Kōta Hirano’s Drifters is one of the bloodiest anime series of the season–and it couldn’t possibly satisfy me more.
From the mastermind that brought us Hellsing, Drifters is an exercise in absolutely unbridled brutality, and it’s engaging every step of the way. But it’s more than just a gory barrage of heads and entrails. It’s a new way of looking at the typical shōnen action series, and one that involves historical drama in a way that you might not expect.
The titular Drifters are “heroes” from varying eras throughout time who have all been gathered by a mysterious man named Murasaki, who seems to be responsible for having gathered the Drifters together to combat beings known as Ends in some strange fantasy world that’s on the brink of destruction. Their job is to somehow band together and save it–which seems nigh impossible when you consider who’s been chosen. The team includes Shimazu Toyohisa, Oda Nobunaga, and Butch Cassidy as well as the Sundance Kid. You’ll get to know some others, but you may be surprised at the faces you see.
Their enemies–the Ends–however, are also historical figures, such as Gilles de Rais and Jeanne d’Arc. It seems that they died under much more violent circumstances than the Drifters themselves and harbor an intense hatred for humanity. Some of them lie right on the brink of insanity, which makes them massively unpredictable. Thus, the two forces are at war.
So you have warriors and kingmakers culled from history–from any time and any place–and nearly every single one of them is a bloodthirsty cretin. Sure, they may be on the side of righteousness for the sake of their current mission and they may even uphold their own personal standards as far as harming innocent people goes, but many of them are as corrupt as corrupt can get. Just because one of them might pass on harming women or children doesn’t mean they won’t jump at the chance to cut the head off of someone who looks at them funny. That’s the kind of “hero” we have in Drifters, and it makes for some extremely interesting watching.
If the fact that figures like Grigori Rasputin and Oda Nobunaga are involved isn’t enough to interest you, add elves and dwarves into the mix and you’ve got yourself a positively mental cast of characters with no clear-cut “protagonist” out of them all. Who should you root for when most of your heroes in the anime are terrible human beings? That’s an answer you’re going to have to figure out for yourself in the end.
That’s why Drifters is so much fun. It allows you to become lost in its own sense of bloodlust, with characters you can empathize with on either side of the battle–as well as those you want to dislike with all your being and hope they get what’s coming to them. It’s a well-written battle royale in the form of a gory epic. But what makes it stand out is the variety of curveballs it keeps tossing into the mix. It’s easy to become complacent when the series gives you an enemy to root against, but when you’re given a veritable catch-all of bad guys, which one do you hope triumphs? And is it just because they’re working to prevent the destruction of an unknown world? Is it because you need someone to cheer on until the end? These aren’t easy ideas to come to terms with, but that’s what makes Drifters a challenging watch despite the fact that it could very well have been a simple dish of gory junk food. I’m hoping to see a whole lot more like this in the future.
Top Image Credit: YouTube