25 June 2020 | CantileverCaribou
Isekai with historical figures.
Drifters is an isekai series from the author behind Hellsing--this production is similarly violent and over the top, and if you're not into the style of that series, then this probably won't be a great match either, but they're different enough that it might be worth a shot.
The core concept is that historical figures, upon dying or being seriously wounded (Toyohisa, the main character, seems to be transported on the brink of death but never actually dies), are transported to a sort of nexus--a hallway with many doors. There are two administrative figures in this location--one ostensibly bad, and the other good--who assign these historical figures as either Ends or Drifters, respectively, then sending them without any explanation to a fantasy world filled with elves, dwarves, hobbits, and other fictional races, many amongst them forming armies to fight alongside either the Drifters or the Ends. The Octobrist Organization, featuring many magic users, also observes and assists the Drifters in their battle.
The Drifters have to rely on technology and ingenuity to win their battles, while the Ends possess magical powers. Among the drifters are Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, Scipia Africanus, Hannibal Barca, Nasu no Yoichi, and many other Japanese characters, few of which I was familiar with. The Ends are composed of Anastasia Romanova, Rasputin, Jeanne d'Arc, Gilles de Rais, Minamoto no Yoshitsune, among others. Casting someone like Anastasia as a villain might seem a bit strange, but the idea seems to be that these characters were resentful about their death, resulting in their allegiance with the more malicious side of the battle. But I suppose the same could be said of many of these other characters being shoehorned into being villains.
Although a non-Japanese viewer may not be too privy on the details of the Japanese historical figures featured here, other than Nobunaga, of course, a great part of the fun is seeing what kind of crazy scenarios they'll plunge various historical figures into. Similar to older productions, like the Read or Die OVA, which also featured various historical figures as villains, none of these figures are rendered very realistically compared to their actual historical counterparts. They behave histrionically and are pretty much there to be badass heroes or villains, already fitting a familiar mold that prevents much of a need for character development or characterization.
Unfortunately, although some of the strategizing, empire building, and battles are entertaining, and the production values are pretty good, it all feels a bit shallow, and it's definitely more of a "popcorn series." Like most isekai that isn't Ascendance of a Bookworm or No Game, No Life, it focuses heavily on action and bloody battles to the death. While it's initially exciting to see how these historical figures are portrayed, it becomes kind of boring when they're so cartoonish. Furthermore, it doesn't have a very diverse range of historical figures or even that many of them. I won't fault the author for focusing on Japanese characters, as you would expect Kouta Hirano to emphasize the figures of his country, but it could have been exciting to see a wider range of characters, preferably with a bit more research.