It is the 5th Year of the Keicho (慶長) Era, on the 15th day of the 9th month (October 21st, 1600). In the final hours of the Battle of Sekigahara (関ヶ原の戦いSekigahara no Tatakai), you decide to stay behind to delay the Tokugawa forces and give your uncle, Yoshihiro Shimazu, the opportunity to escape. Outnumbered, you slay as many of the enemy as you can before they finally manage to surround and spear you. Fighting through the pain, you manage to injure the enemy commander and force him and his men to retreat. Later, stumbling through a forest alone and bleeding, you suddenly find yourself in a long, white corridor with countless doors on either side. In the middle of this corridor is a strange man sitting at a table. He writes something on a paper and you find yourself being pulled through the door next to you. Feeling faint, you see a pair of boys with pale skin, golden hair and pointed ears standing over you. What are they saying? Are they…devils? Is…this…he…ll…?…
Drifters (ドリフターズ Dorifutāzu) is a manga and anime written by Kouta Hirano (平野 耕太 Hirano Kōta), who has written many works including the Hellsing (ヘルシング Herushingu) series. The “Drifters” are famous people from various points of Earth’s history (usually those whose deaths have not been historically confirmed) who have been transported to a fantasy world at the moment of their “deaths”. The main Drifters of this story are the reckless samurai Toyohisa Shimazu, the cunning warlord Nobunaga Oda and the playful archer Yoichi Nasu. There are also people known as the “Ends”, famous people from Earth whose traumas in life have turned them into supernatural creatures of pure hatred that desire only to destroy everything. The Octobrist Organization is a native group of magicians with the goal of uniting the Drifters and the fantasy world’s kingdoms against the threat posed by the Ends. In recent months, the Ends and the world’s monstrous races (i.e. centaurs, goblins, trolls) have been united into a massive, powerful army by the mysterious End known as Black King.
After learning about Black King, Nobunaga decides that the best way to protect the world would be to conquer and unite the various kingdoms under one banner. Nobunaga, Toyohisa and Yoichi begin their conquest by encouraging the local elves to rebel against their oppressors, the corrupt and racist Orte Empire. The newly-formed Drifters’ army soon takes over the fort of the local Orte governor, releasing the captive elven women within and encouraging other elven settlements to rebel. Nobunaga then sets his sights on and takes over the Orte fortress of Gadolka, which served as the Orte Empire’s main weapon production facility and a prison for the dwarves, who were being used as slave labor. At this time, the Orte noble Count Saint-Germi offers a deal to the Drifters’ army: in exchange for his aid, they will take over the capital of the Orte Empire while it still retains its political power.
Toyohisa Shimazu (島津 豊久, Shimazu Toyohisa), a Japanese samurai and a member of the Shimazu clan. He is a proud, fearless warrior who seeks to achieve glory in battle and to cut off the heads of his enemies. Born to an era of constant warfare, Toyo is a strict follower of bushidō (武士道, “the way of warriors”) and a seasoned fighter who is quick to comprehend and seize any advantage he can in the chaos of a battlefield. After arriving on the fantasy world, he is taken by two elven boys to a ruined castle where other Drifters lived. It is there that Toyo meets two people famous in his country’s history: Nobunaga Oda and Yoichi Nasu. When Nobunaga begins a campaign of conquest to unite the land against the Black King, Toyo is chosen as the frontline general for the Drifters’ army. Toyo’s greatest strength, and his greatest weakness, is his lack of fear in the face of death. While this makes him a formidable fighter who can push through against incredible odds, it also makes him foolhardy and reckless. Only time will tell if this attitude will eventually kill him…
Nobunaga Oda (織田 信長, Oda Nobunaga), a Japanese feudal lord famous for conquering much of Japan during the Sengoku period (戦国時代 Sengoku Jidai, “Age of Warring States”; c. 1467 – c. 1600) and for introducing the strategic use of firearms in the battlefield to Japan. After learning about the existence of the Drifters and the Ends, Nobu comes up with the idea of uniting the land through conquest. His decades of experience in war prove instrumental to making the Drifters’ army much more effective in battle, through preparation, clever tactics and deception. Nobu’s foresight also gives him the uncanny ability to predict how people will act in theoretical situations, making him a cunning politician as well. He is also mindful about the use of advanced technology (and magic once he realizes its existence), for such advances could mean the difference between victory and defeat. For this reason, he introduces gunpowder and muskets to the Drifters’ army and repurposes some of the Octobrists’ magic, such as Olminu’s Stone Wall spell and crystal balls used for instant communication, for use in battle. Despite his abilities, Nobu decides to make Toyo the army’s official leader since the younger warrior’s idealism, love of direct action and natural charisma would be appealing to civilians and soldiers alike.
