The Underrating of Nobuna Oda

I don’t want to pick on anyone, but it’s easier to just point you to an example. Take a look at this.

Is that a fair statement? I think it’s a valid opinion and probably a common opinion, and the post itself seems fine. The opinion might be fairly considered given what he has stated. It’s just as someone who’s just 5 episodes in, I think the show has long since survived the falling-on-swords-of-mary-sue-moe-genderswapped-sengoku-reenactment. Five episodes! Is that so much to ask for people who review anime? In fact since episode 3 my opinion on Nobuna hasn’t really changed. The latest addition, the Yui Ogura loli-kei character, feels like a major distraction actually. Granted, she is kind of a cool character for what she is (ie., loli fanservice draw), the show is rock solid with or without the latest Nobuna haremite.

Of course, I am just as biased. After 5 episodes of this Sengoku gender-swap mary-sue, it is still impressing me, and it does not go by the name of “Sengoku Collection.” (Actually, Sencolle stopped impressing me after episode 8, in which it pulled the Alice-in-Wonderland directorial schtik; it isn’t to say Sencolle is no good now, but my expectation has long since adjusted to match.) I really didn’t expect Nobuna’s Ambition to be the show that it is today, however, so I find that kind of criticism I linked valid only in that magical, alternate universe where the anime ended after 1 or 2 episodes.

And that’s just it. It’s a game about expectations and consistently blogs confound their opinions and feelings with actual critical judgment. The funny thing in the example I quoted was that there was actually a lot of nods on what Nobuna has done well. It’s the assumption that it’s just another moe sengoku genderswap anime which makes the review incredibly shallow. To clarify, that’s like assuming a root beer float is a root beer float, so it’s bad? What’s wrong with this particular version of the sengoku genderswap (or any version)? The lack of burly dudes in lead roles (wait, which part of “genderswap” did you not get)? Dumb characters? Nobuna’s right tit? I have no idea, after reading that post.

In the grand scheme of things, Nobuna is still just your average, garden variety of romance/comedy/adventure anime. It might not be worth writing home about unless you enjoy historical game/RPGs especially the various Nobunaga’s Ambition spinoffs. It might not be as charming as Ankori Pasta Rice, but who would have given either show a second thought if they were thinking any anime with a main character and a harem was no good? Well, maybe it is no good, if by good you mean “Cowboy Bebop” or LOL “Redline.”

Come to think of it, on a very basic level, there just are not too many adventure anime these days that has those components, and still can be finished in a cour or two. Nobuna’s Ambition fits that description. We won’t retread what is good: the solid writing and good animation/direction. We won’t even talk about the way how the main character actually sticks to just Nobuna, despite his unavoidably awkward interaction with the rest of the (and like in-game generals, disposable) female cast. Certainly we won’t talk about that there’s an intended audience for this show, which may be a valid justification for someone like the guy I quoted to react in the way he did. Maybe some people don’t like cute girls in their anime, or ninjas that stutter. Or anything to do with mary-sues. Maybe this is why replay novels never really took off in the west.

On a very fundamental level I could say that our act of gauging our expectation is influenced by the show we watch, however little. Perhaps you can find that type of mismatch as a result of the show. However, for example, I know for every whiner about Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere’s character designs and fanservice, there’s a genuine concern about either cultural smashing or simply a distaste for aesthetics or something like that, which is invariably going to happen as long as the world has more than one flavor to choose from. That is opinion worth taking into consideration. But that’s a very different thing to talk well of shows you like and talk badly of shows you drop. It’s a very different thing to judge a show based on your incorrect assumptions. It’s like reviewing a sports car as a mini-van. Or chocolate ice cream for someone who’s tired of chocolate.

Which is again really just the continuing and constant problem of decontexualization that oversea fandom of anime suffers from ever since the very beginning.


12 Responses to “The Underrating of Nobuna Oda”

  • progenitor

    Agreed, people writing incorrect reviews based on assumptions, just make asshats of themselves. Nobuna is good.

    That being said, expel the heretic.

    PS: kurogane blog+ curiosity brought me here

  • a

    The primary point about overseas fandom (bloggers especially) being hyperjudgmental, context-less, and incapable of understanding the concept of “target audiences” is quite right.

    Picking at Oda Nobuna no Yabou specifically, my issue isn’t any of that (genderswap = good!), but how Nobuna is rendered a passive, ineffective leader who can’t get anything done unless Average High School Boy Protagonist gives her a patronizing pep talk first. (Some kudos are in order for writers forcing him to use his head rather than his fists, however.) You could perhaps argue that’s a “target audience” thing too, but I generally consider myself smack in the middle of this show’s demo, and I’m still put off, though not yet enough to drop it, as it’s otherwise very pretty to look at. I don’t agree with the show’s implied notion that a more equal relationship (punching him in the face once in a while does not meaningfully equalize the character dynamic) between the leads would turn off the 15-35 male otaku demo.

    Granted that’s almost besides the point. You were just using this show as a jumping-off point to discuss foreign fandom’s inadequacies – and I have no disagreement there.

    • omo

      I considered what you’re saying and I sort of sympathize, but it’s a little more nuanced than “passive, ineffective.” In fact it seems that she is not passive at all and quite effective. The plot, the way I see it, is more about “hey this girl will turn out like the actual Nobunaga, but since I’m here, let’s turn it into Marysue-nobunaga-genderswap.” In effect it’s actually more like “Hur hur this girl is a newbie at this nobunaga game, I will show her how it’s done.” Or at least that’s where the mary sue comes in as a visible drawback to the show.

