Drifters – 12 (End) and Series Review

The sequel announcement at the end of Drifters (though “20XX” is about as vague as it gets) can hardly have come as a surprise to anyone.  The anime is projected to sell quite well on disc and Hoods’ pacing has had a leisurely air about it, as if they knew there was no point in rushing things along.  Of course with the bulk of the published material already covered in this cour (how has Hirano only managed 5 volumes in 7 years?) it may be a while before we see that second season.

As you know if you’ve been reading my posts, I’ve been rather torn about Drifters, which is a series of pretty stark contrasts.  In the final analysis, to me this is basically “Madden NFL” for military history – light novel-caliber wish fulfilment with a bit of a difference.  That difference is that Hirano has a sharp mind for historical watershed moments and how they happen, and he’s given us the most interesting anime portrait of a very interesting historical figure in Oda Nobunaga.  Those are not insignificant factors in Drifters’ favor, but they have to carry an awful lot of baggage.

The tough part of this for me is that Hirano also has a tin ear for humor – which wouldn’t be such a problem if he wasn’t apparently convinced he’s hilarious.  His perspective on gender politics and sexual orientation is roughly 14th-Century, and he’s clearly got a strong nationalist streak that peeks its ugly head out intermittently throughout the narrative.  As far as I know Hoods is doing a faithful job of adapting the manga material, and the anime itself is quite well-produced, so whatever problems I have are with the writing and not the execution.

In the end I’m watching this for Oda, who’s one of those characters you just can’t take your eyes off of whenever he’s on screen.  He’s smart and savage and morally ambiguous (just like the real one) and that makes him fascinating.  And the notion of dark Jesus leading an army of beasts against an alliance of mostly-Japanese military legends and Tolkien rejects is kind of interesting as premises go.  But truthfully I won’t be counting the days till the sequel arrives.  I’ll watch it when it does, at least for a while, but it would be a pretty big surprise if Drifters is able to transcend that which weighs it down and become something really worthwhile.

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