What They Say:
Sio Ogura is a shy misfit who’d rather talk about tanks than gossip about girl stuff. She’s plagued by reoccurring dreams of ancient battle scenes, and her only friend is a kindhearted popular girl named Asao. But Sio’s life takes an explosive turn when a school field trip is interrupted by an outbreak of Evolutionary Invaders: hideous alien creatures hell-bent on nuking the planet.
During a daring attempt to rescue Asao, Sio discovers that she’s an E-Gene Holder: the reincarnation of a historical figure capable of summoning special weaponry. Possessed by the spirit of legendary warrior Oda Nobunaga, Sio joins forces with the reincarnated versions of Jack the Ripper, Galileo, and Geronimo for a high octane alien shooting spree. Survival is a longshot, but in the battle to save humanity, Sio’s the girl with the biggest gun!
The audio presentation for this release is pretty good all around as we get the original Japanese language in stereo as well as the English language dub in 5.1, both of which are encoded with the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series is a largely action based one and both tracks handle it very well, giving it plenty of impact where it hits and using the forward soundstage to good effect. With the kind of action there is across several very different locales, it all has a good flow to it with some strong punctuated sounds from the various weapons and just the craft and aliens themselves. The dialogue side is done just as well as it’s often caught up in the action, but the quieter scenes work some decent placement from time to time as well as depth as there’s some scale to various scenes thanks to the way events play out. Dialogue itself is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems 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 are spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second. Animated by studio Bridge, the show has a pretty good look about it with some decent detail and a good sense of fluidity in the high action scenes to give it a good look. The show is one that certainly has its own distinctive look to a degree, and the transfer captures it well with the detail holding strong and the colors solid throughout. The fluidity of the show is what holds up really well here in some of the wackier action scenes, but the color tone of the series is one that definitely comes across well here. The transfer is pretty much problem free outside of some minor noise in some of the darker scenes, as the details hold strong and there’s nothing noteworthy related to line noise.
The packaging for this limited edition release is pretty fun and vibrant in its own way as we get a heavy chipboard box that holds the two Blu-ray cases inside, each of which holds either the DVDs or Blu-ray’s for this combo set. The front of the box has a good image of Ogura in her transformed mode with the weapon flowing out from her. With the school uniform and the gold metallic design of the weapon, it’s darker in that area, but it’s contrasted by the reds of the background itself with the camouflage design. The back of the box goes with the same design but puts Adam here in his Jack the Ripper mode, which is filled with reds and silvers and some good dark shadows. Within the box we get the two cases, where they feature Ogura in the foreground with her weapon active and as others surround her from the supporting side and the aliens. The Blu-ray case stands out with its red background and it complements the other case with the darker green that it uses for the background. These both wrap around to the back where there’s a lot more of the cast that looks great with some good detail and overall design. The reverse sides have the character artwork from the box on them and the same red camo background with a little additional symbolism to be had on the opposite panel as well.
The menu design for this release is one that plays to some of the design themes of the show as we get the menu strip along the bottom that has its background done as the pink and red camo design. The navigation runs across the whole thing with highlight boxes as the cursor moves across, making it easy to see what’s selected. The series logo is kept to the upper middle of the screen while the rest of it has clips from the show playing throughout it. It goes for more of the action here than anything else, which works well enough, but it also goes for some of the darker colored ones, which while not murky, certainly sets the right kind of tone for a good chunk of the show, though not the comedic side. The menu functions well enough as the pop-up menu, but it lacks some stronger design elements to really feel like it fits in well.
The extras for this release are pretty straightforward as English language fans get a pair of audio commentaries from the voice actors and we also get the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Masato Hisa of the same name, Nobunagun is a thirteen episode series animated by studio Bridge that aired in the winter 2014 season. The original manga began back in 2011 and it’s a slow moving one with just five volumes to its name so far, so there’s not a ton of material for it. The show is one that I definitely appreciate for some of the things it does, as it plays with the historical context but works it with a number of figures worldwide rather than just Japan, and it plays with its lead character in a pretty good way. It also doesn’t hurt that the show just has a heck of a lot of fun with the animation and action as well, making for a strong work just in that arena alone.
