It’s time to talk about one of Kouta Hirano’s works, Drifters. This series is a bit intense. It’s not something one can easily marathon with an unprepared heart. It’s a bit on the side of the ultra violent with some dark moments. The animation is lacking in points, and the art style can shift from one moment to the next for comedic effect/relief if not to set a more focused tone of the dramatic. This is an action series I found myself enjoying despite some painfully obvious flaws. I’m not sure whether to classify this as over hyped or under hyped as the people I’ve seen talk about it talk about it in high regard. And then their fellow fans come out of the woodwork to talk about it.
But enough of that, let’s get to the meat of the plot. Synopsis. People from various points in history are pulled from a moment where their death is seemingly certain only to be placed in a new world. This new world has things like magic, demihuman species like dwarves or elves, and then mythical beasts like dragons and orcs. In this new world a multisided war is unfolding. And those from our world and history are dubbed “Drifters” by the locals of that new world. The Drifters it seems have been placed there to save that world by an other worldly bureaucrat with a penchant for getting his breaks in. From here if you don’t want to have anything spoiled then skip ahead past the next paragraph.
So the plot seems surprisingly multifaceted as there isn’t just one good side or one bad side and at points those lines blur a little. We learn about the human empire of that world being a bit iron-fisted towards anything not human while trying to expand and maintain gains. There’s the “Ends” which are similar to the Drifters but they ultimately seem to have fall into a certain category about their origins. Most of the Ends want to destroy all the humans of this mythical realm. And then there is a special society of mages headed up by a drifter out to support and guide drifters to help them lead the human forces to victory. You’ll see some legendary historical figures among the drifters such as Hannibal of Carthage, Oda Nobunaga, Butch Cassidy to name a few. And then on the side of the ends you’ll see characters like Joan of Arc, Yoshitsune, and Rasputin. These aren’t all of the characters, and you’ll have to watch the series to see them all. As for some of the more interesting plot points, it was neat seeing a fantasy be introduced to technology such as guns and agriculture. Also interesting to note is that the ends were brought in by another otherworldly bureaucrat and we even witness her staring down her opposite in a fashion similar to office politics. Lastly and this was a good touch if you ask me, and making the locals of this mythic world speak a different language that most of the drifters didn’t understand really stands out.
The pacing and plot movement really kept things going as expected of a 12 episode season. I didn’t find myself waiting for the end credits. Even if there were more than a few “meanwhile back at the ranch” moments, I didn’t feel as if my attention was being yanked around too much. But I needed some breaks between episodes to fully digest what I was absorbing. I’m calling this a positive because sometimes you need to re-read or rewatch something good to appreciate it. To find something new in each consumption. Fanservice, there were moments of fanservice, as expected of Something from Kouta Hirano. Without this and the brief humor breaks, the dark and heavy matters of the series will weigh down on the viewer hard. The laughs are needed to lighten up. Let’s face it, it wouldn’t feel right to have something made by Hirano if it didn’t have that one fanservice character. That said, characters were interesting even if two or three had a cookie cutter feel to them. I’m no historian so my knowledge of certain characters’ historical counterparts is out the window. But it doesn’t rule out artistic license being used, or that such is inherently bad. Perhaps if there is demand for it I’ll do a follow up detailing the drifters and ends.
The music had hype, and I found myself sitting through the op and ed all the way through. But that op, so catchy. It’s the kind of catchy that gets you to sing along. And given the art style for the the op, somehow was fitting. I should also add the op was done by an American group which has enjoyed getting a boost in attention for being associated with the anime. The outro, I like it even if it sounds like something token for an anime ending. And the animation of the ending sequence matches the opening well. There were a lot of attention put into this. That mix of east and west is similar to what goes on in the synopsis. Well played.
Animation. I’ll be honest, there seems like there was a lot of issues here. I have to wonder what the budget constraints were as there were a few moments where I thought I saw the same thing twice. There was CG used, which seems to be more common now. But it was minimal, and when it was in the opening it didn’t snap me out of the hype as much as it made me notice characters and remember them for later appearances. The art style was clearly Hirano’s influence all over the work. For all the drawbacks I found myself having fun watching the series. I won’t spoil anything but there were a few moments when things just popped together and I was feeling the hype. Those moments can make up for a lot of mistakes or poor choices.
The series had a hype I could feel. And while I could let some issues slide I had to take some time to note there moments of bad CG. The sound direction was mostly spot on, which some love put into it that you can feel. However I think giving this season a few extra episodes could have fleshed out a few problems in the plot leaving the series with unanswered questions. The season finale finished on sort of a cliff hanger. As much as I enjoyed it, the questions that were left unanswered left more annoyed than realizing I won’t have a third season of the Big-O. Expecting me to read the manga to fill the spaces is a little bit lazy and makes me feel as if my interests are being held hostage in order to milk me dry. I should add the manga apparently isn’t finished yet so points off. Even with that consideration there is a second season on the way so if you liked what you saw you’re going to get more of it in the future. I am giving Drifters a 7 out of 10 with a check it out. It is a must see if you’re a fan of Hellsing.