include that just seems like the studio hasn’t done it’s research.
And this has to be said; who decided that the best way to represent Joan of Ark was with big breasts? Sure, there’s a girl attached, and she sometimes says stuff, but her primary character trait is inhumanly large, showy, somehow reflective, and all around Queen’s Blade-ian breasts. And it’s not like they’re just there for the audience but otherwise ignored, other characters repeatedly try to grope her. Japan, rape is not funny. I shouldn’t complain so much though since they’re becoming less and less prevalent. In order to avoid attention and help fight, Joan has dawned a girdle of bandages around her chest, kimono and sword, and somehow passes for a man despite her big blue moe-girl eyes.
Her character’s still not that interesting, but hopefully that will change soon. There’ve been a number of flashbacks that could be fleshed out later to make her a more complex character.
Also, the show has a second female character now, whose name I couldn’t bother to remember or look up so we’ll just call her Queen Runt. Queen Runt can go to hell. She’s the one Nobunaga’s engaged to, and she’s basically an obnoxious loli waifu. I hope she dies soon, but not so soon as to not suffer.
Another bad character is Nobunaga’s younger brother who I mentioned earlier. This kid’s appeared twice now, and both times instead of showing the audience his character through his interactions, he’s just said what he’s like. Hardly an emotion is animated on this brat.
I was planning on going into a couple themes here, but this has gone on long enough, and there’s not enough to say on them just yet. So I think this is it. I’ll still be watching the show. I recommend it to pretty much any anime fan looking for a little more this season. Hopefully the better aspects prevail.