ANIME & MANGA - Review
12:00 - 3rd May 2015, by David West

The Ambition Of Oda Nobuna

16th century Japan was a time of warlords struggling for power on the long and turbulent journey to the unification of the country. High school student Sagara Yoshiharu’s favourite strategy game is The Ambition Of Oda Nobunaga, which chronicles the life of the famous daimyo who was a key figure in the process of unifying the fractious clans of feudal Japan. When Sagara is transported centuries back in time to the Warring States Period, instead of the forbidding figure of Oda Nobunaga, he finds a beautiful girl called Oda Nobuna who dreams of ruling the nation.

Take some Japanese history and a harem show, smoosh them together and the result is The Ambition Of Oda Nobuna. In addition to the blonde-haired heroine of the title, Sagara discovers that most, but not quite all, of the key figures of the period are sexy girls, from rival daimyos to ninja spies. Sagara wonders if he has wound up in an alternate timeline, but the show is not really interested in such questions and never bothers to explain how or why he has come to the past. Sagara himself never seems to miss his life in the 21st century, and does not experience any sort of culture shock. He seems perfectly happy to be surrounded by a squad of attractive girls and shows no interest in returning to his own time period. Sagara is not as bland as many protagonists tend to be in harem shows – he’s quite active in the plot for a start – but there’s no sense of any background to the character. Oda Nobuna is your archetypal tsundere mean girl who tends to express herself by kicking Sagara around the place. She adds to his debasement by calling him Saru, meaning monkey.

The series has very large cast of supporting characters and opponents. In fact, it’s too large and most of them never have time to develop much personality. A very detailed knowledge of this period of Japanese history will help to navigate amongst all the players. While it might be historically accurate to include so many figures from the time period, it means that the script jumps around an awful lot between different people and locations where a tighter focus would make for better storytelling. Some characters seem to exist just to tick a particular fanservice box, notably Louise Frois, a buxom nun whose plot contribution is much less impressive than her bust size. That said, the fanservice is not laid on so heavily as to become suffocating. The closest the series has to a recurring villain is Saito Yoshitatsu, although there is a completely pointless plot device whereby halfway through the series he starts wearing a mask. It’s ridiculously obvious that it’s the same man, what’s the point of the disguise? He’s not the Lone Ranger.

As a harem show, the focus is on the interaction between Sagara and all the women around him. Despite the Warring States Period setting, battle scenes are surprisingly short and disappointingly lightweight.

The Ambition Of Oda Nobuna benefits from pleasing character design work and the pace is bright and breezy. The central dynamic between the two leads generates some sparks, but the paucity of good action scenes and the lack of a compelling nemesis for Nobuna mean that it won’t go down in anime history as one of the all-time greats.
SCORE: 3/5
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