The premise for the series is straightforward enough as we get a present day setting where the world is about to learn that there’s a far larger threat out there coming to get them. Seeded hundreds of years ago in advance of the arrival of alien invaders, known as Evolutionary Invaders, a lot of creatures were placed into the depths of the ocean to that are now surfacing to cause trouble. This is something that a select few have known about for almost as long, as there’s an organization known as DOGOO that has been preparing for this day for centuries. They’ve been fighting quietly in a low way for awhile, but when the beasts make a very public landfall along the shore of Taiwan, that makes it clear to the world that things are going on. And DOGOO does the right thing in coming clean, a bit, and admitting to their own existence and their plans to fight back. That does have all nations agreeing to them far too easily, but that’s not where the show wants to concern itself.
Our introduction to this world comes through Sio Ogura, a high school girl who was visiting Taiwan as part of a school trip and got caught up in the attack. When she sees various people against the invaders, she ends up trying to help out, mostly to help a friend who herself was injured in the attack, and discovers she’s one of the rare breed of people that have an E-gene, or Evolutionary Gene. When combined with a certain device, she’s able to utilize powers that let her fight back against the creatures. This is because she’s able to initially unlock a connection to the past that can guide her in a way and offer up wisdom and abilities. Her first encounter with someone like this is a young man that can channel Jack the Ripper, though amusingly his own historical background is rewritten in a great way here where it flips the script on it. For Sio, she embodies that of Oda Nobunaga, one of the more troublesome men of Japanese history, but the kind of fighter and strategist needed to defeat the enemy.
The show works as you can imagine as Sio gets drawn into the DOGOO organization and understands the scale of what’s going on and the various platoons that exist the circle the Pacific ocean to deal with the threat. She gets aligned with the 2nd platoon and that has her working with Jack, who there is potential for a relationship there, but it’s not a main subplot or focus, though it gets a few well placed moments from time to time. The DOGOO organization is fun to watch as we see other historical figures operating here, from Ghandi to to Newton and even Gaudi. Some are given lip service overall as there’s only so many to focus on, but one of the other platoons gets most of an episode to themselves. The alien invaders themselves get far less time in a sense, because all we see of them is that they’re adapting/evolving insect like creatures here in order to cause chaos on the surface, with the main goal of making landfall after evolving out of the ocean. So it doesn’t dig deep into them.
Though the series is straightforward and it is somewhat predictable overall, it has a lot going for it. One of those things is the way it works the DOGOO organization itself. The command level of it is really interesting in terms of scale and I wish we had more than we got with it, as a good chunk of one episode is devoted to it. The only reason this organization exists is because of the alien that goes by the name DOGOO, whose own world was lost to these invaders. It came to this world two thousand years ago to help seed the E-genes into humanity so they had a fighting chance when the Evolutionary Invaders main force actually arrives. When he arrived, he “raised” the Commander, a young girl herself, and gave her knowledge to help him achieve his goals. She spent a lot of her time in stasis over the centuries, but came out and lived normally in the past century, making her an old woman now. She brings a different kind of wisdom to things and I loved her design and sense of scale with all of this. Similarly with her second in command, St. Germain, a seemingly ageless man himself. The trio makes for an intriguing command layer with some sharp observations along the way along with commentary that helps to flesh it all out.
The other thing that I really liked about the show is Sio Ogura herself. We get it made clear right from the start that she’s your typical shonen male lead in a girls body. She’s into the military stuff, knows all the names and identifications, and has a general grasp of strategy right from the get go, which is well aided by Nobunaga after she’s unlocked. She doesn’t spend much time struggling with what they’re facing overall, so it’s not overly dramatic, but she does have to cope with it some. But she’s more intent on learning, getting better at what she can do, and really shining along the way as she channels her inner Nobunaga to really achieve something that surprises everyone else. While they’re all gifted individuals because of the E-genes, she takes it to a whole other level. She retains her feminine side overall, but she largely plays what’s usually the male role here and without anything really made of it, by other characters or herself. That makes it very refreshing to watch.
After seeing so many series over the years that deal with Oda Nobunaga, I’ll easily admit some trepidation with another. As I’ve found, there are plenty of by the numbers shows out there about him, but also some creative ones that really have some fun with it. Nobunagun is definitely one of those, since it plays the historical figures accessed in the present to combat an alien invader motif. Comic Earth Star works have been pretty interesting for me in the last few years and this one definitely was adapted well, having a sense of an opening adventure work where there’s closure, but plenty of room for more adventures to be had. This release brings everything together well, with a solidly put together Blu-ray release, some good extras for English language fans on top of a dub that should please, and a story that has some great moments to it and a fun reworking of historical figures. I had tempered expectations going into it, but came away very happy about it as a whole.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode Commentary, Textless Opening and Closings
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: June 2nd, 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.