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? Expect the unexpected as super-technology and giant robots collide with samurai warriors, and a pantheon of characters drawn from across history wage the ultimate battle against the forces of chaos in NOBUNAGA THE FOOL!
The Japanese 2.0 and English 2.0 audio tracks are encoded at 48 kHz at 224 Kbps. Audio plays an integral role in the enjoyment of the series, and with clear, well balanced stereo the audio doesn’t fail the video or the mood. Much of the series focuses on quiet dialog or background music to convey both information and emotion. During these scenes, the mix creates a nuanced world. When the show moves to battles and special effect filled scenes, the mix remains clear and punctuates the video. I listened to the entire series with the Japanese track, and I found the audio consistently good.
When I sampled scenes in English where dialog makes a difference, I found the voice acting ranged from great to stilted. Most of the primary characters and many incidental characters seemed above average, but one of the main characters sounded like someone reading aloud from a script he had never seen. The English dub Americanizes the characters with English slang, but I’m not sure that a dub fan will mind too much when the concept behind the scene has not been changed.
As originally released in 1.78:1, the video is encoded for anamorphic playback. Playback is variable bitrate. Colors and animation appear very strong throughout the collection. Battle scenes have been rendered in a manner that creates more fluidity than many similar shows released in the last few years, and the encoding does a great job of not disrupting the image with artifacts visible from a normal viewing position. The opening does not look as good as the show, but I can live with that when it does not affect the action sequences at the heart of the series.
Three discs are enclosed in a standard size keepcase. Discs 1 and 2 are on opposite sides of a hinged leaf, and disc 3 fits in a hub on the inside back cover. Each disc has a picture of Joan or Leonardo from behind as they are turned toward the designs that appear in this universe’s space. On disc 1, Joan wears her western clothes with her hair, dress, and necklace blowing to the right. Disc 2 features Leonardo reaching outside the disc with his right arm and dropping tarot cards with his left hand. Disc 3 has Joan in her male Eastern world costume. She draws a sword with her right hand from a sheath held at her waist.
The cover artwork shows Nobunaga, with sword raised, and The Fool battle armor. Joan is tied to a stake and fire surrounds everyone. One of the worlds frames Joan in space. On the spine, the collection number is at the top with the title underneath. The bottom third has an image of Nobunaga looking at the viewer from profile.The top third of the back cover offers an image of a giant armor with a sword through its back against the symbol rich space of the series universe. Small images from the series appear above the larger image of Joan in her western clothes as she draws a sword. The collection summary appears in a tarot card border. A clear listing of special features and more images from the collection appear below the summary. In the bottom quarter, credits fill in the space above the technical grid. The copyright information appears in small gold font on black on a black field.
Each disc has a menu with an image of a character on the left side with tarot cards in front of a map background. On the right side, episode titles, languages, and on disc 1, special features can be selected. Episode titles appear in white text on a black field with the tarot theme compass design on each side. Languages and special features appear in smaller boxes with orange font on a black field. Disc 1 has a picture of Nobunaga repeated from the spine of the cover, disc 2 has a picture of Joan in her western planet clothes, and disc 3 has a picture of Princess Ichi in profile. The Special Features menu has a picture of Leonardo with his right hand on his left chest.
The only extras are a clean opening and ending.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
A great mecha anime offers viewers well designed action scenes, a believable world where the action takes place, and characters developed well enough that a viewer can feel the drama, tragedy, and enthusiasm of the characters who battle. Nobunaga The Fool gives viewers all of these things, and in the 13 episodes of Collection 1, it does so with strong narratives and no filler.
One of the concepts of the show is the use of historical names to stereotype characters, but don’t worry about needing to understand history. Each character can be understood without any knowledge about the historical person. In some cases, I would rather they had other names so I would not have read too much into some characters.
Nobunaga takes place on twin worlds, the Eastern Star and Western Star ,that have had their cultures influenced by dragons. Both seem to have medieval cultures, but a power source, dragon veins, flows through the worlds, and this power can be accessed by sacred objects. Both worlds also have robotic armor and super powerful giant robotic armor. King Arthur rules over the Western Star, but the Eastern Star exists in a warring states period where clans of differing power spar and conquer. Nobunaga, the elder son of the Oda clan, rebels against the traditional beliefs and actions of his father. Oda does not have the power of other aggressive states, and Nobunaga believes the clan should begin taking steps to increase their power and holdings. His rebellious behavior and indifference to the vassals serving under his father make him an unpopular figure to become the future leader. He is known as a fool. His younger brother, a pacifist who does not seem capable of leading, becomes the favorite, so some vassals plan to kill Nobunaga before he has the opportunity to lead.
Leonardo, a scientist and inventor, steals away with Joan, a girl who receives premonitions and has heard the voice of God. They seek to find the Savior King who will unite the two worlds and restore balance to the dragon veins. They travel between the planets, and when nearing the Eastern Star, they steal a ship holding a giant robot armor. When they crash near Nobunaga and his two friends, he rescues Joan and pilots the giant armor. Joan and Leonardo begin to work with Nobunaga, and through the influx of western technology, the Oda clan begins to become stronger.
These episodes work through two story arcs. In the first, we witness Nobunaga mature as he faces off against an invading warlord who also has giant robot armor. He becomes engaged to a childhood friend who leads another country, and she gives him her sacred treasure to power up his armor. Upon learning about Leonardo and Joan’s escape, Arthur sends Caesar to the Eastern Star to stop their interference before it becomes a problem for the Western Star. Caesar’s actions facilitate the rise of Nobunaga to clan leader. The second arc is based on the new threats posed by Caesar who has begun creating alliances with other clans. Throughout all episodes, there is no down time as characters develop complex personalities through dramatic and emotional scenes.
Nobunaga’s side characters have incredible depth. One character has to come to kill an innocent person to prevent widespread deaths. We see important characters die, and then we get to watch how our primary characters deal with those deaths. As the story progresses, we see how people live with secrets that shape their own personal dramas within the epic scope of the larger narrative. We witness different kinds of sacrifice where characters give up their lives or happiness for the greater good of the planet. Watching the growth of the side characters demonstrates the exceptional quality of both the narrative and direction.
Art direction during the battle scenes also demonstrates a higher level of quality than I am used to seeing in contemporary mecha anime. The production values for the entire collection offers rich visuals of nature, settings, and characters. When battles occur, the level rises just a notch, creating a visceral experience where a sympathetic viewer can become engrossed in the emotions of the moment. The giant robots move swiftly with pleasing, fluid animation. An increased sense of action comes from nuances like cannons firing in a random pattern or the swift insertion of a blade into a mecha and through the pilot. It seems like there is always action during these battle scenes, and that enhances both the visual and emotional resonance.
Great anime can produce characters so rich and believable that a viewer can root with a character in battle or feel guilt for a character who betrays his own humanity. Nobunaga offers characters with great depth, and it produces a vivid world through great art and animation. Both artistic design and setting offer a world where this kind of story could take place. Both battle scenes and character interaction offer outstanding emotional potential that even surpasses my favorites of the past. Halfway through I feel involved and care enough that I know I will want to watch it again. I hope that Collection 2 will finish with the strength of these episodes.
I strongly recommend this to giant robot fans who want a well constructed drama with involving characters and action.
Japanese 2.0 language with forced English subtitles, English 2.0 language, Clean Opening and Closing, and Sentai trailers.
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: April 28th, 2015
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Samsung 40” LCD 1080P HDTV, Sony BDP-S3500 Blu-ray player connected via HDMI, Onkyo TX-SR444 Receiver with NHT SuperOne front channels and NHT SuperZero 2.1 rear channel speakers.