At the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Toyohisa Shimazu is the rearguard for his retreating troops, and is critically wounded when he suddenly finds himself in a modern, gleaming white hallway. Faced with only a stoic man named Murasaki and hundreds of doors on both sides, Toyohisa is pulled into the nearest door and into a world completely unlike his own.
The strange land is populated by all manner of fantastical creatures, as well as warriors from different eras of Toyohisa's world who were thought to be dead. Quickly befriending the infamous warlord Nobunaga Oda and the ancient archer Yoichi Suketaka Nasu, Toyohisa learns of the political unrest tearing through the continent. Furthermore, they have been summoned as "Drifters" to fight against the "Ends," people who are responsible for the creation of the Orte Empire and are trying to annihilate the Drifters. As the Ends grow more powerful, so does the Empire's persecution of elves and other demihumans. It is up to Toyohisa and his group of unconventional heroes to battle in a brand-new world war to help the Empire's subjects, while protecting the land to claim for themselves and challenging the Ends.
When watching Drifters, it’s impossible to not think about Hellsing Ultimate. Both shows share the same iconic ultra-violence, brand of humor, and art style. This could either be a great thing for you, or a major turn off.
Two god like beings are waging war with each other over control of a world filled with elves, goblins, and dragons. Attempting to tip the scales in their favor, they enlist historical figures from our world as pawns in this seemingly endless grudge match. Upon death, certain renowned heroes (or villains) are given a second chance at life as they are blindly sent into
the fray. We follow the hot headed Toyohisa as he builds an army with the aid of the manipulative Nobunaga, who plays somewhat of a mentor role, and Yoichi, an extremely feminine archer who is just there to be there, really.
The concept of Drifters calls out to me. Death battles between major players from our history for control of a high fantasy world sounds like something I couldn’t possibly hate. Unfortunately, not enough is done with the idea to make it even vaguely interesting. Admittedly, there’s a bit of fun to be had seeing Joan of Arc torching a ton of elves or hearing how Hitler basically repeats history by playing against racial blame to gain power, but the majority of screen time is spent with long stretches of unnatural exposition. Most of the actual action feels more like a game of Dynasty Warriors, where the few competent characters grind through quite a bit of grunts for a small possibility at a worthwhile skirmish with another key character. In a game, this is somewhat okay. In a show, it wears thin fast.
There are so many possibilities for potential characters, it’s a shame that there are so few in the show. Where’s Washington, Genghis Khan, or Charlemagne? I’m all for more obscure characters, but it takes a bit of weight out of things to have to google just to know the context behind a character. I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that some of the choices are intentionally controversial, though I personally liked these inclusions. Just having more in general would be nice, instead of devoting time to a character who’s mainly defined by her breast size. Also, where is Rasputin’s signature facial hair?
Urgency isn’t really a thing in Drifters. The characters sort of mindlessly meander through this foreign world, going from fort to fort with no real feeling of progression. Instead of showing the importance of decisions, we are shown episodes of somewhat boring preparation and repeated strategizing. Some of this is neat, most is tedious. Having an immediate goal for the season would have done wonders for engagement. Instead, it’s hard to feel like much happens.
Like many anime, it’s a show about reaction rather than action, which is unfortunate. Any time something noteworthy happens, it pans through the main cast as they comment on it. Any joke that’s told has twice as much time spent on another character overreacting to it and explaining why the situation is ridiculous. Like many action shows, any movement towards action is generally quickly cut to the contemplating audience. Of course, there’s also a lot of reaction to how characters feel. Rather than showing things, we are told in a not so subtle way. Either one of the bunch describes how they think someone is doing, or even more frustratingly, a character will explain their own feelings. To quote a great robot devil, “You can't just have your characters announce how they feel! That makes me feel angry!“.
Despite how much I really didn’t enjoy this show, I still think the next season could be good. Everything just needs to be amped up. A lot.
Drifters is the type of show that you’ll quickly realize what it is from the start. Anyone familiar with Kouta Hirano (known for his work “Hellsing”) will get a familiar vibe with the style of the series. If you fancy a fantasy story about extraordinary individuals coming together, then Drifters will be quite a treat.
Adapted from the manga of the same name, Drifters initially will leave the impression of a dark fantasy tale. The first few episodes easily establishes its premise as we meet the Drifters, the main protagonists of the show. They are based on historical figures who are based from their timeline.
