The drama begins as Sanada Masayuki’s Takeda clan is on verge of collapse from being attacked by Oda clan. Takeda clan falls shortly after but Sanada clan survives, becoming semi-independent as a result.
For your information, Sanada clan was not a daimyo. It was a local tribe under Takeda. For a local tribe to survive, Sanada clan would need a backing from a daimyo. The trouble was that there was no stability around Sanada.
To north of Sanada, there was Uesugi who was bleeding badly from Oda’s invasion, thus no power to really help or even accept Sanada’s vassalage.
To south-west, there was Tokugawa who wanted to eliminate Sanada.
To south-east, there was Hojo who never really appreciated Sanada’s value.
Sanada Masayuki gambles on Oda and swears vassalage but Oda Nubunaga is killed during Honnoji incident and Oda clan falls into chaos and rapid decline.
In such chaos, Sanada Masayuki uses every tricks in his book and sleeves to survive. He betrays left and right and uses every dirty tricks to survive. Sanada would eventually become a daimyo by time Tokugawa Ieyasu becomes the shogun.
This 55th NHK’s taiga drama shows their journey.
What I really liked:
The actor choice for Sanada Masayuki, Ishida Mitsunari, and Tokugawa Ieyasu were golden. They really did good job impersonating their historical roles and personas.
What I liked:
The comical moments with two characters out of three mentioned above.
Sanada Masayuki had silent comedy expressed by his face. It was based on irony.
Tokugawa Ieyasu had a lot of physical comedy scenes.
Above clip shows Sanada Mayayuki swearing to his lord that Takeda clan would not fall unless a local volcano erupts. And it does erupt, leaving Masayuki speechless. A somewhat comical moment.
Above clip shows Tokugawa Ieyasu fleeing comically while trying to reach his castle after Honnoji incident.
What I disliked:
The actor for Sanada Nobushige was a letdown for me. I liked his acting in previous NHK drama “Shinsengumi”. But, in his role in Sanada Maru, I didn’t feel he was very fit. First of all, he is a very slender guy. His acting role, Sanada Nobushige, is supposed to be the most fearsome warrior in Japan. His physique isn’t fit, not to mention his age isn’t really pleasing for the role. (43).
While I understand NHK was trying to modernize Sanada Maru, Kiri (Nobushige’s childhood friend) was out of character. No woman in that era would have acted so and survived. She was simply out of line so many times although she was starting point for a lot of comedies.
Overall, Sanada Maru is one of better NHK’s taiga drama for me.