What They Say:
As the ley-lines of the Western Star near the point of collapse, the threat of invasion continues to escalate. Fearing attack from their sister world, the Eastern Star braces for the eruption of full-scale interstellar war. Meanwhile, betrayal follows betrayal as the factions seeking the Holy Grail continue to turn on each other. The Table is shattered and with Jeanne in the clutches of Cesare Borgia and Machiavelli, the seer seems destined for torture and burning at the stake. Will history repeat itself or will Nobu be able to pull off a daring rescue? King Arthur’s horrifying plan comes to fruition and the fates of two planets depend on the actions of one man!.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the new English language adaptation, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is one that works a solid balance between the dialogue and action sides of it as each is given plenty of due. The action component works well with the mecha at hand here and the style of combat that’s put into play as it moves about the screen or makes an impact, though it’s still kept within the confines of a standard stereo mix. There’s some good depth at times with it as events move across the screen and while it may not be a standout action series from an audio point of view, it’s quite competent and fits the material well. Dialogue is in a similar position where it too works well with what it’s being set to and we get good placement and directionality throughout that keeps it flowing well. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2014, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The eleven episodes for this set are spread across two discs with nine on the first and two on the second. Animated by Satelight, the series has a solid and distinctive look about it and the transfer captures it quite well as there’s some great detail to the backgrounds and mechanical design that we get throughout it. The character designs are no slouch themselves and that helps to give it a very rich feeling overall while also highlighting the fluidity of the animation throughout. The color design is really good here as it works between different worlds and styles while still finding some commonality about it that ties it all together. I’ve long enjoyed Satelight designed series, even though many dislike the CG/mechanical design, but this one has some interesting ideas about it with the timeline combinations.
The packaging for this release is done with a standard-sized Blu-ray case that holds the two discs against the interior walls. The front cover is one that works better than the first as we get a strong character visual of Nobunaga in the foreground, sword raised, while his Fool is behind him taking up a good chunk of real estate with a good silvery shine about it The back cover gives us some good character material along the right and there’s a decent mix of character images from the show above and alongside her that gives it a bit more color. The premise takes up most of the space on the left where it’s done within the framing of a tarot card and it works pretty well overall with the softer color design. The episode and disc count is clearly listed as are the extras. The production credits have a good classic look here with gold over black while the bottom fills out with the technical grid in a clear and clean way that’s accurate and problem free. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release is pretty nicely done and more detailed than I expected in some ways. The general layout is one that’s familiar with a static image that takes up most of the screen while the right side gives us the navigation. That navigation itself has a bit of a classic look to it with some really ornate aspects within the framework of it, as we get the episodes broken down by number and title. The static image is where things really work well, especially with the first disc as we get some good character artwork along the far left while behind him is an array of tarot cards done with pieces from the show that’s really appealing and very detailed. Submenus load quickly as it’s a straightforward release with the languages being the main thing and extras on the second disc along with the trailers.
The only extras on this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Nobunaga the Fool was a series that I really struggled with when the simulcast came out, so much so that I dropped it after the first episode and walked away from it. So I went into the first set that came out for it with a lot of trepidation because of that only to discover a thoroughly engaging bit of world building about it. The series is one that reworks a lot of different things in order to succeed and it avoids actually explaining a whole lot as it intends the viewer to simply accept the world(s) as is and run with it, focusing more on the story. That can be frustrating for some viewers and more so in some shows, but I found that it worked very well here when the first thirteen episodes were taken in full. I really got into the show in a big way that completely surprised me.
Because of the size of the cast and complexity of the production involved for it, this second set comes a lot later than the second halves usually do and that can complicate things for viewers in that the energy can be lost from it. Reconnecting with the show takes a little bit and, even more important in a way, a good chunk of this set represents one of the main problems with two cour shows. A lot of what we get here does provide for a whole host of motions and movements among the characters and the storyline as a whole, but a lot of it also feels lighter and without as much meaning. Not filler material per se, but rather material that could be excised and not feel lost if we shifted down to say, a sixteen episode series. It’s not padded or filler as there are character building moments throughout them all yet it doesn’t connect in the way the first half did nor did a lot of it feel like it has a lot of forward movement and energy about it.
