Now, in theory Nobunaga the Fool seems like a show that I would like. As a concept, I like how the setting is this sort of futuristic re-imagining of history, with Eastern and Western cultures being divided into two small planets with some mythology about dragons connecting them. (Albeit in this case “Eastern” and “Western” might just mean Sengoku period Japan and medieval Europe.) And as a concept, I like how the cast is a hodgepodge of anime-fied historical figures. There’s a lot of ways they can play around with anachronisms while also creating a nice high fantasy setting.
In practice though? Utterly asinine and inane.
First, nothing really makes sense about Nobunaga. With a high fantasy setting like this it can take some time to fully explain just how everything clicks together, so it’s fine that I don’t really get the big picture just yet. The problem with Nobunaga is that there’s not enough straight-up dry exposition, and too much visual exposition.
What do I mean by that? Well, there’s essentially two different types of exposition: Showing, and telling. Or as I like to call it, visual exposition and dry exposition. (No idea if there’s any academic terms for these, so I’m just making up my own.) Dry exposition is where a narrator or character explicitly explains to us through words what’s going on and how things work. Visual exposition is when the story just does its own thing, and the events speak for themselves so that we the audience can infer what’s going on.
The reason Nobunaga fails in this regard is there’s just too much going on. One minute we have some threesome of kids discovering the plot of their enemy nation, the next they’re cursing the horrors of war after their base was invaded by mechas. Meanwhile we also have to keep track of a well-endowed Jeanne d’Arc who’s regarded as a demon, and who meets a pretty boy Leonardo da Vinci; then suddenly they’re stealing a space ship and crash landing onto the Eastern star.
It’s confusing. It feels like what should have been two separate introductory episodes squished into one, with little time to really explain what’s going on. This is especially jarring because it’s all taking place in a high-concept setting, where we barely have any grounding or understanding of the setting to begin with.
But I’ll admit, maybe I’m being a bit biased here. After all, Sasami-san@Ganbaranai employed some pretty jarring visual exposition and I still liked that show. Which brings me to the other reason I’m disliking Nobunaga it so far: It’s silly, and I don’t really like the characters.
Taking historical figures and turning them into generic anime archetypes just makes it all the more apparent just how boring these characters are to begin with. They’re cliche and hardly have any life written into them. Plus their character designs, although creative, are distracting with how eccentric they are. If viewed as still images they look nice enough, but don’t really work for animation.
But hey, if you look past the confusing exposition and shoddy characters, it’s not that bad of a set-up for a story, right? It’s not very promising by any stretch of the imagination, but maybe things will get better once Nobunaga has more time to flesh out the characters and setting. Maybe. Probably not.