Kochoki – Mid Season Anime Review
Synopsis: The fearsome warlord, the demonic king—Oda Nobunaga! Before he was trying to rule over Japan, he was a teenager who began his path to greatness with his younger brother and faithful followers. Through succession, betrayal, battles, and bonds between one another, the struggles these boys face promise a future where they can blossom into powerful men. (Official Funimation Synopsis)
Mid Season (6 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Kochoki attempts what so few Nobunaga centric anime have ever attempted: Tell the tale of Nobunaga without any sci-fi or fantasy gimmicks. Do the story straight. While noble, and welcome for audiences eager to learn more about Nobunaga, with a little creative license and dramaticism, Kochoki bites off way more than it can chew. The series is wholly ambitious, attempting to squeeze so much of Nobunaga’s early life into just twelve episodes. The trouble is that requires jumping around every episode, the series spanning multiple years, across numerous events in the span of just twelve episodes. This and other flaws make Kochoki a difficult watch for newcomers to Japanese history. Characters can age quite rapidly, alliances change on a dime and there’s never time for really interesting character moments, to showcase who these people are and let us grow attached to Nobunaga and the rest of the cast, forever keeping their appeal at arm’s length.
Linny: Kochoki is less focused on the wars Nobunaga wagged, rarely depicting the actual battles themselves, and more interested in exploring the political and even interpersonal drama and scheming that took place during Nobunaga’s rise to power. Don’t go into this show expecting grand sprawling battles or personal one on one showdowns. Kochoki likes to skip and jump through time a lot, but often neglects to actually specify how much time has passed, making it a tad confusing to follow as you struggle to get a grasp of the flow of time and the specific period events are occurring in. This constant time jumps also means new characters are frequently tossed into mix, making it hard for audiences to concisely follow and keep track of an ever expanding cast, furthering adding to the show’s confusing nature.
Tom: Another crazy element to the series is the depiction of Kichou, the woman who becomes Nobunaga’s wife. Many rumors and few true details surround Kichou as a historical figure, making her ripe for creative interpretation. But Kochoki gets wishy-washy with Kichou’s depiction. In Episode two of the series Kichou is revealed not only to be a Ninja, but also not even a woman, possibly. Kochoki isn’t clear, as certain dialogue points to Kichou secretly being a man, but other dialogue almost negates this. The series never truly confirms the idea one way or the other, leaving audiences in a sort of limbo. It’s this, combined with many character designs being of the ‘pretty boy’ variety, that makes me wonder if Kochoki, for as gimmick-less as it can be, is actually more of a ‘gay-baiting’ take on Nobunaga. Couple this with two male characters implied to have a sexual relationship later on, and historical fact that Nobunaga never had children with his wife, only his mistress, it feels Kochoki’s is a half-hearted attempt to appeal to gay audiences or fujoshi (female audiences that enjoy guy on guy). The annoying thing about Kochoki is that it feels very wishy-washy as to whether it really wants to go down that route or not. Kichou’s sex is left so ambiguous that it almost feels like the series is trying to have its cake and eat it too. It both wants to pander to audiences interested in a Gay-coded Nobunaga and audiences who may be repulsed by that idea. In the end it’s this weird half-measure in both directions that’s never offensive, but downright confusing none the less.
Linny: The age old question; is Kochoki for you? If you’re interested in the story of Nobunaga’s rise to power with a bit of a BL/bishonen twist, with the focus of the storytelling being on drama rather than action, then the answer might be yes. Otherwise, the rushed nature makes it challenging to follow and for someone who might want a more thorough approach it’s more frustrating than fun. Also, given that the art for supporting/certain characters can be bland, interchangeable and unmemorable, that’s another strike against the series’ appeal. As one more addition to the array of anime about Oda Nobunaga, Kochoki tries to stand out by focusing more on his younger years, injecting BL tones, interpersonal and political drama and that could make it a good fit for certain viewers. However, as an in-depth or educational and entertaining retelling, one might find this a bit lacking.
Tom: Six episodes in and Kochoki has left me with even less of an understanding of Nobunaga than its more fantastical counterparts. Nobunaga Concerto, a series about a high schooler being sent back in time and mistaken for Nobunaga, gave me a much better understanding than Kochoki has managed. Kochoki simply tries to do too much in too few episodes. In fact the events of Episode six almost feel like they might’ve be an incredible cap off to a twelve episode season. If you fleshed out these first six into a full twelve this could’ve been a perfect start to a much longer adaptation of Nobunaga’s life. I assume, though, that Studio Deen didn’t feel it likely Kochoki would be enough of a success to warrant multiple seasons. It’s also unfortunate the series tries to ‘gay-bait’ rather than dedicating itself one way or the other. I’m fine with either direction, but this middle ground only further damages a series already rife with problems.
Kochoki is available for streaming via Funimation.com