Still, throughout the series, you’ll probably designate them more as anti-heroes by their actions. The primary cast composes of Shimazu Toyohisa, Oda Nobunaga, and Nasu Suketaka Yoichi. Thanks to a mysterious man named Murasaki, they are bought together to stand against evil. Against them are the Ends, characters who ironically weren’t evil during their timeline. At the same time, Drifters are aided by a mysterious group of magicians known as the Octobrists. Get the idea now? Drifters is essentially a dark fantasy war that brings together history’s most infamous figures into one big oddball package.
From the first few episodes, the show will test a viewer’s patience. This is because even though the show has a dark and grim atmosphere, it also tries to sell its comedy and humor. That’s right, the show adapts humor to spice up the entertainment. This can be seen as a throwback as people may not take the show seriously. However, if you can get with the momentum, then Drifters will be a pleasant surprise. Understanding the show’s lore will also enhance your enjoyment of this show. To be honest, what really can draw an audience’s interest is about the characters. Each of them possesses a rather intriguing personality and their roles in the story often spark curiosity.
Shimazu is the main protagonist and also leader of the Drifters. Shimazu is pretty much a natural leader as he is courageous with no fear. His charisma is also a characteristic that inspires others (such as elves) to follow up during the war. We can easily see that he is driven by determination by putting himself above others. The elves and dwarves respects him not just as a Drifter but also a friend. On the other hand, we have Oda Nobunaga. As a strategist, it’s no surprise that he has a brilliant mind. However, he is also a character to be wary of even by his own allies. His sarcastic personality becomes a big joke throughout the show as he brings in the most comedy. As part of the group, Yoichi can be mistaken for a trap because of his feminine appearance. However, he is a guy to be feared when facing against his bow. Later on, we also meet others that joins in their quest as the war turns into a chaotic pandemonium.
The main antagonists are the End. Perhaps the most mysterious and also recognizable would be the Black King. His ultimate goal is to destroy humanity and replace it with a new race in his vision. As leader of the Ends, we don’t find out too much about him. This is perhaps where characterization in the show suffers a bit. We get this all mighty character that operates from the shadows yet not much is known about him, even his past. Luckily, the other Ends brings in more interest such as Easy, a young woman with odds against Murasaki. Anastasia Romanov and Joan of Arc are also ironically the villains in this show, as people may recognize them as heroines from other lores. The one noticeable trait that separates the Ends and the Drifters though is power. Ends seems to possess supernatural abilities, something that the Drifters lack. While Drifters rely on their own natural talent, weapons, and technology, Ends can perform superhuman feats. For instance, Anastasia is able to freeze others while Gilles de Rais can use inhuman strength and durability. As you may guess, the show pits them in battles between the Drifters and Ends like fate. The war itself has a purpose although everyone has their own reasons for fighting. However, it’s up to the audience to decide if those are meaningful or not.
As I mentioned before, the show has a lot of comedy. Whether these may be character interactions or historical in-jokes, it’s always there. One thing that does hold the storytelling back at times is the pacing. It seems at times, the show emphasizes a bit too much on the humor at the expense of other elements. While Oda Nobuanga is a big example of this, others such as Count Saint-Germi from the Orte Empire adds more. The buildup of the story between some episodes can also feel lacking depending on preferences. And because the series is created by Kouta Hirano, you can expect some Nazi references to be introduced as well. That’s right, if you’re thinking Hitler then you’re correct. The show even has a bit of fantasy racism! On the other hand, do take in for granted when the action picks up. This show is no joke when it comes to making a spectacle of battles. When the pacing picks up, it’s where the series really shines and will make you feel that all the buildup worth the wait.
Adapted by Hoods Entertainment, the show is pretty accurate with its manga art style. This is what impresses me a lot when I first watched this series as it’s on spot, almost frame by frame for the character designs. Not to mention, both the Drifters and Ends are characterized with their badass look ranging from Shimazu’s weapons to Yoichi’s sharp eyes. Speaking of that, the show has a distinctive style of adapting its character features. This is especially recognized by the intimidating looks of Ends as they look convincingly menacing. The setting of the battles is also decorated with a dark fantasy look with ruins, ancient castles, etc. Add ultraviolence and minimal censorship and you get Drifters at its finest.
