Drifters – 04

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Drifters has its intense, ostensibly serious moments, but very often they are upturned by a sudden bout of comedy, such as when Easy, who is in the Dorridor to tease Murasaki, finds that he’s currently away from his desk.

Basically, Drifters is in on the joke, and it’s out to show you can have a story about famous historical figures going at each other for the sake of a world not their own without being as rigid as bamboo or dry as Fall leaves. You can have a little fun.

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I like how Oda Nobunaga, the ostensible leader of the Three Surly Samurai, decides to step aside and let Toyohisa be the commander who leads the Elves in their rebellion.

First, he respects Toyohisa’s ability and relative youth. Second, at his age he prefers to be the one who pulls the strings on the side. Third, and perhaps most silly, is that Toyohisa went and sat in the middle, between Nobunaga and Yoichi. And that’s where the leader sits.

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The narrative of a village of (surprisingly old) Elves who have never known freedom or war taking a stand against their masters isn’t all that interesting, but making the Three Samurai their “coaches” in this enterprise, and all their inherent bickering and bawdiness, is pretty entertaining, and helps the medicine go down, so to speak.

These are three guys who can back up their arrogance (and other typically undesirable personality traits); indeed, it makes sense they act and talk the way they do: They’re used to getting their way, and when they don’t, blood that isn’t their own usually spills.

Magician Olmine isn’t yet sure how these Drifters fit into the Octobrists’ larger struggle to save the world, but she knows they’re too human, and too quick to help the weak and downtrodden, to be Easy’s Ends.

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Drifters – 03

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As I mentioned last week, I don’t find the overarching conflict being fought between the Octobrists (with Drifters) and the Black King (with Ends) to be particularly coherent or compelling, but thankfully that doesn’t matter, because the Drifters and Ends themselves have been enough to carry the show along nicely.

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It was a shame we didn’t see any of our cranky Samurai trio until the very end (when they find the hapless Octobrist magician who’s been observing them), but that disappointment was quickly tempered with a bunch of new faces, or I should say old to very old faces.

While their leaders/facilitators (the Octobrists and Black King) aren’t that interesting, most of them are…and also pretty funny at times, keeping things from getting too stilted.

On the End (AKA “Offscouring”) side: A sadistic pyromanic Joan d’Arc who has clearly renounced God; the blizzard-summoning final surviving member of the doomed Romanov family, Anastasia; and Hijikata, the former vice commander of the “Shingensumi” special police squad who can summon the ghosts of his men to hack people down.

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This week’s historical figures on the Drifter side include Scipio Africanus and Hannibal from Roman times, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Kanno Naoshi, a WWII fighter pilot with a wonderful penchant for cursing who just arrived. Kanno decides to side with the Drifters by gunning down the Black King’s dragons when he gets traumatic flashbacks to the bombing of Tokyo.

Both End and Drifter are essentially superheroes, as if passing into this new world has imbued them with superhuman/supernatural powers. As such, much like the Avengers, X-Men, or Jedi, they are front-line heavy hitters, capable of taking on entire armies by themselves. Once could also liken them to reusable tactical nukes.

One intriguing element is that Drifters and Ends are given roles and abilities surpassing even their great statures in normal world history. Some are bigger names than others, and all react to their situation in different ways. Kanno’s decision to take out the dragons was motivated by his experience in the previous world, just as Joan just wants to watch shit burn now, because that’s what happened to her.

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The Drifters at the besieged kingdom are safely evacuated to fight another day. But when Olmine explains to the three Samurai (who were left out of the fighting altogether this week) what the deal is, they react in appropriately amusing ways: Toyohisa is apathetic, Nobunaga is unconvinced, and Yoichi simply isn’t interested. But something tells me once they’re given an enemy to fight, they’ll reconsider their inaction. They’re just not catching the Octobrists at their best.

Drifters continues to be a wonderfully over-the-top action / adventure / comedy that has put a clever twist on the utilization of historical figures in anime. They’re neither too-faithful reproductions of the guys and gals in the books (which are themselves open to interpretation) nor completely unrelated.

It’s a surprisingly welcoming show that doesn’t demand we take its milieu any more seriously than the titular Drifters, but simply enjoy the ride.

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