Production Studio: Bridge
Was this provided by the publisher? Yes
More Info: Anime News Network
We all love a good superhero story. We look up to and admire characters like Superman and Batman as they fight against the bad guys for great justice. Anime is no different, with countless shows in which characters with extraordinary powers fight the good fight. In the case of Nobunagun, though, we learn that not every hero is taken from this mold.
Sio Ogura is an average girl, who’s a bit of an outcast. As a socially awkward military otaku, Sio’s come to embrace the label of “lone wolf” as a means of hiding her despair. Recently, though, she’s been having odd dreams about famed warlord Oda Nobunaga and his battles during the Sengoku period.
Some want to break that mantle of loneliness, though. During a class trip to Taiwan, resident popular girl Kaoru Asao tries to break through Ogura’s persona and stoke the fires of friendship. Before that can take root, though, a monster attack by totally-not-Godzilla causes untold amounts of chaos. Ogura finds herself caught up in the situation when she runs into Jack the Ripper: a nasty fellow with mean slashing abilities. One thing leads to another, and Ogura winds up in the possession of a mysterious object, which grants her the powers of Oda Nobunaga himself.
After the dust clears and a bit of prodding from Asao, Ogura finds herself in the employ of the Defense Organization aGainst Outer Objects (DOGOO). DOGOO are an élite group of individuals, known as “E-Gene Holders,” who are the reincarnations of great historical figures. Together, these special folks are tasked with protecting the planet from all manner of threats.
So, yeah Nobunagun is a fun and entertaining action story that, at times, feels like some strange spinoff to Read or Die. I really dig the character of Sio Ogura, an ordinary (if not a bit quirky) individual who’s thrown into a situation where she has to grow and learn in order to save the world. I particularly like the fact that she has agency in her story, though it is clear that she might have been forced into it. Her journey from an awkward wallflower to a gifted strategist and warrior is truly fascinating to watch.
The rest of the cast received enough development at the outset that they could stand as characters, rather than grating stereotypes. I particularly like the fact that the E-Gene Holders, despite being based on historical figures, aren’t defined solely by their superpower gimmick. For example, the user Jess Beckham, who holds the E-Gene of Isaac Newton, has the ability to manipulate gravity and, in battle, she’s a bit hard-headed. But outside of battle she is quite affectionate towards others
The interactions between these E-Gene Holders are, at times, very humorous. One episode that comes to mind is Episode 6, when DOGOO’s First Platoon is introduced. The First Platoon consists of two girls, Lemon and Esui, as well as a young boy named Gaudi. Anyway, the group is sent to investigate an incident at a scientific base in the frozen tundra, leading to what amounts to an extended homage to John Carpenter’s The Thing. While the episode’s fairly predictable, it does a great job in showing the differences between the First Platoon and Ogura’s group. The episode paints a clear rift between the two, showing that Lemon’s crew bickers a bit too much, while Ogura’s group works fairly effectively as a coördinated team.
That being said, I do have a few issues with Nobunagun. In particular, it is quite dumb. The series often does not understand the basics of the science it uses to tell its story. For example, the changes in the monsters the Ogura and company fight could be chalked up to adaptation not evolution. Granted, science fiction is supposed to extrapolate from established science in a reasonable way, but Nobunagun’s logic is a bit far-fetched. Moreover, the show seems to revel in the on-screen action to the detriment of character and plot development. Episode 10 provides several much-needed answers and back-story, but then proceeds to raise even more questions.
To its credit, Nobunagun does try to sneak a few neat character moments into the last three episodes, but it feels a little forced by that point. The plot has several issues with narrative commitment, as Nobunagun adopts an episodic structure until the finale. In the final few episodes, the series tries to haphazardly tie the remaining plot points. As a result, the show just ends without any sort of resolution of the main conflict.
Yes, it’s yet another title that expects fans to hit up the original material for the full story. It’s rather telling when the show goes into a lazy autopilot epilogue halfway through the final episode.
Fortunately, Nobunagun sports truly impressive production values. Studio Bridge went all-out with the action sequences, which are beautifully choreographed and genuinely fun to watch. The highlight of the visual presentation, though, is the background art. An aspect of the production that fascinated me was the use of random color filters throughout the series, which were used to enhance the mood, or to emphasize emotional impact of the characters. Outside of battle, the presentation is serviceable. The animation is clean, and the visual style is consistent, outside of a few exaggerated comical moments.
Opening song “Respect for the Dead Man” by Pay Money To My Pain is really awesome, and gets me psyched for the show proper. The general soundtrack runs the emotional gamut, from wacky and goofy tracks to epic business for the battle sequences.
I must admit that I am ambivalent about Nobunagun’s dub. On one hand, Chris Bevins did a fantastic job directing the adaptation. The cast is strong, and their overall performances are strong. I applaud Jad Saxton’s performance as Ogura. She was able to convey the character’s metamorphosis from awkward teenage girl to badass gunner with ease. Jason Liebricht’s sublime portrayal of Jack the Ripper was the highlight of the dub.
On the other hand, J. Michael Tatum’s dub script fails to complement this. Tatum wrote the show in a rather fast and loose style, which made drastic changes to the show’s overall tone. The script is laced with profanity and “edgy” teenage dialogue. At the same time, it somehow manages to to be a bit too verbose in places. Then there’s the dated pop-culture humor, in which characters spout lines like “shake it like a Polaroid picture.”
At the end of the day, Nobunagun is a fun action show. Sure, it has issues with its story and dub, but the overall experience was more than enough to satisfy me as a viewer. I really dug what the show was doing, and admire the work that went into it.