Soundtrack is also pretty noticeable throughout the show ranging from especially the theme songs. It’s stylistic and filled with creativity. While some people may call it silly, I see it more as a expressing the show’s humor and almost feels satirical. The OST and soundtrack has a hardcore instrumental tone during the battle scenes that is highly entertaining. Character voice mannerism throughout show is also noticeable even at times when the dialogues gets overly silly. Perhaps the most noticeable are those of Oda Nobunaga mainly for his commanding voice.
By the time I finished watching Drifters, I was not only impressed by the overall content but also for its ability to entertain. If you have a sense of humor, then this will definitely be worth every minute of time. If you take it too seriously though, then Drifters will probably feel more like a chore to watch. I would definitely recommend Drifters even if you’re not a fan of the author’s works. I can’t say this enough but Hirano’s ability to express his ideas are just too damn entertaining to evade.
Before starting my review, I would like to note that almost every character of Drifters is a historical figure, so I would highly recommend you to use Google from time to time. Drifters uses American historical figures, Japanese historical figures, French historical figures, Russian historical figures, and others. Anyways, let us start.
Drifters: Battle in a Brand-new World War, Drifters, orドリフターズ, is a fantasy, alternate history Japanese manga written and illustrated by Kouta Hirano. The manga started serialization in Shounen Gahosha magazine, Young King Ours, on April 30, 2009. It received an anime adaptation, which was announced in May, 2015 and aired between October 7,
2016 and December 23, 2016. A second season has also been announced.
Toyohisa of the Shimazu clan is in the heat of the battle of Sekigahara in 1600, which signaled the start of the Tokugawa shogunate in Japan; the only thing he thinks about is how to behead the enemy commander and he is ready to achieve this goal by all means. Having fatally injured the enemy commander, Toyohisa is also about to die. Suddenly he finds himself in a white corridor, facing a man in strange clothes sitting at a desk in a white corridor. A moment later he is sent to a new land, where some unknown historical figures treat his wounds. Shortly after that he finds out that he, as well as his new companions, are Drifters. Why were Drifters sent to this world? Find out the answer now!
The story-line of Drifters is worthy. There are still; however, some things that should be explained, but I would not call it a problem, since a second season was announced a day, or two ago. Drifters is violent; all history anime should be like Drifters. However, I have one major complaint and I am sure that you will not like it either: humor. Being a fan of Hellsing, I was expecting a portion of Hellsingish humor, but Drifters clearly overused it: it is not funny and outdated. I mean, come on, boob jokes? Really? Why not spend more time on characters and story-line? Is it that difficult? Anyways, it is not a big problem and you will still enjoy Drifters. To be precise, that is the only problem of Drifters.
The art and music are very similar to Hellsing, so if you have already seen Hellsing Ultimate, you will recognize it immediately and will not have any problems with it. If you have not seen Hellsing Ultimate yet, it will not be a problem, either. The art style is amazing, every single detail of all characters is just beautiful. And, yes, that Japanese themed Alucard is just badass. The music, however, did not leave a huge impression on me. Of course, the voice actors did one hell of a job, but I was hoping to see something close to what was in Hellsing Ultimate. Anyway, the music used in Drifters is a mix of traditional Japanese music, jazzy beats, and rock.
The characters are very entertaining. As I have already mentioned, some of them did not receive enough development, but they will surely receive enough development in the new season. With that being said, we spend a lot time with the Japanese warriors: Shimazu Toyohisa, Oda Nobunaga, and Nasu Yoichi Suketaka. Their trio is very interesting, because they all are different. Shimazu is a warrior that only wants to behead his enemy; however, at the same time, he is also a true warrior, who will never harm a woman. Nasu is a young archer, who does not have any leader qualities; yet, he is also a fearless warrior. Oda is the most dangerous person in this group, because he is a true leader, he does not care where he is, because he is a true genius that will capture any town even with a bunch of amateurs.
Anyways, the characters are very interesting to follow. As the story-line progresses, Drifters shows us more about its characters’ background. And while some of Drifters do have regrets, they are still ready to go on and it is very exciting. However, there is also one problem I would like to mention, the comedy part. Jesus Christ, it is simply awful. I do agree that the comedy part is needed even in some gruesome anime, but it should not be overused. The problem is that you are watching a serious episode and you are trying to understand the problem; however, Drifters shows you these comedy moments disturbing you. It is simply impossible to concentrate and it is very annoying.
As for enjoyment, this anime is very enjoyable and if you are a fan of Hellsing Ultimate, you will not have any problems with it. If you have not seen Hellsing Ultimate yet, I would highly recommend you to watch it first, but it is up to you, of course. It is not a must do.
