Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Oda Nobunaga - The Fool who conquered Japan (1998)

And here I am to talk about a TV movie dedicated to Nobunaga, this time focusing exclusively on his youth.
The Fool who conquered Japan is quite famous around because of his protagonist, the idol Kimura Takuya, here playing the main role of Nobunaga.

[Again, sorry for the crappy quality of the screenshots]

The performance of Kimura is quite popular around, but must be noted that the most of these enthusiastic comments come from genuine fans of the guy (that problably watched a bit too many Japanese dramas and too few good movies).
Since everything connected with Japanese boys bands and the like disgust me, you can count on a honest opinion here XD

Well, I do think that Kimura shines in the shoes of a young Nobunaga.
But I also think that such a performance is not a big deal: you can compare Kimura's acting to that of any other young actor playing the role of the school delinquent, and the result is pretty much the same. Still, it's undeniable that the overall impression is quite enjoyable.

As I really enjoyed the body language of the actor, I found his expressivity a bit over the top: you know, those grimaces and those annoying "fluttering" eyebrows to suggest practically every kind of emotion..? Yeah, exactly like that.
It's kinda bothering the fact that when Nobunaga "played" the fool he looked quite natural and realistic but when he's supposed to show his "true" emotions he turned into some kind of kabuki parody.

Apparently this movie is based on the homonymous novel by Sakaguchi Ango dated 1953, that from what we could get from the movie, it takes quite a lot of liberties when it comes to the historical source.

According to Ango those plotting Nobunaga's demise in favor of Nobuyuki were mostly Dota Gozen, Nobunaga's mother, and Hayashi Hidesada, one of Nobunaga's guardians, here painted as vicious villain straight from a Disney's movie.
As the plot against Nobunaga sounds plausible, the idea of Dota and Hayashi conspiring to kill Nobuhide, Nobunaga's father, makes very little sense.
In the movie instead of the "throwing of the incense" scene, we are shown Nobunaga nailing his sword next to his dead father to show his disappointment and signify "his father's rage" for being unable to die on the battlefield as he wished, smelling the betrayal of his mother.
Apparently 20 men couldn't extract the sword from the floor and they had to remove and replace the whole thing.

After this, we're shown Hirate's seppuku.
For a retainer to kill himself to remonstrate against the wrong actions of his lord was a rare yet testified occurrence.
In the movie, Hirate is rappresented as the only one who understood Nobunaga and his actions (together with Nobuhide, who never doubted Nobunaga's role as the heir of the Oda clan). If this was the case, I doubt that he would have killed himself to remonstrate.

A few words of plause for the "teammates" of Nobunaga, protagonists together with Kimura of some of the funniest scenes of the movie.
Fujimaru, the chubby one, is played by hilarious Taguchi Hiromasa, Senkuro, the boy doing the most of the talk, is played by Takezawa Kazuma while pretty Senchiyo (Niwa Nagahide) is played by Isaki Mitsunori.

The relationship and portrait of Nobuyuki is quite vapid.
Nobuyuki respected his brother, then suddenly we're told that he actually despised him.
It's a bit unnatural to show us a Nobuyuki that started to hate his brother in the span of a few months. One of the explanations provided for this sudden change of heart, is that of Nobuyuki being in love with Nouhime.
The part where Dota Gozen tried to encourage Nobuyuki's betrayal by promising him to let him marry Nouhime (that the boy has a crush for) is ridiculous, but I can see such things being popular in the 50s.

In the movie both Kitsuno and her brother Hachiemon (Ikoma Ienaga) appear since the beginning and quite frequently.
It's suggested that the Ikoma mansion worked like some kind of "refuge" for Nobunaga, who went there to escape his family's conspiracies and find some peace of mind.
This movie embraced the theory that Nobunaga knew Kitsuno since his youth, even if here he's still uncertain about his feelings for the woman, at least consciously.

