Present-day high-school student (and keen gamer) Yoshiharu Sagara finds himself bang in the middle of a fierce Warring States battle. A dying warlord (none other than Hideyoshi Toyotomi) begs him to take over his name and title – and the young man agrees. He knows plenty about the historical period – because he’s played all the games! Imagine his surprise, then, as armed only with his smartphone, he rushes to the rescue of a young female warrior, only to discover that she’s the warlord Nobunaga Oda. The famous general is a girl: Princess Nobuna. And she’s vowed to unify the Warring States! Luckily for our hero, she takes him on as her sandal bearer, nicknaming him Saru (Monkey). We follow him as he tries to adjust to life in a version of the Warring States in which most of the warlords – and even their ninja – are princess warriors (moe young women). Harem show! Our intrepid young hero is not afraid to tell his princess that he’s from the future. He can even predict what’s going to happen next. But when his predictions start to alter the course of history (as he knows it) nothing is certain anymore. Has his meddling in the timeline thrown everything off course? And…is his feisty daimyo princess developing a crush on him? When she’s not flooring him with a mighty kick for shooting his mouth off once too often, she sometimes glances at him with flushed cheeks and those wide golden eyes seem to say…
The Ambition of Oda Nobuna (2012) isn’t in the least bothered by the mechanics of its time-travelling, alternate world scenario. Main protagonist Yoshiharu Sagara just finds himself (and his smartphone) in this alternate Warring States and, as he’s spent too much of his time playing games set in this period, he doesn’t question what he’s doing there, or how – or if – he’s ever going to get back home, and just gets on with his new life. Don’t bother your heads about any of that realistic stuff, the series seems to say to the audience, turn off your logical, reasoning brains and just go with the flow.
In contrast to Battle Girls: Time Paradox, there are plenty of men in this alternate world, but the warlord princesses, like Princess Nobuna, are all young and pretty in that moe fashion that’s beginning to look just a little…old. This series is fantasy time-travel-lite – and, even though its character designs are more ‘modern’ than those in Battle Girls and the clashing of armies in skirmishes and battles footage looks as if it’s been lifted straight out of Sengoku Basara, this series has very little to say about this fascinating historical period. Monkey makes for quite a proactive, sympathetic hero, but we learn very little about him. Do we care about his relationship with Nobuna? Well, not very much…because their situation is really not that convincing. Tsundere Nobuna, with her large golden eyes and black lacy bra, doesn’t convince as a warlike daimyo princess.
As to the historical aspect, there’s a helpful voiceover commentary with maps and little red arrows, but the bewildering number of characters and skirmishes probably mean more to Japanese students studying the period than to the casual viewer. (English Civil War Version: Olivia Cromwell musters her New Model Army and rides to defeat Princess Rupertina of the Rhine and her adorable talking dog Boy at Naseby Moor…?) And even though there are occasional jiggly moments, they don’t get in the way too much; you could blink and miss them. Based on the (ongoing) series of light novels by Mikage Kasuga, the script needs a great deal more clever writing than is on offer here to lift it above its single idea: Nobunaga Oda and his peers re-imagined as cute girls.
In the serviceable US dub Clint Bickham captures Monkey’s insouciant, brash character rather well and Emily Neves portrays his princess with a convincing blend of aristocratic hauteur and occasional glimpses of vulnerability.
Music-wise, the Opening Theme is “Link” by Aimi and it has a suitably warlike animation with clashing horsemen, etc. whereas the Ending Theme, “Hikari” by Makino Mizuta, is ballad-like, showing the girls in various ‘come hither’ pouty poses, scantily clad etc. Frankly, neither song is very distinguished, rather like the show they’re attached to. The incidental music is by Yasuharu Takanashi and if you think you’ve heard the ‘menacing’ theme used to hype up the tension before, it’s because he’s used something very similar before in his soundtrack for Naruto Shippuuden (where it works rather more effectively).
The only extras are four trailers.
The Ambition of Oda Nobuna is better drawn and animated than Battle Girls but it’s pretty standard, easily forgettable fare.