Format: TV anime
Genre: action, sci-fi, shonen
Series Creator: Masato Hisa
Series Director: Nobuhiro Kondo
Series length: 13
Original Airing dates: January 5, 2014 – March 30, 2014
Reviewed format: TV download with fan subs
“Shio Ogura is a Japanese high school student, who is visiting Taiwan on a school trip when she is suddenly attacked by monsters called “Evolutionary Invasion Objects.” Agents known as “E-Gene Holders” from the government agency DOGOO also arrive, who wield weapons infused with the spirits of historical figures. Shio is revealed to also be an E-Gene Holder when the soul of Oda Nobunaga awakens after she tries to rescue a friend.”
Nobunagun was one of those random series that I picked up from the last season. It wasn’t done by any of the major subber groups (Horridsubs don’t count) & I hadn’t really seen any mention of it. So downloaded the first episode, enjoyed it; watch a couple more & then where good; watched the rest & it all fell apart.
I’ve spoken in previous reviews about how it’s hard to come up with new ideas for anime & how most of them are merely twists on standard tropes & conventions.
Well, Nobunagun is just another one of those “alien invaders fought off by super powered humans” stories, much in the vein of Gate Keepers from 2000. The twist is that the super powers from important (which is kinda questionable but will get to that later) figures from history, which is kinda like the Ikki Tousen series.
What is more original is how people get these powers, from the souls/essence of these historical figures taken just before their deaths & spread throughout the human gene pool so they’ll surface when needed.
As far as plans go, this one is pretty haphazard. Because the Commander & the DOGOO alien (it isn’t given a name & looks like a giant fat bunny rabbit) say that they often can’t detect an E-Gene (the special souls) Holder until they activate or they track them down through other means.
That is basically how our heroine, Ogura Sio -the titular Nobunagun- awakens to her powers.
Whilst on a school trip to Taiwan, the loner military obsessed Sio is befriended by the school idol Asao Kaoru -whom she seems to display some sort of crush towards- before they are attacked by “Evolutionary Invasion Objects”. Which are aliens that seed the universe via cells in meteors & then adapt to the planet that they invade by mimicking various evolutionary paths until they become the ultimate life form to rule that world -which is a pretty original idea to be honest. Anyway, Sio gets caught up in attack & watches as the 2nd platoon of DOGOO come to destroy the alien fish-monster-thingies. When Sio sees that Kaoru needs rescuing after being knocked unconscious, she takes hold of the device that activates the E-Gene Holder’s powers -dropped by Jack the Ripper- & then proceeds to kick alien arse until something happens that causes her to question her abilities & potential.
From there the basic story arc just follows the usual super powered teen progression of self-doubt, training, struggling for acceptance -both of self & within an established group, realising her potential, dealing with the grief of not being powerful enough to save a friend (no one of consequence though) & finally taking charge to win the day.
You’ve seen it all before a few hundred times (if you are as lifeless & media obsessed as I at any rate).
Does it really get more original at any point?
In a way: yes.
The side characters are pretty interesting for the most part. Especially how their personalities change when they activate their E-Gene powers. An over-affectionate person becomes a right sadist; a lecherous individual becomes selfless; some people turn utter lesbian. It various between characters & sets up interesting dynamics between their interactions on & off the battlefield. As well as how each character comes to term with housing the memories & hyper-abilities of people long since dead
Unfortunately, this a very Japanese idea of historical figures. So a lot of them don’t make any sense in context & a couple are out & out racist in how they present the history of certain historical figures (poor, poor Gandhi)
It also presents Japan as the superior nation in terms of geo-politics (not unnatural in the media) but what makes it worse is that because it address historical figures brought into the modern world, it refuses to accept & address Japan’s recent history as them being the aggressors & perpetrators of vast crimes against humanity. Basically playing up the Victim Mentality as well as saying that their actions in World War 2 were justified in some way.
This is really comes into play during episode 7 (Musashi Wonder), with the aliens resurrect the sunken Japanese WW2 battleship, Musashi. Sio, being a military otaku, knows everything about it, even it’s supposed mission to destroy the non-military target of the Panama Canal. Sio says that she respects the dedication of the crew & when she is mentally linked to the memories of said crew, via the aliens trying to absorb her like they did the ship, Sio says that she praises their efforts & wished that they could’ve succeeded in their mission.
That honestly made me shudder, because you basically have a character saying “hey, you know what would’ve been great? Destroying a mainly civilian target & crippling countries not even involved in the war! I really wish that we could’ve let the evil aliens finish that mission for the glory of Japan!”
Yes! I know that what was done to the Japanese during the War was equally as bad with the firebombing before Fat Man & Little Boy were dropped & that there has been little in the way of apology from the Allies for that but they at least don’t keep saying “you know what? We should nuke Japan again because we did it before & we have all these nukes lying around!”
Anyway, that’s all a debate for another article.
Another thing that did make me uncomfortable in a way was the choice of Oda Nobunaga as the basis of Sio’s E-Gene powers.
Nobunaga has appeared in countless forms across Japanese media & he is almost portrayed as an utter bastard (except with they make him into a huge & give her huge tits). Nobunaga was historical ruthless but also a tactically very clever, which is understand why they’d use him as the basis for Sio’s powers. But in doing so they pretty much say “when the worst happens, you need a ruthless bastard that will kill all of your enemies without hesitation or mercy”. It’s easy to do when you’re fighting non-human creatures but the whole thing does come off as a touch fascistic, at least to me.
Another issue -& you’ll recognise this bugbear- is the Fan Service.
It started off manageable at first. Large covered breasts, occasional pantsu shot but not really pantsu but then it brought in the bikini glad clones (I won’t explain, you’ll have to see for yourself). Overt lesbian actions without context (as in, characters aren’t gay, they just pash off). Was fine for a bit and then –BAM!– fucking Tentacle Rape!
Gods! That pissed me off so much because it was so unneeded & ruined so much of what was promising to be a decent climax (boom-tish!) to the series.
Basically: it was unneeded & unwanted. Serving no purpose. It even failed as Fan Service because it is such a horrid trope. I suspect that the makers put it in to appeal to Western audiences because it’s seen as something that often appeals to Americans (who, in turn, think it’s something the Japanese obsess over).
In the end, what could’ve been a fun & interesting series pretty much fails terribly by using propaganda, sexist images & good old fashioned racism.
Even after watching it all, I say avoid unless you have time to waste or are a media masochist.