The selection of a tarot card binds the new with the old and highlights each act of Nobunaga the Fool, uniting the stars of the East and West in mythology and true legend. For this is the tale of The Lovers, one hailing from each star, drawn together by dream and destiny. On the Eastern star, a restyling of Japan in the Sengoku period, general Oda Nobunaga stands at the dawning of war, while Jeanne Kaguya d’Arc lives in a fairytale of provincial France. There she sees hellfire in her sleep, soon to be called awake by Nobu’s voice, just out of reach somewhere beyond a dream.
In the heat of battle between man and mech, so familiar yet quite unlike any anime of its kind, Nobu becomes suddenly aware of the magnitude of war. But close to a breakdown, he steels his heart and determines not to run or give up. When the nature of war changes, he says, the times change with it, and is determined not to let this turn of an era pass him by. As he makes this vow with his friends and fellow warriors Akechi Mitsuhide and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a star seems to fall to bear witness. But this is the starship that carried Jeanne to the Star of the East, urged by a suitably eccentric Leonardo da Vinci to follow the call of her destiny, and journey to the land she’s seen in her only vision that doesn’t portend disaster.
A lusciously captured period drama with fantastical and modern inserts, the animation is by turns serene, then tumultuous with its samurai-styled mechanical War Armours. In this astrophysical East-West divide, though, it is the Eastern planet that’s favoured for political and earthly development, making the Star of the West subsidiary but for Jeanne’s existence, and the fact that prescient inventor da Vinci supplies the planet with their mecha weapons.
The tone of the show is always in flux, even though for the most part it only has the one planet to manage. Regal and graceful one moment, it’s employing erroneous elements of its magical clash of extraordinary gentlemen or dire gender politics the next. To keep the political peace, and save the slander and speculation of having westerners following his crusade, Nobu makes Jeanne masquerade as a man called Ranmaru. Aside from keeping schtum that a woman is staying in his palace, the only other way this deception proves of use to the story is in having it exposed, in quite a literal sense with Jeanne’s many boob spillages.
This is balanced out to some degree by Nobu seiyu Mamoru Miyano’s sensitive and uninhibited performance, and the beauty derived from the series’ stage play origins. Movement between the stars is given striking definition by its contrasted colour palettes and music, France sounded by shimmering guitars and gentle strings, and Japan by deep brass and military bravado. The long, still conversations filled with courtly romance set against beatific backdrops is what drives the intrigue. But in the end, it fails to establish its attempted appeal to both drama and combat fans. Falling victim to the card of The Fool itself, its carefree imagination has a short-lived charm, before being sadly foiled for its ineptitudes.
Check out our review of Part 2.
Extras: English dub; clean opening/closing animation; also available from Sentai Filmworks