Useful Notes: Oda Nobunaga

"If the cuckoo does not sing, kill it."
"Destroy everything equally."

Credited as being the first of the Three Unifiers of modern Japan, Nobunaga was one of Japan's most successful warlords. He started as a son of a minor daimyo (and earned the nickname "The Fool of Owari" due to his childhood and teenage antics), with a number of factions within his own province opposing him, eventually he would not only crush those factions but also proceed to conquer over a third of Japan, with the rest well positioned to fall to him. That ended on June 21, 1582, when his retainer Akechi Mitsuhide attacked him at Honno Temple; Nobunaga, his eldest son, his bodyguards and his wakashu, Mori Ranmaru, died that night.

Although noted for many things, including a mastery of tactics, (most famously at the Battle of Okehazama: Nobunaga's forces, numbering at most 3000, defeated an army of around 25,000 through a combination of daring, misdirection, a brilliant surprise attack, and more than a little luck) revolutionizing the ways Japanese armies used firearms, and completely changing the economic system of and the way wealth was counted in Japan, Nobunaga is chiefly remembered for his ruthless and brutal nature, and it is these traits that dominate most depictions of him in any period pieces or games. Nobunaga's actions leave him ripe for playing the part of the villain, as his most infamous deeds include the burning of powerful Buddhist temples critical of him, and the slaughter of the thousands of men, women and children that lived in them. Even the kinder portrayals of him tend to show him as a man fueled by ambition and greed, in many others it is either speculated or explicitly said that he has either become a demon or made a literal Deal with the Devil to carry out his ambitions. See Demon King Nobunaga.

Although he did not live to see the conquest of all Japan finalized, Nobunaga's actions all but ended over a century of near-constant civil war among the lords of Japan for dominance. After his death, his general Hashiba Hideyoshi (later known as Toyotomi Hideyoshi) finished the conquest, and another general, Tokugawa Ieyasu, founded the Tokugawa shogunate that ruled Japan from 1600 until 1868.

Amusingly enough, his most famous descendant, Oda Nobunari, is one of Japan's top male figure skaters, and is most known for crying at the drop of a hat, and getting caught driving his moped drunk.

Compare with other historical figures Miyamoto Musashi and Yagyu Jubei. Almost always a Big Bad, Evil Overlord and 0% Approval Rating dictator when he is receiving a Historical Villain Upgrade in fiction. And a Magnificent Bastard as well (though this one can be applied in real life too).

Tropes as portrayed in fiction:


Appears in the following works:

