What They Say:
Long ago, in an age when the cosmos was still known as Chaos, the world was split into two planets, forming the West and East Stars. After years of war and strife, the Western Star has finally become united under a single king, the legendary Arthur. But conflict still threatens to consume all until hope arises in a vision: a vision of a champion who could save the futures of both worlds.
Setting forth on a dangerous journey, Joan d’Arc must travel from the West world to the East, seeking the man she believes can use the devices of the great Leonardo Da Vinci and become their savior. But will Nobunaga Oda be the kind of man they are expecting? Will history’s greatest heroes find themselves choosing not a liberator, but a destroyer? Or is Nobunaga’s role that of the Fool from a deck of Tarot, the wild card whose purpose is to invoke change, no matter what the cost?
Contains episodes 1-13.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the new English language adaptation, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is one that works a solid balance between the dialogue and action sides of it as each is given plenty of due. The action component works well with the mecha at hand here and the style of combat that’s put into play as it moves about the screen or makes an impact, though it’s still kept within the confines of a standard stereo mix. There’s some good depth at times with it as events move across the screen and while it may not be a standout action series from an audio point of view, it’s quite competent and fits the material well. Dialogue is in a similar position where it too works well with what it’s being set to and we get good placement and directionality throughout that keeps it flowing well. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2014, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episodes for this set are spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second. Animated by Satelight, the series has a solid and distinctive look about it and the transfer captures it quite well as there’s some great detail to the backgrounds and mechanical design that we get throughout it. The character designs are no slouch themselves and that helps to give it a very rich feeling overall while also highlighting the fluidity of the animation throughout. The color design is really good here as it works between different worlds and styles while still finding some commonality about it that ties it all together. I’ve long enjoyed Satelight designed series, even though many dislike the CG/mechanical design, but this one has some interesting ideas about it with the timeline combinations.
The packaging for this release is done with a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the two discs against the interior walls. The front cover is one that works in its own way but does feel murky and crowded when it needs to be more colorfully distinct. What we get is Nobunaga himself amid the title along the bottom, with part of him obscured by it, while behind and above him we get The Fool itself. That dominates the image and with it being so dark, it doesn’t offer any good detail or things to latch onto as a casual viewer. The Western Star world figures into the background as well and we get a very soft colored image of Joan being all tied up and ready to be torched. The pieces are all right, but the combination and color just doesn’t work. The back cover gives us a better full color image of Joan with her sword along the right and there’s a decent mix of character images from the show above and alongside her that gives it a bit more color. The premise takes up most of the space on the left where it’s done within the framing of a tarot card and it works pretty well overall with the softer color design. The episode and disc count is clearly listed as are the extras. The production credits has a good classic look here with gold over black while the bottom fills out with the technical grid in a clear and clean way that’s accurate and problem free. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release is pretty nicely done and more detailed than I expected in some ways. The general layout is one that’s familiar with a static image that takes up most of the screen while the right side gives us the navigation. That navigation itself has a bit of a classic look to it with some really ornate aspects within the framework of it, as we get the episodes broken down by number and title. The static image is where things really work well, especially with the first disc as we get a close-up headshot of Nobunaga along the far left while behind him is an array of tarot cards done with pieces from the show that’s really appealing and very detailed. Submenus load quickly as it’s a straightforward release with the languages being the main thing and extras on the second disc along with the trailers.
The only extras on this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An original work created by Shoji Kawamori that also involves a stage play series, Nobunaga the Fool is a twenty-four episode TV series animated by Satelight. The property is one that plays to a reworked history and alternate world in a significant way but with familiar elements, which can be a lot of fun but also frustrating. When the show was first simulcast, I had tried the first episode but found it so off-putting that I walked away from it entirely. And spent the rest of my time dreading it being licensed and then eventually released, because I’d have to go through the whole thing and try to make sense of it. Thankfully, it happened just like that and now I’ve seen the first half and have somehow fallen in love with it and can’t wait for the back half to come out. Sometimes a show just manages to work better when you marathon it and when you don’t give up quickly, as it results in discovering a gem like this.
