Drifters by Kouta Hirano

By Hannah

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Drifters started in 2009 by Kouta Hirano (creator of the cult classic Hellsing).  It’s being serialized in Young King Ours, a monthly seinen magazine in Japan.  In the US it is licensed by Dark Horse Comics.  There are currently five volumes available in the US.  As of October 2016 there is one season of an anime and a second season has been announced.

Shimazu Toyohisa is a hick samurai who is critically injured during the  Battle of Sekigahara(1602).  After mortally wounding the oppositions general, so his uncle could escape, Toyohisa finds himself walking through a mysterious hallway.  At the end of the hallway is a bespectacled man, reading a newspaper and smoking a cigarette.  Toyohisa then wakes up in the ruins of a tower.  There he meets Oda Nobunaga, a famous warlord who died in the Honnoji Incident (1582) and a young Nasu no Yoichi, legendary archer and hero of the Battle of Yashima who most believe died in 1232 at the age of 64.  

From there Toyohisa finds out that he is in another world where elves, dwarves, giants, orcs, dragons, and magic exist.  It’s also a world where historical figures from all over our world are sent.  Some  call them Drifters and hope that they will save the world.  Others call them Ends and know that they will destroy it.

What I love about this story is the character interactions.  Oda Nobunaga is an evil mastermind, who would use Toyohisa as a puppet to take over this new world.  Toyohisa is simple, loves battle, is honest, and fearless.  In theory he makes a great puppet, but he is too unpredictable for Oda to control.  Throw in the powerful and level headed Yoichi and you get a comedic trio that can defeat any enemy and win a reader’s heart.

There is a lot going on is this manga.  First, you get to play spot the historical figure.  That’s the easy part.  Then you get to play why are they important?  In this world, it’s pretty apparent what their role is.  In our world?  I tend to wiki a lot of the Drifters and the Ends.  It’s fascinating to see how the author interprets these people.  Oda Nobunaga is an evil genius with a big boobs fetish, Hannibal Barca (considered to be one of the greatest military leaders in history) is a senile old man who demands berries all the time, and Jeanne d’Arc is an insane pyromaniac with gender issues.

The artwork in this manga is frantic and violent.  It ranges wildly from every detail depicted perfectly in a frame to giant bubble heads with flailing arms that appear boneless in a frame.  Often on the same page.  It’s great.  It allows the characters to be more human.  They get to tell their jokes, express soul deadening despair, emphasize the importance of what just happened, and lets the reader know a little bit about what’s going on in that character’s head.

Drifters is categorized as Action, Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy, Historical, and Seinen.  Action and adventure because there are many epic battle scenes.  Comedy because there is tons of jokes throughout the story.  Ranging from some truly stupid poop jokes to laughing at forcing elves to speak Japanese so that they can keep their heads.  All because Toyohisa charged into battle shouting that any who couldn’t speak Japanese were forfeiting their heads to him.  It gets pretty dark sometimes.  Fantasy because this all takes place in a Middle Earth type land.  Historical, because all the Drifters and the Ends were real people in our world.  Seinen is a category marketed to young boys and men old enough to read kanji.  It is a dude centric story with lots of blood and guts.  

If you like blood, guts, crazy eyes, and/or history you will love this manga.  I just wish it was a little less of a sausage fest…  More kick ass female characters would be a good thing.  They are there, just more would be appreciated.

4.5 out of 5 Stars

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