Drifters had a lot of hype behind it. Hellsing has an iconic place in anime history, and this is supposedly what comes next from the people behind it... and boy does it show. The art style is distinct and very much geared to be memorable, it has the same bits of silliness interspersed in the super-seriousness, and there are plenty of people getting hacked to bits. These are all good things.
But people forget that while Hellsing is definitely awesome, it isn't all that great as a show. Sure, it's not bad, but it isn't great. Likewise, Drifters has not reached a point where I can say "wait, this is actually amazing". It's counting on a second season for that, I suppose. But even so, it feels like an incomplete creation from the start. While there were questions in Hellsing that were there to tease out interest, here there is a far less subtle approach.
The rule of cool is more than enough if done correctly. Hell, some of the greatest successes have relied so heavily on it that there's very little left beyond. Drifters has everything you'd expect. Swords, fighting, some supposedly epic plot, super-powers, a struggle of good (but somewhat evil) and evil (with supposedly some good), some moments that just beg "take a screenshot of me and show the world how glorious this is", and so on. This could have been enough.
But what can I say? Right now, a lot of shows have a cool-factor that's pretty high. Viewers have become jaded to it, or want it to be so blatantly egregious that Drifters just doesn't register. Yeah, another shot of a guy smiling with things burning in the background for the fourth time this episode... not gonna cut it. The whole thing about being cool is that you can't just copy things, you need to do something that stands out. Not really a thing here.
Writing (story and characters):
What Drifters doesn't have is a story or characters that feel special in any way. The writing isn't complete garbage, it just isn't good. I'd expected the people behind Hellsing to learn from their mistakes and kick things up a notch. They didn't. It isn't so much that the story is bad, it's just that it is more or less the title and a couple of extra sentences, and the rest is irrelevant. It's an excuse for fight scenes and being cool™.
In many ways we've not seen much more than character introductions and some reason for a war. There are some cheap attempts at emotional manipulation to get us to care, but those seem to go against the character of the show. The second season might make this better, but here, beyond the gaping plot holes, we have a show that didn't really end on an ending note. It's just sloppy writing.
The characters... they're one dimensional. There's no need to be gentle about this. This isn't their role to be rich and complex, they're supposed to be fighting badasses from planet badass. I don't expect much in the way of character development in the second season. Hell, the protagonist's character can be summed up as "lives to fight and nothing more". It just isn't the kind of show that has more than that, despite some undertones that pretend as much.
Despite the qualms I have with the story and characters, this is pulp action writing done well. We have a premise, we have excuses to fight and characters that like fighting and... go. That's broken up by moments of levity (which are childish and not particularly well done), as is required by this type of format, and there's nothing more to it. It's a decent ride, and the writing focuses on what the show is supposed to be about.
Art (animation and sound):
Is there a contest for "most annoying bird voice" in anime that I haven't heard about? Seriously, screw the people behind this terrible idea. There are characters that are voiced in annoying ways, there are others which are voiced pretty damn well, but if I have one qualm about the voice acting is that compared to Hellsing where we had Walter and Alucard, here we get a much less iconic approach. The soundtrack is actually pretty good, and the effects are nice though.
We all wanted to see Drifters for the animation. Whatever qualms one may have with Hellsing, it has some of the most memorable character designs of all times. And we get some of that goodness again. There are some excellent character designs, and the animation when working well is very effective. What it isn't though, is truly exceptional. If we'd have had a powerhouse like Madhouse behind it, perhaps it could have given a complete justification for this. That being said, the backgrounds are great, the character designs have flair, and the animation has some moments of greatness.
I have to note that I liked the opening. It's got a nice catchy song, the animation is rather raw and sets the tone for what the show wishes to accomplish. That's probably the high point of the art as far as I'm concerned. The low point is the annoying way they draw eyes... I get it that they want to have something special, but it seriously looks stupid in a show that tries to be cool.
Drifters was probably always intended as a spectacle, and is written that way. I have some issues with the voice acting, and the animation is far from perfect... but we do get a good dose of wow-factor. That's all that's required. Also, the opening is a breath of fresh air.
Drifters is rather good. It toes the line between childishness and serious business, and that's fine. If anything, my main issue with the writing is the attempts at being deep which are tacked on. So far, I can recommend the show for people who want to enjoy the standard Sienen action show executed straight up, if a bit on the childish side.
