“Dororo, a young orphan thief, meets Hyakkimaru, a powerful ronin. Hyakkimaru’s father, a greedy feudal lord, had made a pact with 12 demons, offering his yet-unborn son’s body parts in exchange for great power. Thus, Hyakkimaru – who was born without arms, legs, eyes, ears, a nose or a mouth – was abandoned in a river as a baby. Rescued and raised by Dr. Honma, who equips him with artificial limbs and teaches him sword-fighting techniques, Hyakkimaru discovers that each time he slays a demon, a piece of his body is restored. Now, he roams the war-torn countryside in search of demons.” – Anilist Synopsis
Dororo was one of the best shows to air in 2019 and one of my personal favorites of the year. Based on a very old manga written by Osamu Tezuka and serialized between August 1967 and July 1968. The series was turned into a 26 episode series in 1969, a live action film in 2007, a remake of the manga written by the original author, which then finally turned into our 2019 series by MAPPA and Tezuka Productions.
I’ll say it right off the bat, I loved this show from the jump. I’m a sucker for any Japanese setting that involves samurai, war, and Japanese folklore. This series has it all. The animation was, for the most part, great throughout, and the fight scenes were very well choreographed and animated. The colors do a great job of giving off the sense of a war-torn, stressed-out, bleak nation. I think overall that’s the best word to describe this story, bleak. As our main characters travel and meet people in the quest to get Hyakkimaru’s body back, we see just how the greed of the feudal lord’s pact with the demons not only affected his son but also the nation as a whole. The demon designs are great and interesting, very uhh for lack of a better term demony. Meaning that their designs are threatening and fit right in with the overall tone of the show.
The two main characters of this show have the best relationship. Throughout most of the series, Hyakkimaru is so deadpan, emotionless, and just hell-bent on his quest to regain his body back and nothing else (I mean who wouldn’t be if your father basically sold you for power.. yikes.). Meanwhile, in contrast, Dororo is so kind and sweet and genuinely caring towards Hyakkimaru. Hyakkimaru does return the feelings and shows just as much through his actions but for him and his condition, it’s just harder for him to express it. An ability that Hyakkimaru has is that since he has no eyes, he’s developed the ability to “see” souls and determine whether or not they are a demon. It’s an interesting ability, coupled with his arm blades under his prosthetic arms, Hyakkimaru at the start of the series is almost quite literally a demon-killing machine. Hyakkimaru’s story is very heart-felt and depressing as he battles to get his body parts back, the more he gains in terms of being human, the less he gains in terms of demon killing. The moments when he regains some of his body parts are some of the best scenes in anything, in all of the media, that I’ve ever witnessed. From truly beautiful moments to straight heartbreaking moments. Dororo is fun and conniving, is the voice of the show for a lot of it since Hyakkimaru can’t talk. A little thief that has had to live that way due to the past. Contrast is key when it comes to having a great cast to me, and Dororo contrasts greatly with Hyakkimaru, and their relationship and bonding throughout the series is very heartwarming to watch.
One of the side characters that we meet is Jukai, the guilt-ridden soldier turned Doctor that took care of Hyakkimaru as a child, nursed him to health, and gave him his prosthetic arms. He has genuine guilt for all of the lives that war has consumed and the acts that he had committed as a soldier for a feudal lord. He spends his life trying to atone for his sins as best as he possibly can. Jukai is the closest thing that Hyakkimaru has to family and he even, funnily enough, mistakenly refers to him as his mother once he gets his voice back. Another recurring cast member is an old monk that wanders the lands playing the lute and helping our main duo along the way. Very wise and proficient with a sword and fighting demons, his blindness gives him the same soul-seeing ability as Hyakkimaru. Without delving into deep spoilers we eventually meet Hyakkimaru’s family and the dynamic between them is interesting and sad. His true mother’s everlasting sorrow over her lost son, his younger brother’s quest for approval from his mother, and disdain for the fact that she just might care about her lost son more than him. His father’s steadfast resolve in the idea that what he did was right and justified. By the end, it all comes to a head in a truly beautiful way.
The show is pretty straightforward in terms of its storytelling and the events that are going to happen. That may simply be because of the fable-like nature of the story and the period in which it was written. Nevertheless, it takes nothing away from the overall product and I would say the show being great is the sum of all its parts. The fable-like story, the bleak feudal Japan setting, the music, animation, and the cast of characters. They are all above average and make the anime a great time and dare I say a must-watch. Dororo (2019) is a 9/10.