Some of this comes in the form of the problematic but all too familiar aspects of stories like these where characters get kidnapped and threatened from where they currently align. And by characters I mean female characters. Ranmaru ends up in the hands of Arthur’s people, which is where she originally started, and that has them setting into some solid torture in order to draw out information and Nobunaga himself. It’s no surprise that she ends up back by Nobunaga’s side, but the question is how long do they drag it out? Thankfully, it’s all kept relatively short and her being a hostage doesn’t turn into the motivation and main focus of the second half. The same kind of thing happens to Ichi along the way as well as we get into the final episodes as Caesar ends up taking her hostage as part of a larger plan. These are not weak characters yet they fall into this familiar traps. Ichi’s story at least brings a bit of interesting tragedy to the situation yet even there I couldn’t help but to feel familiar Shakespearean elements about it all.
The primary motivations amid everything here are what Arthur wants with his chosen ones being sought out in order to raise the Holy Grail. It takes an intriguing turn in that he’ll even raise the dead to fill those roles and the idea of an eternal ‘management level’ grade of power players out there under his control ushering in the new world does make one curious. But Arthur himself is kept at such a distance for so much of it, given so little personality beyond being a mysterious hooded figure, that even base desires as he displays like this feel weak and without real meaning to it. It was easy to connect with Caesar in his service, and even others below him that worked for Arthur’s goals because they presented themselves better even if not fully fleshed out characters. For Nobunaga, the lack of a really strong overall opponent weakens his case, particularly once Caesar’s life is snuffed out and the particular dance those two were engaged in melts away.
Where the show does excel is with Nobunaga and the battles that come from his push. While Ranmaru has seen him as the Savior King, the reality is that he’s the King of Destruction and is intent on changing the world in his form. There are some attempts at complicated layers of this, but with no real strength on the other side to provide a balance with he just ends up being the reckless youth with a lot of power and no serious goals worthy of a leader. But his commanding presence is engaging in a way that you rarely get in the real world and watching the things he deals with, personal and on the field, makes for some compelling material throughout it. I particularly liked the whole character pieces that play out between him, Hideyoshi and Himiko about the relationship that wants to exist there versus the one that actually exists. It fits for the type of period it wants to present and the higher goals all of them have.
One of the best things about the show for me has been the action material and that in no way disappoints here. It’s kept pretty regular throughout the set as a whole and with a range of sequences and players involved it definitely ramps it up well, especially as Nobunaga really embraces everything and goes in full. Satelight’s designs and the mixture of their particular brand of CG style still really works for me as it gives everything a kind of otherworldly effect that lets it stand out in a good way. With it also being so detailed and fluid it has a richness to it that clicks very well on top of the music and the story itself. While I wish it all had just a bit more meaning, the show definitely fires on all cylinders when it comes to the visual design across it, both action and the character moments.
Though the second half of Nobunaga the Fool underwhelms compared to the first, I get the sense that when viewed in full it’s a stronger work. When I go from detesting the first episode in simulcast form to really loving the show as a whole when marathoned, it reminds me why I’m glad that we get more shows in this way now than how we used to get it. Nobunaga the Fool has a fairly rich and complex world design around it, one that could be detailed in a bigger way should you choose, but it presents to us an intriguing world and populates it with characters that rework historical figures in really neat and interesting ways while also giving them giant robots of intricate design to run wild in. The end result is a sprawling show with a large cast and a lot of motivations, but also a weak villain and a hero that comes across as not having a true and final goal in mind. It’s a fascinating work that has big ideas behind that even if it doesn’t connect fully still merits some serious attention.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: A-
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: September 29th, 2015
Running Time: 276 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.