Yoichi Nasu (那須 与一, Nasu no Yoichi), a samurai who served the Minamoto clan during the Genpei War (源平合戦, Genpei gassen; 1180–1185). According to the Tale of the Heike, he was said to have hit a fan atop a pole on a ship with a single arrow from the shore. In this story, Yoichi is an androgynous 19-year old archer of peerless skill. Like Toyo and Nobu, Yoichi enjoys fighting but he maintains an aloof, eerie calmness when he does so. He cares deeply for those he considers his friends and is utterly ruthless to his enemies. Despite his calm and playful attitude, Yoichi has a few personal issues. He was forced to commit dishonorable acts (so far undisclosed) to achieve victory during his service to Yoshitsune Minamoto, a military commander of the Minamoto clan, which conflicted with his personal belief in honor.
Olminu, a young female human magician and the apprentice of Abe no Seimei, the leader of the Octobrists. Originally assigned to observe Toyo, Nobu and Yoichi, she was caught by them and more or less persuaded into aiding them in their conquest. Serious and somewhat nervous, Olminu is constantly teased by Nobu over her ample bust size. Despite this, she is a capable magician, is very knowledgeable about the fantasy world and has access to a variety of useful chemicals, such as sulfur, and magical supplies. Olminu quickly becomes an important asset of the Drifters’ army, using her magic to provide battlefield support.
Black King, a mysterious man covered by a ragged, hooded cloak who has united the Ends and the monstrous races of the north into a vast army with the goal of exterminating the Drifters and all of humanity. Like all Ends, he hates humanity in general and has a supernatural power. In his case, it’s the ability to control and infinitely replicate the cells of any organic material, whether it is a creature’s flesh or food. Because of this, he can instantly heal any injury as long as the recipient is alive and he can also create infinite amounts of food, ensuring that his army would never starve. Black King considers humanity and the Drifters to be the reason why war and violence will always be a part of life. He also wants to ensure that the fantasy world remains in a perpetual Dark Age, where knowledge and societal progress come to a halt, so that violence becomes a thing of the past.
The heroes of this story, the Drifters, are famous people with a lust for battle and conquest, living according their own rules and desires. However, their enemies, the Orte Empire and the Ends, are perhaps worse from the readers’ standpoint (hopefully!). All have different beliefs and views that they stubbornly fight for to the end, making a complicated situation comparable to a war in real life. There is no absolute right or wrong in war and each person has their own reasons for fighting whether it is justified or not. For example, the Orte Empire was originally founded to unite and give pride to a country that was drowning in poverty and starvation. Its policies of expansion, class system and racial discrimination enabled Orte to become a strong, rich and proud country even though decades of constant warfare eventually ruined it.
Even the Ends had their own dreams and ideals before the cruelty and selfishness of humans shattered them. For example, what would happen if you have an idea that could eliminate the world’s usage of gasoline and thus reduce air pollution? The people who produce gasoline to make a living wouldn’t like that, so they could try to defame you or even kill you! You might find yourself hating peoples’ selfishness because of that. Actually, this reminds me of the Assassin’s Creed video game series, where both Assassins and Templars fight for what they believe is best for the world despite different beliefs and methods.
The Drifters have brought their experience, technology and skills from their respective eras to the fantasy world, opening up new possibilities and perspectives that shake up the world’s status quo and improve military effectiveness. By contrast, the Ends believe that only their personal vision is the “correct” path for the world and they will do whatever it takes to beat the world into the shape they want.
There are no absolutes in life and everyone has the right to their own beliefs. Different perspectives and opinions could lead you to new possibilities you would never consider alone.