Nobunaga the Fool – Episode 1 First Impressions: Off to a Good Start

As far as anime goes, there are times when I feel like I’ve seen it all and that few things will surprise me. It is times like those that I’m glad that there are still shows out there that will surprise me. This is certainly the case for Nobunaga the Fool. Nobunaga blends fantasy, sci-fi, and some small traces of real world history in ways that I didn’t think possible. Not only that, but it does so in a way that feels smooth and natural rather than a horrible disaster. Nobunaga the Fool made it’s debut on January 5th, so let’s take a look and find out if 2014 is off to a good start in terms of new anime.

Nobunaga takes place on two separate worlds (although the anime refers to them as stars) that are connected to one another. The Star of the West is a medieval version of France with heavy traces of surreal fantasy mixed in. The Star of the West is ruled by King Arthur and all the nations of the land stand united. This is a sharp contrast to the Star of the East, which is more like Feudal Japan. The Star of the East is divided into countless countries and nations all fighting to gain the upper hand.

ntf1_screenshot8When I first started watching, I believed that travel between the two worlds wasn’t possible. Of course, I found out later in the episode that that wasn’t the case. Nobunaga the Fool appears to add in a great deal of sci-fi into this fantasy/historical mix. Some clans on the Star of the East have access to piloted mech suits, known as War Armor, while the Star of the West has more sophisticated mech suits and star ships that can cross the void between the two worlds. At present, it is unknown how much travel or trade occurs between the two worlds.

One of the main characters of the show is Nobunaga. He is the heir to his clan but has an infamous reputation for being an eccentric character. This is why he is referred to as the fool since many people in his clan don’t take him seriously. Nobunaga starts off seeming to be lazy while having a devil may care attitude about everything. By the end of the episode, Nobunaga suddenly decides that he wants to change the world in light of one of his clan outposts getting massacred by an opposing clan. It may be sudden, but at the very least the reason for the change is believable.

ntf1_screenshot3Nobunaga’s clan understandably cannot compete against battalions of War Armor when they do not appear to have that kind of technology for themselves. So if he wants his clan to survive he will have to find some way to either counter the other nations or build some sort of defense to prevent future battles. Although this particular scene decides to use the old and overused “War is Bad” theme through visuals and mood, as we see the destruction on a battlefield that was simply a clan testing the waters for a possible invasion in the future. At the very least, they took this borderline cliché and managed to make it work out for them.

Over on the Star of the West is a young woman named Jeanne. She’s treated hostilely by the other villages as she is allegedly “Demon Possessed,” but aside from Jeanne stating that she can hear voices it isn’t exactly clear how she came to be “Possessed” or why everyone else knows about it. I do wonder if this show will be drawing inspirations from the historical Joan of Arc. I noticed elements of Joan of Arc not only in the setting of the Star of the West but in Jeanne’s character as well. Even the prologue happens to be in the year that Joan of Arc met her unfortunate end. After receiving what appears to be this show’s equivalent to a tarot card, Jeanne decides that she wants to go the Star of the East to find the person from her dream who happens to look a lot like Nobunaga. She is accompanied by a man named Leonardo da Vinci, no seriously that is his actual name.

ntf1_screenshot5There are a lot of things about Leonardo da Vinci that go unexplained in this episode. If he really is a loyal servant of King Arthur, why would he make an unauthorized departure from the star ship with his experimental war armor? That’s clearly going to land him in a lot of hot water, given that the ship starts firing at them. I don’t see what he has to gain from deciding to expedite the journey down to the Star of the East all because Jeanne heard a voice that tells her it is time to “open the way.” And how does Leonardo even know that Jeanne is hearing the voice in the first place? He dodges her question when she asks him about it earlier, so Leonardo is hiding something.

On the same line of things to be revealed, it is heavily implied that Nobunaga is some kind of future King that will save both worlds. Although it is unclear as to what he will be saving them from as it doesn’t seem like the two worlds are at war with one another or anything. Yet Nobunaga can use some sort of massive War Armor (that looks more like a Gundam) that is being developed by Leonardo, yet another elephant in the room courtesy of one of the most important people from the Renaissance. The suit claims that it can only be used by the Savior King, and since Nobunaga can use the War Armor . . . well it goes without saying that means he’s probably going to be this supposed Savior King.

ntf1_screenshot9Like any show, the first episode of an anime will make or break the series. Despite some flaws and not so well explained moments, I think that Nobunaga the Fool is off to a good start. Although I felt it could have done without those brief seconds of showing the viewer characters that we’ve yet to be introduced to saying trite lines like: “The time has come” or “The fool has awakened.” Either way, I’ll be following this series as new episodes come out and for now I’d recommend giving Nobunaga the Fool a try.