Nobunaga Concerto Review

This is review number four hundred and seven. This anime is part of the Summer 2014 lineup, and it’s called Nobunaga Concerto. It’s a ten episode anime about Nobunaga not being a flat chested girl, so that’s good. Seriously though, how many Nobunaga anime are out there? It’s getting ridiculous how many of these are coming out. You could make a subgenre of Oda-sploitation if more keeps popping up. Anyways, let’s read on.

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Story

The anime follows a student named Saburo being transported to the warring period of Japan. He meets Nobunaga Oda and discovers that he looks exactly like him. Using this opportunity, Nobunaga orders Saburo to be his decoy as he quickly runs away on horseback. When the guards catches up to him, Saburo is dragged back to the castle as he is now Nobunaga Oda, the man who unified Japan.

Taking the Pants Off

Oh boy, this one is certainly…unique. This anime is heavily praised though, so I was excited to see it. In this anime reviewer’s humble opinion, this anime truly sucks. I understand the praises though, and it is deserved. The story is good, and so I would like to give proper praise where proper praise is due.

The manga is amazing. Please read it.

And that’s it. I think this review will be very short, since this anime is just awful. Everything good that rises on top can eventually be traced back to the original source. This is the fun thing about being a reviewer. When you discover a very strong manga then no matter how much the adaptation sucks, you just know that the original source is undeniably great. I think the anime’s main purpose is achieved. People have spread the word about Nobunaga Concerto, and the series is getting favorable reception. The anime is really just a vehicle to introduce the awesomeness of the original source, and this review will do the same thing. This anime is extremely horrible, but the manga it’s based on is truly remarkable. Everything about the manga is just insanely good, and I wish I could review that instead. It’s a work of fiction, but the manga is also deeply rooted in history. I’ve been playing a lot of Sengoku Era games, but this anime is the first one to really point out what makes the warring period so amazing. Oda’s conquest and rise to fame is fascinating, and Japan’s warring history as a whole is just amazingly framed. But, sh*t, wait. I should review this anime. I honestly don’t want to, but let’s just get this over with.

I think there are only four things you need to remember about the anime. The first is the show’s opening line. This one:

This is directed to the audience. In order to truly follow the story, then you need a good grasp of your Japanese history. I don’t, and I refuse to learn it. That’s alright, because you can always google characters and important events. You’d be doing that a lot though, since the anime follows the important historical figures of the time. Some characters won’t have as much impact if you don’t know them. I think a good example of this is the Akechi guy that is very close to Nobunaga. In Japan’s history, he was the guy that led a rebellion and killed Nobunaga. He marched his army to Honnouji temple, where Nobunaga is resting, and he tried to kill Nobunaga. Nobunaga killed himself though, but his death is always a popular one. This is the fourth Nobunaga anime I’ve seen, and it always has a scene of Nobunaga in a burning building. It’s actually the famous Honnouji event and I honestly only realized its importance thanks to this anime. Akechi is an important character in this show as well, because he is the true Nobunaga Oda.

Yeah, the anime is about a student being transported to the Sengoku period. He falls on top of Nobunaga, who is busy trying to escape the castle. When the original Nobunaga realized the student looks like him, he told the guy to be a decoy and then ran away. The student, Saburo, is now Nobunaga and he is now in the warring period where people killed each other in order to rule Japan. Saburo wants that too, because he believes Nobunaga is destined to rule Japan. Having very little interest in history, Saburo does not know the true history of Japan. He has a Japanese history textbook with him, but it only gives short description of the events. Saburo only believes that Nobunaga will rule Japan, and he’s rolling with it. Having zero idea of the customs of the time though, Saburo always appears disheveled and foolish. He soon earns the title of Nobunaga the Fool, and he plans on fulfilling Nobunaga’s destiny until he can return back to his original time.

Honestly, the premise sounds normal. A guy being transported to the Sengoku era is exactly the same plot as Oda Nobuna no Yabou, another Nobunaga anime where the man is presented as a flat chested girl. The guy in the story also assumes the role of someone close to Nobunaga, and he uses his knowledge of history to actually make Nobunaga rule Japan without triggering the death flag. It’s fascinating how much anime is made about Nobunaga Oda, so I wasn’t initially impressed with this one. It doesn’t even have a flat chested female lead, so I feel robbed a bit. One thing that makes this anime unique though is that the show is extremely serious. It feels like it’s a true historical series, and the anime doesn’t use the “guy from the future” crutch as a way to make the story interesting. Nope, the warring period is presented as is, full of talks about war and betrayal and all that fun stuff. The only thing unique is the main character himself using English words and acting so out of place. It’s nicely covered up by the “Fool” title though, because Nobunaga Oda is indeed considered a fool by others. The story is so smartly conceived that I am extremely impressed by it, which brings me to the second point.

