Useful Notes: Akechi Mitsuhide

One of the more well-known names in the history of the Japanese Warring States. For good or bad, you decide.

Akechi Hyuga no Kami Mitsuhide was one of the most trusted vassals of Oda Nobunaga. He had served other lords before joining the Oda at the recommendation of Nohime, his childhood friend and Nobunaga's wife. He was talented in arts, excelled in warfare, and was generally a great guy. Too bad for him Nobunaga was a Bad Boss. Mitsuhide suffered insults here and there, ranging from getting yelled at in front of guests to being called "kumquat head". He was also a devout Buddhist and was very troubled when he saw Nobunaga burning down Buddhist temples (and everyone inside) on Mt. Hiei. He tried to endure this all, but he finally snapped after an incident where his mother was killed during a hostage situation gone awry. At this point, Mitsuhide no longer trusted in Nobunaga.

...Or so the popular history goes. Other accounts paint him as a shameless opportunist who tried to suck up to the most powerful lord of the age, yet others claim that he was manipulated into betraying Nobunaga. What is certain is that Mitsuhide was a shrewd politician, a talented governor, and that Nobunaga seemed to favor him a great deal for a good while before their eventual fallout. But everything is cloaked in so much myth and ambiguity, that modern scholars simply don't know why, really, Mitsuhide chose to do the act that made him infamous.

Eventually, Mitsuhide was told to reinforce Hashiba Hideyoshi, who was trying to take down the Mori clan. Mitsuhide began to comply, but instead struck an unsuspecting Nobunaga at Honnoji Temple (immortalized by the oft-quoted "The enemy is at Honnoji!"), setting the building ablaze. In the end, Mitsuhide seized power from Nobunaga, who was Driven to Suicide along with his heir and many faithful retainers.

Mitsuhide tried to appeal to the other lords, but no clans would support him, either because they didn't trust him, or because they saw more potential in the other contenders for Nobunaga's legacy (Nobunaga's son Nobutaka, Hashiba Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu). Not even the Hosokawa clan, who were linked to him through marriage with his daughter, Tama, (later known as Gracia), would lend assistance. Within 13 days of his rule, Hideyoshi decided to take revenge and subsequently triumphed over him in the Battle of Yamazaki. Mitsuhide retreated but was killed by a group of peasants. There were rumors that Mitsuhide didn't die, but instead retired, and later resurfaced as an influential monk named Nankobo Tenkai.

Opinions about Mitsuhide vary to this day, and can be split into two main camps. One camp sees Mitsuhide as being justified in his betrayal, often giving Nobunaga a Historical Villain Upgrade, and in turn they promote Mitsuhide to the Lovable Traitor. The other camp sees him as a disgrace to samurai and claim that he prolonged the war by halting Nobunaga's unification of the country. This camp might describe him as the Judas Iscariot of the Sengoku era (despite the fact that Nobunaga himself isn't exactly Jesus Christ material.)

While he was not a very prominent daimyo, Mitsuhide remains a popular figure in Jidai Geki, partly because he single-handedly defeated the single greatest power of his time, and partly because to this day no one really knows why.


References to Mitsuhide appear in the following works:

Anime

  • A gender flipped meganekko version of Mitsuhide appears in Sengoku Otome. She's loyal to Nobunaga to the point of lovesickness, and is willing to partake in shady operations to ensure success. She's also not very fond of Hideyoshi.
    • She crosses into full Yandere territory when she torches Honnou Temple with Nobunaga passed out drunk inside, then goes into the huge fire after her so they can "always be together." They both survive.
  • Another gender flipped version appears in Sengoku Collection, a Fish out of Temporal Water with amnesia and apparently became a detective. Though it was All Just a Dream.
  • In Hyouge Mono Mitsuhide is presented as a calm, stoic and very honourable man, torn between loyalty to his liege lord and the continued bad treatment he suffers from Nobunaga. Hideyoshi, presented as one of the heads of a conspiracy to replace Nobnunaga, outright tries to manipulate him into rebelling.
  • Yet another gender flipped version appears in Oda Nobuna no Yabou.
  • In Nobunaga Concerto he is in fact the real Oda Nobunaga, who, being sickly and breaking under all the pressure placed on him, escaped from his former life and gave up his name and title to Saburou (a high-school student who had just timeslipped into the Sengoku period, and happened to look exactly like Nobunaga). Later on he returns as Akechi Mitsuhide to help Saburou, and the two of them carry out the historical Oda Nobunaga's actions, with Mitsuhide being responsible for the more controversial ones. Unlike most Mitsuhide incarnations, he worships his lord (seeing Saburou as having saved him and the Oda clan from certain ruin), and has vowed to live only for him. Of course, the Honnoji Incident is still a few years in the future...

Literature

  • Appears in the novel Shogun under the name of Akechi Jinsai.
  • Appears in Yoshikawa's Taiko. Although sympathetically portrayed, several characters comment that he's too smart for his own good.

Video Games

  • Sengoku Basara portrays him as a psychotic, sado-masochistic White Hair, Black Heart, wielding two scythes in battle. Basically a full-fledged villain second only to Nobunaga himself. He reappears in the third title as Tenkai, 'serving' Kobayakawa Hideaki and sporting a mouth-concealing mask to hide his identity. He attempts to resurrect his dead master so that he can kill him again. Only Oichi recognizes him, and Motonari hints when fighting him that he also knows who he really is.
    • Much to Tenkai's despair, even when he succeeds in resurrecting Nobunaga, Nobunaga claims not to know him at all. This is probably due to Hisahide stealing his identity, to prolong his suffering after he became a Death Seeker.
    • Ironically, while Mitsuhide does have an ending where he kills Nobunaga in the previous game, canonically he does not.
  • Capcom did also give him a better role in Onimusha 3, where he gets a cameo (and despite being voiced by Norio Wakamoto of all people). He becomes playable in one of the games too.
  • Samurai Warriors series opted for the "hero" Mitsuhide, who can be seen as a Well-Intentioned Extremist who eventually becomes disgusted by Nobunaga's behaviour and decides to finish him off.
    • He's back for another antagonistic role in KessenIII, but only because they decided to make Oda Nobunaga a real sympathetic main protagonist. And even then, he wasn't as over-the-top as the Basara version.
  • Mitsuhide appears in a villainous role in the Japanese scenario of Age of Empires II Conqueros.
  • In Sengoku Rance of the Rance Series, Mitsuhide is a relatively weak tactician unit you get at the beginning of the game. You can later replace him with his daughter Gracia.
  • Mitsuhide stars in Pokémon Conquest as one of the warlords fighting for control of the Ransei region. His initial partner Pokémon is Lapras, but he can later acquire Articuno. In the main story he is a loyal servant of Nobunaga, but in his own special episode he decides his lord has gone too far and, of course, turns on him, even at one point quoting the aforementioned famous line.