Series Recap: Nobunagun

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So I might as well say this: If you want an abridged version of what I’m about to say, our good friend Moecharacter did a Nobunagun review that basically hits my points.  I have stuff to add (I ALWAYS have stuff to add), but we basically share an opinion on the series. Other than perhaps our opinions on tentacle rape, which would be one of the five food groups if I had my way.

Nobunagun is a different creature than we have encountered here.  It is not insubstantial like BlazBlue. It is not great like Sakura Trick or KILL la KILL.   Neither are its flaws numerous like Machine Doll, or its good points so backseat that they only inspire apathy like Strike the Blood.  It is, rather, like a car with square wheels.  Sure, it has good parts. The seats comfortable and doors sturdy.  And out of the 70 pieces that went into constructing it you scored pretty good on about 66 of them.  But those couple of parts that you missed are SO glaring that the whole just isn’t going to work.

I admit when I adopted my “wild card” system, choosing a few series based on their premieres, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to find one.  It was a sense of dread, honestly.

But I fell in love with Nobunagun right away. Here it was.  The sophisticated action show with subtext and character study and amazing energy that the anime community had been searching for.

And more than anything, I fell in love with Ogura Shio. She was such a brilliant, fresh kind of character we had never really seen before.  Her interests were relatively masculine, that of tanks and weapons and guns, but her personality was very feminine, full of cute expressions and speech, socially awkward, and really this child-like optimism about her.  She has visible weaknesses but always just barely overcame them, a visible struggle we could connect with. And for all the things that would eventually go wrong for the series, the character of Shio was never one of them. So let’s get into this show.

But if you’re looking for a relatively spoiler-free review…here it is.  Shio Ogura is the reincarnation of Oda Nobunaga, and uses her powers to fight aliens. Nobunagun is a middle of the road action series.  Not bad, not exactly great, but reasonable entertainment that comes recommended, and will probably not blow your mind. Continue reading

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Double Feature: Nobunagun 12+13

Fight fight fight, fight fight fight…

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I rarely like double featuring ends of series, but both Nobunagun and KILL la KILL have presented us with basically nothing in the semi-finals, so with tiny word counts I don’t feel so bad extending them.

In the annals of history, great rivalries have sprung up. Light and dark, Hatfield and McCoy, cat and dog…Japanese girls and tentacles.

The Battleship that’s been destroyed has given birth to a new and improved armored version, which has been given all the information from the previous battle with Shio.  She’s fighting like a champ, but she keeps running into dead ends in her tactics.

Cutting to the land fight we are treated to Geronimo losing her temper and engaging her super-duper combat mode.  Why is crazy so damn hot?

Hunter isn’t handling combat well. He’s a lab assistant, not a fighter.  But in getting monster blood all over himself, the Evos seem to be ignoring him.  After some finagling, Hunter realizes that the Evos are using pheromones to identify friend from foe since they are sea-based and don’t yet have eyes adapted to land.  He devises a compound to neutralize the friendly fire signal, so the Evos start slaughtering each other.

There’s a nice interlude this episode with Asao on a train assuring civilians that Shio’s going to wreck the Evos.

With the land battle wrapping up, Jack is told by his E-Gene that Shio needs his help.  He bolts off through the air, and we are shown…! His “Nightingale Mode”

Now at first we might say “well maybe Jack has 2 E-Genes.  But as we established last time, the trasmitter devices are more likely to die out than find two in any SINGLE person. But clever.

No, as we enter the finale, we are treated to a flashback that shows Florence Nightingale IS Jack the Ripper.  Damn…just…yeah, fucking damn.

Nobunagun has latched onto Jack the Ripper mythos, saying that the murders were in fact committed by Florence Nightingale in her later years.  She seems to possess some kind of power in her eyes that allows her to see where she is needed.  It seems odd, but we do know by St. Germain’s example that supernatural powers do exist in the Nobunagun universe, so we’ll roll with it. Continue reading

Double Feature: Nobunagun Episodes 10 + 11

They fight, and fight, and fight and fight and fight…

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Okay, my finger hasn’t been burning the last couple days, so I think it’s okay to put some stress on the left hand. Huzzah! Time to play catch-up.

