Manga for the Soul: Drifters
Have you ever loved a manga so much that you looked for more works done by the same author? This has happened to me several times, most recently with Naoki Urasawa ,who wrote 20th Century Boys; Billy Bat; Monster; Pluto and Master Keaton. This happens regularly for me with good mangaka, such as Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, of Death Note and Bakuman fame. Another great manga that has had a good amount of success is Hellsing, written by Kouta Hirano; Hirano has another amazing manga in his repertoire: Drifters.
Drifters is a very odd manga in some ways, as its main characters are actual historical figures set in a fantasy setting, where their skills are put to the test against each other. One of the main characters is Shimazu Toyohisa, (the nephew of Shimazu Yoshihiro, a famous Japanese general) who is in the middle of a heated battle (the battle of Sekigahara, the battle to determine the last shogunate to control Japan) and is transported to a room with many doors, where he meets Murasaki. Murasaki directs Toyohisa to a door; he wakes up in a mysterious world fraught with peril. In this new world he meets Oda Nobunaga (famous Japanese shogun) and Nasu No Yoichi (fabled Japanese samurai who served under the Minamoto clan), who were brought to this same strange world for a specific purpose: to save the world from opposing factions using their unique set of skills and abilities.
There are several factions in the Drifters world. You have the Drifters, which consists of the aforementioned three, as well as Hannibal (famous Carthaginian commander), Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus (who defeated Hannibal in the Second Punic War at Zama), and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, among others. The main opposing faction is called the Ends, led by the Black King (who once tried to save humans but was betrayed instead. Sounds very familiar…), and although his true identity has yet to be confirmed, it’s shown that he possesses healing powers, the ability to infinitely reproduce wood and food; and he has punctured scars in his palms (sounds REALLY familiar). Also, in one of the chapters he requests one of his subjects to create a religion under which non-humans can find a common ground. So yeah, the main antagonist is basically Jesus, and his disciples (see what I did there?) include Joan of Arc, Hijikata Toshizo (former Shinsengumi vice-commander), Giles de Rais (who was one of Joan’s comrade in arms) Anastasia Romanova, and Grigori Rasputin.
While the Drifters have to rely on their mental and physical prowess to do battle, the Ends all have some form of special ability. For example, Joan of Arc, who was famous for being burned alive, has the ability to control fire. Toshizo can summon ghosts of his former Shinsengumi allies, and apparently Anastasia can control blizzards (cuz Russia right?). There are other factions such as the Orte faction, led by none other than Adolf Hitler who established the Orte Empire before the Drifters appeared; and the Octobrist Organization, which is led by a drifter named Abe no Seimei who was a famous Japanese magician. While the Octobrists are led by a Drifter they aren’t in fact Drifters: they are humans of this world who wield magic and help the Drifters.
The art style in Drifters is superb and suits it very well. It’s very reminiscent of Hirano’s other work, Hellsing, employing thick black outlines and very detailed scenery. There are several gag scenes which also remind me of Hellsing, but overall the story is very action packed! Although there hasn’t been an anime there was a short 150 second animated adaptation which was packaged with the final volume of Hellsing Ultimate in 2012. The manga is licensed by Dark Horse Comics in the US and currently only has two volumes available in English, which isn’t bad considering there are only three Japanese volumes at the moment as well. This is one of those *I wish I had found this earlier* type of manga that will leave you wanting for more.
What other great mangas have you guys read that led you to find more from the same author? Was it similar to the first one or totally different such as Death Note and Bakuman? Let us know in the comments section below! ‘Til next time!