Should You Watch 'Drifters'? Episode 1 Fall Anime 2016 Review

Drifters key art. (c) Hoods Drifter Studio

Drifters episode 1 of fall anime season 2016 starts you off with the brutal violence its creators, the folks behind Hellsing, are known for. At the Battle of Sekigahara, we see samurai get their throats cut, their heads cut off, shot through with arrows and so on and so forth. Everything is washed in a muted green-gray, and everywhere, eyes bulge madly and blood spurts and drips.

The animation itself is notably lacking, almost as if the production made a choice between its characteristic style and actually animating all those battle scenes fluidly. But that iconic style, with its bold lines and wild eyes, is almost enough to make up for the animation shortcoming.

Our main character is Shimazu Toyohisa, a real person who died at the Battle of Sekigahara. In the anime, he stands between his loving uncle and a band of Red Devil warriors to give his uncle time to escape. His personality type is encompassed by two words: “screaming” and “bloodlust.” Even when pierced through by a dozen spears, he pulls a gun out and shoots the band’s leader straight off his horse. The band withdraws, and Toyohisa tries to drag himself home to Satsuma.

That’s when Drifters turns from a show I’m meh about to a show I want to see more of. Suddenly Toyohisa is traversing a long white hallway with doors down both walls. A modern bureaucrat sits at a desk, smoking a cigarette, staring at Toyohisa with huge, terrifying blue eyes. With a look, the bureaucrat sends Toyohisa through one of the doors and calls “next,” and a ‘40s soldier emerges in confusion.

We see that Toyohisa is now in another world because two elves happen across him, looking baffled. Toyohisa just barely manages to turn over and then passes out. The elves recognize him as a “Drifter” from his language and decide to take him to a ruined castle nearby. They’re stopped from proceeding further onto the castle grounds by a woman armed with a bow and arrow.

The woman is another Drifter, which is why the elves have brought this guy over. It’s clear from the elves’ worry that Drifters are some kind of taboo in this land. After reporting to a man inside the castle, the woman brings Toyohisa in to tend to his wounds.

It turns out the burly, intense man is Oda Nobunaga himself. The woman stops Toyohisa from splitting his stitches open by… handing both of them ducks to pluck feathers from, effectively deflating the tension. Later, they put the ducks on the fire and talk about where they’re from. According to Toyohisa, Nobunaga has been dead eighteen years, but according to Nobunaga, it’s only been half a year since he’s found himself here.

Toyohisa says Nobunaga died eighteen years ago, which clearly throws him. To him it hasn’t been more than half a year. Toyohisa says he’s either a devil, ghost or madman, to the woman’s amusement. She introduces herself as Nasu Suketaka Yoichi, and oops, I just realized she’s a really pretty man. Toyohisa shrieks that he’s from the Genpei War over 400 years ago. They all have a bonding moment teasing Toyohisa over his provincial Shimazu family, which is pretty funny to me.

That’s when Nobunaga shares his experience of the passage surrounded with doors, and the mysterious man Toyohisa also saw. Nasu confirms that he met this man as well. Toyohisa catches Nobunaga up on the history he’s missed, including the death of Nobunaga’s son.

In the distance, a young girl in glasses is spying on the Drifters. A crystal ball appears to serve as a radio to some twerp who states they must do something about the Drifters or it will mean the end of the world. Cue the ending theme, which has really beautiful moving sketches that are a delight to watch.

I’m not quite sure what to make of Drifters. Before Toyohisa was transferred to that strange white hallway, I was ready to write the show off: blood ‘n guts starring an unlikable howling freak just aren’t my cup of tea, but if that’s what you plan to do, you’d better animate the blood ‘n guts rather better than that. Then Drifters turned into a sci-fi thing where notable people are plucked out of their time stream before death and transplanted into another world where time runs differently, and now I need to know where the hell this show plans on going.

Drifters is simulcast on Crunchyroll every Friday at 10:30 a.m., here. Will you be watching? Feel free to talk Drifters in our comments section below.

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