Nobunaga has officially inherited leadership of the Oda clan, with his first major plan being to get 500 muskets for his army. Most of retainers are wary of this, but the oldest, Hirate Masahide, assures him proudly that it will be done. This only riles up the others, with some wanting to bring Nobukatsu, Nobunaga’s younger brother(??? Wikipedia is not helpful on verifying this) into power, but others not wanting to go against Hirate due to his previous accomplishments and work with Nobuhide. But Hirate is getting up there in years, which means his body is starting to break down on him, but he plans to persevere even if it kills him. Efforts by the retainers to get Inuchiyo, who later comes of age, to help find dirt on him fail spectacularly.
On top of that, tensions have started to rise between their family and Nobutomo, head of the Principal Line of the Oda family, who is pressured by his own retainers to go to war with the other line, taking Nobunaga’s uncle hostage. The doubtful retainers of Nobunaga see this as a good reason to bring Nobukatsu to replace Nobunaga, but Hirate tells them to support their leader in Nobuhide’s memory. While they plan their retaliation, Hirate collapses and ends up on his deathbed. He gives Nobunaga one last bit of advice and makes him promise to protect the Oda clan. On the eve of the battle, Hirate’s ordered muskets arrive, allowing Nobunaga to make an effective first victory which wins over his retainers, but Hirate dies before he can return to say goodbye.
Maybe I wasn’t paying attention or fully aware of his importance, but Hirate’s passing here seems pretty lacking in impact compared to if he had been much of a presence in previous episodes. Nobuhide, being the one in charge and Nobunaga’s father, felt like a much more quantifiable loss last episode, but it’s apparent enough what Hirate is meant to represent here. This is very much a transitional period for the Oda clan as their new leader is trying to prove himself despite his unorthodox tactics and behavior. I guess it’s really no wonder why his retainers would be hesitant to follow him over Nobukatsu, who both seems more typical AND probably easier to manipulate to their whims. Nobuhide (at least this interpretation of him in the context of this story) was also more traditional for his time and had brought in people who knew him and knew how he operated, unlike Nobunaga who has his own people and has never really fit well with their model of a leader.
Hirate is someone who probably believed in Nobunaga more than his own father did, apparently being far more attentive to him and raising him through his formative years. Losing him is the last also losing the last longstanding ally of the old guard that supported Nobunaga, and so, with civil family war on the horizon, was his last chance to prove himself to his doubters, and it looks like he succeeded for now. Now he needs to maintain that trust through future victories and alliances, which hopefully he’ll be up for or this show is going to be a lot shorter than just twelve episodes.
Also, what HAS Nobukatsu AKA Nobuyuki been up to lately? We haven’t seen him in a little while, but the ED seems to indicate that he’ll be playing a bigger role later on. Speaking of which, we might be losing a lot of these named characters with the passage of time, though hopefully not without some epic send offs and final battles to give them a high note to go out on. Again, as I’ve probably said before, I’m not super invested in the tale of Oda Nobunaga from a historical perspective, so this docu drama has really got to wow me to keep my attention. With another two thirds to go, I can only imagine what’s going to happen to try to keep it, but we’ll see.