The Legend and Butterfly, directed by Japanese director Keishi Otomo and written by Ryota Kosawa, is an epic story set in the Warring States Period in Japan, where a man and a woman come together under special circumstances to become husband and wife. Their relationship undergoes monumental stages as the history of Japan takes shape in the background. Starring Takuya Kimura and Haruka Ayase, The Legend and Butterfly marks their third collaboration together. The performances are worthy of praise as they helm this period drama and elevate it into a grand love story.
Viper Meets Tiger
Lord Owari’s son Nobunaga prepares for his first night after Owari and the nearby state’s lord Mino agree to marry their children together. The wedding was actually a ploy by Lord Owari to ensure his domain’s safety against the attacks by Lord Mino. If his daughter was married right in the Owari domain, Mino would cause mayhem everywhere, barring the domain where his daughter lived.
Little did Owari know that the Mino’s were “vipers,” striking their enemies at the most vulnerable places. Nobunaga carried the pride of the Owari domain’s “tiger” and believed that he could devour any opponent in front of him. One look at Nobunaga, however, revealed that he wasn’t qualified to carry forward the legacy of the Owari domain. Even at the wedding ceremony, he acted like a mature prince but couldn’t even handle the sake he was offered in a ritual.
Lady Nohime, Mino’s daughter, on the other hand, was a woman of high caliber. Sophisticated, ambitious, and determined, she agreed to her father’s wish to marry Nobunaga as she was told that her brother could revolt against her father, and under that circumstance, the ‘Tigers’ could attack the vulnerable Mino. Establishing a relationship with Owari would mean that their army would side with Mino and not with Nohime’s brother.
A marriage of convenience meant that the relationship was in for a difficult road ahead. Nobunaga doesn’t quite understand the gravity of the situation, and it becomes apparent in the way he prepares for his first night with Lady Nohime. He barges into a small room where Nohime waits and begins to command her to do several chores for him, one after the other. Nohime doesn’t like his attitude one bit, and when she refuses, things escalate and take the shape of a battle. People, both from Nohime’s and Nobunaga’s sides, enjoy the sounds coming out of the room, thinking they are the sounds of passion.
That’s how absurd the start of their relationship was. Embarrassed, Nobunaga goes out of his way to make up for the humiliation. He doesn’t have the self-respect to remove himself from the situation. In actuality, he is smitten by Nohime’s beauty but he is too proud to admit it to himself. One fine day, he challenges her to a hunting contest, and he not only fails but almost falls from the edge of a cliff while chasing a deer. Hanging on for dear life, he is helped by Nohime to climb back to safety.
The playful days are soon over when Nobunaga’s father dies, and soon Lord Mino also follows when he is attacked by Nohime’s brother. Nobunaga is called upon to do his duties as a leader, but he doesn’t have the chops for it. The problem lies not in his combat or sword skills but more in his character. Here, Nohime’s determination and leadership qualities shine through as she instills in Nobunaga the winning strategy. He emerges victorious, and the battle becomes famous as the Battle of Okehazama. Lady Nohime keeps the information about giving the winning strategy to Nobunaga concealed, to make him look like a competent leader to the people. The relationship between them solidifies after this, and a real marriage emerges upon Nobunaga’s return.
The news about this miraculous victory spreads across Japan, and the neighboring Lord Ashikaga asks Nobunaga to join him on an expedition to Kyoto and help him be recognized as a shogun. A hesitant Nobunaga is again maneuvered by Nohime to rise in status and reach Kyoto, even if it means killing enemies along the way. Through Ashikaga, he, too, would become eligible to be deemed a shogun in the near future. Nohime planted the seeds of ambition in Nobunaga, not realizing what a huge price she would have to pay.
