「みつめて新選組 〜熱血九州男児の唄〜」 (Mitsumete Shinsengumi 〜 nekketsu Kyuushuu danji no uta 〜)
“Staring at Shinsengumi ~The Song of the Fervid Kyuushuu Man~”
Going out as it roared on it, Drifters ends this season with yet more blood, violence, and a hefty amount of over the top fighting. As expected the Battle for Verlina was wrapped up, although the pleasant surprise had to be the focus on Toyohisa as we received one hell of a struggle between him and Hijikata. This I think was Drifters’ best fight, showing just how awesome this show can be when it pulls out all the stops. We got sword bashing (with broken swords), crazy spirits, and one wickedly amusing slugfest. The intriguing bit for me, however, is how historical the fight was in a sense. Hijikata’s rage against Toyohisa and Shimazu? That wasn’t because Hijikata is insane, there’s a basis behind it. Hijitaka in real life was the vice commander of the Shinsengumi, basically a private militia supportive of the Tokugawa Shongunate. Toyohisa’s clan was one of the feudal states which rose in rebellion against and defeated the Tokugawa, heralding the Meiji Restoration (i.e. modern Japan). One of the casualties from that rebellion was Hijikata. Seeing this feud play out anachronistically via Toyohisa was hilarious, especially when Hijikata’s anger is what ultimately defeated him. The best part though is that we are guaranteed a round two between them.
It wasn’t all manly fighting, however, we also received a healthy dose of tactical slaughter. I swear it never gets tiring seeing Nobunaga scheming a way around his opponent, especially with faces like these. Might also help I guessed right in how Hannibal played a role in determining Nobunaga’s tactics for a second time. Each Drifter is increasingly synergizing with one another, producing (beyond some funny interactions) a strong foundation where no one character really dominates. Every victory is due to the actions of several, with this one primarily accomplished Nobunaga; Toyohisa simply served to stall Hijikata. I especially liked too how Toyohisa came out and fully admitted he would fail without Nobunaga’s support. I’ve always had the thought that Toyohisa may eventually turn on Nobunaga given Nobunaga’s attempts at turning him into a king, but now it’s clear that’s wrong: both men are two sides of the same coin, and truly need each other. Yoichi is just going to have to play third wheel to this little bubbling bromance.
While the Drifters have won the day, it certainly doesn’t mean things are getting any easier. The Black King is completely uncaring his force was beaten, satisfied in crippling Orte and learning the power of the Drifters. Furthermore is the reveal that Mitsuhide has now joined with the Black King, inviting one hell of a showdown with Nobunaga. Drifters, as so succinctly put during the show, is ending just as the true battle is about to begin. Normally this would suck terribly given the usual lack of sequel announcement, but thankfully not this time. Oh no boys and girls, Drifters is returning for a second season, and one not likely far off either. We haven’t seen the last of this series just yet.
Drifters is one show which would be hard for me to ever say I hated. This was a series offering everything lauded in action shows: it was over the top, it was bloody, and it was never once scared to double down on any of it. Much like Hellsing the art I’d argue is what helped carry Drifters along, propelled by a dark, red palette, and some amazing, pulpy character designs. The faces (particularly Nobunaga’s) always bore a sinister edge while smirking, a visual taste of the carnage and chaos yet to come.
What really drew me hard into Drifters, however, was the intellectual meat on the bones. Hellsing was wicked fun for its characters and setting, but it never featured some of the discussions which Drifters brought up repeatedly. Everything from technological advancements to theories on leadership and the nature of man popped up in some capacity, and—most surprisingly—were actively discussed! For history (and political science) freaks like me this was like a hit of cocaine, a story delving into the things rarely pointed out (let alone fleshed out) in similar series. Although arguable whether the large cast of historical characters is what made Drifters’ premise work, there’s no question it did so with flying colours.
Drifters of course was not without its problems, however; comedy was the noticeable Achilles heel here. Anyone familiar with Hellsing or the creator Hirano knows all about the hit or miss jokes, but it can be hard remembering just how bad it can get sometimes. Although it improved over time, a lot of the humour here just never worked, serving only to detract from the story rather than enhance it. If you need an example explaining why comedy should be kept separate from serious material, look no farther than this. While some of the jokes did work at times (like this one), it’s arguable that many could have been culled to yield a better, tighter story.
Provided one is capable of overlooking the questionable jokes though, Drifters is one series I’d recommend in a heartbeat. As a “trapped in another world” style show it was certainly nothing ground breaking, but Drifters offered enough in terms of action and material to produce an incredibly fun series which never slowed down or noticeably stumble. This is one show easily binge watchable, and one series which should not be easily dismissed just because of its premise. When Drifters’ second season finally decides to roll around, you can be guaranteed I’ll be here covering it, it’s just too much fun to pass up.