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Nobunagun: The Complete Series
When I first learned about Nobunagun, I was honestly pretty excited about it. It seemed to have a fantastic premise with characters having the DNA of famed historical figures, and the voice cast was pretty stellar. Then I read the reviews for it... I'd say "tepid" would be a kind word for it. There are a lot of 2 - 2 1/2 star reviews out there and of course like my own, they're entitled to their opinions. However, most reviews I've read approached Nobunagun like it's a serious show, when you should take this show at total face value. There's almost no depth to it, and it's simply a nonstop balls to the wall action thrill ride from start to finish.
The series starts off circa the 1500's in Japan following the exploits of one Oda Nobunaga (voiced here by Kent Williams.) For those of you who do not know who the real life Oda Nobunaga is, he was one of the most feared samurai's known to man, he eventually strove for great power, conquering a 3rd of Japan, and also initiated unification in Japan in the 16th Century. He conquered Japan until the day he died when one of his trusted subordinates staged a successful coup d'état, which ended with Nobunaga taking his own life with Seppuku, a ritual reserved for Samurai where one takes their own life via disembowelment from their own blade.
Fast forward to present day and we meet Sio Ogura (voiced by Jad Saxton.) Sio is a sheltered war nut who would rather spend her days talking about tanks and weapons of mass destruction than makeup and boys. During a class field trip to Taiwan, her fellow schoolmates are attacked by the same oceanic monsters that plagued her nightmares, losing her one and only friend, Asao (played by Mikaela Krantz), in the chaos.
Deciding she can't leave her friend behind, Sio decides to travel into some caverns where the monsters originated, eventually coming face to face with one after finding an unconscious Asao. Fearing for her life, she's suddenly saved by a man who makes quick work of the monsters with his sword, though he's injured when more arrive. Sio is drawn by a strange relic the man has dropped, takes a hold of it, and soon finds herself filled with wicked glee as her arm turns into a giant gun. Uncontrollable, Sio decimates everything in her path until nothing else stands in her way.
Sio quickly confronts the mysterious man, who introduces himself as Adam Muirhead (voiced by Jason Liebrecht), but asks Sio to call him "Jack." Jack explains that he's what is known as a E-Gene holder. An E-Gene holder is a person that through DNA manipulation is the reincarnated form of a past historical luminary. Jack goes on to tell Sio that he himself is a fellow E-Gene Holder, able to channel the spirit of Jack the Ripper, the notorious London murderer from the 1800's, when he takes ahold of the device known as an AU Ball, a specially made device that will call forth the weapons their respective historical figure was known for (I.E. Jack the Ripper using a blade.) Jack explains that he's there to recruit Sio to the organization tasked with bringing down the Evolutionary Invaders (the oceanic monsters), DOGOO (Defense Organization aGainst Outer Objects) as she may be the most powerful E-Gene holder of all, possessing the DNA of Oda Nobunaga.
Over the course of each of these 13 installments, we watch as Sio learns to develop her skills as an E-Gene holder, take on various missions with Jack, and with the help of fellow E-Gene holders like Geronimo, Galileo, Isaac Newton, Gandhi, and Antoni Gaudi, take on the evolutionary invaders and stop them from taking over the planet.
If there is one thing that I loved about Nobunagun, it's that it never stopped being fun and didn't take itself too seriously. The best part is that it has something for any anime fan; comedy, horror, drama, action, romance, and enough historical references that even the most passionate historian will be turning to google at some point. On the flip side of the coin, there were a few things that particularly annoyed me about the series as well, the big one being the wasted potential. Instead of capitalizing on Nobunangun's excellent setup, it decided to go for the most generic formula possible, where each episode features a new bad guy. Each episode introduces said bad guy, Sio and company hunt them down, beat them, repeat. Every single episode. I absolutely loved the idea of the characters being the reincarnated forms of historical figures, but the series did nothing with the idea. They don't explain HOW or even why it happened, it just is. It's glossed over for copious amounts of action. The other gripe I had with the series was that none of the characters, outside of Sio and Jack, received any kind of development, they're just there to help.
+ Fantastic dub work with the standouts being Jad Saxton's Sio and Jason Liebrecht's Jack the Ripper.
+ Excellent artwork.
+ The series never stops being fun.
- Save for the two main characters, Sio and Jack, no one is developed.
- Lacked depth to the overall story. The writers decided to go with an episodic approach to the story in favor of the more story focused series it could have been with its promising premise.
Video and Audio:
One of my favorite aspects of anime in general is the artwork, I love a unique production, and Nobunagun is exactly that, a series with a very unique animation quality. All of the character designs are unique, the image is sharp, the color palette is vibrant. Overall, Nobunagun is a striking production.
As per usual with FUNimation's releases, Nobunagun comes with both Japanese and English audio options, both of which are presented in a 5.1 TrueHD lossless audio track. Like I usually do, I watched the series in the newly created English dub while sampling a few episodes of the original Japanese. The sound mix is fantastic throughout with a dynamic range, the dialogue is crisp and clean throughout with no obvious signs of distortions or dropouts.
- Episode 1 commentary with Christopher Bevins, Jad Saxton, and Mikaela Krantz.
- Episode 13 commentary with Christopher Bevins, Jason Liebrecht, and Monica Rial.
- Textless Opening and Closing themes.
- Trailer for the US dub.
- Trailers for various FUNimation titles like Fairy Tail, Solty Rei, Ping Pong, Michiko & Hatchin, and Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040.
- The limited edition also comes with a sharp looking chipboard art box to house the series in.
Maybe it's because I went into Nobunagun with relatively low expectations due to the lackluster ratings I've seen, but I had a hell of a time with it. It's not the best show ever made, nor the worst, but it's a solid series with a good story (even if it's bogged down at times for being convoluted), a terrific voice cast, and a lot of fun action. I'll say it's recommended.