ANIME REVIEW | "Drifters" Oozes With Pure Badassery
As anyone can attest from reading Hellsing, Kouta Hirano has a special kind of talent when it comes to off-the-wall violence and some of the most hauntingly detailed imagery. How fortunate for us that we don't have to wait any longer for his latest work to be adapted for the TV screen: the alternate history thrill ride simply known as Drifters. Sharpen those fangs, children, as your thirst for blood is about to be quenched.
Drifters starts out with the famous samurai Shimazu Toyohisa (Yūichi Nakamura) mortally wounding Ii Naomasa during the Battle of Sekigara. Walking away from the field with wounds all over his body, he finds himself in a corridor of rooms, before being thrown in another world filled with elves, dwarves, and hobbits. There, he comes across the famous warlord Oda Nobunaga (Naoya Uchida) and samurai Nasu no Yoichi (Mitsuki Saiga). Not knowing why they're there, they come across an elvish group being oppressed by humans, leading towards the pointy-eared brothers in arms to revolt against those who forced them into the serf lifestyle.
Soon, Toyohisa, Nobunaga, and Yoichi find a woman spying on them, revealed to be Olminu (Shiho Kokido) of the magician squad known as the Octobrist Organization. From her, they discover that they've been transported from their time to this world in order to rescue it from a group called the Ends. Reluctantly, the trio decide to help, training the now-freed elves in the art of war and combat as they prepare for battle. Oh, and how sweet the battles are.
There's a real knack to throwing random historic figures into one world and seeing what happens. Sure, perhaps we've witnessed some form of this via the Civilization video game series or some basement dweller's fan fiction that he has posted somewhere in the pits of Reddit. But to actually watch the likes of Butch Cassidy (Daisuke Ono) and the Sundance Kid (Wataru Takagi) aiding a senile Hannibal Barca (Yutaka Aoyama) and Scipio Africanus (Hiroshi Yanaka) from the clutches of a psychotic Anastasia Romanov (Junko Kitanashi) and Joan of Arc (Junko Minagawa) is just plain bonkers to merely explain in words! Oh, and the leader of the villainous Ends -- Black King (Taiten Kusunoki) -- might actually be Jesus Christ. Let that sink in for a moment.
Drifters is one of the most insane concepts you'll find in any form of media. How it's executed is what makes it one of the most enjoyable shows this year. The level of violence this anime has is usually reserved for the big screen or -- as it was with Hellsing -- OVAs. Yet here we see in this show tons of beheadings, impalements, amputations, and other incredibly icky stuff in the flesh and practically uncensored. Plus, there is some pretty sick shit involved, and we mean that in the literal sense.
Not only does it have a good dose of action, but Drifters is chock filled with some pretty funny dialogue. Whether it's watching the main trio argue over their authenticity, Toyohisa trying to teach the elvish children his own language, or Nobunaga constantly calling Olminu the Japanese equivalent of Tits McGee, the amount of humor that is delivered in-between the gorier parts of the show is, to be blunt, kinda amazing. There are plenty films out there that deliver on the concept of being violently funny, but for Hirano (or, in this case, series adapters Hideyuki Kurata & Yōsuke Kuroda) to have some seriously side-splitting humor mixed in perfectly with hardcore violence is a true shining beacon of one's craft.
As always, though, it's all in the art of delivery, and the three main Drifters have got some pretty good talent bringing them their voice. Nakamura's Toyohisa demonstrates the art of strategy with a dose of nobility, showcasing a reckless attitude whenever it calls for it. Voicing Nobunaga, Uchida balances a tough-guy attitude with that of a man with the tendency to argue with pure annoyance. With a dose of effeminacy, Saiga's Yoichi delivers a levelheaded performance that not only binds the other two characters together well, but also elevates her performance with a level of seriousness and a calm collective mentality.
Hoods Entertainment (If Her Flag Breaks, Mysterious Girlfriend X) truly brings Hirano's original manga to life in the most beautiful of ways. Be it the raging fires of a warrior's essence coming through in their eyes or the sight of dozens of soldiers being obliterated into slabs of meat, there are no quick shortcuts made whatsoever to the details in how a character is either being slaughtered or in the midst of slaughtering. Even when characters goes into a somewhat deformed manner for comedic effect, the overall look of these moments is straight-up wondrous to behold. It may not be the best looking anime of 2016, but it seriously is one of the most detailed shows of the fall season.
And let's not forget about the soundtrack. Composed by Yasushi Ishii (Hellsing, Darker Than Black) and Hayato Matsuo (The World God Only Knows, Magic Knight Rayearth), its score beats with the heart and soul of an uproarious battle waged upon the bitterest of enemies. Currently considered the luckiest band in America right now, Minutes til Midnight's "Gospel of the Throttle" opens the show with super catchy lyrics and a hard rocking melody. (Just try not singing along each time, and see how long it takes you to fail at the task.) Closing theme "Vermillion" by Maon Kurosaki is both musically headbanging and vocally hypnotic, cutting through the same vein as the better part of Evanescence's discography.
If you crave wanton violence and mayhem, Drifters will deliver it on a silver platter. In the need of some unexpectedly hilarious dialogue? Drifters has you covered. Desire a great dose of memorable characters and some fist-pumping visuals? Yes, Drifters has that, as well. In fact, the only thing this anime doesn't have is the one thing you, readers, can give it: some undivided attention.
Final Grade (not an average):
Drifters can be viewed on Crunchyroll and FUNimation, and has been licensed by FUNimation. Episodes 1-9 were observed for this review. Promotional consideration provided by Crunchyroll.