Oct 21, 2019
eevalee (All reviews)
(This review contains minor spoilers.)

Kochouki might be yet another Oda Nobunaga anime, but it’s also a fairly unique one where the dazzling aesthetic can be misleading about its actually rather grounded tone. The series appears to have two objectives: to tell a non-fantastical story of young Nobunaga during the rarely explored time of his teens and twenties, and to deliver pretty boys with BL and BL vibes. While I’m far from a Sengoku expert, I enjoyed both elements and the mix of very domestic and very serious scenes.

Rather than any possible mismatch of genres, it’s the subject matter of Oda Nobunaga, or rather, sticking to history (at least in broad strokes) and attempting to cover 17 years of Nobunaga’s life that probably stifles the storytelling the most. How do we portray the two rebellions of Oda Nobukatsu found in the chronicles without making him too much of a villain, nor too much of a passive wimp? Can the series remain interesting knowing that a number of characters are almost certain to die not to mess with history? And what to do with Nobunaga’s concubines? In order to move both the plot and the character arcs and relationships forward, developments and the lessons taken out of them are, here and there, a bit too simplistic (e.g., the vague “power of bonds” at the Battle of Inou, without mentioning the difference of training and loyalty of the warriors on each side) or rushed, though the story is still engaging and feels coherent thanks to the strong direction, and maybe because of the inherent eventfulness of the era.

The Nobukatsu arc contributes the most to the not-too-complicated theme of Sengoku people living and dying by alliances. We see that it is the era of warring daimyos itself that makes Nobukatsu and Nobunaga suffer, pits them against family and brings power orbiters like Tsuzuki Kurando around them. Power makes enemies, so you have to make up with enough faithful allies. The series uses the last two episodes after the Nobukatsu climax to reiterate this, which was somewhat disappointing to me after hoping for a similarly good climax to the Kichou subplot, and expecting something more conclusively romantic after all the cute cuddling scenes before dampened my final impression of the series. Nobunaga and Kichou were likable as a couple and as individuals, and a few short but (surprisingly) effective, emotionally intimate scenes of couples in private taking refuge from the world and its pressures reinforce the period drama type theme discussed above. Nobunaga in Kochouki is also notably less of an eccentric superman than he's usually portrayed as.

Due to the steamy subplots and limited time, most battles and power shifts in Owari happen with infodumps from the narrator, which will disappoint anyone who picked this up for old timey warfare, although some strategy and battling does happen. My favorite historical content had to do with the foreign trade that opened in Japan for the first time when Nobunaga was a child. Thanks to this focus, the majority of scenes can do with talking heads and bodies, and the characters and the short action scenes are pretty well-drawn throughout the series. DEEN, being the studio behind most of the animated Rurouni Kenshin, doesn’t seem to cut corners with samurai anime, and the character designer Atsuko Nakajima personally as an animation director keeps the characters looking as cute and handsome as ever. The loosely translated title “Gorgeous Butterfly” describes the art direction well.

Kochouki: Wakaki Nobunaga was a bit too straightforward to discuss or speculate about during its season, but it didn't bore me even once.