Osamu Tezuka left an everlasting impression on this world. Works such as Astro Boy, Black Jack, and Kimba the White Lion have stood the test of time. To celebrate 50 years after the initial airing of this anime, another one of Tezuka’s works was re-created in the modern style. Because as such, the modern world was introduced to Dororo. How would a historic work; which started as a manga back in 1967, fare against the modern-day anime juggernauts?
Daigo is a feudal lord over a land that is perishing thanks to inclement weather. Crops are dying and farmers are losing their source of income. Daigo wanted nothing more than to see his land prosper. Therefore, he heads to the Hall of Hell and makes a pact with the demons that reside there. The deal was that the demons will save his land in exchange for anything that they wanted. The deal is struck and on the day of his first son’s birth, a bolt of lightning strikes the building and his son’s organs are completely gone. The demons; however, failed to take his entire body and the boy still lived. Daigo abandoned the child and instructed his wife to bear another as a replacement.
Lo and behold, that child, with the help of a kind doctor and a lot of prosthetics, survived and grew up. His name is Hyakkimaru and he is on a mission to hunt down the demons who took his body from him to get all of his organs back. Along the way, he meets a cunning little thief named Dororo. The two of them fast become friends and Dororo accompanies Hyakkimaru on his journey.
The main story of this series is simple and straightforward. There’s not much to say about it; however, the journey itself is full of side stories that either help build the world the story is set in, helps develop the characters, or ties directly into the main story, adding tremendous depth to it. Each episode seems like a different adventure but at the same time, it all ties in together in some way, shape, or form. Everything about this story is masterfully crafted and really makes you want to see what happens next.
Hyakkimaru is our main character and you get to experience a wide array of emotions with him. You also feel deep sympathy in certain situations. At the risk of spoiling things a little, I’ll offer the example of when Hyakkimaru ends up killing a normal human wielding a demonic sword. Doing so granted him his ears back and the first sound he heard as a human being was the screams of a woman crying over her now dead brother against the falling rain. Its emotions like that which make you feel that deep connection to Hyakkimaru and allows you to sympathize with him. You also get to see the playful nature with him whenever he interacts with Dororo. Those two characters have tremendous chemistry together whenever they are paired up. I don’t think I’ve seen such an interesting main character in an anime series in a very long time and Hyakkimaru is definitely my favorite main character of 2019 so far!
Dororo is just a child but they are nothing more than a little thief who wants to make some money. Dororo sticks with Hyakkimaru because they see an opportunity to make some quick coin off of his fighting skills but they more Dororo sticks with Hyakkimaru, the more they begin to regard Hyakkimaru is a close friend. In fact, Dororo often calls Hyakkimaru “Aniki” which means big brother in Japanese. The thought of being separated from Hyakkimaru pains Dororo because they have grown that close together. As for Dororo’s role in the anime, they simply provide comedic relief whenever it is needed. Dororo is just a snot-nosed brat but they are one of the most interesting snot-nosed brats I have ever seen. To see how Dororo develops over the course of the show from a smart-mouthed little thief to someone you could easily call a part of your family was an absolute joy to watch. Dororo was also one hell of a character.
Biwamaru has got to be one of the coolest priests/doctors in the history of anime. Biwamaru isn’t really the spiritual type in the sense that they speak the word of God but rather he is the type that will talk in logic and common sense but with compassion. His words are almost like proverbs and, at times, very poetic. Plus, the guy walks around with a musical instrument on his back which has a sword hidden inside of it. For someone who is blind and walks around in rags with a walking stick, he can swing a sword like nobody else! He’s the kind of character that you learn to respect the very first time you meet them. Whenever he appears throughout the series, he commands his own presence and you end up paying attention. Just an all-around awesome character.
Jukai is a traveling doctor who deals with prosthetics. Due to a turbulent past, he decided that even the dead deserve to be buried with dignity so he goes around and offers free prosthetics to the samurai who fought and died in the wars. He is often seen visiting battlefields and affixing limbs to the dead. He’s the one who also gave Hyakkimaru his prosthetics and taught him how to fight. Jukai’s story goes very deep for a small supporting character. Once you get into his past, you soon feel emotion and connection to him and you understand why he does what he does for the dead. Another great character!
Tahomaru is the second son of Daigo and Hyakkimaru’s bother. I won’t go too deep into this character as it will spoil the back half of the story but I will say that there is a point where you think that he will possible defend his brother but things happen and… well… you’ll see. Out of all the characters, I think Tahomaru is one that I didn’t care for all that much. For someone who had his own convictions, he seemed to throw those away rather quickly for no reason whatsoever. It almost felt like they created Tahomaru because they needed an antagonist. Just something about his development, I didn’t care for all that much.
Art, Animation, and Sound
Mappa hit it out of the part with this show!
While the show favored a lot of rustic tones, there were some vibrant moments. However, if you’re a fan of browns and tans, then you’re going to love this show. Of course, there was some great contrasts in color palettes when the scene called for it and it breathed life into the show. It really made this feel like an ancient work back in the times of feudal Japan when there was nothing but rocks, dirt, and grass with an occasional village made of logs and leaves here and there. The visuals really sucked you into the world and when they do that, you know the studio is doing its job well.
The animation was okay, though. Some parts really shined in the fight scenes but some of the fights, including the final battle, felt like they could have used a little more love and polish. Some of the animation got a little choppy at times but while this could be considered nitpicking, it’s not a major issue that’s going to kill your suspension of disbelief. Everything from facial expressions, scenery, even the demons, all felt and looked great!
The soundtrack was also stellar! It’s something that I highly recommend picking up as there was some amazing music during both tense and calm moments that drew you into the world. It is one of the better soundtracks this year and shouldn’t be missed! The first opening, “Kaen” by Ziyoou Vachi killed it! It brought traditional Japanese music into the modern era of hip hop/pop culture and did so beautifully. It fit the show very well! “Sayonara Gokou” by amazarashi was an insanely beautiful ending theme but it’s not to be overlooked by the second ending theme “Yamiyo” by Eve which was equally as good. I only didn’t care for the second opening, “Dororo” by Asian Kung-Fu Generation. I just didn’t dig the sound and I felt like it didn’t fit the series all that well.
I had a fight at the beginning of the year between Yakusoku no Neverland and Dororo being my favorite show of 2019 thus far. I gave Yakusoku no Neverland a 4.5 / 5 because while it was amazing, I spoiled myself by reading the manga and I was forced to notice the differences between the source and the adaptation. That ended up bringing the score down. Here, I wasn’t even alive when this manga published… hell… my parents were still in school and hadn’t even met yet! I didn’t read the source so I don’t know how much it deviated from it but this anime brought me back to one of the genres that I absolutely love.
Dororo is just a classic tale of samurais and demons with a bit of a magical twist to it. The series is pulled off extremely well by crafting a simple story, building the world through Hyakkimaru’s adventures, and having a tremendous cast of interesting characters. I don’t know if I would call this show absolutely perfect but it’s about as damn close to perfect as it can get. That’s why, I give this show a coveted 5-star rating and out for 453 series I’ve watched (so far), Dororo is the 33rd to earn a perfect score from me.
Needless to say, go out of your way to watch it. It’s a classic anime in the modern era and it will remind you of the things that makes anime so great, to begin with!
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From deep characters, a simple story with a lot of depth, great music, and great battles, Dororo does almost everything right and reminds you of the things that make anime great!
- Great characters
- Impeccable world building
- Tons of emotion
- Plenty of great action
- Memorable soundtrack
- Only thing I can say is the inconsistent animation during battles.