Oda Nobunaga is one of Japan’s greatest historical figures. His stories and legends make him surprisingly suitable for the anime world.
Oda Nobunaga is a significant historical figure in Japanese history. He launched a successful campaign to unify Japan during a period of civil unrest. His story and exploits became legendary, but that also meant they became wildly open to interpretation.
Many anime feature someone with the name Oda Nobunaga or a slight variation on it. Both the name and the character have various takes throughout various anime and video games. He can be anything from a tyrant to a savior to a beautiful woman to a dog. All these different ways of the man make many anime fans wonder who this man was in real life.
Who was Oda Nobunaga?
Oda Nobunaga came to power during the Sengoku period, also known as the Warring States period. This time between 1467 and 1615 saw Japan in a constant state of war. The inciting event, the Ōnin War, led to the collapse of the feudal system under the Ashikaga Shogunate. The resulting power vacuum led to the various samurai warlords, clans and daimyo to fight for control of Japan.
Nobunaga, a daimyo and the leader of the Oda clan, started his war against the other daimyo started in the 1560s. He used a combination of clever tactics and the newly introduced arquebus firearm to win most of his battles. He managed to unify much of Honshu by 1582 before being forced to commit seppuku by his former retainer Akechi Mitsuhide; his successors Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu managed to finish the work from there. These three became known as the great unifiers for their restoration of the central government in Japan.
Nobunaga’s ability to be made into an anime character comes from a few things. Firstly, as with any historical figure, he has all sorts of myths and legends surrounding his exploits; these kinds of stories are the ideal building blocks for historical fiction. His retainers and many others he was associated with during his conquest became equally popular; their own stories make them ideal as cast members in a Nobunaga-centric narrative. Finally, the Warring States setting of Nobunaga’s life story makes a good setting for a lot of action anime. There is just so much story potential to be gleaned from Nobunaga’s story that it is impossible to overlook him as a potential character for any anime.
How has Oda Nobunaga been depicted in anime?
Nobunaga’s status as a “Great Unifier” has been very open to interpretation throughout the anime. Many series approach his character from the ruthless conqueror angle and make him out to be the primary antagonist. One of his most infamous portrayals is as a primary antagonist in Sengoku Basara series. Other such series include Samurai Deeper Kyo and Sengoku Kidan The Yotōden. In some cases, he is referred to as the “Demon King of the Sixth Heaven” (dairokuten-maō).
In other words, he is made to be more of a hero figure. Such series include Nobunaga the Fool, Drifters, and Kochōki Wakaki Nobunaga. In these shows, goals like unifying Japan are made out to be noble endeavors, or at least morally gray.
It’s also worth noting that a few series make Nobunaga a woman. They include Sengoku Collection, Oda Nobuna no Yabō, Nobunagun, and Battle Girls: Time Paradox. Most of these series also make Nobunaga a more noble figure, probably to increase her love.
There are also series that play Nobunaga for laughs. These include Hyōge Mono and Oda Cinnamon Nobunaga. There’s just something really funny about seeing someone proclaimed Demon King get caught up in a daily hijinx.
For how many forms Nobunaga has taken throughout anime, no one knows what to expect from a character based on him. The safest bet is a ruthless tyrant, but he might as well be a sweet girl. His long history and the many legends surrounding it make his character and story potential as great as the author. Anime fans who want to get to know Nobunag better might want to start with Sengoku Basara and work your way out of there,