Title: Kochouki: Wakaki Nobunaga
Length: 12 x 24 minute episodes
Genre: Drama, historical, romance
Year of release: 2019
Oda Nobunaga is one of the most revered figures in Japanese history, so it’s no real surprise that he rears his head in so many anime. And, being anime, I can only sigh loudly when most of those iterations are gender-bent variations. Enter Kochouki, an anime that depicts Nobunaga’s early life, up until the famous Battle of Okehazama, and does so with… an acceptable level of accuracy too!
Relying on such a strong story and rich characters, Kochouki shines. We get to dig really deeply into Nobunaga’s love of western culture, and major scenes involve him bartering with foreigners and utilising guns in a time few dared to. His bravery is not so much seen as his inspirational side, winning over allies through all of his hardships. Yes, he’s a pretty anime boy, and yes, his fashion sense is… odd, but this incarnation of Oda Nobunaga is extremely likeable, perhaps unlike the late-life, and more recorded, version of Oda Nobunaga who had grown far more cynical. Even at the end this kid is still just doing his best in a very human way.
I’ve been singing the praises of these major scenes since the show started, but the episodes move towards grand climaxes and they have an unbelievable amount of strength. Even when it takes liberties with the story, the dramatic moments are theatrically portrayed with such vigour. And they vary, too, depicting Nobunaga’s surprising kindness as he accepts his wife’s history, or his steadfastness as he deals with betrayal after betrayal. Some of the liberties are frustrating, but mostly due to watering down the truth; Nobukatsu’s BL-inspired betrayal has a grand climax but the underlying writing is mediocre, and the death that woke Nobunaga from his reveries was not of terminal illness like in the anime but an actual suicide.
It’s the writing in between these moments of strength, then, that the show probably earns less of an exceptional reputation. Kochouki is by no means a failure, with some solid comic timing, solid character chemistry (though a top romance), and solid ability to exposition (though the whistle-stop-tour of history may be hard for newcomers). As a production, too, the show is passable with consistent art but has lacking animation.
Kochouki in a nutshell is defined by these moments of strength, and while it’s one of the better shows of the season, it’s not fighting tooth-and-nail to be one of the best of the year. Tightening up its pacing, and giving a more fulfilling depiction of the Battle of Okehazama would have gone a long way to making this otherwise very strong dramatic romance an outbreak historical anime, because it certainly has the chops to be one.