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Source: http://www.crunchyroll.com/nobunagun (And Sio really does grin like that in combat...)

Source: http://www.crunchyroll.com/nobunagun
(And Sio really does grin like that in combat…)

First episodes are often key to whether I will continue watching an anime [1]. In the case of Nobunagun the first episode was just good enough to get me to the second episode.

Wow.

Barring a rapid decline, I will now be following Nobunagun to the end of the season.

The Problems with First Episodes

There have been cases where I’ve dropped anime before the first opening credits, most often due to excessive fanservice.

First episodes are problematic because of the need to set up the universe. Achieving the set up often leads to episodes that are heavy on infodump and/or introducing Loads and Loads of Characters that the viewer can’t keep track of anyway.

One solution is the Action Prologue to hook the viewer, then flash back to the actual start of the story. Girls Und Panzer is a recent example of this, Record of Lodoss War spent the entire first episode on an Action Prologue [2].

Another approach is to limit the infodump/introductions, and to try to get enough interest going for the viewer to at least try a second episode. This can work well, but it is a bit risky, particularly if the viewer gives up before the good stuff arrives [3].

The first episode of Nobunagun, Oda Nobunaga, took this approach with just enough success to get me to the second episode.

The strengths were an interesting lead character Sio Ogura, the weirdness of the premise [4], and the introduction of Kaoru Asao as a key supporting character.

Kaoru is the School Idol, but is a genuinely nice person who honestly tries to connect with the isolated Sio.

In essence Sio is dumped into a nasty fight with little warning, Kaoru in danger, and only her own strength of character to carry her halfway through the battle.

The action sequence at the end of the first episode was good, but visually painful [5] and the sound mixing seemed a little over the top as well.

Still there was just enough there to make me willing to wait a week to spend another 25 minutes with this show.

Evolutionary Invasion Objects

As the title suggests Evoutionary Invasion Objects contains a lot more infodump than Oda Nobunaga. However the timing, and impact, of the infodump is surprisingly clever and is neatly fitted into some strong character work.

The first part of the episode introduces a few more of the reincarnated super heroes [6], showcases Sio’s innate tactical talents, and finishes the first battle.

Whilst the adrenalin is running hot, Sio is best described as batshit crazy brilliant, and is a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Sio also seems to be enjoying herself at this point, which only adds to the fun. This is probably related to being Oda Nobunaga’s reincarnation, and may be a historically accurate aspect of Nobunagun.

Then the episode gets interesting.

Sio is talking to Kaoru in the hospital. During this conversation a television is running stories about the battle in Taiwan.

This provides a logical, and surprisingly painless, means for getting the infodumps on screen.

As part of this the agency fighting the aliens, DOGOO, has gone fully public [7] and is stressing that Sio will not be conscripted into the battle.

This part of the episode is filled with Vox Populi interviews that remind me of nothing so much as the appalling use of the White Feather in World War I.

There is an overbearing sense that Sio would be seen as a coward in Japan if she doesn’t sign up.

However it is the conversation with the gentle Kaoru that really matters in this episode, particularly Kaoru’s desire to be Sio’s friend and Kaoru’s absolute support for whatever Sio chooses to do.

Kaoru explicitly tells Sio that she will support Sio not signing up, and I nearly cheered when I saw this.

This was the moment that made the episode, and also the moment that makes Sio determined to join DOGOO for the right reason: to continue to protect Kaoru, and not because it is expected of Sio to do so.

Other Winter 2014 Shows

Incidentally there are a number of other Winter 2014 shows with borderline first episodes at the moment, including Nobunaga the Fool, The Pilot’s Love Song, Witch Craft Works, and Magical Warfare.

Most of these I’ll comment about on twitter, I’m not expecting enough material from any of these in the short term to justify a blog post.

Looking Forward

Evolutionary Invasion Objects is the episode that establishes Nobunagun as a series worth following by establishing Sio as a character worth following in an interesting world. At the moment I’m prepared to give Nobunagun at least three more episodes, and right now I’m looking forward to the episode next week.



[1] To be blunt about this: life is too short to watch bad anime.


[2] Which is just as well given that the second episode of Record of Lodoss War is effectively “A dwarf, a priest, and an elf walk into a village”. No, really, it is.


[3] The two most extreme examples I can think of for this are Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Dusk Maiden of Amnesia. I can easily see viewers giving up on Madoka Magica before episode 10, and Dusk Maiden before episode 7.


[4] The reincarnated spirit of Oda Nobunaga becomes a gigantic machine gun that wraps around Sio so she can fight alien monsters arising from the sea. Oh and the reincarnated Jack the Ripper is one of the good guys, if something of a loose cannon.


[5] Although nowhere near as visually painful as Hamatora. Aieee, my eyes!


[6] The reincarnation of Gandhi produces forcefields and the reincarnation of Newton can step on something to apply additional gravity to it…


[7] Which in and of itself is something of a novelty.

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