Nobunagun 10 gives us a bit of backstory on the Commander, before diving into the final battle that will come to dominate the remainder of the series.

I have to admit I am flummoxed as to why they felt this was necessary.  Let’s go, Samurai Kyubey.

It’s the third century, and the Commander is a little girl.  Her village, it seems, has been burned to the ground.  It’s in Japan, which is interesting.  She mentions “Himiko-sama”.  Now according to Chinese records, prior to this period the islands lived in a feudal system of over two dozen tribes with “a shaman queen”, whom they named Himiko.  It was eventually replaced by a five-empire system of strong military states.  In effect, the Commander is from the transition period of this feminine empire (from what we can tell, she was an elected ruler) to the Imperial-samurai system we know so well.

Is that really important? Not really. I just wanted to point it out.  It would be nice if it had much bearing on the story but that would be hope. And, on this blog, hope comes here to die.  Still, I’m a little impressed about the detail as traditional Japanese history has tended to expunge the fact they ever willingly submitted to a woman.

No, instead, Samurai Kyubey just kind of whisks her away to help him acquire souls of Humanity’s best and brightest. Most disconcerting is that her first nap in stasis is 300 years long.  Yes, Samurai Kyubey abducts a little girl like a stray and keeps her in stasis until he needs her help retrieving blood samples.  What? Is she sleeping with all of them? Probably.

Continue reading

Nobunagun: Episode 9

Author’s note: The next few reviews have been delayed, but I can’t put them off anymore, because my life has been hectic and depressing of late.  Some of my sour mood will probably spill over.  So take these opines with a grain of salt.

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This weeks Nobunagun demonstrated the aspect of human nature that craves and idolizes that which it cannot have. A look into the psyche about not always getting what you want.

Yes I’m referring to the audience, why do you ask?

Nobunagun finally played the Asao-san card.  And…I know I’ve been yelling for this for weeks…but…in the end, I think Nobunagun was too certain of its own conclusions to actually get what they wanted out.  This isn’t even about the blow to our yuri-goggles this week, but that just compounds the frustration.

We begin with Shio waking in a hospital.  Apparently the Commander gave Shio one day in the hospital in her native country as a favor.  We know it’s only one day because St. Germain is here to tell Shio she’s back on active duty TOMORROW.

God I hope the plane fare was worth it.  Seems like you could have treated her on-site and she’d be fixed before the plane even landed if all she has is a sprained ankle.  Well at least DOGOO is as competent in its fiscal division as research or combat.

Now, in what are probably the first shots fired for the conclusion of the series, it seems that the Evos have been launching a total attack. Everywhere. All at once.   They know the jig is up on their main base, so in order to buy time they are throwing everything they can at Humanity.  DOGOO is holding, so there’s no critical disasters yet, but neither will Team1 and Team2 be receiving any backup when they launch their final attack on the tunnel-base. Things are just stretched to the limit right now.

It turns out what the Evos are guarding is very likely some version of stem-cells. Suddenly Evo evolution is completely synonymous with Earth evolution, which is how we determined this. See, Vidocq deduces that since the guard Evo was a squid type, and several of the kaiju they’ve sent at the mainland has been vertebrate, that there must be a source material that allows the Evos to go in either direction.  A sort of genetic forge where they turn out the latest and greatest models of cars, boats, AND planes.

Of course there are several explanations that might just as easily fit, say, Evos can reproduce down caste lines and evolve between generations, but we will give them the benefit of the doubt on this one that they actually know this based on dissection, and not just by looking at a picture and saying “must be.” Continue reading

Nobunagun: Episode 8

Shio, you got some essplainin to do…

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Okay…fair enough, I am willing to give you a holding action on Asao content, Nobunagun.  But the cheap dream sequence really takes the teeth out of it.

I would kill to see just a little phone call between the pair every episode or two.  Something that just reminds us how important the pair is to each other.  Which this does, certainly, from Shio’s perspective.  So I let it slide, but “real” interaction would be much nicer.

Shio’s dream, specifically, is a beach scene where her brain is trying to sort out this relationship mess.  It is a very strange concept, to me, seeing Shio is so old and these are basic feelings she must have confronted by now at least once or twice.  So, Shio’s brain definitely likes seeing Asao in skimpy swimsuits.  That’ll do, Brain, that’ll do.

