(Warning, the following article contains spoilers for Drifters. Read at your own responsibility)
Sometimes you need a show that comes around and just absolutely doesn’t give a damn. The type of show that you can just sit back and enjoy the spectacle of it all. No need for a complex plot, no need to worry about character development or motivation, you just want to see badass things happen on screen. Drifters is that show for the Fall 2016 season.
Drifters begins by following Shimazu Toyohisa during the Battle of Sekigahara, during which he is critically wounded and, in real life, killed. Following the battle Toyohisa wanders the battlefield dripping blood, eventually finding himself suddenly walking into a strange hallway of doors with a single desk sitting in the middle of the hallway with a man wearing glasses and dressed in attire from outside of Toyohisa’s time period sitting at it.
The man sends Toyohisa to a fantasy world filled with elves, dwarves, hobbits, dragons, the works. As a result of his wounds he eventually passes out, and thanks to two young elves, he is taken to an abandoned fortification where two other historical Japanese men are at. These men are Nasu no Yoichi and Oda Nobunaga, both of whom have been long since dead by the time Toyohisa was killed, Nasu in particular was dead for hundreds of years.
All three of these men are Drifters, historical figures from our world who have died. Upon their deaths they were brought to the fantasy world to fight for the man in the glasses against a group of people called the Ends, who are also historical people from our world who died, only they were summoned to the fantasy world by a woman named Easy. Also, the Ends get powers for some reason, they haven’t explained why yet, but the Ends are flinging magical fire and ice and using deadly shadow warriors while the Drifters have to use their signature weapons, like Nobunaga has matchlock rifles and Butch Cassidy is using his revolvers.
Interestingly enough, most of the people who become Drifters are people who history remember for being bad guys or at least fighting on the so called “villainous” side of wars. On the other hand most of the people shown so far to be Ends have been people who are remembered as being good or unjustly killed, such as Joan of Arc or the murdered Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia.
Then there is the Black King, who seems to be the big bad of this show, at least in terms of characters inside the fantasy world. I don’t think the show will flat out say it, but it has given us enough clues, such as weird circular marks in both his palms, the fact that he has incredible healing magic, and he said he wanted to save humanity until they betrayed him, that it’s all but a confirmed fact that the Black King is Big J himself, Jesus of Nazareth.
Which, you know, makes things rather hilarious that according to the map Crunchyroll made of the most popular show in each state for the season, Drifters is the most popular show in seven of the Bible Belt states. Granted is it really all that surprising the Kohta Hirano would make Jesus a villain, or at least a perceived one? I mean this was the guy who made Hellsing, another series that didn’t exactly paint Christianity in a positive light.
So far that’s really all we have to go off of when it comes to the story and characters in the show up to now. Though in the grand scheme of things the story is just a vehicle to see some badass fight scenes. That’s the entire reason it is there.
Whereas Fate/stay night was far, far, far more talking than fighting, this is the inverse, a lot of fighting, but not much talking outside of the designated info dump episodes. We have historical figures fighting each other plus fantasy creatures like elves, goblins, trolls, and dwarves. You know what, forget grindhouse Fate/stay night, this is grindhouse Chronicles of Narnia, and it’s badass! It even has Jesus kicking ass(granted not as a lion)!
If there is any real downside to Drifters, it is the show’s comedy, or at least attempts at comedy. Kohta Hirano’s style of humor is, well to say it is an acquired taste is putting it lightly. His humor is so off the wall bizarre that it would not be that far off to say that the only person who found most of it funny was Hirano himself. Now not all of the comedy is a miss, just the vast majority of it, and for anyone not used to Hirano’s style of combining weird as fuck humor with over the top gorey explosion filled action scenes, the humor can really mess with your experience.
So that’s basically Drifters in a nutshell. It’s an assortment of historical figures so random that if this was actually a film you might think they just grabbed all the genre costumes they had on hand hanging in their costume closet being forced to engage in Mortal Kombat with both each other and all the races of Middle-earth. It’s a fun as hell popcorn show, and we’re all just along for the bloody joy ride.