Drifters is based on the fantasy alternate history Japanese manga written and illustrated by Hirano Kouta. The story revolves around the titular “Drifters” who are important historical figures taken off the battle field at the point of their deaths by mysterious figures and sent into a parallel world that resembles an RPG (role playing game) to do battle.
The Drifters include Shimazu Toyohisa, the leader and a historical figure from Japan who died in 1600 during the Battle of Sekigahara; Oda Nobunaga, another historical figure from Japan, a famous warlord who conquered most of the country during the warring states or Sengoku period who is credited with being the first ruler to unite the country; Nasu Yoichi, a bishonen, and youngest of the group of drifters, this famous Japanese historical figure lived hundreds of years before Nobunaga and served Minamoto no Yoshitsune during the Genpei War. Among the non-Japanese Drifters are Butch Cassidy, the infamous American leader of the Wild Bunch gang, who was transported to this world from Bolivia along with The Sundance Kid, his partner in The Wild Bunch. Hannibal Barca, the brilliant 1st century BC Carthaginian general and his rival during the Second Punic War, Scipio Africanus are also brought to this stranger world.
The Drifters must do battle against another group of “rescued” people from history, drawn from the battlefields by an opposing force and sent into this parallel world. But these are different in a particular way – they hate humanity with a fever and have gained an ability to use superhuman forces like magic. They are called “Ends.” Amongst the Ends are historical figures such as Hijikata Toshizō, a Shinsengumi (special forces) vice-commander who died fighting for Bakufu Tokugawa during the Boshin War. His ability is to be able to generate palpable images of the Shinsengumi against his opponents and tear them to shreds; Jeanne d’Arc, the famous figure from the Hundred Years War who was burned at the stake for witchcraft and heresy, which drove her insane, her hatred for the world has given her the ability to control fire which she want to use to burn down the world. Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanova, youngest daughter of the last Russian tsar, Nicholas II is one the Ends as well, the Bolsheviks shot her and her family to death during the Russian revolution; she can create powerful blizzards with her mind. Her family’s infamous mystic adviser Grigori Rasputin is also one of the Ends and his power the ability to use magic to possess others using talismans. A mysterious figure named the Black King leads the Ends, but it is not known who or what he actually is. He has the ability to heal and multiply life forms like food or wood.
The battle between the two forces rages, for some unknown reason, as the Drifters – the force for perhaps good, comes to the defense of Elven creatures living in this unknown world who have apparently been subjugated by the Ends and the Orte Empire, an empire established by Adolph Hitler when he lived in this strange world and organized it to follow his beliefs, including suppressing the demihuman races such as elves and dwarves. With the help of the Octobrists, a group of magicians native to the realm whose, sole purpose is to gather the Drifters to fight the Ends, the Drifters after gaining possession Orte, carry out their war against the Ends with a newly inspired Elven race behind them, he charismatic Shimazu Toyohisa spurring them on to take up arms and help to free themselves.
This anime series is from the same team that brought us Hellsing, so this series does share a lot of the same characteristics visually and otherwise. There’s lots of visceral, gory action and generally a dark overtone to the story arc, but then are many comedic, whimsical moments inserted to break the tension. Visually, the artwork and character deigns are stunning from the angular and detailed costumes to the grand world everyone inhabits.
While these isekai (parallel world or alternate reality) anime are many, such as Nobunaga the Fool, as an example, the grandiosity and inventiveness of this series takes it to another level, combing an alternate reality with the immediacy and addictive quality of an RPG.
Drifters arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC 1080p encodement from Funimation. The digital animation looks excellent in this transfer with only some limited areas where video noise and mild posterization can be spotted. The contrast and color reproduction is strong, providing good ‘pop’ and enough vibrancy without being oversaturated.
The original Japanese-audio mix for Drifters is provided in Dolby TrueHD 2.0 stereo and the English dub from Funimation is provided in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. Both mixes seem to lack dynamics, which can be rectified somewhat in the stereo track by reprocessing on an AVR. The 5.1 track has subtle discrete effects and atmospherics in the surround channels and not much extra “oomph” in the low end. The Japanese voice cast is superb here and some of that delivery is lost with the English dub, but what is lost in the English is made up for with some of the varied accents that add depth and separation to the characters. For instance, in the English dub the difference between the Elven language and the English is much more distinct to my ears than the difference between the Japanese and Elven. This could just be because They both sound “foreign” to me, but that is my assessment nonetheless.
The two casual English audio commentaries and the English Inside the Episode featurettes are all solid inclusions that fans will appreciate. Promos, textless openings and closing, and additional Funimation trailers round out the solid special features.
- Standard Blu-ray Discs
- Episode 01 Commentary
- Episode 10 Commentary
- Inside the Episode 1-12 (1.78:1; 1080p/24; English)
- Promo Videos (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:05:42)
- Textless Opening Song “Gospel of the Throttle Kyouhon REMIX ver.”
- Textless Closing Song “VERMILLION”
- Funimation Trailers
The Final Assessment
Drifters is everything you want in an action fantasy anime series – it has the vast world, the bone chilling villains, and the visceral action sequences with gorgeous, eye-catching animation. Highly recommended!
Drifters: Battle in a Brand-New World War is out now on Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack from Funimation.
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