One by one the cast enters, first Jack, being his normal fed-up self.  And then Gandhi, who for some reason in this dream is shipped with Jack.  Did not see that coming. Then again Gandhi has hit on just about anything he meets, it’s just his team is mostly female between Shio, Newton and Galiko.  So extending that to Jack really is not a big personality stretch.  And it’s just silly.  And it’s a dream! Silly is fine.  My favorite bit is the “Nice Couple?” label at the bottom in rainbow letters.

Asao’s reactions are nice.  They don’t actually tell us anything about HER character, so much as how Shio perceives Asao.  Or should I say, wants to perceive her.  She is doing that very, well…that very Japanese thing of whittling down “Is that your lover? Is that? Is that? No? Then…you’re single?”  And the face she makes when Newton arrives and picks Shio up in her arms…And her very dejected looking face at Newton’s arrival. “It’s okay Shio, I’ll always be your friend.”

I think it’s important to note that it wasn’t Jack, whom Asao seemed to regard with bemusement, but Newton, the other -woman-, that makes this dream-Asao take her leave. Is that subconscious? Is this actually a reflection of Shio’s brain? “Jack’s cute and all but…but he’s a guy. He’s not a real threat.”?

Just as likely it’s to make Newton obnoxiously sexually aggressive as Shio wakes up in a cold sweat…only to see Newton staring at her, lying in her bed.  So maybe all those things Newton said were what she whispered in Shio’s ear while she was dreaming. Who knows.

Cutting to the meta-plot, Vidocq has sent Team 1 to scout for an underwater passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.  We’ll forgive the comic book science involved.  And boy have they found it. It’s crawling with Evos and it’s bad enough that Team 2 is going to be sent to back them up.

A nice touch as Jack’s briefing them on the details, Shio’s eyes in her contemplation are the Nobunaga eyes, those slightly rounder, more determined looking ones. I also like this scene as it’s very front-line.  The fighting teams may be the focus characters, and do all the heavy lifting, but in the end they’re just the muscle.  It’s the brains in Vidocq and the Commander who do the “important” work, and the soldiers feel content to leave it at that, Jack in particular seems to have accepted that his insight isn’t going to be very useful. Continue reading

Nobunagun: Episode 7

The boom boom, it rhymes with doom doom.

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Nobunagun’s back on the right track, at least.  There is STILL an absence of Asao, and I am not pleased with that, but the other elements managed to play to Nobunagun’s strengths: ‘Splosions and Shio’s crazy-yet-adorable-bloodlust.

This week opens on an American carrier group being attacked by an Evo…an Evo?   Oh not exactly.  It’s a battleship! YOU SUNK IT!  It’s a sunken hulk, that’s been covered in Evos like moss. Or maybe more appropriate barnacles.

One of Nobunagun’s best strengths has been to use its universe in creative ways.  Like Newton. On first glance her power was kind of limited, but it’s really been utilized in new and interesting ways on the three occasions she’s had to do something.  This new enemy is the same way.  It would be really easy for Nobunagun to just have a new monster every week with a gimmick power.  This time it is a corruption, taking something familiar and turning it alien.

Well, Shio, good old adorable Shio, ahhhh, is able to identify not just the kind of ship, despite it being a rusted hulk covered in creeper, but is able to name it: The Musashi.  Okay that’s a little easy, as there are only two of its kind in history.  Still impressive.

And, it’s time.  You can’t have an anime featuring military politics without the Americans playing obstinate jackasses.  They insist they will handle the Musashi.  They even drop the N-word.

…I mean nuclear! Continue reading

Nobunagun: Episode 6

I wonder if Shio’s contract means she still gets paid for this episode…

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So, this episode I am lovingly calling, “John Carpenter’s Dominatrix Cut Away”. It’s a bit of a throwback of sorts to the classic 1960s era monster story, sometimes lovingly referred to as the “base under siege” story.  An isolated location, stressful, outside contact trying to destroy them, a traitor within, and the arriving heroes to make it all better.  If that sounds familiar, a lot of the greats have run with it, including Alien.

