Yoshiharu Sagara thought he knew his Japanese history backwards and forwards, but when he inexplicably finds himself in the past everything he thought he knew was wrong and he’s in a very different history altogether! Not only is this timeline’s version of the legendary (and very male) Oda Nobunaga now the cute (and very female) Oda Nobuna, but one of the first things Yoshiharu manages to accidentally accomplish is getting one of the Sengoku era’s most important historical figures killed! Still, when you’re stuck in the past, have a semi-reliable knowledge of one possible future, and there’s now a vacancy in the history books, what’s your best present course of action? Aligning yourself with someone with the potential to become one of the most powerful warlords in any of Japan’s possible histories might not be a bad start. Provided, of course, that you can keep yourself from becoming too intimately involved in the cloak and dagger action during a time when the cloaks cover body armor and the daggers are paired with multiple swords! But that’s just part of the risk you assume when your history becomes her story and you join The Ambition of Oda Nobuna!
More light novel-based anime, vicar? You’ll get them as long as you keep buying them. You can smell the formula a mile away—Sengoku historical figures re-imagined as cute girls and beautiful women. How many anime titles like this does that make now? Unlike pretty much all the rest of them, this one’s not an exotically-dressed marshmallow. This is made obvious right at the very beginning, when teenager Yoshiharu Sagara is inexplicably plonked right in the middle of a 16th-century Japan battle, where Hideyoshi Toyotomi protects him…and gets killed as a result, but not before asking Sagara to take over his goal of becoming a feudal lord. There isn’t much blood shown, but there are plenty of casualties—and none of us are isolated from them. He then jumps in to try to save a beautiful teenage girl from enemy soldiers, only to find out that she’s Oda Nobuna, Daimyo of Owari. Wait, what? Yes, “Nobunaga”’s actually a she, and she doesn’t like being treated lightly, as he soon finds out. However, this tsun’s got a dere side, and she expresses her gratitude for his deed by holding a meeting with him and three prominent members of her clan. They are also major people in Japan’s history—and also actually all women. General Katsuie Shibata (beautiful but prickly and buxom young woman in a metal breastplate that moves with her), tactician Nagahide Niwa (nice but quirky big sister-type) and spear wielder Inuchiyo Maeda (petite, quiet, reserved and serious) are present when Nobuna offers him a position as her sandal bearer, since she finds that it feels about right to stand on his head, and calls him “Saru,” or Monkey. No, Sagara’s not thrilled about that, but he accepts anyway, and attempts to prove that he’s from the future by recalling parts of this era’s history…as he remembers from one of his favourite video games, Nobunaga’s Ambition. The female cast numbers just keep growing from there, ranging from the childish but very capable ninja Goemon Hachisuka to the sultry, statuesque, seductive and downright dangerous witch Danjo Matsunaga Hisahide. Yeah, the male lead’s a hormonal yet moral boy, but men do exist in this story and some of them have also made their mark on Japanese history, as they also do in this show, especially Daimyo of Mino Dosan Saito. Despite the harem trappings, including a fair amount of non-explicit service (although Danjo pushes the envelope there), this is hardly fluff. The first four volumes (of 11 so far) of the novel went into these 12 episodes, and the story (which shows that most of the actions that earned Nobunaga the epithet of “Fool” were crazy as in fox), action (they have a lot of fun with shots that look like slightly-unsteady handheld camera work) and occasional laughs thoroughly saturate this series, with the growing relationship between Nobuna and Sagara running through it like fine yet strong thread. While some scenes are typical of shows like this, the writers occasionally give them unexpected twists. The only thing that really bothered me was the blatant angling for a second season at the very end. Since this series was made in 2012, I wouldn’t get my hopes up too high for that if I were you—not that I would mind it happening. This also accounts for why we don’t find out why or how Sagara went nearly 500 years back in time, or what effects his actions may be having on the modern world; however, those are things that normally would be saved for the very end of stories like this, so we gotta go to Helen Waite to find out.
The people at Sentai Filmworks are perfectly aware that not very many Western anime fans are well versed in Japanese history, so they throw in explanatory secondary subtitles as needed. Guess the otaku in Japan needed a bit of a refresher as well, as narration pops up occasionally. Both happen just briefly enough to serve to further the story rather than lecture. Given the overall density of the series, the producers wisely decided to use Yasuharu Takanashi’s background music sparingly, alternating it with well-done ambient sound to allow the show to breathe. The score hinges on Japanese traditional music and Williamsesque orchestral pieces, with bits of instrumental pop to break it up. No surprises there—but that’s what the plot’s for. Opening theme “Link” by Aimi is an adrenalized shounen anime rocker, while closer “Hikari” by Makino Mizuta ushers in the softer side with the strings. Neither of them is distinctive enough for my (admittedly odd) personal taste in choons, but they work well here, and that’s what counts.
Your standard Clean Openings and Closings and Sentai Trailers.
If the cover illustration featuring Nobuna in a wide-open green robe and modern-looking black brassiere puts you off, well, first, better get used to it, because that’s what she wears most of the time. Second, the Ambition of Oda Nobuna has levels of substance that most shows with lots of ladies in them don’t even dare to attempt, so hang up your hang-ups and give it a fighting chance.
- Released By: Sentai Filmworks
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen
- Audio: English and Japanese 2.0
- Running Time: 300 minutes
- Rating: TV – 14
- Release Date: 12/16/2014
- Reviewed By: Neil Ellard