In short, I would say that this is Hetalia but for the Sengoku Jidai. Yet, it is more than just a silly shorts series that focuses on the Three Unifiers. Sengokuchojyugiga is an anime series that focuses on the history of the Sengoku Jidai in the style of chōjū-jinbutsu-giga, which is sometimes considered to be the first form of manga in Japan. Following in the characteristics of the art style, the famous figures from this aera become animals or even mythical creatures, usually tied to something related to them. This comical and short series is great for anyone who has some knowledge of the source material. Since this is quite a short series, there is not much to review, but there are some things that I found interesting that I would like to showcase in the review. Hopefully, it will help those that decide to watch it without much knowledge of the history, which I believe has led to its negative reviews, at least here in the West, on various anime streaming sites.
Starting off with the obvious is the animal representation for the samurai depicted in the show. Some of them are pretty straightforward in their representation. Take the Three Unifiers, for example (see above photo). Oda Nobunaga is a cuckoo bird, coming from the saying about the Three Unifiers and the bird that would not sing. Toyotomi Hideyoshi is a monkey, which is a nod to his monkey-like appearance in life. Tokugawa Ieyasu is a tanuki based off Meiji era folklore in which he is referred to as “old man tanuki”. Others that seem pretty obvious in representation include Date Masamune (dragon), Matsunaga Hisahide (spider), and Takeda Shingen (tiger).
Others are a bit different. Some of the missionaries that visited Japan during this time make an appearance, such as Gnecchi-Soldo Organtino (see above photo) and Luís Fróis. They appear as kappa in the series. I really could not find anything that might correlate missionaries with these mischievous mythical creatures, however, the hairstyles are a bit similar. Following along the lines of Christianity are the kirishitan themselves. Christian daimyō like Kuroda Nagamasa make an appearance and they are usually depicted as sheep. This obviously connects them to their faith, as Jesus is sometimes referred to as the “Lamb of God”.
As stated before, the content is centered around the Sengoku Jidai, but it focuses on some of the interesting rumors about some of the figures. One of the first ones to come up within the series is the possibility that Maeda Toshiie and Oda Nobunaga shared a shudo relationship in their younger days, coming from the story of the crane soup. Later on, an episode focuses on the rumors that Uesugi Kenshin might have been gay as Kakizaki Kageie and Naoe Kagetsuna talk about his feminine mannerisms. However, it can be implied by some of the wording used to describe Kenshin that he is actually a woman. For example, Kenshin is known to go into hysterics and called Shingen a “jerk” after the Fourth Battle of Kawanakajima. Which also brings up another interesting point.
Besides the narrator, all the voices for the characters, regardless of their sex, are voiced by men. To many, it might be seen as something that was added on for comedic affect, but looking at the show, it is possible that it might have ties to kabuki, which, while started out as an all-female performing art, became an all-men performing art by the time the Edo Period got well underway. Since many of the legends about these figures came about around the same time that kabuki became popular, it can be seen as something similar. I could be grasping at straws here, but it was too obvious not to notice.
Because this is a really short series (I mean, each episode is about three minutes in length), I thought I would give a list of my top five favorite episodes (some spoilers).
5. “Rokumonsen (Season 1, Epsiode 5)—There’s just something about Sanada Masayuki trying to convince Yukimura that there is no Sanzu River (or hell)…just so he can get some money for dumplings.
4. “Rumors of Kenshin” (Season 2, Episode 11)—As I have described already, two of Kenshin’s retainers ponder over the idea that their lord might be gay.
3. “The Guy No One Likes” (Season 2, Episode 8)—If you could not tell from the title, it is an Ishida Mitsunari episode.
2. “Water Attack” (Season 1, Episode 12)—The ending had me rolling on the floor.
1. “Something I Want to Show You” (Season 1, Episode 1)—The interaction between the Three Unifiers over a gun instantly made me love this show.
Overall, Sengokuchojyugiga is definitely worth the watch. There are only two seasons and are available to view on Amazon Prime Video and Crunchyroll (which is how I viewed these episodes) and each episode is about three minutes in length. It only took me a couple of hours to finish both seasons. It has a unique art and animation style as well for those that tend to focus on that aspect, completely unlike what is out there today. If you like short episodes and history-based humor, I highly recommend you check it out.