Drifters is truly amazing right from the get go, the story is a fresh new concept leading up to an amazing showdown, the animation is flawless and the characters are very well made. The only negative thing i have to say about this show is that it's not comming out fast enough.
If you like fantasy and extreme violence then this is right up your ally.
This anime was exceptional. It didn't take it self too seriously. It was just so much fun to watch!
Its a type of anime I would recommend someone to watch if he just want to sit back and enjoy good explosions, head cutting and just alot of blood. The characters in this anime just live to fight, nothing more and the creator really manage to capture those people in the best way possible.
The story wasn't all that great. Its not bad by any mean but I think it leaves something to be desired. Characters backstory only get hinted every once in a while but nothing. And the story itself is really plain. I got more to say about the story but I just don't want to spoil to anyone so I'll leave it at that: it was okay and it still just the first season so it can get better in the future.
The animation is the strong point of this anime. The character design is great, the animation is sharp. Watching Toyo cut someones head off is always fun. I think the creators made an exceptional work in that deparment. They manage to capture the glomy atmosphere and the rather strait forward characters well. Evreything from the characters themselves to the scenery looked great. The movement looked organic. The fire and explostions were perfect. And the blood was really over the top but this really suit that show a lot.
For the sound and music. This show has one of my favorite opening song, one of those rare openings that I don't eager enough to see the episode that I skip it. The voice acting is great as well, the people voice acting the characters did a good job getting the character style thorught their voice.
The characters were simple yet I think thats what made this anime so much fun. You have the pirate looking guy, an evil bastered with no respect that will do everything to win, a guy that lives to cut men head off and a badass archer that you don't want to fuck with. Simple characters that make for a rather funny group. We also see a badass pilot for a couple of episodes that only screems bakayaro (moron) at everything he sees, kinda childish but I couldn't stop smiling everytime they showed him.
It's not an anime they will stay in your mind for weeks after watching it, but for what it is its really a great one. Highly recommended.
Drifter is another series from Kouta Hirano the author of Hellsing manga, which adaptation is still one of my favorite anime series (i.e. Hellsing Ultimate). I have read few chapters of the Drifters manga, when it was released, but I wasn't really impressed with it. I wasn't expecting much from this anime to begin with.
The story is about the Drifters. The Drifters are warriors, including historical figures, taken from our world across the time and put in the different world as far as I understand to fight some proxy war between two deities. Strange as it seems the story is appealing. It is one overarching story and aims for more episodes in my opinion. The Hellsing Ultimate in comparison at moments felt somewhat disjointed in the first half. It is much heavier on comic relief made in same way like in the Hellsing Ultimate, which degrades the atmosphere. It would be much better without it. After 9 episodes it is still mystery what is the conflict is really about.
Overall the art style is same as in the Hellsing Ultimate. The animation is good, but degraded with sudden drops in quality for abundant comic relief in the story.
Soundtrack is meh, but OP and ED simply won't do. In comparison with the Hellsing Ultimate the soundtrack is disappointing and unimpressive.
The anime aims in characters for similar psychadelic style (art and personality), but much more toned down when compared to the Hellsing Ultimate. While it makes them more down to earth less extreme it also makes them more boring. What I like about the anime that it uses the pre-supposed traits of historical characters to impact their aims and behavior in the settings the anime puts them in. For example Nobunaga's desire to conquest drives the events in the story. He builds on his experience i.e. learns from his mistakes in our world. The story aims for some kind of redemption story line for some of the characters. The number of characters is greater than in the Hellsing Ultimate and many of them didn't do much so far. I would say they are pointless, but I don't want to make such conclusion before the anime ends. What I didn't like is greatly distorted character of the historical characters such as Jeanne d'Arc. While it is easy to use widely known historical characters for their background, it limits the author to certain preexisting personality.
Overall the series is so far (9th episode) good. From my point of view it is not as good as the Hellsing Ultimate, but still better than many present day series.
The following is a review for the 12-episode anime Drifters. It is based off of an ongoing manga of the same name by Kouta Hirano, who is famous for being the manga writer of the hit manga Hellsing. The anime was directed by Kenichi Suzuki, whose only other directing credits are co-directing the first two seasons of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. The writing talent behind Drifters is much more notable and features Hideyuki Kurata (Made in Abyss, Hellsing Ultimate, Samurai Flamenco) and Yousuke Kuroda (Btoom!, My Hero Academia, Highschool of the Dead, Gungrave). The production as a whole was handled by Hoods Drifters Studio, a relatively new studio behind Mysterious Girlfriend X and The Qwaser of Stigmata. Especially at writers- this anime has some recognizable names if you follow directors/writers of your favorite shows or manga. Hellsing was perhaps one of the most popular seinen of the 2000s decade and Hellsing Ultimate is to this day hailed as one of the greatest action anime ever created.