All in all, Drifters is not flawless, the comedy part ruined this masterpiece, in my opinion. Yes, it is very annoying, but you should not ignore this anime because of it, please do not do it, it is still awesome. On top of that, the most important thing is that it will receive a continuation, so you will not have to wait years predicting if it will, or will not receive a new season. Drifters is an anime I would highly recommend to every single anime fan; however, if you are a big hater of Hellsing Ultimate, I would highly recommend you to think twice before watching Drifters.
War is hell. We know this to be true by now. This also applies to the fact about there being a lot of "sent to another world" anime adaptations. You really need to do something really unique to stand out if you're one of these shows, and while I'd like to say that SAO and Re:Zero conditioned me to think otherwise, its obvious that their additions to the concept alone (bloodthirsty video game world and reset after death respectively) were what made them stand out, even if the actual concept, for most part does the exact opposite.
With this show, they decided to make it have a full-fledged war, with loads of carnage peppered throughout. The concept is very interesting, especially since the war consists of famous people from many different eras of different countries. It's sort of like the Fate/ series, except that this time, all of the combatants were based on real people instead of sprinkling mythological people into the mix. So, was this a true breath of fresh air for the genre? Did it manage to do that while being a genuinely great war story? Well, let's find out, shall we?
So, there is some kind of conflict between Easy and Murasaki (which doesn't get explained or fleshed out) that caused them to start sending people to this unidentified new world in which there are two main factions at war: Drifters (deceased war heroes), and Ends (once noble beings who have gone bad for their own reasons tying into their demise, but not all of them have their backstory shown to us). There are also humans who enslave two kinds of demi-humans: elves, and dwarves. Drifters are fighting to bring down the human governments of this world via conquest, and destroy the Ends, while the Ends are fighting to destroy the world and all inhabitants (despite the fact that their leader just wants the demi-humans to be the main inhabitants). So, what the hell happened here?
Ultimately, the first few episodes were rough. Not only were there some minor plot holes, but there is one gigantic issue that really damages this series: the tone shifts. You can have a moment in which villagers all horrifyingly stab a man to death in brutal fashion, and then seconds later, they show cracks a random joke. They do this so often, and sometimes, in the most inopportune of times, ruining some of the darker and heavier moments of the show. Sure, this means that, inevitably, a few of these end up being funny, but, for most part, they end up harming more than helping.
The series does pick up, but a few new issues really hamper this show. Every time one of the Ends is about to die or be defeated, we suddenly get their backstory in order to make the story sad, and that just doesn't work. In order for that to work, we need the characters to be more than just one-dimensional baddies before-hand, and they pull this stunt three times! Also, the finale just...ends, without any major resolution. Just, a battle ends, and here is one image of where each Drifter is at the moment, in an obvious, and quite frankly, rushed sequel-hook, particularly because some of the characters, like Scipio and Butch Cassidy, have been left by the wayside, especially Scipio with the fact that he has been left in the jungle but suddenly he's in a navy ship with a character that has only been seen for one brief moment. Hell, there are other moments that required some time to explain, like how the Drifters suddenly got human armor when their last battle (which was two episodes prior) didn't have nearly as many people killed to remotely equal the amount of armor and weapons present. Shame too, since if this concept was explored more and the story were tightened up, this would've definitely been a good first season to what looks to be an otherworldly war epic.
It's really hard to tolerate these "Drifters" early on. I mean, they were all a bunch of quarreling assholes without anything interesting about their character, and by the end of it, some of the more minor additions (like Hannibal and Scipio) were still like that. Luckily, our main trio grew. Toyo is a crazed warrior who loves decapitating enemy warriors, as long as they are male. His culture and all Japanese war cultures at the time do not like the thought of women engaged in combat. He ends up also being a bot more chivalrous towards females and children than his cohorts while understanding people more than he probably should (reminding me a lot of Ragna the Bloodedge, from the Blazblue game series) and I'll touch on that in a bit. Nobunaga is a much more brutal tactician as well as being a hardier individual than his allies. His violent streak, as a result of his culture and his multiple times being betrayed, makes for some of the best usages of military tactics I've seen in a war anime in quite some time. Yoichi ends up being more in between when it comes to his companions' traits, but with more of a tragic war past, which is shallowly explored via his commander, who ends up chatting with him once, and that's it. He's probably the least interesting of the trio, but at least, he ends up being the crux of some of the better comedy moments of the first 3 episodes.
