The Rise of Nobunaga
The Demon King
Birth of a Dynasty
Asia is steeped in a rich, diverse history of bloodshed, feuds and epic battles. Many of which, us in the West have probably never heard of. With the growing popularity of Korean dramas, Japanese anime and, more recently, the critically acclaimed Ghost of Tsushima, Asian history has a whole wealth of history just waiting to be explored.
Never one to miss a trick, it’s perhaps unsurprising then that Netflix are the ones to dip their toes in the undisturbed waters first. This epic, 6-episode docu-series explores the years of feudal Japan, and in particular pivotal moments that changed the history of Japan forever.
Following on from last year’s Rise Of Empires: Ottoman, Battle for Japan combines re-enacted battles and scripted sequences with talking head interviews and engaging narrative. The result is a really engaging series, one that sheds light on an important time in Japanese history.
Although there is a bit of hyperbole surrounding some of the episodes, the actual content is fantastically produced, with some really neat visual cues added for good measure.
Each of the talking head interviews for example are bathed in black and white, with a diverse cast of experts ranging from Japanese-speaking historians to English experts in the field.
Similarly, a lot of the battles depicted are done so through bloody re-enactments, complete with slow motion shots and blood spatters. Whether it be the incredible 15 minute battle involving Nobunaga’s forces or Tokugawa Ieyasu’s sudden and shocking declaration of war, there’s some amazing moments across these 6 episodes that will have you reaching for a history book (or, let’s face it, Wikipedia) to learn more.
It helps too that beyond these re-enacted battles are some really neat maps that use ink blotches to show the armies advancing and moving around. The way the ink seems to bleed through the screen, slowly oozing across the map, really helps the distinct style shine through.
That shine begins with the rise of Oda Nobunaga and his brilliant tactician mind, thwarting the threat of his family to become a formidable force to be reckoned with. I won’t spoil anything here as it’s best to jump in blind but Nobunaga’s iron grip on Japan starts to slip – and slip quickly.
The first 3 episodes tackle his tenure before the final 3 turn toward Toyotomi Hideyoshi and his ever-expanding horizons. In fact, it’s around this point where China and Korea both come into view too, with lots of scope for a possible second season if this show does well. And there’s no reason why it shouldn’t to be honest.
Age of Samurai: Battle for Japan is a slick, stylish katana that cuts through the sea of mediocre to produce a really engrossing documentary series. This one’s a must-watch.
Verdict - 8/10