Taking place in the Warring States period of history, we’re introduced to a setting where there’s a Western Star and an Easter Star, essentially two closely linked planets that have the look and feel of Earth. The Dragon Veins energy source/spiritual aspect connects both worlds and each of them plays out as the east and west do here. Though the Veins, there are ways to move between the two worlds as we get an advanced technology here that creates mecha for people to pilot, floating castles that traverse the sky and ships that cross between the worlds. But it’s aligned against an older feeling, more so in the Eastern Star where most of the series takes place at first here, as we see the way there are many familiar Warring States era feudal lands, mini-nations, traditions and superstitions that comes into it. It has the aura of familiarity as we get to know the Oda lands and the young man Nobunaga, who struggles against the calm and restrained approach his father takes to the world.
Into his life a lot of complications are arriving, as events in the Western Star are causing them to look eastward. With the Dragon Veins not being as strong as they once were, King Arthur and his roundtable are intent on essentially uniting the two worlds under his rule through conquest. While this starts into motion, through his use of a mecha pilot and roundtable member named Julius Caesar, he also loses Joan Kaguya d’Arc at the start as she’s had a vision of the true Savior King and has realized that it’s Nobunaga. In order to be sure that it’s him, she heads there with the help of Leonardo Da Vinci to connect with Nobunaga and see if he’s the real thing. It’s a series of action oriented complications that brings them all together, but Nobunaga is the decisive and instant type that looks for opportunities and seizes them right from the start. The arrival of a fortune teller and a man with gifts in the sciences and technology has him ablaze with excitement and purpose, but it also makes it difficult when it comes to his father and advisors. Especially since a pair of advisors are intent on removing him from the path of power because of the threat he represents and whatever goal they’re really working towards. Nobunaga’s grown up going after life and living it to the fullest, which doesn’t play well with so many that are all about tradition and doing things in the prescribed way.
There is a lot going on over the first thirteen episodes we get in this set as it introduces a lot of characters, touches on the historical side in many ways, and plays to the action in a big way. Nobunaga is the driving force and we see how his compelling presence brings many to him, such as a bride from another nearby nation that he agrees to an engagement with in order to gain access to an alliance with her people. We also get some solid time in the first half as Nobunaga and the Oda have to deal with Shingen Takeda and his intent to conquer, which leads to some great action sequences and even better material with the two men sitting, talking and drinking together about honor and he meaning of being a man. Other historical characters show up as well, such as Kenshin and a few more from the Western Star that are along the edges here, ready to make their greater move – including Alexander the Great, a certain Borgia and even Charlemagne. Add in Eastern Star members like Mitsuhide and Hideyoshi and it’s almost a who’s who of history.
But this kind of convergence of characters from different periods shouldn’t work, especially as you add in the Sacred Treasures that exist which lets the pilots that have bonded with their mech to utilize elemental abilities as well. But through the sheer force of Nobunaga’s character, they manage to make it work and to make it an absolute blast to watch. What we get here is a show that’s playing to big themes with a backdrop that picks and chooses from history and creates its own setting to work in. Watching as Caesar becomes a brutally key player in events, and to see how the winds of war can change a character’s direction so easily, is great. The supporting cast all have their own arcs, but they’re kept appropriate and blend into the overall tapestry of the story to enhance it rather than being a problematic subplot.
I cannot express the dread I had for this series after the initial simulcast exposure that had me dropping it in the first episode, which was hard enough to finish. Yet here I sit, having watched this first half in full, and have fallen in love with it in a big way. Reworking historical material in a new setting and design isn’t easy and there are plenty of holes within the way the world works that will drive some viewers nuts, but when taken as a sprawling epic in an operatic or stage play sense, you look past that and just enjoy the largeness of what it wants to be and do. A lot of this is all foundational in introducing us to this world, but once it sets up those basics, it goes to change everything and move Nobunaga forward as he has to contend with attacks from all sides, all while he just wants to get out there and change the world by his force of will. Seeing him achieve it, suffer serious setbacks and do the hard work of it all is thoroughly engaging, especially with some great character animation, action sequences with the mecha and a world design that really demands greater exploration. Worth the risk and worth sitting down and just marathoning it hard to get into it all at once.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: A-
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: April 28th, 2015
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.