Anime and Manga
  • Admiral Akainu from One Piece is VERY similar personality and method-wise to Nobunaga. He is even paired with two other admirals who fit the Hideyoshi (Kizaru) and Ieyasu (Aokiji) characters.
  • In an early episode of Inuyasha, Kagome is startled when a handsome, idealistic young samurai gives his name as Nobunaga. She eagerly asks for his autograph, only to see in disappointment that he is Amari Nobunaga; when she asks about Oda Nobunaga, the other Nobunaga objects to being mistaken for "that idiot." This has been used by fans to put a date to the Inuyasha story, since there's a very limited period of time when Oda Nobunaga was known, but considered not to be a big deal.
  • Nobunaga doesn't directly appear in Blood Reign: Curse of the Yoma, but the story takes place at the height of his conquests, and he influences the story since the main character is a ninja serving the Takeda clan when it opposes Nobunaga, and because the brutality of Nobunaga's conquests is giving power to the Yoma demons. At one point the main character thinks about Nobunaga's brutality and wonders if he is a demon. While he's doing this, Nobunaga and his army are seen in a montage, and all of them have glowing red eyes.
  • Nobunaga is a major antagonist in Samurai Deeper Kyo.
  • In Drifters Nobunaga is one of the titular Drifters, famous personalities from Earth taken from their rightful time to do battles in other worlds. As one of the main characters he is portrayed as a Cool Old Guy and, despite very much reveling in his role of "Devil King", is one of the Drifters that are on the side of humanity.
  • Oda Nobunaga is the reason Recca's clan all but perished in Flame of Recca; at the end of the series Kurei returns to Jidai Geki Japan and takes his revenge by assassinating Nobunaga at Honnoji.
  • A rowdy young man implied to be Nobunaga appears in the Axis Powers Hetalia strip "The World of War and the Fool of Owari," in which he tells the anthropomorphic personification of Japan "This is the face of your future ruler." The anthropomorphic personification of Owari is skeptical.
  • Nobunaga is gender flipped into a violent redhead with a big sword in Sengoku Otome. She's also one of the main characters, seeking out the pieces of the Crimson Armor to unite Japan. Her armor is largely reminiscent of Red Sonja, and she is one of the few portrayals of Nobunaga that is not villainous, wishing to stop the pointless conflict of the Sengoku Period by using the Armor as a vehicle through which she can end the fighting and unify the nation.
  • In the historical comedy manga and anime Hyouge Mono, Nobunaga is the liege lord of main character Sasuke. He is presented pretty much as he was in life: A very ambitious (and slightly megalomaniac) warlord with designs to rule Japan, and then conquer China and Take Over the World. He has an interest in western culture, wearing Portugese clothing and citing the myth of the Tower of Babel. He also seems to be highly dismissive of most of his vassals, with the exception of Sasuke whose foolishness amuses him. He is killed by Hideyoshi at Honno-Ji.
  • Another Gender Flip variant occurs in Sengoku Collection. This Nobunaga is a Fish Out of Temporal Water, and a little more naive than the Otome version. Still portrayed pretty positively, though.
  • Another Gender Flip: In Oda Nobuna no Yabou, he became Oda Nobuna—although her portrayal is a little bit closer to history. The protagonist, a time traveler who's taken the place of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, acts as Nobuna's Morality Chain, steering her away from the real-life Nobunaga's more ruthless impulses.
  • Inazuma Eleven second series GO Chrono Stone has the current members of Raimon go back in time to get the power of Oda Nobunaga in order to defeat Protocol Omega 2.0.
  • Nobunaga is the protagonist of Nobunaga The Fool and he's riding a Super Robot named "The Fool" while accompanied by Leonardo da Vinci and Joan of Arc who's a gender bent Reincarnation of Ranmaru. Yeah it's as weird as it sounds.
  • In Nobunagun, Nobunaga is reincarnated in the modern day as a girl named Shio Ogura, who has a passion for More Dakka. Nobunaga himself often appears in her dreams or in visions, and the memories often help her figure out new ways to fight.
  • In Nobunaga No Chef, Ken, the main character, becomes Nobunaga's chef after getting thrown back in time from the present day. The Nobunaga here is fairly balanced, an ambitious warlord capable of both kindness and cruelty.
  • In Black Lion, Nobunaga is actually possessed by alien invaders who equip his armies with high-tech armaments so he can conquer Japan as a beachhead (probably; the backstory isn't covered much).
  • In Wrath of the Ninja, Nobunaga appears to be the chief antagonist for the 3 heroes, conquering Japan with demonic help and seeking to be transformed into a demon himself. This time, however, there's a Man Behind the Man, a demon looking to use the bloodshed of war and Nobunaga's cruelty to power the demons themselves, and Nobunaga is just his patsy.
  • In Nobunaga Concerto "Oda Nobunaga" is essentially an entity made up of Saburou (a former high-school student who timeslipped into the Sengoku period and took over the role from the real Oda Nobunaga), and Akechi Mitsuhide (who is in fact the real Oda Nobunaga).
  • An omake chapter in Hikaru no Go is dedicated to dramatizing the assassination of Nobunaga (as a school play) by the main characters. The chapter focuses on the Go game played by the Go Masters Nikkai and Kashio Rigen before Nobunaga on the night before his death. During the game, a triple-ko, an extremely rare position appeared and the game ended in a draw. Because of this, the triple-ko is now considered to be an omen of ill fate.

Film
  • In Akira Kurosawa's Kagemusha, Takeda Shingen, a powerful rival of Nobunaga's, (and perhaps a better general) uses a lookalike thief to pretend to be healthy instead of dead in an attempt to discourage an attack on his clan. Rightfully infuriated, Nobunaga proceeds to decimate the Takeda cavalry led by Shingen's son, the hotheaded Takeda Katsuyori in the Battle of Nagashino.
  • In the film for Ghost Sweeper Mikami, both Oda Nobunaga and his vassal blamed for his death, Akechi Mitsuhide, appear. A ghostly Akechi defends his apparent betrayal by explaining that Nosferatu killed the original Oda, transformed himself and took his place, leading to the famed brutality.
  • Nobunaga is a target of the ninjas in Shinobi no Mono.

