Crossovers are nothing new, nor is the concept of taking characters out of their own time zones to try and have some epic war (to this day I still shudder at the thought of ‘The Five Doctors) and yet Drifters is a thing, bringing together some of the greatest figures in history and pitting them against each other in a battle against the Ends.
Shimazu Toyohisa, Oda Nobunaga, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Jeanne D’Arc are some of the characters that appear alongside others such as Adolf Hitler, Rasputin and Akechi Mitsuhide, each character is taken slightly out of context rather than simply following history, allowing some characters redemption while others turn down a darker route.
The series began out as a manga written by Kouta Hirano (Hellsing, UFO 2000) after years of struggling with finishing off the now legendary series he finished up and started on Drifters, publishing in Young King OURs on April 30, 2009, the series has 60 chapters and counting. In December 2012 the series was adapted into a very short OVA which was bundled with the final volume of Hellsing Ultimate.
The series was recently picked up by Hoods Entertainment (Aki Sora and Mysterious Girlfriend X) and began on October 7th, 2016 as part of the Autumn lineup and was picked up by Crunchyroll and Funimation for streaming.
The visuals in Drifters are stunning. While it’s almost entirely cast in darkness it allows the artists to play with light and shadows and it’s simply a treat to watch, this can be easily seen even in the opening. Each of the characters is well crafted enough that you can recognise them if you already know whom they are based on and they stand out even in battle scenes. On the subject of battle scenes, each is carefully crafted and memorable enough that you’ll be watching them time and time again, while they may not rival some of the bigger series they hold their own and you’ll enjoy seeing how each historical figure brings something to the table.
Unfortunately there lies Drifter’s biggest and most glaring issue in that outside of the battles the series plods along at a snail’s pace. Dozens of historical figures are introduced but most rarely get to do anything, appearing for a few scenes before disappearing. While this is an issue with an ongoing manga being adapted into a 12 episode series it really feels like there should have been 24 episodes commissioned as you don’t get much attachment to the many characters in the series when opposed to their historical significance.
The other issue is that the series is ultimately forgettable, it rarely makes the effort to stand aside from the bigger titles out such as Kabernari of the Iron Fortress, Attack on Titan or Rurouni Kenshin which makes it hard to recommend. When the series is good all is fine but, unfortunately, those moments are few and far between. Some episodes you’ll be glued to the screen while others will tick on by tortuously slow.
Music wise the series is also rather hit and miss, with a catchy opening the rest of the music pales in comparison, despite having watched the series week on week and again for this review I honestly couldn’t tell you about the ending or the background OST. It’s that forgettable sadly.
A point I do wish to bring up regarding Drifters is how different it presents its historical characters, a lot of the villains are characters such as Jean D’Arc who is considered a hero to the west. While often villainized historical figures such as Nobunaga Oda, Butch Cassidy and a Japanese Fighter Pilot are the heroes in this piece. It not only shows how in some cases there were no ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’ as war crimes were committed on both sides (the WW2 Pilot being shot down trying to stop an American Bomber hitting Tokyo for example) but shows how a different perspective can change a history altogether.
Ultimately, Drifters is a fun, yet forgettable title that needed more episodes to truly flourish, the manga is still ongoing and apparently manages to flesh out the characters more so it may be worth looking into. However, despite its flaws, it’s certainly enjoyable when it gets the chance to show off with some incredible battles and set pieces.