Dororo is actually the second anime adaptation of Osamu Tezuka's classic manga series from the 1960s focused on a ronin swordsman named Hyakkimaru trying to reclaim his body parts from various demons and accompanied on his journey by a young orphaned thief named Dororo. The series at the start reveals that the loss of Hyakkimaru's limbs are due to a pact that his father, the feudal lord of a territory, made with a number of demons in order to maintain his land's prosperity against disaster. As I'm not completely privy to the 1969 anime adaptation (though plan to get around to seeing it at some point), I'm not gonna judge this between the older adaptation and instead will judge this on its own merits.
Dororo 2019 explores Hyakkimaru's journey to reclaim his body parts from various demons, as he comes upon towns affected by the demons in varying capacities, while Dororo accompanies him to navigate him to various locales since he lacks the ability to see or hear beyond sensing a nearby presence by seeing the color of a living being's soul. As their journey presses on, Hyakkimaru learns more about his past and what led to the loss of his various body parts as this leads to a moral dilemma over the morally right choice to make for those connected to Hyakkimaru between restoring the boy's humanity or sacrificing it to ensure the survival of his family's territory. Members of Hyakkimaru's family are also aware of the morally questionable choice they made to ensure their land's stability and make different stances on the matter in regards to acknowledging Hyakkimaru's humanity. Dororo's presence in Hyakkimaru's life serves as the boy's moral compass to prevent him from completely losing his morality as he tries to regain his body parts, especially as he does later come at odds with his family and their followers when they try to kill the boy off to ensure their land's prosperity.
A number of the episodes during Hyakkimaru's journey to hunt demons also lead to other morally ambiguous elements explored in some of the towns he visits. Much like the situation with Hyakkimaru's father, some of the demons he encounters have brought some sort of happiness to people of the lands he visited, yet at the cost of someone else's suffering or life. These episodes help add more to the question of whether Hyakkimaru's journey is a justified one or not.
Moral delving on Hyakkimaru's journey aside, Dororo is not without its issues. The titular character of the series does have his character fleshed out at points throughout the series, though has some elements of his character unexplored that could have provided some interesting exploration on how feudal Japanese society regards gender identity and how this affects Dororo on a personal level. Plus as the series focuses more on Hyakkimaru's struggles in later episodes, Dororo does gradually get shafted in focus as a result which does result in a rather unsatisfying ending with Dororo's place within Hyakkimaru's character development.
Issues with Dororo's character aside though, the series was still a mostly engaging one that offered some interesting moral ambiguity in regards to the choices made by Hyakkimaru and his family with ensuring their own prosperity in spite of the sacrifices that their decisions would result in. It does have me tempted to want to dabble into the 1969 anime series at some point to compare the two considering Osamu Tezuka's historical contributions to anime. Regardless, fans of anime dabbling into Japan's feudal period and supernatural lore should give this series a viewing at least once.
Last updated Tuesday, December 31 2019. Created Tuesday, December 31 2019.
(Eight episodes watched)
I have mixed feelings about this show. I was intrigued by the Faustian bargain at the heart of the premise, and the way it was being taken seriously and revealed in a gripping manner. The generally detailed character designs seemed to promise sophistication in the story. But I have bad feelings about the cartoonish, almost goofy depiction of Dororo, a homeless waif who will apparently become a friend and companion of Hyakkimaru. The word weird seemed appropriate to describe Hyakkimaru's shocking appearance; only some sort of magic could keep a person with such a mere shell of a body alive. I was left with little idea where this was all going. The episode seemed to race by and be over when most first episodes of new shows would still have a scene or two left to go, which is generally a good sign. The basic premise has yet to be revealed after episode one, but the ANN synopsis says it will involve Hyakkimaru trying to recover all the various body parts that were stolen from him by demons and reassemble himself. I guess I cannot pass judgment on whether this show is worth watching after just one episode.
In part because this show got high ratings at ANN, I watched episode two and liked it a good deal more than episode one. I still have little idea how Hyakkimaru acquired the amazing powers he has, but as long as I don't worry about that too much this can be a fun show. He seems to be a sort of wandering monster slayer, and in episode two he and Dororo investigate a plot in a village. The case was interesting and plausible, while in many shows it is easy to guess the general way a case will work out. Episode three explained a lot about how Hyakkimaru came to be as he is, a partially artificial yet amazing fighter. Apparently each of the twelve demons that screwed him has a monster incarnation, and if he kills it he regains a bit of his original body. We are kept abreast of how things are going for his father, so surely the two will meet again someday. 23 episodes is a long time, but the signs so far are that this show might just be able to remain intriguing throughout its run.
I didn't really 'get' the conclusion to episode four, about a Samurai who has been missing for five years then finally returns to his sister. It seemed like a sad, predictable conclusion rather than one with some meaning to it. It also didn't have much to do with the longterm plot (except perhaps for Hyakkimaru getting his ears back, if that's really what happened). In general, this story isn't moving forward very fast. Hyakkimaru and Dororo solve little mysteries, and sometimes as a result Hyakkimaru recovers some ability (like his sense of smell in episode eight), but the mysteries aren't all that deep or intriguing, and the solutions seldom surprise me. I hear this will be a two-season show, and while I'd like to see how Hyakkimaru deals with the father who betrayed him someday, the thought occurred to me that maybe it wouldn't be worth the long wait.
Last updated Tuesday, March 19 2019. Created Monday, January 14 2019.