Literature
  • The historical novel Taiko traces the rise of Nobunaga's general Toyotomi Hideyoshi from peasant to general and regent for the Emperor. Nobunaga, as Toyotomi's lord for much of his life, plays a large role. His defining characteristics are ambition and constant fury.
  • The Adventures of Samurai Cat tells the epic tale of Miawaro Tomokato's quest to avenge the death of his lord, Odo Nobunaga, who true to form had irritated a lot of people in his youth.
  • Nobunaga is the Big Bad in the novel Blood Ninja, set in 1500s Japan.
  • Appears very thinly disguised as Goroda the Dictator in the backstory of Shogun. Notably, Mariko is Akechi's daughter and never, ever forgives "Goroda's" successor for executing her father.
  • Again, genderflipped in Oda Nobuna no Yabou. She's still a Western culture otaku and an ambitious warlord, but she's already proven to be less ruthless than the original.

Live-Action TV
  • Another non-evil version in the Kamen no Ninja Akakage (Red Shadow) live-action Japanese TV series. (Three Compilation Movies were released in English as Watari.)
  • Toshiie to Matsu gives a largely sympathetic portrayal, though it doesn't shy away from Nobunaga's worse moments, either. (It helps that the actor portraying him is quite handsome.)
  • A homonculus version of Nobunaga appears in Kamen Rider OOO's first movie. Exactly what he is is hard to tell - Nobunaga himself revived by Medals, or a Greeed that thinks it's Oda Nobunaga? He is portrayed as ambition incarnate, but a pretty nice guy to his friends. However, at times, he turns into his monster form and kills the descendants of those he blames for his death, and is seemingly unaware of this when not actively engaged in it. Core Medals given to him by Dr. Maki corrupt him into a Greeed-like being that Eiji has to stop. And even then, he's not really stopped, as his Core Medals go on to create an even bigger problem.

Tabletop RPG
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Shi En and the rest of the Legendary Six Samurai are based off Oda Nobunaga's life story.
  • GURPS: Infinite Worlds: In the Shikaku-Mon timeline, alterations in the dynastic successions in Europe result in Portugal being able to focus more of its energy on colonization and conversion. More Jesuit missionaries in Japan result in more Christian converts and more support for Nobunaga, who lives long enough to finish the conquest of Japan himself and avert the sakoku (closing of the country to outsiders). Japan adopts Western technology with a vengeance, colonizes its neighbors, and ends up top dog in a cyberpunk-flavored world.

