The war of the Eastern and Western stars grinds on, defiant, often beautiful in its repetition of one bland giant mecha battle after the another. More new characters keep piling in as though in attempts to refresh the narrative, like notorious conqueror Alexander the Great looking just like he’s stepped out of the eponymous song by Iron Maiden, and Sengoku paladin Uesugi Kenshin. All crushed together, nobody has room left for development among the core cast, nevermind the newbies. In fact, the only one who manages to force his way free at last is Nobunaga’s friend and advisor Mitsuhide.
However, you’ll be waiting until about episode 20 for that revelation. In the meantime, the identity of the Saviour-King destined to lead both worlds to salvation grows murky, and Jeanne Kaguya d’Arc begins to doubt her glorious vision of Nobunaga. She carries on in her role as the wide-eyed lover flogged against pillar and post (once literally and in the nude) for Nobu’s comfort or internal conflict. Kidnapped by her own star to be executed for her demonic wiles, the shudders of the dying worlds bring disaster down on her persecutors and sympathisers alike. Though he reaches her in time, Nobu is too late to save Domremmy’s population. This seems to be the theme wherever he goes, despite his best intentions, and he starts to believe he might be the King of Destruction, born to doom the Stars.
With no shortage of opportunity for drama, those once regal shades of tragedy have all but filtered out, characters simplified to their bare bones as they push the plot along at breakneck speed. Nobu’s loveable humour has been replaced by grim expressions and forecasts of dark destiny, and all that’s left is to hash it out with second hand to the throne of the west, Alexander. Even the combat gets flabby here, and when Jeanne steps in to strut her stuff as Nobu bows to his foe’s brute strength, she’s soundly knocked back as though she’s in a Looney Tunes wrestling match.
Below them the Dragon Pulse binding east and west is in its death throes, the folklore remaining one of the show’s most striking aspects, thin as the vein is, with Himiko of Yamatai its sweet ambassador. These themes are restricted to basic convenience, overblown historical sci-fi burdening the story instead, a different cliché struggling to be unique at every turn. At these times, the prog rock picking strings that come in with tension lifts the story above itself with expressive melody.
Of all the anime about Oda Nobunaga, this one stands apart because of its ensemble cast, most of the time holding the central character up. Da Vinci is his drip feed of comic relief, and Jeanne our eyes for seeing him in a compassionate light, ever pure in Yoko Hikasa’s performance. But when Mitsuhide the intellectual steps forward to become Akechi the self-conscripted knight, the true focus of the arc comes into view. In his own ambition, the true tragedy of Nobunaga and his historic fall at Honnoji Temple ties in. The show regains his strength just in time for the climax, his friends and loved ones putting their lives and faith on the line for their lord.
When characters do die, save for a certain someone, they suffer from the emptiness of their characterisation and parting words. As they simply stopped growing for the most part, it’s hard to mourn their loss at such a late stage. Nonetheless, Nobunaga the Fool reinstates itself with its last clash, rich as a silk painting with visuals of fire and light. Nothing ends as you would expect, all is inverted and finally fed through to the present with a satisfying see-what-you-did-there. With old Leonardo’s secret project finished, we have a work of art that shows us our glory and sins, forgotten as soon as we turn from the canvas. And so the history of war repeats itself, only ever different in its means.
Check out our review of Part 1.
Extras: English dub; clean opening/closing animation; also available from Sentai Filmworks.