Author: Kouta Hirano
Genre: Action, History
Production Studio: Hood Drifters Studio
Drifters is based off the manga with the same name, created by Kouta Hirono, of Hellsing fame. The premise is as simple as it gets, with the setting being a fantasy world where there is a looming “battle in a brand new world war”, as the taglines suggest. Multiple notable icons from history are pulled away from their timelines upon a near death experience and are brought together by a bespectacled man in a never-ending corridor to serve as Drifters.
Our main protagonist is Shimazu Toyohisa, a warrior samurai, who has teamed up with the legendary Oda Nobunaga and Sada Yoichi to save the day in the most generic way possible. These Drifters must unite and defend the world they are in against a group of villains known only as “The Ends”, led by the Black King.
Honestly, Drifters feels like Fate Stay Night meets Lord of the Rings, with its famous historical figures engaged in a massive battle that involves dwarves, elves, dragons and the like. 3 episodes into this anime and I have realized that there isn’t any character development in any form (yet), but I don’t expect this anime to have an in-depth explanation about its characters’ development (though we will have to wait and see that at the end of the season).
The characters are very rigid and one-dimensional, with very little intelligence planned out in the dialogue as they only have a few things to say, which usually involves the words “kill”, “die” and the over used psychopath laugh. Feels like Lil Jon rapping, and we all know he only uses the words “what, “okay” and “yeah”.
There are multiple themes to potentially focus on here amidst all the glorious battles, such as racial politics, power struggles and hierarchy dynamics. Tie this all together with classic historical figures like Oda Nobunaga, Hannibal, and Toyohisa, the progression of the storyline can be stellar but judging by the first 3 episodes, the series won’t be delving into that aspect I believe. The simple storyline is just a vehicle for the action, and that is where this anime truly shines.
One glaring error the series does is that it suddenly reverts to this “chibi” art style for comedic relief, and it really doesn’t suit the pacing or the mood of this anime at all. Moreover, it is done at the worst times possible, like after a character explains about the death of his son (which may be crucial in later parts of the story), killing any sort of tension buildup or plot continuation. It is done quite distastefully and my main gripe about it is that it is not even all that funny to begin with.
Verdict: Has great potential, but currently underperforming… by a huge margin.
Animation and Art
The animation of this series is simply gorgeous to a fault. Thick contours and a definitive art style using defined bold strokes bring the best in the action in this series. The animation is fluidly crisp, with no confusion whatsoever when the action gets fast and furious (and it always does).
It actually took me awhile to adapt and fully appreciate the unique style of art that is showcased in this series, mainly because it doesn’t follow the typical style of animation presented in most animes.
What I find really unacceptable at times though, is the “chibi” art style, which is done really badly. It mostly consists of terribly drawn art that sometimes does not even distinguish the character it is trying to exhibit. The contrast is jarring, from beautifully hand drawn art backed by solid and fluid animation to a comedic approach that does not suit the feel of the anime as a whole. However, after 2 episodes, you will get used to it, though it doesn’t add any value to the series.
Verdict: Beautiful art and smooth animation, barring the “chibi” sequences.
Sound and Music
The opening and ending theme songs for Drifters is good, with the theme songs being catchy and likeable from the get go. It has a strong rock influence and the composition of both the songs are done very well, adding to the serious and epic mood of Drifters.
However, I felt that the sound design, effects and voice acting was mediocre at best, as it was a very standard affair. It is clean and clear, but it didn’t have a stellar showing to it. The voice acting was very normal; some voice actors didn’t feel like they suited their characters.
You won’t feel disappointed as the quality meets the minimum requirements, but what really eats me is the fact that a battle focused anime should have crazy sound effects to accentuate the action and overall pacing. Oh well, they may improve in the upcoming episodes… hopefully.
Verdict: Very standard affair, with nothing being too outstanding or too boring.
Characterization and Powers
The characters in Drifters are really good, but currently they are not fully fleshed out. You have massive historical figures from different eras, civilizations and cultures working together and in future episodes, I am sure that there will be an inevitable epic battle between two really awesome characters (hint: Hitler).
While there is no backstory of any of the characters yet, the fact that they are using historical figures itself add a lot of layers and depth in itself as most people would know Hannibal, Oda, and many others. If you don’t know these historical figures, you probably failed your history test multiple times (alongside all your other tests too).
There is only room for killing, laughter and more killing when the battles take place, so you can throw any notion of expecting a deep meaningful storyline here (though it may surface after episode 6 onwards) based on character development.
Power levels wise, each Drifter currently has the strength of 100 men, as demonstrated by the early battle scenes. This really resembles a Musou game (Samurai Warriors, Dynasty Warriors) in all aspects, as all the other people in the battlefield are there to just get decimated. Drifters also possess high level of intellect and strategy skills, as they can take on an army by themselves using superior tactics and strength. One thing is for sure, the upcoming battle between Drifters will be something to look forward to.
Verdict: High level of potential…just hoping they will deliver. Not much of character development to expect though as it is essentially and action based series.
Despite the non-existent storyline and character development, Drifters does not pretend to be something it is not. No over complicated plot, no mind bending plot that you need to get hold of. It is a pure and simple action oriented series that I will follow till the end of its season premiere. It has interesting historical characters, great potential for epic battles, and also ridiculously gorgeous animation. There could also be a story built up by the end of season 1, so I will be keeping my fingers crossed.
Until then, remember kids, you can’t spell slaughter without laughter.