Anime at a Glance: Drifters

On October 21st 1600, early in the morning, a squad lead by Toyohisa Shimazu advances through the forest. Rushing towards the battle of Sekigahara. Dressed in a red jacket, he rushes into the battle and opens the fight by immediately dispatching several enemies. The battle rages on and the enemy General sends another battalion to reinforce the battle. Honour-bound to see the battle through and kill the enemy General, Toyohisa waits for the rush of troops to catch up to his squad. “Rearguard! Form up! It’s time to die!” Eager to stall for time so his other forces can retreat, he rushes forward and eviscerates 3 cavalry before encountering the General. “I’ll have your head.” Surrounded by his entire guard, Toyohisa rushes him, demonstrating his determination to win, skewering himself on all of their spears and pulling a hidden pistol from his back, shooting the General. With their General in danger, the soldiers abandon their spears, throwing Toyohisa to the ground, to retreat and fall back.

Cold and drenched in the raining forest Toyohisa, miraculously alive, is stumbling towards Satsuma to get home. As blood continues to poor out of him, the scenery around him shifts to white. Glancing back up he sees a hallway filled with doors and a man behind a desk reading a newspaper.

“Next.” As the man behind the desk glances up.

“Send me back to Satsuma!” The man behind the desk adjusts his glasses and writes down a note on a clipboard in front of him and Toyohisa starts getting pulled into one of the doors nearby. Struggling to get away, but failing, he gets sucked in the doorway.

“Next.” Another soldier, appearing to be from a more modern war, appears in the hallway.

Lying in a field, Toyohisa lays dying as the doorway vanishes nearby him. As luck would have it, two young boys with long ears find him as he mutters a few words of being sent to hell. Recognizing the language being foreign to their world, they grab him and take him towards a deserted castle where others are. In his sleep, Toyohisa dreams of his first victory and wakes up to a stranger across the room. Grabbing his sword, he readies an attack to defend himself, the stranger answers in kind by pointing a rifle towards him as well. With Rifle and Sword inches away from each other they demand to know who the other is.

“Nobunaga, the former Minister of the Right of the Oda Clan.”

An arrow lands in a wall between them to stop their fight, and a young girl hands Nobunaga a dead bird and tells him to start plucking feathers.

“Do you have spare time? Start plucking.”

Drifters may look familiar to long time anime fans as it shares an art style with Hellsing, another previous work of Kouta Hirano with an anime adaptation licensed by Funimation. That also means one other thing, Violence and Gore. Depending on your level of comfort with gratuitous blood and violence, you may want to shield your eyes or avert your children’s eyes, but if that sort of thing isn’t a big deal, then carry on.

The story throws you into action right from the beginning, as expected from Hirano, and it keeps you pulled in with some mystery. Who’s the guy in the glasses? Is that hallway some sort of representation of Heaven or Hell? Where did Toyohisa get sent to? In the least, we get some answers in episodes 2 and 3 but they introduce a few more. Drifters also manage to offset all the seriousness with moments of dry humour to cut the suspense back a bit, like the bird plucking to get Nobunaga and Toyohisa to stop fighting and having them all sit there awkwardly plucking feathers off dead birds to cook. Although one of my bigger questions is about where Toyohisa got his red coat. It seems much more modern than Japan would have had in the 1600’s. All the other soldiers are wearing what would be standard issue armour and he’s got a stylish red leather coat. Not that it’s a large concern to the story or the show, but it doesn’t seem to fit with the style.

We also get a good sense of our would-be heroes in the first few episodes. Toyohisa can’t stand around and watch good people get murdered, Nobunaga lives up to his reputation as being a military strategist using his lifetime of experience, and the archer, Nasu Suketaka Yoichi, provides combat support. Toyohisa’s mentality seems to have inspired the other two to follow him, though it wasn’t what he wanted or intended. More Drifters may be added to the mix later on to bring a larger combat unit into play, potentially starting an army or military to start anew in this strange world of elves and other beings.

Drifters is airing on Crunchyroll (Subs) and will soon begin to air on Funimation’s site beginning November 6th for those who prefer a dubbed version.