Oda Nobunaga’s Swords: The Perfect Choice for the Next Touken Ranbu Stage
Japan is crazy about Oda Nobunaga. Given the fact that he was just brought to life again in the newest Fate game adaptation (as a cute girl, at that), it should be pretty clear at this point that Japan will do anything to see him in their media–and for good reason.
Oda Nobunaga’s rich history lends itself to fantastic storytelling. No matter how many times this story is retold, Japanese and Western fans alike are incredibly interested…and that’s why it’s about time for his swords to have a chance to shine. Touken Ranbu’s next stage adaptation could easily follow the stories of his blades, and there wouldn’t be a dry eye in the audience.
A Brief Overview
It’s hard to be brief about Oda Nobunaga, truth be told. This man was busy, and has been since he was a child. As a young samurai, he was known as the Fool of Owari, and went by the nickname Kichihoshi. With a great lack of respect from his peers and even his father, this is a kid that really needed to get his act together.
The problem is that he was too smart for his own good, and desperately wanted to go to battle. When he finally had a chance to do as much, it seemed as if unifying Japan was incredibly easy. Why hadn’t anyone else done this before?
Where It Starts
The Battle of Okehazama would be the ideal start of a stage play focused around the Oda-gumi. In this battle, Oda Nobunaga defeats Imagawa Yoshimoto and takes the sword Souza Samonji off of his body…but it isn’t as simple as that.
Imagawa had an army of about 25,000 men. They were so drunk on their success of capturing other forts that they stopped at night within a gorge, got drunk, and ended up surprised by Oda Nobunaga’s force of only 3,000 men at the most. With his brilliant tactics (and incredible luck), Nobunaga defeated Imagawa, and firmly established himself as a front-runner among the generals fighting for power in Japan.
Fans often depict the Souza Samonji stolen from Imagawa’s dead (decapitated, mind) body as still having the typical blue sheen of a Samonji blade forged by the great smith O-sa. This is why you will often see Imagawa Souza in fanart having long blue hair and characteristically blue robes, just like Kousetsu or Sayo.
But That Wouldn’t Last…
Upon taking the blade as a spoils of war, Oda Nobunaga simply had to put his stamp upon it. He branded the blade with his mon, as well as the words:
“On the 19th day of the fifth month of Eiroku three  through the killing of Yoshimoto this sword came into the possession of Oda Owari no Kami Nobunaga.”
He also shortened the blade through suriage, which was considered a disgrace to swords back in the day. In fact, if you read up on Souza (also known as the Yoshimoto Samonji to many scholars), you’ll find that they always talk about the suriage as an ‘unfortunate’ choice.
Souza’s story is obviously one that will draw the other main Oda-gumi swords into the fold. Following his interactions with Heshikiri Hasebe and Yagen Toushirou especially would offer a compelling arc to viewers, considering…
Heshikiri Hasebe Hates Oda Nobunaga
Heshikiri Hasebe is an interesting case for sure. This is a sword named for the weight of its blade, considering he was used to kill a servant after slicing through a cabinet. From the game, we can easily see Heshikiri’s disdain for Oda Nobunaga as a master, considering he had a penchant for killing anyone that displeased him in the slightest manner.
Even so, Heshikiri Hasebe is an incredibly loyal and obedient blade. His utmost obedience to Oda Nobunaga would be an incredibly interesting foil to Souza’s passive aggressive bitterness. One moment Souza talks of Oda Nobunaga as the Demon King, and the next, he talks of him like a lover, as if he has a great deal of pride for being his spoils and for being marked by him. This dichotomy would be a pleasure to watch in the form of Souza and Heshikiri being at one another’s throats (because who doesn’t love a good lover’s spat?).
Then, There’s Yagen
Yagen Toushirou is a blade that has inspired a great deal of rumor and mystery in Japan. It’s likely that this blade doesn’t even exist today, though it has been speculated by scholars as to what happened to it.
Yagen Toushirou is a blade that embodies the spirit of young Oda Nobunaga, and also, utmost loyalty to his master. It’s said that his previous owner attempted to commit suicide with him, but the blade bounced off of his belly after several attempts. Finally, when the blade was tossed across the room, it sliced through a mortar, and the man took this as a sign he was not supposed to die quite yet.
This loyalty is exhibited through Yagen’s constant concern for his master, and his praise of Oda Nobunaga. It’s likely that Oda Nobunaga committed suicide with his blade (though some reports say that it was actually Souza that Nobunaga killed himself with). Either way, this blade was at Nobunaga’s side until his last moments in the burning of Honnoji, and historians debate as to whether or not it burned in the flames, or if it was stolen by Nobunaga’s rival, Akechi.
Whatever the case may be, the idea of being able to watch Yagen Toushirou be the caretaker that he always attempts to be in-game would be incredibly interesting. While he is a tantou, he does seem to be the most mature member of the group in a number of ways, and his attempting to wrangle the strong personalities of both Heshikiri Hasebe and Souza Samonji would be highly entertaining.
Shokudaikiri and Tsurumaru
While fanart often depicts these two swords as being a part of Oda-gumi, it’s peculiar that it’s such a popular concept. Oda Nobunaga had a vast collection of Osafune blades, and Shokudaikiri was simply another blade that he eventually gifted to the Date clan.
Tsurumaru is another interesting case. Upon appearing at the Nobunaga stronghold, Nobunaga more or less shrugged this blade off, and ended up gifting it to a subordinate before it was placed within the Fushimi-Inari shrine.
More or less, we can imagine these blades appearing in the stage play due to their popularity. Their influence on the Oda-gumi is historically insignificant, but it would still be a pleasure to see them.
Honda Tadakatsu’s spear, Tonbokiri, would more than likely make an appearance in this stage play. Toyotomi Hideyoshi–who should absolutely be cast, being Souza’s next owner and one of the three conquerers of Japan–was also the owner of Ichigo Hitofuri…and his wife held Mikazuki Munechika. There’s also Tokugawa Ieyasu, so maybe even an appearance of Monoyoshi Sadamune would be feasible! We also can’t forget Nihongou–eventually owned by the Kuroda house, which is where Heshikiri Hasebe ended up.
The possibilities are ultimately endless when it comes to Oda Nobunaga. His connections are vast, ranging from the revived Hojou clan, to the Ashikaga, to the Hosokawa, to the Asakura–and every other clan in-between. It would be amazing to see this historically rich set of swords come to life on stage, so hopefully, the Touken Ranbu stage producers will take note!