There seems to be a lot of shows taking inspiration from the story of Oda Nobunaga lately, but I suspect none are quite like Nobunaga the Fool. Imagine, if you will, two worlds: the Star of the East, comprised entirely of traditional Japanese lands and personalities from throughout history – Nobunaga, Himiko, etc. – and the Star of the West, featuring historical (and fictional) places and figures from Europe and the Western lands – da Vinci, King Arthur, etc. These two worlds exist in what seems to be an isolated space, and like many mech-based shows, feature a strange mixture of low and high tech that allows for them to have archers facing mechs.
The basic premise is that Jeanne d’Arc has seen a vision which tells her to seek out the ‘Savior King’ essentially to save the world. Leonardo da Vinci decides to help her seek out the Savior King for unknown reasons, leading her from the Star of the West to the Star of the East where she meets Oda Nobunaga, the hotheaded and arrogant heir to the Oda clan. Shortly after meeting him, she gets the sense that he may be who she is looking for, so she attaches herself to his retinue and assists him in his goals.
The story sounds strange, I agree. But they make it work, creating an interesting dynamic of rivalries and personalities within the Star of the East which are contrasted well by the ideals of the Star of the West. The one thing you do have to be prepared for is a heavy dose of Japanese nationalism – even the ‘bad guys’ among the Star of the East’s characters are noble, honorable, and strong whereas most of the characters from the Star of the West are predominately defined by cruelty and expedience.
Most of the episodes are fairly well contained stories within the grander story arc. The episodes are defined by a tarot card that is drawn or viewed by some character throughout the episode – usually from da Vinci’s deck. The card foreshadows one of the critical events of the episode, although usually in an unexpected and interesting way.
But, as with all mech shows, story is secondary to hot mech on mech action. And Nobunaga the Fool is not lacking in that – each of the core characters ends up having their own distinct mech with powers representing their personality and you get to see a lot of battles where the mechs fight armies, vehicles, and most excitingly other mechs. These combat sequences are exactly what you hope for in a mech anime – exaggerated, overblown, and hilarious. They’re perhaps not as frequent as you might like, but they are exciting.
In the end… if you’re looking for a slightly more serious mech show than a lot of those that have been coming out this past year, Nobunaga the Fool is a good option.