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.

16rating_8

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Nobunaga the Fool – 01

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Oda Nobunaga, Akechi Mitsuhide, and Toyotomi Hideyoshi: prominent warriors of Japan’s Sengoku period. Jeanne d’Arc, Leonardo da Vinci, Ferdinand Magellan: all prominent European figures. The ambitious Nobunaga the Fool gives its characters iconic names form real-world history which is, if we’re honest, a little jarring at first. Sure, the names are easy to remember, but if those names are lifted from true history in an audacious attempt to tell better stories than the ones these characters actually lived, the show is setting itself up for failure.

But we don’t think Nobunaga is trying to tell better stories, just wildly different ones, answering a question few have probably asked: what if all these historical figures were made to cross paths? For a good long time, the Eastern and Western regions of the real world were indeed quite separate from one another; here they’re literally different worlds, or “stars.” It was the West that was first able to traverse the vast oceans and reach the East; here it’s an ocean of space. There’s a lot of potentially interesting stories in this re-imagined clash of East and West.

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We want to like Nobunaga the Fool. Its creators have taken pains to render an intricate alternate universe and history with clever thematic similarities to our own. This introductory episode also does a good job of immersing us in that universe; after a brief voiceover going over the basics, we’re thrown into the deep end, and get swept back and forth between East and West as disparate events gradually lead to the fated encounter at episode’s end, with Jeanne d’Arc in Nobunaga’s arms, in the cockpit of a mecha meant for him.

This is all a bit…silly, in the same way songstresses have so much influence in the universe in Macross Frontier, or how being as naked as possible is crucial in Aquarion Evol. Those two shows were able to embrace the silliness and balance it with drama and peril, resulting in imminently watchable entertainment. Beyond the tongue-in-cheek nature of the borrowed historical names, Nobunaga commits to its apocryphal tutti-frutti milieu with a certain dignified staidness, but we wonder if it’s trying too hard. Our first impressions can thus be best summed up by Nobu himself: “I have no idea what’s going on, but sure!”…for now.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Girls und Panzer – 10

Ooarai defeats Pravda and moves on to the finals against Black Forest Peak. They set to work getting two more tanks and teams into fighting condition (the automobile club’s Lion Team and the online gamers’ Anteater Team) and modifying their existing tanks. Miho, Saori, Yukari and Mako visit the flower show where Hana is exhibiting her work, and on the eve of the battle every team they’ve fought comes to cheer them on. The battle commences, and Ooarai is caught with their britches down by a crafty sneak attack by Maho’s far-larger force. Erika just misses taking out Miho and the flag tank, as the Anteater’s tank accidentally swerves into the line of fire.

When Miho leads her outnumbered, outgunned, outmaneuvered team to victory over the formidable Pravda school, it might be easier for Maho to dismiss if that victory was achieved because Pravda got careless and her sister simply got lucky. But she’s forced to hand it to Miho: she has real skill, thinks on her feet, and is able to effectively motivate and manage her myriad teammates. If anything, this makes their upcoming battle more interesting to Maho, but she is utterly committed to defeating her, and both her mother and Erika consider Miho’s methods “heresy” that must be stamped out. Maho doesn’t seem to care as much about that as just plain winning. Thus, defeat is not an option either side is considering. If Ooarai loses, it’s the end of their school (we guess second place isn’t enough to save it). If Black Forest Peak loses, the heretics have won.

While we only see the very beginning of the final battle (and a tremendous battle it looks to be), we really enjoyed all of the lead-up. Not only were new tanks found (and in the case of the Porsche Tiger, roundly castigated), and new teams formed (LOL online gamers), but Hana and her mom make up (a little), Saori gets her amateur radio operator certification, and Miho assures Yukari that her past isn’t a problem for her anymore. She didn’t just do what she did (save her teammates at the cost of victory) because it was the right thing to do. She did it because she wanted to do it (she is warmly thanked by a member of the Black Forest Peak team she saved back then). If that makes her a heretic, than go ahead and nickname her Joan of Arc.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Tank Cameos: For their match with Black Forest Peak, two more tanks join the Ooarai corps: The automobile club crews a VK4501(P), AKA Porsche Tiger, a prototype heavy tank armed with an 88mm gun and prone to getting stuck in the mud, overheating, catching fire, and breaking down. The online gamers man (girl?) a Type 3 Chi-Nu, armed with a 75mm gun. The Turtle team’s 38(t) gets a Hetzer conversion, while the Panzer IV gains armored Schürzen (track skirts). Black Forest Peak fields a Tiger tank and assorted Panther tanks and Jagdpanther tank destroyers.