The moment you swing the sword you pledged upon,
You get hurt again
Biting down on my lip,
I try to figure out what is right
I will protect you, but before I do,
There’s something I must do
I’m not trying to stand out,
I just don’t want to be a liar
I live on the battlefield with my life on the line
Whenever I look back, you’re there to reassure me
The days of sorrow end and the sun of ambition rises
Let’s defeat fate and go as far as we want,
Linking the world
NOTE: Just this once, due to a variety of good reasons, I will maintain Eastern name order (surname first) for all characters mentioned in this post that use it in-series (for convenience’s sake, I’ll bold the given names the first time they show up, if necessary). Also, since a little historical knowledge enhances one’s experience of this series, I’ve placed links for most historical characters and events. Note that some characters are multiple historical figures merged together, so watch out for ones with multiple links.
While it’s arguably the entire basis for this segment, I must ask everyone reading this to, once again, leave their preconceptions at the door. Otherwise, you’d be leaving immediately the second you hear the premise and miss out on what was, in my opinion, the best anime of Summer 2012.
This week’s feature is The Ambition of Oda Nobuna (Japanese title: Oda Nobuna no Yabō, a fairly transparent reference to the Nobunaga’s Ambition game series), a light novel series that was recently adapted into anime and manga. Its basic premise is, in an alternate history version of Japan’s warring states period, it was decided that the first-born child (regardless of gender) would become their family’s heir. The justification being that a power struggle of any sort is an opening for your enemies to attack (and this is used in-universe to justify gender-flipping many, but not all, of the historical figures in it). The protagonist, Sagara Yoshiharu, is from the future (and has no idea how he got to the warring states era). He’s basically a huge fan of anything to do with that era, and therefore plays a large amount of games based on that time period. While protecting him, the (extremely) important Kinoshita Tōkichirō dies. Yoshiharu must now fill in his role in history.
Unlike most series of this type, the anime (mostly) does not play this up for fanservice (the novels are far more generic in that sense, but the anime toned it down and focused more on history). Instead, it seriously looks at what would happen if you snowballed the fact that most of the cast is gender-flipped, added a character from the future who can’t help but change stuff and snowballed that too. The heartless conqueror that was known as Oda Nobunaga is replaced with a dreamer called Oda Nobuna, for instance.
Yoshiharu, being from what we’d know as present day, is unable to actually fight on his own, so the series hands him a bunch of support, which mostly consists of characters that were turned into little girls. Luckily, these are actual historical people connected to the person Yoshiharu’s standing in for, rather than gratuitous original characters.
Conveniently enough, Yoshiharu’s name is such that he is able to take over Tōkichirō’s future nickname “Monkey” (Saru). Historically, that nickname was given due to Tōkichirō’s facial features, but our protagonist gets it from his demeanour and because Sagara Yoshiharu.
Something quite notable is that, on top of the aforementioned character fusion that was done (Goemon is one, for the record, and empress Himiko is three put together), they also sped up the entire era. Although we don’t even reach The Incident at Honnō-ji before the anime ends, the events that take place in the series based on over a decade of war, if I’m remembering things correctly. Speaking of that incident, it’s one of the things that Yoshiharu is trying to stop with his changes to the timeline. With everything he does, people end up surviving battles they should have died in, people historically at war end up at peace, etc. One even returns fairly prominently while wearing something that resembles a generic wrestler mask.
While the novels apparently had Yoshiharu learn how to use a spear, the anime cut this out and had him rely on his wits to outsmart the enemy, and the almost-empty battery of his not!iPhone to scare his enemies a few times. Yoshiharu being tactically smart makes a lot of sense when you realise that most games adapting that era in history are strategy games, so it’s not surprising that he’s able to do things like multiply money given to him for a mission by 7.5.
These changes to the timeline are actually rather interesting, but explaining them all would take forever (and they’re all spoilers for the series anyway), so I’ll just link you to Random Curiosity‘s coverage of the series. They have a “Historical Notes” section near the bottom of most of their posts on the subject.
This all adds up to a fun-to-watch take on Japanese history, ending on a sequel hook. I wouldn’t hesitate to watch a second season. You can watch it on Crunchyroll.
Women are not tools of conquest!