Title: Oda Nobuna no Yabou
TV Series; Episodes 12
Genre: Action, Romance, Comedy
Anime has a jagged history with the Sengoku Era much like the period itself. While classics such as Samurai Deeper Kyo have only taken inspiration from the characters of the age, recent offerings that draw more heavily from the conflict have been lackluster, such as Sengoku Collection and Sengoku Otome. The problem might be the latter two series have been fascinated with the idea of gender-bending those valiant warriors and infusing them with a generous helping of moe. Oda Nobuna no Yabou follows a similar formula, turning the infamous Oda Nobunaga into a young girl and painting the choas over with a bishoujo veneer. If it were anything like its ilk, this series was doomed. It’s an understatement to say that my expectations for this series were… rockbottom.
Fear not, Oda Nobuna no Yabou is a great show that puts its predecessors to shame.
Yoshiharu Sagaru, a high school student that is obsessed with Sengoku Period games, finds himself suddenly transported to that era. Lying next to him is the dying Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of Oda Nobunaga’s most brilliant and trusted general, who entrusts him with the future of the civil war. So as fate would have it, he becomes a proxy for the great retainer, using his knowledge of the future to aid Oda Nobuna, one of many princesses that have become warlords.
Taking the setting into consideration, this show excels at creating tension and crafting dynamic situations that push the plot along at a fervent pace. Sure the art might seem cute, but it’s hard to forget that this is a war. Scenes flutter from ravaged battlefields, to the shady back room dealings of daimyos. It’s interesting to see how the two fronts influence one another to shift the direction the story is moving in. Impressively, with all the turns and swerves the narrative takes, it never looses much momentum.
But that’s not to say the breakneck storytelling is without its problems. There are some plot holes that pockmark the journey, such as an explanation to how Yoshiharu actually gets transported to the past. It’s not the only corner cut. Often battles come to an abrupt halt and are summarized in about a line or two by the omniscient narrator. This tendency to jump through time can be a bit jarring at first, but its understandable considering how much ground the story covers. Still, I wish there were a better way to smooth out the transition of the scenes.
Sengoku shows have a habit of rewriting history for convenience. Oda Nobuna no Yabou is no different in this regard, modifying the past as it sees fit. The difference with this series is that it is self-conscious of how it own narrative contrasts with the history. It often makes references to how the ongoings of the show contradict what Sagaru knows about this age. It’s great plot device that creates an interesting wrinkle in the storytelling.
It’s clear that Sagaru and Nobuna are the stars of the show. The camera is almost solely focused on the two and their growing relationship. Nobuna’s tsundere charm will strum many a fanboys heart at first sight. Taking a second glace, you’ll a see character that’s haunted by the demons of her past while trying to maintain her image as a daimyo. It’s an interesting and emotional dynamic that pushes the ebb and flow of the show. Her charisma is undeniable.
Sagaru would agree, as he is almost instantly taken by her. It’s interesting to see how his own pubescent desires play into his growing feelings for the warlord. His friendship with her feels natural and the course of their relationship is believable. Oda Nobuna no Yabou is billed as a romantic comedy and it doesn’t fail on the romance.
The supporting cast, while not that substantial, is fun. Each has their own dreams and desires which influence the narrative in subtle ways. It’s easy to level the argument that they are nothing more than devices, wether comedic or plot. It’s not exactly a problem. Not much time is spent to develop much of the crew, leaving time for the drama, but they contribute greatly to the enjoyment factor of the show.
The bright color palette is fitting for the moe-infused character design. The whimsical art does well to mix high fantasy with more traditional Japanese structures and clothing. Especially impressive is the lighting work in the nighttime scenes, where torches light up to shine their mystical hues. Surprisingly, the action scenes are pretty well done and feature some fluid animation excellent choreography.
The sound production does an apt job of capturing the sounds of the time. Firing guns, clashing swords, and cackling fires form a satisfying din. The voice acting follows suit, with strong and versatile deliveries from the cast, whose inflections move from emotional to comedic aptly. “Link” by Aimi is the standout song from the soundtrack, though it is a bit formulaic. It takes strong female vocals and laces them over a rondo of guitars to craft a poppy tune.
Oda Nobuna no Yabou isn’t a masterpiece by any means, but all anime doesn’t need to be. It’s a exciting romp through history with a touching romance woven into it’s fabric. It’s easy to recommend this show to history buffs and moe-fanatics just for the content alone. But I can recommend this show to anyone because it’s series with a ton of charm and a lot of heart.