Toys

Video Games
  • In the Onimusha game series Nobunaga is mortally wounded by an arrow during his great victory at Okehazama, but makes a deal with the demon king to return to life as a demon and conquer Japan on behalf of the demons.
  • In Kessen III, Nobunaga does a rare turn as the protagonist, depicted in much more idealized fashion, making the traitor whose attack would kill him the antagonist, while using relatively conventional depictions of the rest of the cast. (Unlike Samurai Warriors however it actually deals with the shogunate at the time.) This game surprisingly contains a lot of Take That to treatments toward Nobunaga in general fiction...
    • He appears in the first Kessen in a cutscene, also in a non-evil depiction, as a vision of the idealistic Tokugawa Ieyasu speaking of his dream of a unified Japan. Well-Intentioned Extremist of sorts?
  • Samurai Warriors has Nobunaga as one of many playable characters. He has a reputation for brutality and is called "The Demon King" as a nom de guerre. Also, the ruff of his armor tends to shed black feathers everywhere, he's using a black lightsaber as a weapon, and his victory line is literally an Evil Laugh. However, despite his incredibly sinister appearance, the series as a whole tends to paint him as more of a ruthless pragmatist willing to do whatever it takes to unite Japan and bring about peace than a genuinely evil bastard, mirroring the complex re-evaluation he has begun to receive in modern times. Nobunaga further seems to get less evil with each incarnation, to the point that Magoichi Saika, a man who loathes him with a passion, finds the rule of Nobunaga preferable to the chaos that happens after his death. Heck, in the first installment of the crossover, Nobunaga is practically the Big Good, uniting humanity behind him into a single Resistance Army to defeat the Serpent King.
    • His love life is similarly complex. His wife wavers between wanting to kill for him and wanting to kill him (their marriage was a setup for his assassination, but she has decided to forego going through with it until she sees what he plans to do), and his relationship with his pageboy, Mori Ranmaru, is much less platonic in the original Japanese. Nobunaga finds both of them attractive in his quotes, making him a rare video game bisexual male protagonist.
    • He also gets paired up ironically in the second game with Akechi Mitsuhide, his future killer. However, in his ending he actually survives, killing Mitsuhide instead and shows that he is in fact capable of feelings of remorse and regret.
  • Ninja Gaiden identifies him as the original patron of the Hayabusa clan, funding the construction of their Hidden Ninja Village to defend the sacred peak of Mt. Fuji from evil forces.
  • Nobunaga is the final boss of the Neo Geo fighting game Ninja Master's, complete with a pair of flaming swords and a posessed demonic cape.
  • In Inindo, Nobunaga is the Big Bad, and survives the attack on the Honnoji. But through careful play, he can die when historically supposed to (Shocks!) and be replaced by a random guy who appears for no reason with his demon-pet. Woowee!
  • A rare case of a non-evil Oda Nobunaga: the Koei strategy video game Nobunaga's Ambition, which lets you play as Nobunaga or any of three dozen other daimyo trying to claim the Japanese crown. Nobunaga generally has the best attributes of all of them, though.
    • In the series' crossover with Pokémon, known as Pokémon Conquest in America, Nobunaga is one of the main antagonists. His Badassery is not lost here, as he gets to control not one, but two Legendary dragons (first Zekrom, then Shiny Rayquaza) through the course of the game. Oddly, this is one of his most positive portrayals, given that his entire motive is eventually revealed to be stopping conflict before people grow to view their Pokémon as little more than tools. The final story teams him up with the player character as the eponymous "Two Heroes of Ransei."
  • The Taikou Risshiden RPG/strategy series, where Hideyoshi is the main character, has Nobunaga shown as an magnificent lord defying the norm by trusting a peasant-born warrior.
  • Shogun: Total War has a non-evil Nobunaga, in the linear campaign the player gets to command several of his more famous battles.
  • Nobunaga makes a very brief appearance at the beginning of a historical campaign mission in Age of Empires II: The Conquerors, in which he is assassinated. The player then receives control of Hideyoshi's troops and the goal is to destroy three castles in Kyoto to avenge Nobunaga's death.
  • Nobunaga gets referenced in Soul Calibur as the one who cut off Yoshimitsu's arm, or at least was there when it happened, and is the one responsible for Yoshimitsu's Doomed Hometown.
  • Oda Nobunaga is the Japanese leader in Civilization V, his skill (Bushido) allows damaged units to be able to fight on as if they had full strength, with the right Social Policies damaging units actually makes them tougher to kill, therefore it's highly debated whether his ability is overpowered or not.
  • Nobunaga in Ikusagami inverts this plays it straight and then inverts again. Nobunaga is shown to orchestrate battles solely to study Aoi Yasaka, Inugami and the demons and shows a borderline obsession towards them, but Mitsuhide Akechi takes the final boss role.
  • In the H-Game Sengoku Rance, Nobunaga is shown to be a very compassionate leader and loves his sister dearly. His genocidal tendencies are caused by being possessed by a literal demon.
  • In Sakura Wars: So Long My Love, Nobunaga appears as the immortal demon lord Big Bad. (Ranmaru, meanwhile, is The Dragon and appears as a bunny boy in a dress.)
  • In Robo Aleste, Nobunaga is revealed to be the reincarnation of Lucifer, who will try to destroy the world by revealing his true form. Or so Astaros claims; the ending isn't quite clear.
  • Nobunaga serves as something akin to a Big Bad in Sengoku Basara, though being a Dynasty Warriors-esque game defeating him isn't necessarily part of any individual character's story. He's about as stereotypical a villain as you can find, with Spikes of Villainy and Evil Laugh and -speeches aplenty and little goal beyond "kill/conquer everything", and is voiced by Norio Wakamoto. He's playable in all three games currently released, fighting in European full plate and wielding a longsword and a blunderbluss and drawing upon dark demonic powers for his specials. Unusually for a game set in the Sengoku Period, pretty much everyone associated with the Oda Clan (including his killer Akechi Mitsuhide) are evil, with the exception of his sister Oichi who's a Tragic Villain, or possibly his demoted subordinate, Shibata Katsuie (who's too apathetic to do much evil).
  • In Deae Tonosama Appare Ichiban Nobunaga (or "NObunaga" as the game spells it) is revived as a missile-shooting cyborg by Martians who want to rule the Earth. It's just another bizarreness of the game that does not take itself seriously at all.
  • In Payday2, the player can steal his armor during the Shadow Raid job.

Web Original
  • Travis of 4Player Podcast has a loud, blood-thirsty alter ego that he uses sometimes in games of Halo named Nobunaga. Whether or not he's related at all to Oda Nobunaga has yet to be confirmed.