Day Two: Let’s Do The Time Warp Again

[Maaaaybe spoilers for Nobunaga Concerto. But. I mean. If you know how it ends in history then is it even really spoilers?]

Nobunaga is an extremely common historical figure in anime. In fact, there are THREE Nobunagas in this season alone: one from the adaptation of Kouta Hirano’s popular historical figures versus historical figures manga, one where Nobunaga has a cute and loyal ninja bodyguard, and one where Nobunaga is a bird in an animal version of the Sengoku Era (seriously).

And yet the best Nobunaga that I’ve watched this 2016 was from a series made two years ago, and he isn’t even technically Nobunaga.

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He’s beauty, he’s grace, he has Oda Nobunaga’s face.

I’m talking about Nobunaga Concerto’s main protagonist: Saburo, a random student from the modern age who tripped over a wormhole and travelled back in time to the Sengoku Era. He bumped into the sickly daimyo of Owari, Oda Nobunaga, and ended up impersonating the man due to their uncanny physical resemblance.

Saburo, in the modern man’s perspective, is a lazy and loudmouth slacker who is too blunt for his own good. He doesn’t really have good grades in school, his future prospects aren’t very bright, and he’s pretty happy with running away from responsibilities and lazing around all day. Considering how modern culture is so revolved around the idea that future excellence will only happen to a person if they are academically excellent (good grades = good job opportunities), most people would assume someone like Saburo wouldn’t become anyone noteworthy.

But what Saburo lacks in technical skill and academic standing, he more than makes up for with his self-confidence and excellent social skills. Despite his rough and hard-to-manage personality, Saburo is a natural charmer and anyone he ends up befriending becomes incredibly loyal and faithful to his cause.

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History told me this was going to happen and yet I still cried. ;_;

What I find to be so entertaining about Nobunaga Concerto is how Saburo’s natural social qualities makes him much more suited to the simpler times of the Sengoku Era. Despite taking over the role of an influential historical figure, Saburo’s presence actually gives explanation to some of the mysteries and peculiarities about Oda Nobunaga, as known by the modern world.

Historical records describe Oda Nobunaga as a man that followed his own rules, defied religious beliefs to expand his territory, and held very western perspectives compared to his more traditional counterparts. Even if it’s fictional, Oda Nobunaga being switched at his teens with a modern high school boy (who is social and confident and has been influence by a much more liberal and global era), actually makes sense! Amazingly, Nobunaga Concerto is a series that’s working under a stable historical time loop.

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When Saburo says “job”, he also means his duty of protecting Oda Nobunaga’s historical legacy as the infamous daimyo that tried to unify Japan. With this, Saburo becomes the mask and fully embraces his role as Oda Nobunaga.

The downside of a stable historical time loop is that when you know where history will take the characters, you can predict what will happen in the future. The beauty of Nobunaga Concerto is that the actual historical figures themselves and the circumstances of their end are shrouded in mystery, and the series — with its clever twists and turns and genuinely shocking reveals — makes you wonder how will we reach the inevitable confrontation at the Honno-ji temple.

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I really hope we get a season 2.

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2 responses to “Day Two: Let’s Do The Time Warp Again

  1. Oh, NobuCon! I’m so happy to see someone writing about it. It was one of my favorite shows of 2014, and the source manga became one of my favorite manga ever.

    Aside of what you wrote, I have to praise the visuals. Sure, they probably chased the many potential viewers away… for me it also took a bit of time for me to adjust, but once there I just can’t help loving the attention they clearly paid to everything. There’s a whole lot of detail, a lot of symbolism, and the quasi-rotoscope method allowed for a rather movie-like approach that you rarely ever see in anime. (Same with the voice acting. The seiyuu cast is stellar, and they all do great performances that sound more like live action dub than anime-esque voice acting.)

    I agree that the idea behind the setting is genius – Nobunaga’s idiosyncrasies just make so much sense if we assume that he was actually some guy who had time-slipped from the modern age. Saburou is such a fun character – sure he’s carefree, doesn’t think all that much, and knows literally nothing about the age he’s now in or the history he’s supposed to be re-enacting, but with his natural charm and leadership qualities, his determination (to do something he doesn’t know the real Oda Nobunaga never actually accomplished, ie. taking over Japan) it’s not surprising that the people around him are either drawn to him, or feel intimidated by him.

    I also really like the “concerto” he makes with Mitsuhide, and how “Oda Nobunaga” is less a person than sort of an entity made up by these two. In a way yes, Saburou has embraced “Nobunaga” in all those years he’s been playing the role, and he understands the responsibilities he now bears, but still he sometimes can’t help but view the role as something not quite “him”. Which is understandable given that the actual Nobunaga is right under his nose, advising him, sometimes switching places with him. (I like that the Sengoku-era Nobunaga is the one who came up with the Mt Hiei massacre. In a way it seems that Mitsuhide is the element of calculation and ruthlessness that Saburou, who came from peaceful times, lacks.)

    And yes, one of the most exciting things about NobuCon is how even with the changes it’s still following history. You know where the story is going and the fun is seeing how the characters get there. Early in the story Saburou himself references Honnouji as the place where Nobunaga will eventually die (with his retainers thinking he’s just making a sick joke) with the visuals being very unsubtle about poor Mitsuhide’s involvement. And yet all those volumes/decades later Mitsuhide is evidently still passionately devoted to Saburou, so thinking about how THAT will play out keeps me on the edge of my seat, which is in a way ridiculous, given how laid-back and slow-paced the manga is. (I just don’t want Mitsuhide to turn out to be evil! But just when one would think that Hideyoshi is the actual bad guy, as it so often is the case, he keeps getting close and dancing back every time!)

    And then there are the sideplots, like the running gag about how Saburou keeps unwittingly building up Ieyasu into the eventual winner of the scramble for unifying and ruling Japan, or Takenaka Hanbee and his low-key efforts at keeping tabs on Hideyoshi, or just everything Hideyoshi and his brother Hidenaga do.

    Oops… sorry for writing a novel, heh. I just love this anime and manga, and I wish more people talked about it…

    • It’s so great to meet a fellow NobuCon fan!

      Honestly I wanted to say a LOT more but I kept trying to keep it to a minimum because when I watched Nobunaga Concerto, I didn’t know anything about it except that a high schooler was going to switch places with Oda Nobunaga. What I got was such a wonderful surprise because I didn’t expect a story with a premise like this to have an intricate plot and very layered characters. My goal was to get people interested and come into the series just as fresh as I was.

      And yes! As much as people like to rag on CGI, I personally found Nobunaga Concerto to be very beautiful and cinematic. There’s something really charming about the art and even how the character animation’s stiffness was part of its style. It reminded me a lot of those old emaki-mono art, which is fitting considering the period the series is set it.

      I also enjoyed all the shoutouts to future historical events in the series, and how history could have been completely untangled if Saburo had been a history major. There’s something really entertaining about how his cluelessness ends up fixing the timeline, but it’s nerve-wracking when you also know it’ll lead to Nobunaga’s downfall.

      I haven’t started the manga yet, but I do hope that the anime will get a second season because I need to know how Saburo and Mitsuhide will eventually confront each other. It’s so hard to believe that the faithful Micchi would betray Saburo after his speeches of devotion for him, but with how closely the series has been following history’s events, we’re sure that it’s bound to happen.

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