What’s it about? Oda Nobunaga has met his match and dies in a fire at the infamous Honnouji Incident of 1582. As he dies, he reflects on his life as a warlord and acknowledges his deeds may very well see him reborn as a dog in his next life. And he’s right. Some 430 or so years later, Nobunaga is now Cinnamon, the Shiba dog. Follow his new life as he reunites with other Japanese military greats (all as dogs) as they try to retain their past glory as feudal warlords in between belly rubs.
Content considerations: Casual womanizing, urination, and dog butts.
You know what the problem with Nobunaga anime are?
Whenever you make Oda Nobunaga the hero of a story, you have to make him the guy you ultimately root for. There is no doubt that Nobunaga was fundamental to shaping Japan as it is today, but shows that celebrate his life often shy away from admitting he was ruthless in keeping control of an ever-expanding empire.
In all the complexities his life offers, he was most certainly a great ruler and tactician who nearly succeeded in unifying Japan during the Warring States period of Japanese history. At the same time, he was known to be a brutal despot who quashed any who dared stand in his way. His legacy is only softened by the fact his retainers Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu later finishing the unification to finally put an end to the Sengoku Era and enter the Edo Period.
That is why Oda Cinnamon Nobunaga surpasses all other Nobunaga anime by bringing humility to this genre of warlord appreciation stories. It fully admits that Nobunaga had been ruthless and probably deserving of divine punishment in the next life. He faces humiliation as a once-proud feudal lord now chained to canine instincts and behaviors.
Much of the show spends its time delving into the fact that Nobunaga has three things to say about his new life as a dog. 1) He hates his new name, “Cinnamon.” 2) He is embarrassed that a once proud military ruler is now a defenseless ball of fuzz. 3) He is convinced Akechi Mitsuhide betrayed him because he was too good-looking and smart.
Though historically accurate to an extent and blunt about Nobunaga’s past, Oda Cinnamon Nobunaga maintains levity by being a silly show about a bunch of Sengoku Era warlords being reborn as dogs in modern Japan. I wonder what sort of strange fluke inspired Megurogawa Una to pen such a strange concept where men are reborn as dogs in their next lives.
The warlord aspect comes into play to add more humor than a history lesson. These men’s stories are well known in Japan, so the intended viewership for Cinnamon Nobunaga likely are simply just laughing along rather than trying to quickly look up the references online.
The humor of “dogs being dogs,” however, comes across universally and the show is funny when you think about a burly 47-year-old man rolling around and panting happily while getting belly rubs.
That said, the show does have its moments of womanizing and somewhat strange visuals to reinforce that, “No, no, Cinnamon is still Oda Nobunaga, no, yes really.”
Though not constant, Cinnamon Nobunaga does feature one scene wherein the warlord exhibits his womanizing past as he vividly recalls bathing with multiple women as a warlord. Women crowd around him in the bath and he takes the opportunity to pinch one of them under the water line. This was the only instance where something explicit happens, but he also does present the mental picture of himself as a naked adult man being walked like a dog, so there may be more vaguely uncomfortable visuals incoming in the future.
There’s also a lot of dog butts. Lots and lots of dog butts.
Technically speaking, the English subtitled stream for Cinnamon Nobunaga faces one somewhat unforeseen issue. Given Cinnamon’s short stature, scenes where he and his owner are walking together often have him just barely in frame at the bottom edge of the screen. Under normal circumstances, this would not be an issue, but whenever they are talking (and that’s most of the time during scenes like this) Cinnamon’s face is oftentimes completely obscured by subtitles.
Finally, it is absolutely worth mentioning that this show’s ending and post-credit extra segment features real-life dogs being cute. It’s a great and adorable way to close things out.
Cinnamon Nobunaga is a decent comedy where some of the jokes may fail to land if you’re not aware of 16th-century Japanese history, but it’s easy enough to get and visually humorous enough that it’s not really a prerequisite to enjoy. What Cinnamon and company do from here will decide how this series will fare, but I’ll probably keep this on my queue for at least a few episodes.