  • Mushyrulez

    I just read these reviews imagining an implicit preamble paragraph stating that the review judges the show by standards not commonly used by those in the target demographic. I don’t feel anything wrong with that.

    It’s not underrating an anime per se, it’s, as you said, the majority of bloggers describing an anime based on elevated standards. Whether that’s better or worse than the non-blogger majority’s standards doesn’t feel like something that can be adequately determined.

    • omo

      That seems like a lot of effort to parse something not very useful to me. I suppose people read for entertainment, anyway, not so much for utility.

  • dm00

    Eh, I think it’s a fairly good review — at least it acknowledges many of the show’s strengths, and the show does have weaknesses. I’m pretty sympathetic to the reviewer’s complaint that the show’s habit of dropping into breast-grabbing bufoonery stands in the way of unalloyed enjoyment. It’s not really to my taste, either (I don’t like it much when Lupin does the same thing, but it wouldn’t be Lupin without it, I suppose).

    The loli-strategist of this past episode tried my patience a bit, but I’m willing to cut the show some slack.

    I can see a’s complaint that Nobuna is too much a damsel in distress, but I don’t really agree that it’s correct. She’s a pretty strong character, and is ready to cut off Yoshiharu’s head, if the situation demands it. It helps the series a tremendous amount that he was prepared to lose his head, too. And that whole dialog about how his main concern about losing his head was in how it would affect her was top-notch romantic lead stuff.

    This show has me reading up on the time period. I’m beginning to wonder if, what looks like Mary-Sue to me isn’t just the Myth of Hideyoshi Toyotomi at work on the intended audience of the show. His biography has its Mary-Sue aspects, in a truth-stranger-than-fiction sort of way.

    • omo

      If you think it’s a pretty good review, then it must be. Or maybe that’s more because there are far worse ones out there?

      Joking aside, I mean, I respect it as opinion, but there are some problematic aspects to how that opinion is being expressed. Which is kind of the point of this post (aside from talking about Nobuna).

  • GTebbetts

    Welp, any exposure is good exposure?

    First off, my defense of the “abandon-after-five-episodes” tactic is that I’m taking a reality-show approach to the anime seasons. I line up ten or so shows, and I eliminate one every week out of lack of interest. Nobuna Oda just happened to be the one this week.

    Just wanted to say that counterpoints are what I really want out of my reviews. I don’t expect people to agree about shows or any of my reviews. Heck, I’m still surprised from the miniature backlash I received from my three-thumbs-down I gave to Cardfight! Vanguard, and that was after three episodes.

    I do want to point out that I still find Nobuna Oda to be the best version of genderswapped history that I’ve seen so far, but that’s mainly since I feel all of the others (Samurai Girls, Sengoku Otome, Sengoku Collection, Koihime Musou) have been blatantly dull. I’m actually quite thrilled there’s actual war going on and that there is a comparatively healthy male-to-female ratio in this show. In a way, it’s refreshing.

    In another way, it’s just another average male exhibiting an unseen power over a stronger female role. We’ve seen it in many harem shows so far, and I’m not going to let the boob jokes slide on this one when it comes to my interest. If they’re going to resort to To-Love-Ru humor after a decent scene, then it’s really something I don’t want to watch.

    I’m glad you like Nobuna Oda. I really am. I defend your right to like it, just as I hope someone will defend my right to not like it.

    • omo

      I don’t really care if you like the show or not, to be honest. The problem is more like, I still don’t know why you were watching a show like this if you can’t handle genderswapping or things like, well, fanservice. And then you blog about it. As if someone dared you to watch something you probably won’t like, except you go into the show as if it was something that should’ve been something else.

      That’s basically my problem with what you said. That and I still am not sure what’s so bad about this show from your perspective, other than what it really is: a genderswap historical adventure in the otaku-late-night TV programming category.

  • vendredi

    Five years ago I would never have thought that “genderswap historical adventure” could ever be a genre of it’s own, but here we are…

  • Hogart

    I agree that it’s odd for people to complain about something that’s exactly what it claims to be, but then I think it’s also odd to claim that it’s “underrated” simply because of that. In it’s own circles Nobuna gets nothing but gushing praise, from what I can tell, and I doubt it could ever really hope for more than that?

    >It’s the assumption that it’s just another moe sengoku genderswap anime

    Speaking only for myself, I utterly failed to see anything to establish it as something more than your typical “moe sengoku genderswap” anime. The animation quality maybe?

    Does the writing improve after episode 3? I didn’t notice anything better than average there. But that’s probably just my fault, because I watched it with a “huhuh bouncing breastplates” mentality.

    I just found it lacking quality titillation and the wish-fulfillment was far too convenient for my tastes. Heck, I don’t remember Nobuna or her cohorts doing anything memorable, just bending to the whims of the MC.

    >In fact since episode 3 my opinion on Nobuna hasn’t really changed.

    Mine did, not that it matters. The moment the MC started preaching to warlords four-plus times his age to “not make girls cry” and they took it as epiphany.. well, that was it for me.

    But thanks anyway. I respect your opinion, so I gave this a shot.. and it was fun enough while it lasted. If I wasn’t such a hard-to-please blowhard, I might be able to get through this. But the sprinkles they added to my plain ice cream didn’t really do anything for me this time around.

    Still, if I have to be a blowhard, I’d rather be a blowhard that tries to at least enjoy the stuff they watch on the level it tries to entertain me on.

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