Every anime season, a show comes along that we fall in love with, and with multiple shows this season, Drifters was one that made us fall in love with Kouta Harano all over again. An alternate history manga turned show, Drifters gave us the usual art style and excessive action and bloodshed that is characteristic of Harano’s works. Rather than nostalgia alone, there are multiple reasons why this anime is so great.
Drifters uses a story that makes us question everything, and with the way the story is structured, we are led to believe we are rooting for the heroes with the Japanese trio we meet in the first episode. True, they are the focus of the anime, however, we are also introduced to villains that make us question everything. When we meet Toyohisa Shimazu, we watch him go on a rampage, cutting the heads off multiple soldiers and collecting heads to honor his family. When he plunges himself onto a bunch of pikes, we know that this man is insane and will do anything to kill. This taught us that the focus was on a crazy, bloodlust filled person who was born and raised in battle, a notion that is reinforced by Oda Nobunaga’s comment in the 10th episode.
How can somebody love what appears to be an anti-hero? The story then shows us people called ENDS. The name alone makes it sound evil. Are they people with the goal of ending the world that everyone has been sent to? All we know about these ENDS is that they were sent by someone named Easy. Easy is the enemy of the guy who sent the Drifters. She acts evil by saying that the Drifters always lose to her ends, she’s even dressed in dark clothes with artwork that depicts a sinister grin on her face. Whenever they show her, the room turns dark, as if everything she stands for is evil, but that gets questioned in recent episodes.
When we are introduced to who the ENDS are, the people depicted attack a castle, however, the historical figures represented are seen in high regards in today’s society. With people such as Rasputin or Joan de Arc, who died doing the right thing, but are now ENDS, who possess supernatural powers, and follow someone known as the Black King and slaughter a whole town of people, we assume they are blameless and innocent. When you paint historical figures in a way and use colors and terms to make them appear evil, the way the story structures itself gives both conflicting views and makes the audience still want to root for Toyohisa and Nobunaga, despite the chance that they might not be the heroes you thought they were.
If you know history, you know that they weren’t great people, but the way that Harano writes the story and uses color and terms, he makes it difficult to tell who is evil. Nobunaga, after all, burns a field of food and helps to slaughter a bunch of humans. The humans were evil, but then Nobunaga forces dwarves to make guns and plans to create a great military power in the new world.
The time when we realize that The Black King must be good is when we see him heal troops and find out that he has a goal of killing the corrupt races who called the other races monsters as he helps the “monsters” flourish. An idea of who the King is, though, relates to the powers the ENDS possess. Joan was burned at the stake and controls fire in the new world. The Black King has a hole on his hands, carries a staff and can heal or plague people as seen in the 10th episode. Through the clues, The Black King must be Jesus Christ. Harano took a story and made it so Jesus looks like the bad guy and weaved the style and story in such a way that makes for a really engaging story full of action and historical context as the samurai try to make guns to help the other races and advance their civilization. The Black King however is focused on saving the “monster” races and killing those races who hurt them. The framing really makes you think about who to root for and makes the story even better.
Not only is the story something that makes the show so great though, the artwork is amazing. Every anime has its own style, but sometimes they blend together and you think that they’re all the same. When you have an artist like Harano, however, you know that the work is his.
Harano is very distinct with the way he draws his characters. He gives them sharper features and the way he draws eyes is very unique. Harano is known to draw them with pupils and only lines around the pupils, a style seen in his Hellsing franchise. Harano also loves his fight sequences with a lot of gore and shows detail with long movements depicting the character, using sweeping motions when killing and making the fights grand in some manner.
When animated, his franchises are also known for their color palettes. The colors used are very dark shades of colors that help depict the grim nature of his novels and the situations he puts his characters in. In this story, however, the use of color also depicts the good and evil sides. When he shows the main characters, they are seen in the light or sunset using warmer colors. When we see the Black King and his ENDS, we see night time and cool colors around his characters more often than not. While the main cast has some night scenes, it appears almost as if the animation is being used to help tell the story through colors, to make the audience feel a certain way. Also, in a way, that stays true to Harano’s storytelling and helps make this story very entertaining and engaging.
The content is that of a usual action epic, as is Harano’s usual, but on top of that he takes historical figures and does something unique. We see people who lived and have a backstory you may know of or could research and watch as we see them interact with each other. Nobunaga sees a musket and loves them, however, Toyahisa has lived with them longer and knows how to use them to their full potential. Whereas we have older people who prefer bows because they never existed in a time with guns or gunpowder. We are also watching the different dialects as Romans, Japanese and other groups try to communicate with their very different dialects. This is especially prevalent when we see Nobunaga meet the elves and understand nothing. Later on, however, we see him start to understand the language and use it himself.
This well-written plot and direction gives the audience a unique take on an alternate history. What if Joan de Arc never died and was sent to fight in a war where she now possesses the power to use fire like what was used on her? What if Jesus is actually able to use the ability to heal others or create a large amount of grain from a single thing of wheat. We watch Jesus take down a dragon and see the ENDS fight the samurai who have learned from their past lives. Nobunaga burnt a field in a manner similar to what had been used on him. We also see the wells get poisoned with poop, a tactic Nobunaga utilizes when they lure the humans to an elven village. Old tactics get reused and we see historical figures learning from their mistakes to survive in this world.
I love the way the story is written, the historical context and realistic plot that Harano constructed. If you haven’t already seen this show, there’s so much to love that this should be evidence enough to go watch this over your break because this is a show YOU SHOULD BE WATCHING.
Collegian blogger Kevin Avis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Leave a comment!