On the Second Day of Anime: The Understated Humor (and Obscurity) of Nobunaga Concerto

[HorribleSubs] Nobunaga Concerto - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_14.19_[2014.08.28_13.22.49]

Nobunaga Concerto is a funny show for me, both in its humor and the particularly low number of people that actually watched it. I don’t really blame people for the latter because, really, it’s Another Goddamn Nobunaga anime with a derivative art/animation style and a heavy emphasis on Japanese history. It also has a noticeable dearth of character development and thematic structure, which alienates the target audience to, well, history fanatics. Taking one look at the ANN forums for this show is indicative of the kinds of people who watched Nobunaga Concerto. I, however, enjoyed watching this show for a different reason. You see, like I’ve said before, Nobunaga Concerto is a funny show. What’s special about me finding this anime funny is that I vastly prefer the type of humor utilized in this anime than the kinds that so many others use to this day.

[HorribleSubs] Nobunaga Concerto - 03 [720p].mkv_snapshot_07.28_[2014.09.05_00.14.39]

I’ve been watching anime consistently for about seven years, and you may or may not be surprised to find at this point that anime humor has become hit-or-miss for me. Other comedy-centric anime that aired that summer, things such as Barakamon and Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, did have their fair share of jokes and ambiance that I enjoyed. However, what I’ve realized for myself is that anime humor is almost endlessly self-referential and it familiarizes you with the punchlines way too soon. Nozaki-kun in particular demands that you are familiar with the shoujo tropes that it so gleefully toys with, and even then the jokes sometimes miss by a mile. Enough so to bring down my experience ever so slightly. Really, when it came to comedy in anime I needed something more.

[HorribleSubs] Nobunaga Concerto - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_03.57_[2014.08.28_13.20.55]

This is, however, not to say that Nobunaga Concerto managed to execute itself well at an overall level. This anime is, by all means, in its unrecognized position for a good reason: it’s boring. It is somehow more boring to watch than the likes of other Nobunaga anime such as Nobunagun and Nobunaga the Fool. I’d even hazard a guess and say that Oda Nobuna would also be a more interesting watch. But interesting in what way, you might ask? The other Nobunaga anime I’ve mentioned are by all means more fitting of the “anime” genre that we’ve come to accept, with exceedingly colorful casts, crazy and convoluted plotlines, and that hyperactive pace which anime humor takes so often. While these anime do their darnedest to overstate and embellish the accomplishments of Nobunaga, Nobunaga Concerto is a much more understated endeavor overall. However, I feel that this is to the show’s favor.

[HorribleSubs] Nobunaga Concerto - 05 [720p].mkv_snapshot_03.12_[2014.08.28_13.26.57]
Understatement is the key word here, and it helps illustrate the main thrust of the comedy. The premise of Nobunaga Concerto is that cheeky, know-it-all high schooler by the name of Saburo manages to time-slip into the Warring States period and accidentally takes the place of the real Oda Nobunaga. While some of the comedy actually delves into the history of Nobunaga and the humorous interpretations of what the real Nobunaga might have thought in those instances, the real meat of the humor comes from the timeslip mechanic itself combined with Saburo’s brazen and insensitive personality. You’ll find that he gets away with spouting a lot of modern nonsense (as well as predicting the future) just because he’s supposed to be respected as a revered lord of his house. The mere act of placing a plastic bag energy drink on a gravestone as an offering and having absolutely no one pointing out how silly this is brings a most welcome smile to my face when it gets pulled off as well as it did in this anime.

[HorribleSubs] Nobunaga Concerto - 03 [720p].mkv_snapshot_11.39_[2014.08.28_11.31.02]

You wouldn’t find those kind of pranks to be commonplace in an anime. You would, instead find a supporting character loudly proclaiming that Saburo just placed an energy drink on someone’s grave and just outright say that it’s a joke. And you could find these opportunities abound with the rest of the show. For example, when Saburo places the policeman’s cap on his wife’s head as pictured above, there are no shifts in artstyle nor are there any excited voices in the foreground telling us that this is the joke. In fact, what’s so striking about this specific shot is the obvious discrepancy in fabric colors and the extra bits like buttons and such; this outfit is far too advanced for the time period it exists in. The anime manages to communicate both that historical tidbit as well as the joke while saying nothing about either thing. I am just shown a potentially funny situation, and it’s my choice whether or not I find it to be funny. It is perhaps not the most effective way to go about things, but it works very well when this anime does it.

[HorribleSubs] Nobunaga Concerto - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_04.25_[2014.09.04_10.36.40]

Nobunaga Concerto

(Hi10)_Hyouka_-_20_(BD_1080p)_(Coalgirls).mkv_snapshot_23.06_[2014.09.04_23.46.48]

Hyouka

Perhaps I am being selective with my appreciation towards Nobunaga Concerto, though. I certainly have no interest in completely understanding Oda Nobunaga’s entire life story. Nor is my experience with this anime completely devoid of prior knowledge: the bare minimum I’ve learned of Nobunaga’s history comes from a little-known manga by the name of Nobunaga no Chef (a manga with an eerily similar premise to Nobunaga Concerto) and that one New Years’ mystery with the drawstring bag in episode 20 of Hyouka. And I won’t lie: knowing those bits of Nobunaga’s history helped me immensely in following what was essentially a glorified 10-episode history lesson. But watching Saburo mix up his modern belongings with the Warring States period, as well as getting his newfound minions to mimic whatever he finds to be cool or fitting, had been a treat to watch through the summer even if the overall experience was dry as hell.

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“Good job!” “G-goodu jobu…”

 

Addendum

  • If you can’t tell by now, the backgrounds for this show are just so lush with color, detail, and natural lighting. Oh my lord, that lighting.
  • This is definitely an endorsement of the show that is colored by my own biases, so don’t blame me when you don’t see the same things that I do if you choose to watch it!
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One comment

  1. Awesome review, and I guess to some it may seem boring. But even though I’ve never heard of Oda Nobunaga before (shame on me as an anime fan XP) I have to say the characterization of Saburo was what kept it thoroughly entertaining me. ^^ Have a good day!

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