Let’s start with the bottom line: Is Drifters Worth It?
For once? No, it’s not.
Depending on what you are looking for OR what you liked about Drifters that may be a head-scratching statement. I know what you may be thinking: well that’s something of a strong statement for someone who has consistently given 7-8’s to just about every other anime reviewed. You would be correct in thinking so, but I stand firm in my belief that 1-cour anime (13 episodes or less) do not get a pass just because their runtime is shorter. I’ve reviewed many shows that were 1-cour and gave them those 7-8 scores despite those short runtimes because I thought they had some sort of exceptional quality(s)—especially in their writing. But Drifters doesn’t seem to care about its writing, not even to the extent that Hellsing Ultimate did which works as Drifter’s main progenitor and source of inspiration being a manga by the same author as Hellsing and featuring a scriptwriter from Hellsing Ultimate. Of course, the main response to this criticism would be Well what did you expect of Drifters? To be frank even judging Drifters solely as an Action anime, I found the majority of the show to be lacking. The action scenes feel like a direct rendition of the manga panel-for-panel, which I haven’t even read but don’t have any intention to. The directing features lots of standstills of a character killing something, posing in a cool position, or narrating. There isn’t a lot of fluid motion and there isn’t a whole ton of dynamic fighting where the stakes really feel up in the air.
Basically- Drifters plays it safe.
If you have only 13 episodes to make an impression…You’d think that it would try its best to be different. To me, a 1-cour is like giving someone a $100 dollars of free casino money. In this analogy, the chips were free and on the house and you cannot use that money for anything else except playing Casino games—what is the obvious decision? Obviously, the decision is to take a chance and try your hand. In this analogy, Drifters took this $100 in chips and basically said No Thank You and left it on the nearest table and walked out, which is ironic to me for such a high-quality action series about a Japanese warlord bludgeoning enemies to death. Let me make this clear in a short and concise point: this anime was so mediocre, that I am struggling to motivate myself to even write this review. Which is a huge shame to me because I don’t really even know what to talk about to give Drifters to cut it its fair share and benefit-of-doubt as a semi-objective reviewer.
Yes, the art style is really really good and features plenty of gore. Yes, the colors and character designs and stills look mesmerizing and make for great screenshots. No, there’s pretty much no substance to it. It’s literally about a guy in red armor named Shimazu Toyohisa who dies in battle, meets a mysterious eye-glasses man named Murasaki, and is sent to a Fantasy world where he starts killing lots of enemy knights and takes over more and more land…And is coincidentally seen as the good guy because he happens to liberate lots of suppressed people in the process. He meets other Japanese (and non-Japanese) heroes from history along the way: Nobunaga and Nosu no Yoichi are his primary two co-stars and we come to learn these three along with other heroes are all called Drifters. Shimazu spends the first 10 episodes killing and fighting random enemy soldiers before running into The Ends which are “bad” renowned heroes throughout history who fight for humanity’s destruction in this alternate world. We witness a single fight and a single battle against them and then the series is over.
The entire show is basically one giant set-up for a second season, but that’s not really how this deal is supposed to work, right. How its supposed to work is like how titles Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash or Deadman Wonderland or Made in Abyss did it: you take a huge chance by pushing boundaries and, especially, having really gutsy and unexplored writing decisions that leaves viewers hooked. If I may speak plainly, you do a certain (usually niche) something so well that it leaves your audience clamoring for more because it A) keeps audiences guessing and B) there's nothing else like it. You don’t have a choice here: you sink or swim by exploring some new idea. Anime cannot afford to be predictible, and specialize in executing the (hopefully unique) premise well. The reason is simple supply and demand. If you as the creator of a new anime/manga series settle for mediocrity, the viewer has no reason to invest their time into your title instead of opting for traditionally “safe” bets. And…nowadays? Even the safe anime are starting to get really, really good. My Hero Academia comes to mind but there are others like One Punch Man, Attack on Titan, Noragami, and Hunter x Hunter 2011. The list goes on.
