信長協奏曲 (Nobunaga Concerto)

Nobunaga Concerto is the Oguri Shun-Takayuki Yamada reunion that I’ve been anticipating for quite a while now. The series is based on the ongoing historical manga by Ayumi Ishii that began in 2009. It is the story of Saburo, a typical carefree high school boy with a sketchy knowledge on Japanese history. He travels back in time and in a sort of The Prince and the Pauper kind of tale, takes the place of one of the most prominent figures in the Sengoku Period – Oda Nobunaga.

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Oguri Shun plays both Saburo and Oda Nobunaga. Yes, I know what you’re thinking and I agree – he totally wouldn’t pass off as a high school student anymore! The dark circles aren’t helping either but I think this is better than casting a younger actor with no acting chops. Shun will play a dual role and his versatility certainly comes in handy.

I enjoyed the anime even with an animation style that looks a bit old fashioned and unconventional. It’s a feel-good experience for someone who’s a sucker for anything about Japanese history since it feels like watching a lighter version of the usually hard-hitting Taiga dorama. However, there are plenty of changes between the anime and the live-action series so it becomes pretty much subjective from hereon. A more mature cast created deeper character developments and bigger plot conflicts.

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Anime Saburo is more assertive and in control. He accepted his fate way too easily and is determined to win. His popular seiyu Mamoru Miyano, who is well-known for being the voice of Death Note‘s Yagami Light, gave this character an air of confidence and coolness despite the limitations of the anime’s movements due to its art style.

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Live-action Saburo is a bit more childish and confused and the immaturity is apparent when he amusingly takes pictures in the middle of an actual war. It’s different from the original but somehow, I get the idea that this version gives Oguri Shun a chance to flesh out his character. The drama explores his character’s progress from the initial naiveté in clamoring for peace to his eventual growth as he comes to terms with his new identity and responsibilities.

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Some may not agree but I liked the changes in Tsuneoki and Kichou. Osamu Mukai’s modern ikemen appeal radiates even when he’s donning historical clothes and hairstyle. His Tsune-chan is more than just a blind follower. He has a clear view of what needs to be done for the glory of the Oda family and in the process has become a confidant and a voice of reason amidst all the craziness Saburo has gotten himself into. I like a series that has a dose of bromance.

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Shibasaki Kou plays the toughened up version of the all-too delicate Kichou. Her tsundere live-action persona provided a funnier, more interesting and more romantic relationship than Saburo and Kichou’s “dates” in the anime. Those sweet moments in the anime would probably look cheesy in the live-action considering the age of the actors so their adorable bickering gives the audience a breather for a comic relief as well as a different take on Saburo and Kichou’s dynamics.

Today is Takayuki Yamada’s 31st birthday. He briefly appeared with his good-looking somber face perfect for what seemed to be a merciless assassin character. He plays Denjiro, a man who is harboring a grudge on Nobunaga.

The series also includes some of my favorite actors: Yuya Yagira, Shotaro Mamiya, and Naohito Fujuki and I am looking forward to their performances.

Nobunaga Concerto exceeded my expectations with a solid premiere and I’m hoping that this live-action series will be able to give us a more satisfying ending than the anime. Judging by the first episode alone, it’s obvious why Oguri Shun was chosen to play the lead in spite of being too old for the character. His star power and his chemistry with his co-stars can create a huge impact on this amazing yet underrated franchise.

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