Source: Netflix

Within the rich culture of Japan, there lies a past stained dark red much like many other developed countries in present day. The Netflix docu-drama ‘Age of Samurai: Battle for Japan’ captures what is arguably the most violent part of Japan’s long history from the mid-16th century (1550s) to the early 17th century (1610s). This time in Japan is the end of the Sengoku period which translates roughly to ‘the age of warring states.’

This Netflix story begins with a man named Oda Nobunaga who is the most innovative war tactician that Japan and even the world had ever seen. Nobunaga set a precedent for the end of Sengoku period of brilliant war strategy and extreme cruelty. Controversially, Nobunaga came to power in the middle of the landmass that is Japan after his father, the head of the Oda clan, passed away. He rose to power because he was the oldest son of the Oda family. Many people even within the Oda family felt Nobunaga was not fit to lead the clan due to his lack of regard for Japanese tradition. This feeling was so strong that Nobunaga’s younger brother plans a Coop only to be caught and executed by Nobunaga personally.

After Nobunaga staunched the opposition to his leadership of the Oda Clan, he began to plan how to increase his sphere of influence. When Nobunaga first got power as a Diamyo(warlord), the Oda clan was one of the smaller clans and was surrounded by larger clans with more powerful Daimyo. During the first few years of Nobunaga’s leadership, the more powerful Imagawa clan to the south set their sights another larger clan in the north. The Imagawa clan thought they could march right through the Oda clan territory due to its insignificance, but Nobunaga had different plans. Outnumbered 6 to 1, Nobunaga and his forces prepared for the Imagawa clan with scout information.

At the time, wars were fought out in open battlefields and still would be for centuries after the Sengoku period. Nobunaga knew he could not overcome the Imagawa on the battlefield, so he prepared a night attack on a Imagawa camp, the first of its kind in Japan. Within 15 minutes, the Oda clan had won, killed the Imagawa Daimyo, and sent the rest of the Imagawa forces running. This victory allowed Nobunaga to quickly take over the Iwagama territory soon after.

After the capture of Imagawa, Nobunaga had an army of samurai that was well equipped like all the other Daimyo around him, but there was one thing that would give the Oda the upper hand. The Oda clan had come across a new technology from the west, the archabbeys (muskets), and they were the first in the world to employ them with such success that it changed the way wars were fought all together. Normally, the archabbeys was not used in war due to its reloading time. However, Nobunaga had stationed every archabbeys using samurai with two archers, creating the first version of the three-round volley, a war tactic used to this day in in artillery warfare. Using this strategy, Nobunaga would not experience defeat until his death. He captured the Japanese Capitol of the time, Kyoto, conquered one third of Japan, and exterminated any of his opposition including people of the dominate religion in Japan, Buddhism, and the Takeda clan (known for creating the practice of Ninjutsu and the Ninja). By the end of Nobunaga’s 20+ year reign, he ordered the killing of hundreds of thousands if not millions of Japanese people and aims the unify all of Japan under the Oda clan banner.

After killing so many, Nobunaga had made enemies out of even his closest Generals, one of which successfully mounted a Coop on Nobunaga and put his life to an end. But this is not the end of Nobunaga’s dream to unify Japan and you will have to find out on your own whether his dream comes to fruition or gets lain by the wayside.

There is one fact about this part of the Sengoku period (1550s to 1610s) that stands out: the war tactics and sheer army sizes would not been seen again until World War 1 and 2, making the people in the Sengoku period centuries ahead of their time in the practice of war. On that same token though, the cruelty and death that came with this was on the same scale as World War 2.

This docu-drama is honestly incredible at explaining the story or the time and illustrating it with such realism. It shows as much gore as possible, but everything that cannot be shown is described by the narrator and historians very well. A term often used to describe the brutality of war is “the rivers run red with blood.” There is no doubt that this term was literal in the Sengoku period of Japan. It is a harrowing reminder of how lucky we are to not live in a time of constant warring and death.

I would recommend this docu-drama “Age of Samurai: Battle for Japan” on Netflix to anyone who is has any interest in history and can handle the gore. While the gore is not over the top, it is the understanding that during the Sengoku period, the carnage was so much worse than anything we could ever imagine today. There are mixed reviews on official reviewing sites, IMDb has this series at 7.4/10 but Rotten Tomatoes has it at 100/100 (100%), a rare feat. I would recommend trying the first episode to see how you like it, this story is very intriguing from the first episode.