There's this new trope going around in anime wherein some mystic force removes historical figures from their time periods and countries of origin and plops them in the middle of some great conflict. It's not quite historical fiction, but perhaps closer to "historical speculation." I first noticed this idea in the READ OR DIE OVA, wherein the devious I-Jin are clones of historical notable scientists and artists, who wield weaponized versions of their contributions to society.
Next there was FATE/ZERO, and to lesser extent it's predecessor FATE/STAY NIGHT. In ZERO, wizards summon "Heroic Spirits" from the past to participate in the Holy Grail War--a last-man-standing battle royale for the ultimate trophy. Then just yesterday I reviewed NOBUNAGUN, a show where plucky teenagers are the reincarnations of select historical badasses. They manifest weapons, armor and superpowers based off their earlier selves.
Another thing these shows have in common is that they're all set in modern day. In READ OR DIE and NOBUNAGUN, the regular world gets embroiled in these extraordinary battles. In FATE/ZERO, the nonmagical world remains blissfully unaware of the warring wizards and their super ghost friends.
Which brings us to NOBUNAGA THE FOOL, the first show of this trope to place these historical figures in a unique fantasy world. What's more, it asks the intriguing question of what would happen if people like Leonardo da Vinci, Jeanne d'Arc, and Oda Nobunaga teamed up. Oh, and there are giant samurai robots and spaceships too.
There are two planets that seem to rotate around each other in space: the Star of the East and the Star of the West. (Why are the planets called stars, you ask? Because it sounds good and that's all you're getting for now. Moving on.) On these planets live several shining stars from history, with Asian figures being from the East and European figures being from the West.
Strange dreams (or perhaps flashbacks?) connect the West's Jeanne d'Arc--a beautiful maiden tormented by unseen voices--and the East's Oda Nobunaga--a hot-blooded young man of noble birth wishing to make his mark on the world. When the mysterious Leonardo da Vinci tells Jeanne that what she hears are the voices of the Stars, they set off on a quest to meet the destined Savior-King who will save both worlds.
Meanwhile Nobunaga hangs out with his buddies Mitsuhide (who betrays him in his final hours, historically) and Hideyoshi (nicknamed Monkey), and discovers a sneak attack on his family's land is imminent. When the local lord fails to heed Nobunaga's warning their forces are massacred, and Nobunaga swears that he will change the world to stop this kind of senseless slaughter. This is highly convenient because that's when Jeanne and Leo crash land on their planet in a hijacked mecha.
As you may have noticed by the copious words leading up to my opinions on it, NOBUNAGA THE FOOL is pretty fascinating. This bizarre setting where the East and West are literally different worlds opens up a Pandora's Box of fun, but I cant tell if it contains hope or horrors quite yet.
The historical figures are liberally reinterpreted by the story. The most striking being Magellan who, as an admiral in the space-navy of the West's King Arthur, is basically Captain Harlock. He's even got the eyepatch. Da Vinci seems more like a snake oil mystic than a brilliant inventor, and Jeanne d'Arc being a wilting flower is certainly not supported by the historical record.
But I don't really mind so long as that eventually gets supported by the world they currently inhabit, which is already quite rich. Are they going to use all this window dressing to contrast the heroes of the East and West? Is one the Yin to the other's Yang?
I'm in, regardless. Punch my ticket Mr. Conductor, 'cuz I'm gonna ride this crazy train for as long as I can.
You can watch the first episode of NOBUNAGA THE FOOL, entitled "The Star," here. Seen it already? What did YOU make of it? Leave a comment below!
About the Author
Matt Murphy is a freelance nerd who has contributed to many nerd websites. You can reach him by going to where the light meets the shadow, by sending out zeta-brainwaves or by following him on Twitter @Murphix.