Game of Thrones. Maybe not as good as the actual thing, but the manga behaves like Game of Thrones. In fact, the warring period can honestly be considered just as wild. The anime glosses over the fun stuff, but I want to talk about the beautiful story in depth. With such a rich history, the Sengoku period is full of deaths, wars and shady back deals. In the first three volumes of the manga, we witness a lot of characters talk about their plans. Nobunaga’s younger brother is trying to kill him, an assassin is trying to sneak into his army and his good graces, and the Imagawa forces are trying to invade Nobunaga’s territory, the province of Owari. While Nobunaga is being fleshed out, the impending war eventually affects his life. We follow different characters slowly change the course of the story, and we see deaths that impact it as well. It honestly feels like Game of Thrones, but delightfully Japanese. In the first three volumes as well, we see characters commit seppuku, ninjas trying to kill people in their sleep, arranged marriages to signify peace between two factions, and keeping hostages as leverage for another faction as well. It’s so packed with good things that you often wonder how a character will act. The political element of the story is presented so strongly as well. I love how family conflict rise because of how one sibling treats another. I love how one minor character serving as a guard eventually becomes more important later on. Hell, a hostage comes back as an important character as well. The characters you’ll come across in Nobunaga’s conquest are all fascinating, and how they’ll affect the story later on becomes a big part of the manga.  I should just review the manga at this point, but I haven’t finished it yet. I’m a painfully slow reader.

The anime glossed a lot of important things, like the betrayal of Noboyuki’s bodyguard and his seppuku afterwards, but I think the show captured the gist of the narrative. They rushed the small bits to immediately establish the “concerto” thing that is in the title. Eventually, the real Nobunaga comes back but he doesn’t assume his role as the original. Instead, he becomes Akechi Mitsuhide and he serves under Saburo. We get a concerto because Saburo would often let Akechi assume his role from time to time. So, in a sense, two Nobunaga will eventually control the narrative. The anime is incredibly distracting though, because of one important thing, the third thing about it.

The art style and animation is identical to Yami Shibai. If you haven’t seen the horror anime then it won’t bother you as much. I think the show is five seasons deep now, so I think comparing this anime to Yami Shibai is inevitable. The entire thing is just distracting. I don’t mind the awful animation, but the gritty texture of the anime is just unnerving. I keep expecting a jump scare to appear at any moment, and it ruins the story for me. Some of the faces are also extremely stiff and creepy, so it’s hard to really enjoy the beautiful story. Even the CG animation is unsettling, because I keep hearing Zanbai in my mind when I watch this show. Good gawd, who even thought about making this show feel exactly like Yami Shibai? It really ruined the strong presentation of the manga, because the whole thing is supposed to be inspired by Ukiyo-e, a traditional Japanese artwork. I believe the game Ookami is inspired by the same art style, and you would never realize it in this anime. While the faces and the clothes are inspired by Ukiyo-e, the animation always ruins it. I also love Yami Shibai, so it’s hard to separate its unique kamishibai presentation with this anime. The show is screaming for less contrast, for gawd sakes. It’s completely distracting when light fluff scenes have the dreary texture of Yami Shibai, and it’s even more distracting when night scenes are so dark that you can’t make the figures out properly. It completely sh*ts on the manga, and it’s a shame. The manga looks incredibly beautiful.

Now, I’ll be fair, the anime does have some good points but it’s honestly a lot better in the manga. I’m supposed to deliver four important points about this anime, but I already stated the last important point: just read the manga instead. This anime seems to be an “underrated gem” for some f*cking reason and it’s honestly not. This show is just consistently bad, and it isn’t even a good adaptation. It lacks the nuance and subtle details of the manga. The big plot twist about Saburo meeting a cop is so badly handled in the anime. You see, the show keeps building up this scary guy who plans on killing Nabunaga when they meet, but something incredibly surprising happened instead. The anime botched the twist, and I honestly think they could’ve pulled it off. Even with the umbrella goddess inspired nightmare fuel, the animation could still deliver the story properly. It doesn’t though, and it lacked the punch of the original source. Damn, I keep circling back to the manga and it’s not on purpose. You see, I read the manga after I finished the anime. I just know the original source has something to tell, and the show didn’t convey it. I was right, and I’m just a bit pissed at how the anime handled the original source. It could’ve been better, and the manga deserves a better representation of it. I hear there is also a live action version of this anime, and I do hope it’s a lot better. As it stands though, I just want people to know the manga is amazing.