To reiterate: For Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, which is another one-cour anime series, its success was having this gritty and holistic outlook on being transported to another Fantasy world that is a stark contrast from something like Sword Art Online. For Deadman Wonderland, yet another one-cour anime, its success was having this dark action story where going to prison was like being put into a circus that ultimately becomes a black-comedy homage to the Battle Royale formula. For Made in Abyss, yet another 1-cour anime series, its success was deceiving audiences into a sense of self-security while simultaneously providing a heartfelt and endearing story about two children venturing through a beautiful-yet-terrible world.
For Drifters…It’s great success is being a worse clone of Hellsing Ultimate. That’s basically the best case-in-point argument for both watching and staying away from Drifters. The actual story barely gets going by the series conclusion. And don’t get me wrong: I’m not sending you to something that rights all of Drifter’s wrongs. Far from it. The fact that we have this series that regresses from Hellsing Ultimate’s starting point in terms of writing is really saying a lot. But for all the stupidity in Hellsing Ultimate—whose central advertising point is having a gun-wielding Dracula fight the Catholic Church and Vampire Neo-Nazis—the characters themselves felt fearsome. As did their interactions fighting and killing each other. Another word is genuine, or at least as genuine as the premise of Hellsing’s ridiculous premise could allow for. But really, the bottom line here is that Hellsing was just never boring. Chalk it up to its OVA format or complete presentation or extended, fluid and gory fight scenes and badass character design. Who cares. It’s better by any metric or standard.
Just as a fun reminder. You don’t have to watch shows just because they have exceptional action or writing. There are plenty of examples of both: Hunter x Hunter 2011, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, My Hero Academia, One Punch Man, and Attack on Titan all come to mind as a few examples. It isn’t a case of having to choose quality action or writing anymore- but honestly? There really never was a reason to in any era. Even in the 90s/2000s we had titles like Dragon Ball, Rurouni Kenshin, Yu Yu Hakusho, Cowboy Bebop, and Macross Plus. Later in the 2000s we have Gundam SEED, Samurai Champloo, Black Lagoon, Death Note, Code Geass, Eureka Seven, and Gungrave. However, of the “great-animation-at-the-expense-of-deep-writing” category of anime, Drifters does not even crack the top 10 for me. This point of comparison could just as well be made for something like REDLINE or Akame ga Kill or Ninja Scroll or Mardock Scramble or Afro Samurai or Claymore. I rest my case.
The last peculiar point I will make a note of is how much higher the internet consensus seems to rate Drifters than it probably deserves credit for. Amazon’s user reviews are a perfect 5/5 stars. Look at any Reddit discussion thread and no one says a single thing bad about Drifters. Anime News Network gave the series a B+ rating. Likewise, the average user rating on My Anime List is an 8/10. OtakuUSAMagazine’s Joseph Luster gives the series a strong Recommended rating. Am I missing something here? Did anyone else not find Shimazu’s relentless and repeated screaming that he’d have the enemies’ heads! Just plain jarring? Or the ridiculous levels of plot armor that the main protagonists have? Or how time seemed to move in slow-motion so that the heroes to massacre entire groups of soldiers? Or the series’ continued tendency to keep introducing more and more drifters/ends—even up to the last episode? Or the random cross-dressing character or maniacal laugh of Nobunaga or super feminine Yoichi? Say what you will about “dumb” action shows like Akame ga Kill or Future Diary, but at least those shows had the guts to provide a story that had a single ounce of thought put into it. Drifters’ story is a series of tropes used to set up various action scenes which aren’t even that good. Much as is the case as Hellsing Ultimate, I cannot even take what I am watching seriously. Unlike Hellsing Ultimate, however, Drifters does not have the talent or budget or cutting-edge technology behind it to help it stand out amongst its contemporaries.
But, just to be clear, and also answer the original question: No, I do not think Drifters is worth watching, but it I still would agree that it is not a bad anime. I base this sentiment on the fact that I will (probably) never be inclined to revisit this anime ever again, even in the advent of a second season. Nor do I have an inclination to read the manga. If a person is content to never revisit something, chances are good they probably wouldn’t care very much if they hadn’t spent their time with it in the first place. But no I didn't hate it or ever feel the need to turn the show off. For this reason I cannot give Drifters more than a 6. I would give to say its action scenes and character designs are unique and very pretty in their own grotesque way…But that’s the extent of Drifter's virtues.
Thanks for reading,