When I watched the first episode of NOBUNAGA THE FOOL (and consequently reviewed it), I noticed some... weird stuff. Stuff like how Jeanne d'Arc, one of the most badass women in European history, develops a hardcore crush on the eponymous Oda Nobunaga the instant she lays eyes on him. Stuff like Jeanne throwing around the term "Savior-King" when she refers to Nobunaga. It raised my hackles a bit, I admit.
But I shoved these concerns to the back of my mind. Surely these were just there to add the flavor of romance to the show! It's definitely about select historical badasses meeting and exchanging words or blows or both, a la FATE/ZERO. While Nobunaga is and should be the show's center of gravity (it is named after him), the way the characters (as liberal reinterpretations of the figures they're based on) interact will be at the heart of this show.
I was so blinded by the beauty of the show I imagined that I didn't see the show NOBUNAGA is. And what it is is nothing like I imagined...
I should have listened to my instincts.
Following the first episode we learn more about the Oda Clan and their complex relationship with their heir. The advisors hate Nobunaga as he is wild, uncontrollable and seemingly without forethought. His father can barely withhold his contempt for him. And yet his siblings, along with his allies Mitsuhide and Hideyoshi, hold him in nothing but the deepest esteem. They see his potential; feel it in an almost tangible sense, and want to help him achieve it.
Meanwhile on the sidelines are Jeanne and Leonardo da Vinci. Jeanne has been disguised as another historical figure, Ranmaru, so as to not sully Nobunaga's reputation further.
The Westerners watch. They wait. They try not to involve themselves, aside from the fact that their very presence is disruptive. And the fact that they've already given Nobunaga a giant robot, which really does shake things up. They've already made their bed, here.
They're supposed to be surrogates for the audience, observing Nobunaga objectively and evaluating whether or not he could possibly be the fabled "Savior-King," or even worthy of such a title. The way the show does it, though, is by daring Jeanne--and by extension, us as the audience--not to fall in love with his overly masculine ways. Do you find Nobunaga too gruff? It's just because he feels so strongly that he cannot control his passion! Do you find Nobunaga inattentive? It's just because he has deemed you unworthy of his attention. Do you find Nobunaga too brutal on the battlefield? Fool! His victory was inevitable—why waste time by drawing it out?
I'm all for character analysis pieces—and Oda Nobunaga certainly qualifies as a deep and complex enough personality to merit several interpretations—but this is so far from the premise I glimpsed at in the pilot episode that I feel cheated. This isn't about how Nobunaga would interact with Jeanne d'Arc or Julius Caesar as I had thought, but rather about everyone being sucked into the gravitational pull of Nobunaga's ego.
If it were as simple as lionizing the man, I might have been able to continue the show. After all, the character design is intricate and eye-catching and the world of the show is full of marvels and mystic beauty. But NOBUNAGA THE FOOL actually takes a step beyond lionizing.
Recall how Jeanne d'Arc is looking for the Savior-King. Recall how in real life, Jeanne d'Arc claimed to hear the voice of God, and that she was later canonized as a saint. A deeply religious woman, that Jeanne.
That's right: it seems the goal of the show is the outright deification of Oda Nobunaga. The show goes beyond the Christ symbolism of the Savior-King when da Vinci flat out claims that Nobunaga has the power of either creation or destruction—powers he claims only God has.
Perhaps these are just cultural differences, but suffice to say I think I'm done with NOBUNAGA THE FOOL. If it had been a straight-up historical epic telling the story of the man or a straight-up fantastical epic featuring the legend, I think I would have enjoyed it. If we could have seen new scenarios wherein the philosophies and mettles of historical figures are tested against one another, I think I would have enjoyed it. Instead, we receive a history lesson of single man and put him on a pedestal as high as the Tower of Babel. And we all know how that went down, now don't we?
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.