For some reason, Fuji TV is credited as the studio behind this anime. They are a station though, so I don’t think that’s right. I believe they broadcasted the show, but they didn’t produce it. So, what’s up? It’s a bit creepy that a Yami Shibai anime doesn’t have a credited owner. Oh my gawd, are we in a real life Yami Shibai right now? Holy sh*t, no, please. I’m guessing the same studio behind the horror anime also created this show, but I can’t be sure. There is a director though, so that’s good. Yuusuke Fujisawa directed this anime, and he did try hard to make this show look good. He had a good pacing for the story, and the animation isn’t as bad as it looks. Compared to the manga, then this anime is sh*t, but it’s respectable on its own. It’s not really good, but he tried to make it look good. He knows how to frame a scene, so it looks presentable, and it does come off beautifully. He also knows how to present the show as an Ukiyo-e portrait, and I respect that as well. The limited animation does overwhelm everything, but I still think the director utilized everything at his disposal to make this anime look good. I give him full credit for that.

Sight and Sound

Character design is awful. Saburo had some good frames, but the animation always ruins them. The lack of detail on certain characters also looks creepy. Some of them don’t have whites in their eyes, so that just doesn’t look right. Some of them have a fixed blank expression on their face, so that also doesn’t look right. They obviously used the manga as a template for the character design, but Ayumi Ishii’s design is a lot more gawd damn intimate. Detail isn’t just given to highlight a character, but it’s used to actually make the Ukiyo-e art style prominent. She uses inking strongly to really make a beautiful manga come to life. This is honestly why I can’t appreciate the anime for what it is. Ayumi’s design is just washed off the story. Her intimate design is sucked out of the adaptation, and it just feels wrong. She loved her manga, and the effort she poured in it just permeates at every gawd damn page. Just look at it, and I bet you’ll have a hard time watching the anime as well.

Keep in mind, she storyboarded the manga and also made sure the story is historically accurate. Even if she didn’t do the background design, she still created the characters heavily inspired from Ukiyo-e, while also making sure the right tone is fit for the scenes. The dialogue of the characters must always contrast Saburo’s, the culture must always come through and the panels must always keep a consistent pace to it. The manga is a technical masterpiece, and keeping it consistent is just insane. Ayumi did an incredible job presenting the warring period, but also giving her own unique spin on it. While certain scenes are drowned in dialogue, you always get beautifully conceived scenes with black ink just consuming the panel. The way she intercut panels to give the pacing importance is incredible, and the facial expressions of her characters are just captivating. The story is always told through the faces, a visual feat, while also making every aspect of the manga contribute to the experience. It’s one of the most complex yet beautifully refined manga I’ve come across with. The anime is awful, and if something is to be called a “gem” then it’d be this original source.

As I said before, the director knows how to frame a scene. Some scenes are established beautifully, and you can tell the director is doing his best to convey the proper mood of the story. He understands the Ukiyo-e inspiration, and he tries hard to stick to it. While he glosses over scenes that demand actual animation, he still gives us decently framed scenes. The animation is bad overall though. The movements are awkward and stiff, the design is creepy, the CG is bulky and flat, and the dialogue scenes are incredibly boring. These are the same dialogue scenes in the manga, but the moving medium seemed to have made a worst presentation of these scenes. I’ve seen worse things in other shows, but the lack of animation doesn’t convey the warring period’s tone and the author’s deep respect for it. The anime also didn’t utilize the narrator properly. He appears in the opening scenes only, but he should’ve been used to establish the time skips in the show. I mean, Nobunaga’s sister is introduced in one episode and then she has a child in the next one. We don’t know how far along time has skipped, and we soon becomes lost. The manga can just say upfront how much time has skipped, and the anime could’ve done the same thing.

The anime has no OP song. The ED is “Fukagyaku Replace” by MY FIRST STORY. The song is really awesome. I love the song instrumentals, and the singer’s voice is really good. It has catchy lyrics, and the blend of English words sounds good. The lyrics of “being better than who you are now” are also pretty good. It nicely captures the situation of Saburo and Nobunaga, while also being a good empowerment song. The ED sequence probably features all the animation available in the entire show. It features a rotating camera on various places, both past and present. It summarizes the story overall, as it hints all the good stuff that happens, while also being a bad ass sequence on its own. It’s a really cool ED song and sequence, and I think it’s the only highlight of the anime.

Overall Score

2/10 “It has a good hearted motive, but by itself, this anime is just one of the worst.”

It gutted the adaptation, the characters are flat, the animation is awful and everything positive about it is overwhelmed by all of its negative. The anime is really just a way to tell people that the manga exists, so please just shower your love to the original source. Everything good about this show is honestly ten times better in the manga. I know it’s a bit harsh to compare the anime to the manga, but I think that was the anime’s goal as well. It just wanted to advertise the manga, and it didn’t matter if the anime experience is truly good or bad. I respect the anime for being bold, but I’d also respected myself if I could’ve avoided it in the first place. Effort is there though, but it keeps pointing you to the better version. I highly recommend the manga, but I highly do not recommend the anime.

3 thoughts on “Nobunaga Concerto Review

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