Speaking of women, I enjoyed the portrait of Nouhime by Nakatani Miki, but I didn't like how easily the character went "head over the heels" for Nobunaga.
We have Nouhime being presented a short sword so to kill Nobunaga in case he's a real fool (I wonder if it ever happened for a wife to kill her husband during Sengoku era... It's a danger that it's always mentioned in movies and novels, but I never read of such an occurence) and the duty to spy on him in the best shinobi fashion, but during the most of time Nou is busy being in love and being ignored systematically by her young husband.

It's implied that Dousan trusted the judgement of his daughter, but at a certain point he decided to kill his son-in-law anyway.
The meeting between Dousan and Nobunaga in 1553 is presented as a conspiracy to kill Nobunaga on the border of Mino... When Dosan spotted the armament of Nobunaga's men he was impressed by the long spears and the muskets, and when he showed up all cleaned-up and cool at the banquet, every attempt to Nobunaga's life was fast forgotten.
I liked this rendition of Dousan, the actor was peculiarly effective.

At this point of the story, marking its conclusion, a chronological delirium ensued.
Profitting of Nobunaga's absence to meet Dousan, Nobuyuki & Co. decided to attack Nobunaga's castle in Nagoya, sure that Dousan killed him, so to allow Nobuyuki to claim the Oda heirship and face Dousan's invasion.
In an insane rush of events, we're shown Nobunaga defeating the Nobuyuki Team, then receiving Nobuyuki to kill him after getting the proof of his betrayal.
In reality, the Battle of Ino happened in 1556, three years after Nobunaga's meeting with Dousan, and Nobuyuki was killed in 1558, after another failed coup.

So, as the movie may be entertaining, I wouldn't call it all all the best movie about Nobunaga around, neither the movie featuring the best Nobunaga.
Despite the fun and refreshing first part, it suffers of a rushed and ineffective final part that lowers the quality and enjoyment of the movie.


  1. To be honest, I did expect a review such as this from you. First,because I know you don't care much Johnny's, SMAP and the like and a thing you must know is that this type of j-drama is made for Johnny's fans, not quite really for the history enthusiast. Second, I know you are not familiar with Kimura acting , which is kind of important to understand and enjoy this drama fully. Knowing this I found your review very apt to your tastes and very honest. Me, being the Kimura fan I am, I enjoyed this drama a lot, especially the creative and spontaneous performance of Nobunaga by Kimura (which is very true to his own acting skills and personality), founding is very refreshing if compared to several other young Nobunaga portraits by other talented actors, not least the aformentioned Sakaguchi-san. I liked Dosan a lot, I didn't like Noh, whom I found quite insipid but I rarely like Nakatani Miki so I might be biased here.

    I perceived the situation with Nobuyuki a little different here. I think the director wanted to offer a sympathetic portrayal of this character, blaming his betrayal not entirely on his being but because the pressure of the vassals. The last scene between the brothers was particularly touching.

    Overall this was an enjoyable j-drama special in my opinion, not the best out there but quite interesting and worth of a chance.

  2. Yeah, I'm aware of my lack of knowledge when it comes to Kimura's performances XD To be honest I wanted to take a peek to other movies and TV series to get a better idea of his acting, to see how he interpreted other roles, but the lack of time was against this.
    I'll definitely give a try to "Musashi Miyamoto" movie though, as I'm curious to see if as an actor he's showing some development, expecially after you told me about that rumor on an upcoming movie where he could play a mature Nobu :D

    Yes, he did play a really nice Nobunaga in his youth, but in my opinion he showed some immaturity in the latter part of the movie, where stuff like "rage", "sorrow" and "disappointment" was expected to show on his face and body.

    Yes, that Nobuyuki had a change of heart because of the intermission of his vassals is pretty obvious, but such a "change" is too repentine.
    I'd like to think that Nobuyuki was aware of his "rivalry" with his brother since he was a kid, as portrayed in "King of Zipangu".

    --It's worth a note that Nobu in this movie plays with a cat, as in the Shinobi series XD
    I wonder if it's a reference!