DVD REVIEW: THE AMBITION OF ODA NOBUNA / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: YUJI KUMAZAWA / SCREENPLAY: MASASHI SUZUKI / STARRING: TAKUYA EGUCHI, KANAE ITO, HITOMI NABATAME, REI MATSUZAKI / RELEASE DATE: APRIL 13TH
Based on the series of light novels by Mikage Kasuga (illustrated by Miyama-Zero), The Ambition of Oda Nobuna is difficult series to place. Yes it’s a high school drama to an extent, it’s also alternate history and a romantic comedy, but mostly it’s a fantasy harem adventure.
Like 2011’s Battle Girls: Time Paradox, which saw schoolgirl Yoshino magicked away to an alternate feudal Japan, The Ambition of Oda Nobuna starts with high school student Yoshiharu Sagara mysteriously finding himself in an alternate Sengoku period. Having been saved on the battlefield by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (a hugely important general, samurai and politician of the time) at the cost of his life, Yoshiharu dramatically changes the course of history.
He’s determined to make things right and find a way home. Trouble is, he’s only clued up on the period because of the video game Nobunaga's Ambition he’s obsessed with. He soon discovers that in this alternate past Nobunaga Oda doesn’t exist and, as with Battle Girls, real life figures have been gender swapped. Instead it’s the teenage woman Nobuna Oda who is serving as daimyo of Owari and striving for hegemony.
The series opener, Nobuna and Monkey, is all exposition, explaining each character, their motivations and relationships and positioning Yoshiharu as Nobuna’s ‘monkey’. Like many teen boys, he’s chest obsessed and this is his primary driving force for the early episodes. Part of the shows appeal is seeing him develop into a strategist and become an important part of Nobuna’s entourage. Even when you’d think his character had evolved, he’s still thinking with his dick and perving the place up.
The fault doesn’t just lie with the central character alone. There’s plenty of fan service, and this in itself doesn’t become a problem until towards the end of the series where the boob jiggling (and size) reach farcical extremes. But it’s the thinly veiled plot device to get the timid young strategist Hanbē out of her skivvies that makes for uncomfortable viewing. It’s a fleeting scene that veils the whole series in a creepy scuzz.
Despite the hugely unflattering elements, it does take a look at the many roles of women in wartime. Nobuna herself is a fascinating and dynamic character, determined to fulfil her dreams. Watching her relationship with Yoshiharu develop over the 12 episode arc is one of the series’ strengths. By the fifth episode, Recruiting a Genius Strategist!, it gets fantastical, and the Sengoku setting becomes more of a backdrop, but the political machinations of its warring characters remains. More of this would have been great, but the series juggles far too many characters, with many ending up looking the same or just impossible to care for.
The Ambition of Oda Nobuna sometimes subverts the harem sub-genre, but often falls prey to many of its slimy conventions. It’s problematic, yes, but if you can look past that it’s an entertaining, funny and well animated series.
Special Features: Trailers