Only this time, our heroes, from squad 1, have arrived just a little too late.  Though while Squad 2 seems to be the squad of perverts, Squad 1 is the squad of assholes.  They’ve arrived at the tail end of the base under siege, and that is just so typically Nobunagun-dark I can’t help but grin.

There just isn’t much to say this week. It’s a homage to story types long passed.  We learn nothing new about the Evos, really.  And in all it’s hard to say that this episode will bear any weight on the future weeks.  It was a cute stand alone, and enjoyable for someone like me who likes these structural aspects to the stories in anime, not just the purty purty and dah feelz.

It introduces the squad 1 members, though they never even give one a proper name, body or E-gene, so it’s really hard to feel it’s a serious examination of the characters here. Continue reading

Nobunagun: Episode 5

Messy.

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There’s still  a bit of casting around for footing in Nobunagun this week.  That’s actually a crime, as many more like this and this “slump” is going to turn into “tone” for what has, until recently, proven to be the most exciting show of the season.

I still suspect Noragami will disappoint me, my feelings on Sakura Trick are that it is fully capable of doing that, too.  But, picking favorites, from the purely emotional level, this is the series I want to succeed most.

We start with the higher ups discussing Shio’s fate.  Capa complains that she doesn’t know the first thing about sniping, so it would be pointless to put her on a sniper squad right now.

Wait. Sniper Squad? Last episode didn’t we establish there are all of TWO long range fighters in DOGOO? Shio and William Tell?

DOGOO consistently puts the cart before the horse, I think.  If we have a bunch of specialists who could help a sniper, but have, until recently, only had ONE sniper, there is something structurally flawed with Humanity’s last defense.

I blame Samurai Kyubey. Continue reading

Nobunagun: Episode 4

First Nobunaga, now Galileo…science dictates there will be a Jack the Ripper series in the coming year. Science!

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Did you ever read the riverworld series? It is a science fiction story about what might happen if everyone who ever lived, from the stone age until the modern day, went to an afterlife of the riverworld (it may have a proper name but it eludes me) all centered around this river. Billions upon billions of souls walking around in fresh bodies.

Like all good sci-fi, while there was a plot, one of the interesting things riverworld did was explore the consequences of its universe.  This took many forms, but one that stuck with me was that there were all kinds of fellows proclaiming themselves to be Jesus Christ.  In one of the stories we met a man, just a little Hebrew carpenter from Roman times trying to make his way in the new world and mind his own business. “Hey aren’t you-” “Nope, you must be mistaken.”

Nobunagun reminds me of that.  If every anime just tried to be itself instead of trying to be the second coming to “save anime”, the whole field would be much more entertaining on the whole.

Because even though I feel Nobunagun’s flaws are starting to show, it still feels “genuine”. A show that’s just having fun and doesn’t give a crap what theorycrafters have to say.

That said, chinks begin to appear in Nobunagun this week.  We’ll get into that.

Also, yes, I’ve fallen a bit behind. Been a busy weekend, I haven’t even caught all of LAST week’s episodes. But they’re coming! Don’t worry! Like dragons.

So, further worrying my confidence in DOGOO, turns out they have two ranged characters! For the entire planet. Yup. Meaning prior to this series, if you needed something to be hit at range, you needed William Tell. If they were busy, sucks to be you.

Which I can buy.  For now. There’s no demonstrable way they have to detect E-Genes except random chance, and probably some way to measure the probability but wholly impractical for the entire population.  Though Samurai Kyubey, being directly responsible for this crap, probably gives them clues where he’s placed them. At least at birth, but that’s no guarantee.  It’s still something that, it feels to me, like there are WAY more E-Genes out there than are actually drafted, maybe 10% or less.  The only way we know about Shio is random chance, and if it weren’t FOR that random chance? The entirety of the southeastern United States would be helpless right now.

We also kind of dropped the drama of the crew kicking the bucket, shouldn’t there be more weight on Shio than is shown?

Okay that’s kind of a lie, she tries to made a platitude about how their death isn’t in vain…only for Jack to shut her down by just not giving a shit.  In fact, he expects her to fail.

I like Jack. Continue reading

Nobunagun: Episode 3

Yup, our show still has a pulse.

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Forgive me, internet, for I have sinned. I must confess a moment of weakness.  I feared Nobunagun might be slipping into generic wallpaper anime for a few moments there.