The Reign Of The Demon King
Nobunaga began his long expedition to Kyoto, leading his army and making way for Lord Ashikaga to reorganize the Shogunate. With the excess responsibilities on his shoulders, he begins to change as a person. Nobunaga no longer remains the bumbling, wannabe son of Lord Owari but becomes a power-hungry individual who starts treating himself as a demigod. Many of his men died, and with every death, Nobunaga’s heart died a little as well. When he gets to know that Nohime was pregnant but had a miscarriage, he goes in and doesn’t say a word of comfort to her.
Nohime had created a monster. She once tried to tame him but failed. When the resistance grew strong, Nobunaga decided to kill women and children and tear down Buddhist temples to assert his dominance and eliminate all the antagonistic forces. Nohime came to dissuade him from the decision. She thought she could talk him out of it just as she had talked him into the expedition, but little did she realize that Nobunaga had abandoned all sense of morality. His only focus now was the unification of Japan. All land was to be under his control, unlike the condition of that day when each shogun had his own land and ruled the people under his command. To each of Nohime’s questions regarding the brutal killings, there came only one reply: Nobunaga would kill them all. Each and every person who tried to get in the way of his goal would be met with death. Nohime realized that the tricks she had used earlier were useless now.
Seeing him so brutal and devoid of emotions, she felt a sense of guilt and confided in her lady-in-waiting, who herself was a very smart woman. She had seen her journey from the very beginning. It is she who tells Nohime that, finally, something has become more important to her than her ambition. She tells Nohime that she has fallen in love with Nobunaga and that seeing him this way is taking as much of a toll on her as the battles are on him.
Something is triggered in her after listening to this revelation, and she asks for a divorce from Nobunaga. The seemingly emotionless Nobunaga obliges her, and she leaves the castle and starts living in the Mino domain. The reign of the Demon God continues, but his health deteriorates. He visits Mino to find Nohime in a worse state than him. Understanding that they cannot live peacefully together but cannot possibly live apart, Nobunaga takes Nohime back to his newly built castle, and suddenly a new stage arrives in their relationship. Easy in their interactions, they finally understand each other, and the long-lost playfulness returns.
The fact that Nobunaga had caused enough mayhem to terrify the rebellious forces also helped. The battles were reduced, and Nobunaga could enjoy his time with Nohime. The only problem was that her health had deteriorated in a drastic fashion. She was mostly bedridden and overdosed on medicinal herbs. Nobunaga visited her often in her chambers and took note of her health. They were both eager to spend their remaining days together, but one of Nobunaga’s concubine’s sons, Akechi, revolted against him. He promises to return after killing Akechi and live a peaceful life with Nohime, leaving Japan and the shogunate business for good. Nohime waits patiently for him, trying to play a tune on a western guitar Nobunaga had brought for her.
‘The Legend And Butterfly’ Ending Explained: Did Nobunaga And Nohime Meet Again?
Akechi’s army ambushes Nobunaga during the night. He defends as well as he can, but the old body is too slow, and there isn’t enough backup. He reaches the end of the halls, and there is simply no more room to escape. He remembers his promise to Nohime after finding a memento of a frog-shaped figurine in his pocket. It was given to him by Nohime to remind him about his promise. Suddenly, he sees that there is a secret passageway under the wooden floorboard. He uses the escape route and reaches his castle. He meets Nohime there and carries her on his horse straight to the port, where a ship awaits to carry foreigners back to their land. On the ship, Nobunaga got a pleasant surprise. Nohime was pregnant.
This fairytale ended with Nobunaga realizing that he had no figurine in his hand and that he was still trapped at the end of the hall, and Akechi’s army was coming in to sever his head. The frog-shaped figurine was being kicked around somewhere in the dirt outside, where bloodshed was taking place. Ah, the misery! He had dreamed of his escape and life with Nohime after he left Japan. It wasn’t real at all. With no way out, Nobunaga accepts his fate of never seeing Nohime again and commits harakiri. Nohime, on her end, dies mysteriously while trying to play a tune on the instrument Nobunaga brought, and this epic love story reaches its tragic conclusion.