Butch Cassidy and the other Drifters are infinitely less interesting, but he is easily the most tolerable of them (along with The Sundance Kid for how little he shows up), with him actually doing some cool stuff. Sure, Naoshi takes down some dragons in a WWII plane, but he's just there to provide some refreshing amounts of swearing, which ends up becoming excessive. There is also Count Saint-Germi (the son of Hitler) with his coup d'etat scheme, and his annoying posse (Alester and Flemi), but they are mostly there to be annoying and provide bad comedy until the count himself starts that plan with the Drifters to overthrow the human government.
The Octobrists are overall very uninteresting, except for Olmine, who is constantly made fun of for her voluptuous breasts, but has some genuinely great interactions with Toyo, as he shows her some good chivalry and allows her to use her spells to great effect in the latter half of the series. She is literally the only remotely interesting Octobrist. As for the Ends, with exception of The Black King, all of them are as plain as they come (with the slight exception of Anastasia, who is barely in this show). Then, they (except for Anestasia and Rasputin) get their backstories to explain why they are so evil and a bit about how that ties in with their powers (Only Joan of Arc does. Gilles de Rais and Hijikata doesn't get anything relating to his powers, and nobody gets their power origins outright explained) in a poor attempt at making these lame characters come off as tragic, which is really horrible given their real-life counterparts.
The Black King is an interesting figure, wanting better civilization for the demi-humans, and being able to create food as well as grow cells (to regenerate, but also to harm, as shown with the Bronze Dragon in episode 10), but even with his somewhat interesting motivations and enigmatic figure, he can't really make up for how bland his subordinates are. Easy is the one who sends the bad guys in, is moody, and that's about it aside from having a cutesy and girly room to herself. Murasaki is even more bland, though. Overall, despite a few characters that grew to be legitimately interesting and compelling, the cast is stupidly bland at best, and irritating at worst.
Hoods Drifters Studio (not to get confused with Hoods Entertainment, though they may or may not be affiliated) is brand new to this game, and they did a really good job with their first series, which is, of course, this. As if to make up for the writing quality, the action is refreshingly brutal, with loads of decapitation and blood, and no censorship anywhere. It's pretty fun seeing how much of a chaotic gore-fest the action scenes are, and they detail some of the bullet moments and impacts very well. The character models, while looking similar to Kouta Hirano's most popular work, Hellsing Ultimate, they also feel realistic and sorta unique. The only problem I have isn't with the art-stye change during most of the comedy moments, but rather with the usage of CGI for the dragons and some of the soldiers. They try to cover it up and make it work with everything, but it doesn't really help much, as it looks awkward. Luckily, that problem is barely present in the second half. Some moments in the earlier episodes are a bit off though. Still, I really hope to see this studio grow since they did such an impressive job with their first project.
I don't have such high praises for the music, sadly. Gospel of the Throttle (by Minutes 'Til Midnight), the OP of the series, doesn't fit the show as well as I wish. On its own, it's a slick piece, but I don't feel it works here. Luckily, the ED, Vermillion (by Maon Kurosaki) is a very good song, with a more epic and buildup heavy feel to it that really fits with how gruesome and heavy the show can be. The rest of the OST isn't memorable or worthwhile at all, save for one ok piece. The dub is pretty alright. No major hiccups here, but nothing spectacular in terms of performances. It's a relatively solid dub so far.
Honestly, despite how cool and refreshing the action scenes were, this show kinda left me feeling bored and annoyed every now and then, especially in the first half. I admit, the action is fun, and some moments were definitely bleak, the horrible tone-shifts really leave me dazed and confused, and completely taken out of the experience, which is horrible given that one of these moments take place immediately after the darkest moment of the show! If not for the cool action, this wouldn't have engaged me at all, especially since the first 3 episodes left me with the feeling of darkness-induced apathy. I nearly dropped it during those first 3 episodes and even then, outside of fight scenes, this show is still very boring at times. Plus, not a lot of the gags make me laugh, but at least some of them do.
Unfortunately, while this is a very gruesome action show and some of the gags get a laugh here and there, this show is a tonal mess that's hard to care about on any level that isn't related to primal, epic bloodbaths. At the very least, I hope that this series ends up bringing some notoriety for Hoods Drifters Studio. Still, this show is a bit of a disappointment. With all that said, I bid you adieu.