Cue the conclusion of the episode where we are right back to reality.  It was a very effective method, actually.  It worked not just in terms of framing the story, but on the meta level, for us the viewers. “You thought that life (anime) was going back to normal after the fresh smell wore off? NOPE!”

If there was a theme running throughout this week, it was “isolation”.  Shio is officially severing ties to her home, both metaphorically and physically, and, in a nice touch, digitally. Capa is isolated, both within his aging, feeble body and, it is hinted, socially from others, playing the part of cranky old man.  And even St. Germain, who judging by his role here as schoolmaster and war-room advisor, is probably based on the actual Saint Germain of Catholicism, the learned saint, stands apart from other E-Gene holders and their combat roles, roles so vital that they have “drafted” Shio, who will now be a high school dropout (I’m sure an honorary education is on its way somewhere down the line, but still).

Oh, and the THEME SONG. Didn’t really discuss this much last week, but the theme is nice.  It is…heavy fun. While fast paced, the visuals have this heaviness to them, especially the latter part when it becomes about drowning, the world becoming corrupted, and an ethereal Asao cradling a crying Shio while the song politely reminds us “there’s nothing you can do”….yeah…that’s not dark at all.

So, Shio arrives at the island she will be training at, somewhere in the tropics.  All with this music that is just SO Pokemon when you’re starting on your adventure.  I can’t help but feel the similarity is on purpose.  But Shio keeps falling asleep, even riding in a Humvee isn’t enough to keep her awake (you know how much Shio loves military equipment), though in hindsight it might be that Saint Germain purposefully drugged her somehow. Either way, she is left behind, the Humvee explodes in the distance, and Shio is attacked by Evo’s (I’m just going to call them Evo’s for now).

Psych! Danger room!

Specifically, it is the power of her new instructor, Robert Capa (the war photographer).  His E-Gene power is based on his camera.  Or rather…moving pictures, as we will see later on.  We get a brief moment where Old Lady and Samurai Kyubey (sorry I just don’t know their names) are debating if this really is the smartest course of action.  Samurai Kyubey is simple, logical….stop living up to your namesake so well, damnit.  He says Nobunaga’s power is necessary to win, so it only makes sense to rush Shio out as soon as possible.  Old Lady is less sure, and she seems to be, from her comments here and last episode, a little bitter that she lost her life to the DOGOO organization.  And while she agrees with Samurai Kyubey on the one level, on the emotional she seems to harbor a glimmer that Shio would turn them down and try to lead a normal life.

Well after failing her ambush miserably, not even killing one opponent, Shio is sent to her room to wind down.  She gets excited, ready to tell her mom and Asao that she’s arrived safely! Except…no cell signal. St. Germain explains to a furious Shio that she’s a soldier on a training compound now, and personal communications need to be restricted.  But he does ask if it is an urgent matter.  Through gritted, angry teeth, Shio responds with a firm “No.”  She then goes back to her room and starts beating her pillow into submission.

Shio is a very likable hero, and this is just one of many reasons.  She may be fuming, like any modern high school girl might fume, that her ability to text her family and friends even once a day has been lost.   But even when a convenient excuse comes up, she doesn’t try to abuse it.  And yet we still get to see a cute girl swing punches at stuff.  So this is win-win.

Cue training montage!  Well less of a montage, just a fast-forward “training!” episode.  And Shio is getting the full treatment.  Formal schooling from St. Germain on her E-Gene power’s mechanics, boot camp drilling, and danger room simulations with her E-Gene gun…her E-Gun. Sounds more science fictiony that way.

But even Shio’s will has to break sometime, and soon she’s sneaking around the base at night trying to find a way to contact her mom and Asao.  But…this is Shio, so she is soon distracted from her quest by some military airplanes in the hangar, and she can’t help but take pictures.  Side note: I love the little hearts around her as she’s gushing over things.  I wish I had those.

She then runs into the crew, a UN combined force that basically runs all the maintenance and piloting duties for DOGOO here.  On top of that, they are a unit that observes hurricanes, likely as part of their old cover.

And they all idolize her as the hero of Taiwan.  Careful Shio, you aren’t going to have this many guys trying to get into your pants until you’re playing World of Warcraft.   Continue reading