Oh how I’ve been waiting for this one. But the wait is over! The anime adaptation of Drifters is finally here and I’m happy to say I’ve really enjoyed it so far. If that’s all you need, go on and watch it. For everyone else, let’s jump right in.
Drifters is based on the newest manga by Kouta Hirano, the creator behind the popular Hellsing manga series and the two anime series that followed. This is huge for me; the original Hellsing anime was the first really dark, violent anime series I ever watched and it’s always stayed with me. To this day I can always throw on an episode and enjoy it, even if it’s only thirteen episodes. Hellsing Ultimate is arguably even better but the longer episode format usually leads to me jumping to highlights from the series rather than going a full 45-50 minutes.
But that’s enough of the nostalgia train, let’s focus on Drifters. Specifically, Drifters Episode 1 and 2. The first episode is, unsurprisingly, devoted to introducing the setting and providing Shimazu Toyohisa’s (the protagonist) background. Not known to many, Shimazu Toyohisa is an actual Japanese historical figure from the Sengoku (or Warring States) and Azuchi-Momoyama periods.
Historically, Toyohisa died while retreating from the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 and this is where Drifters branches off. While protecting his uncle who was in retreat, Toyohisa is mortally wounded when attempting to kill Ii Naomasa, an enemy commander. While attempting to return to his uncle while gravely wounded, Toyohisa finds himself transported to a hallway with a man in glasses reading a newspaper. After asking the man where they are, Toyohisa is thrown through a door into another world and it’s in this world where the story truly begins.
In this fantasy world, Toyohisa is rescued by two elf children who take him to an abandoned tower occupied by beings known as “Drifters”. Toyohisa learns that the Drifters that occupy the tower are Oda Nobunaga and Nasu Suketaka Yoichi, two other characters from Japanese history. The men share their histories and learn that the time they’ve been suspected dead on Earth does not match the time they’ve spent in the new world (Nobunaga has spent six months in the new world but died twenties years earlier.)
Episode 2 is where the story seems to actually kick off. The two elf boys and their village are punished for aiding Toyohisa by a troop of sub-human hating human knights. (The punishment being killing half the village.) Seeing the smoke from the burning village, Toyohisa heads directly towards the conflict with Nobunaga and Yoichi in tow.
As you would expect, the Drifters completely slaughter the knights and Toyohisa engaged their leader in one-on-one combat. Rather than killing the leader himself, Toyohisa pins the man down and renders him unable to defend himself by smashing the knight’s face in with the hilt of his sword. In a manner suiting a general, Toyohisa demands the villagers take revenge for themselves and drives them to kill the captain of the knights. By the end of the episode, Toyohisa has the makings of a small army with a loyal troup of elf men and an adviser in Nobunaga.
Lastly, we’re given more information about Murasaki, the man in glasses Toyohisa met before coming to the new world. Perhaps most importantly, we learned he is not alone in that world. A woman named Easy exists there as well and seems to be gathering people much like the Drifters to send to the new world that she calls Ends. With Murasaki represented by light and Easy by the dark, the two seem to be waging a war against each other for control of the world. Though who’s to say what their true intention could be.
What was true for Hellsing is true for Drfiters; I adore Kouta Hirano’s style. For the basic parts of it, I enjoy his character designs and the items we see in the world. By items, I largely mean weapons. Toyohisa’s sword looks amazing when we get a good look at it. In regards to the characters, he’s got a unique style. I’d call it simplistic in some regards but he really makes it work. Another talent Hirano has is in his use of light. I guess you could call it shading but the way he has the shadows and light play with the characters stands out to me. It’s a small thing and maybe it’s just me, but I like it.
What I enjoy the most from the style comes from something more than just the simple designs. It’s the things he captures in his style. The beastly his appearance his characters take on during fights or tense moments is fantastic. For me, it’s like seeing an artistic representation of the animal inside all of us (and make no mistake, we’re all animals) escaping when pushed into a corner. Additionally, I’ve never seen someone capture a gaze of insanity like Hirano does in his characters eyes.
I don’t want to ramble too much but I do have to mention the violence before moving past style. While not Terraformars gory, it is pretty intense at times and if that’s not your thing I’d steer away. But let me say, Kouta Hirano does a good job of making blood spray quite pretty. As macabre as that is.
Drifters Episode 1 and 2 are a solid introduction to the series. Within two episodes we see the setting and character backgrounds established with plenty of action along the way. Some humor too, though I understand Hirano’s style of comedy and the animation isn’t well received by everyone. I’m excited to continue following the series after this solid introduction.Tweet