Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Oda Nobunaga (1989)

I know that many of you were waiting for this review!
That's it, it's finally the turn of the BS-TBS TV special "Oda Nobunaga", featuring Ken Watanabe as our Demon Lord!
The two episodes were directed by Sadao Nakajima, who's mostly popular for his yakuza movie, based on an original script by Koji Takada.

I decided to review this series only now because, I wanted to introduce you to "The Lucky Adventurer" of 1959 first, so to provide you a source of comparison for the two movies.
Despite the obvious differences, in fact, I found a lot of similarities between the two movies, if just for the acting of Watanabe, that seems to take a lot from Nakamura's.
The Nobunaga of Watanabe is one of those rough, "meaty" interpretations that I like a lot.
If not as massive as Eguchi, Watanabe offers a nice presence and a strong gestuality that make his performance sanguine enough.

I found intriguing how the young Nobunaga is portrayed with some "restrained" expressions during the most emotive scenes, an attempt to show how Nobunaga used to "act" for the most of his young days, and the "sly" satisfaction that he shows in his older days, when he's at the apex of his power, being entertained by travellers from all around the world in Azuchi castle.

I investigated the curriculum of Watanabe, and again I found the theatrical experience: right after graduation he entered the troupe En in Tokyo, where he met his first great success.
The role that he played in "Shimodani Mannencho Monogatari", set in the ill-famed quarter of Ueno of the postwar period, was that of Yoichi, a lively boy who cared for a dangerous life. Following this experience he was scouted to take part in TV roles, his most famous performance being that of Date Masamune from the taiga drama "Dokuganryū Masamune" of 1987-- Since then the role of the samurai stuck to him, as we noticed in his most recent "The Last Samurai", where he played an intense Katsumoto-dono.

Contrary to many actors that played Nobunaga, Watanabe managed to mantain a certain coherence of interpretation, making his Nobunaga able of fresh and "naive" expressions even in his mature years.

--Let's proceed with the other actors starring in the movies.
First one to get a mention is Sakagami Shinobu, who played the role of Nobuyuki, Nobunaga's rebellious little brother:

Portrayed as a weak-willed guy, easily swayed by his vassals, this Nobuyuki offered some surprises.
In this story, he didn't betray Nobunaga, but was forced to do so by the treacherous vassal Hayashi Mimasaka, who took him hostage in Kiyosu as Nobunaga was up to raise hell-- In the end Nobuyuki committed seppuku, trying to rebel to the villainous plots of Mimasaka.
It's interesting to note that the one alerting Nobunaga on the matter was a penitent Katsuie, who presented himself in front of Nobu, showing his penance with a bald head for his treacherous actions.

Next is Natori Yuuko, someone who finally offered a charming, entertaining portrait of Nouhime:
Not just a pretty girl in love with her hubby, but mostly a strong-willed, determined "daughter of a Viper" who can show some grit without turning into the parody of a suffragette.
She is definitely my favourite Nouhime ever.

Dosan was played by Matsukata Hiroki:
It was an entertaining act, and it reminded me a lot of the Dosan of "The Lucky Adventurer", if just for his close and mostly comical relationship with his vassal--

Hideyoshi was played by a fun Wakayama Tomisaburo:
A merchant and street artist that Nobunaga got to meet in his first visit to Mino, he'll get to enter Nobunaga's army only later.
His relationship with Nene is greatly explored in the movies, and he's one of the few characters who enjoyed a good deal of screentime.

Ieyasu is Sanada Hiroyuki:
He's first shown as a brilliant, determined warrior part of the Imagawa armies.
I loved how he replied quickly confirming hid friendship with Nobunaga to Yoshimoto XD
He said some smart stuff to Nobunaga during the movie, one of the most charming that of great men tending to become the greater nuissance when Nobunaga was telling him about Nagamasa, here played by a sly Nezu Jinpachi:
This sure was an ambiguous portrait of Nagamasa!
He's depicted since the beginning in a "threesome" of interests with both Asakura's and shogun Ashikaga, in the end he doesn't hesitate to betray Nobunaga and was expecting Oichi to die with him too!
Poor Nobu didn't enjoy any of this.

Some interesting bits about this series, then!
In the story is implied that Dota Gozen (Tsukasa Yoko) after the Death of Nobuyuki decided to become a nun and to retire in the temple of Kasugai together with Oichi (Kanou Miyuki).
Oichi would later be called back home by Nobunaga to marry Nagamasa.

The first experience of Nobunaga with luxuries and tea stuff wasn't with the shogun in Kyoto, but in Mino, with the misterious vassal of Dousan Ami "The Oni", that would be revealed to be Koyo (Toake Yukiyo), the lover of Dousan and a sophisticated lady that Nobunaga would befriend his whole life:

It's thanks to Koyo that Nobunaga would get to see western furnitures, to learn that the world is spherical and from this fateful meeting he would get also the "Tenka Fubu" motto-- It was inscripted on an ancient teacup saying to have belonged to the first Emperor of China... Nobunaga would get the name "Gifu" exactly from that teacup for this reason. --How convenient!
Later on Koyo would leave Japan to travel across the world and become a merchant of Sakai, one of those who used to be Nobunaga's intimate friends in his Azuchi times.

The Atsumori!!
Here Nobunaga danced it two times. Before the battle of Okehazama, as usual, and at the end of the movie, in Azuchi, as a comment to Koyo's words about the need of a thousand years to tell him all the stories that she gathered during her travels around the world:

The two dances are significatively different, one danced with the energy and rage of youth, giving a frustrating yet determined feeling, the second danced with a certain resignation, or better, "awareness" to one's limits despite one's desires...

Another interesting bit is that of Nobunaga as a father:
As a ladies' man and an energic fellow, Nobunaga's huge mass of sons and daughters (and concubines!) is mentioned quite frequently in the movies.
The scene above refers to the birth of Nobutaka, who received the vague name of Sanshichi (the date of his birth, March 7) because yeah, Nobunaga was quite earnest in fathering boys, but also pretty much "indifferent" to them, unless for the fun bits.

Worth a mention is the Western armour of Nobunaga!
A must of every movie that seems to have very little historical proof behind it, in this movie it's presented a gift from Hideyoshi, who was looking for employment within Nobu's ranks:

Nobunaga asked him back in his merchant days to find him an armour that could protect him from bullets: a few years later, Hideyoshi managed to buy a cuirass from a Portuguese, after a series of economical adventures that made Nobunaga assume that Hideyoshi would make a better merchant rather than warrior--!

A very entertaining movie, probably one of my favourite by now, and a sturdy, affectionate portrayal of Nobunaga.


  1. Ahahahah, Nobu as a father? I have to see this! I've always wanted to see Nobunaga interact with his children XD

    He barely spoke to them in Hyouge Mono (but at least the children showed up for a bit).

    1. It's not a pleasant portrait XD He treats his kids pretty much like pets, LOL.

  2. Nagamasa was quite evil in this movie.I didn't like him before but I liked him even lesser after this! XD

    1. Glad to hear it!
      Even if I find him a somewhat charming figure, he's the guy I dislike the most in the whole Nobu's life-- Even more than Mitsuhide, go figure!

  3. he is Oda Katsumoto on the Transformers..hahaha