Dororo and Regaining that which has been Lost

Studio: Tezuka Productions, MAPPA

Aired: January 2019 – 24 episodes, (Original 1969)

Score: 9/10

Feudal Japan. A period of history marked by… well, er… it was basically around the time of medieval Europe, about 1200-1600 CE. There were different social classes, from peasants in the rice fields, traveling merchants and artisans, and shoguns ordering their samurai militia and the Emperor of the village (goddamnit I had to look that up). Look, I’m not thoroughly read-up on all the details of Japanese history, though it does interest me, especially after watching Dororo

No, not the 1969 black-and-white sh*tty mismatch. 

I’m talking about the glorious 2019 remake with the rich story, likable characters, spooky monsters, bad@ss combat and gore, and historical setting that gets you interested in Japanese history. Be warned, however; it is not a story full of sunshine and rainbows, rather, there’s a great deal of sadness and hardships that are faced before happiness is allowed to happen. But do not be discouraged, because it’s sooo worth the watch.

Dororo is the story of Hyakkimaru, the son of a ruthless emperor who attempted to trade his son’s own life to a group of 12 demons for peace and prosperity in his land, but with the protection of a merciful goddess the boy was saved, but just barely, like… literally all his limbs and skin & eyes were taken from him (not a way you want to be born) and so he gets abandoned; oh and some little girl named Dororo that eventually follows him around everywhere. 

The beginning really sets the stage and themes of the anime; heartache and betrayal, existentialism and the value of a human life, the concept of revenge and mending one’s own heart/finding peace within oneself, etc. The first episode makes us hate Hyakkimaru’s family with a burning passion, as well as root for the seemingly helpless boy’s survival and recovery of what was stolen from him. 

Miraculously, a prosthetic-obsessed craftsman, Jukai, finds our boy and raises him like his own son. Jukai has the odd hobby of finding corpses on the battlefield and giving their torn limbs prosthetics in a seemingly bottomless box he holds wooden arms and legs in.

What battle took place you ask? F*ck if I know, or rather local empires wage war on each other over precious resources and land, because food and other valuables are scarce as hell in feudal Japan. Like seriously, this anime features so many desperate people driven to do dirty things to get a meal or place to sleep; prostatution, stealing, and murder are commonplace. Makes you feel fortunate to live in the current times (depending who you ask).

But anyway, Hyakkimaru is given prosthetic eyes and skin, arms and legs. Our boy can’t talk, see, or hear for sh*t, but he can demons as plain as day (or rather their red outlines, regular people are just a boring gray color). Oh and his arms come off to reveal these sick-@ss swords he uses to slice and dice his enemies into mince-meat.

So when he ventures out to some village he has a run-in with a demon, and a troublesome little girl gets inspired to follow him and use him for her own selfish gain, an exterminator-to-hire of sorts. Anyway the two start traveling together, or rather Hyakkimaru just kinda travels where he wants and Dororo follows because she has nothing better to do.

At this point, Hyakkimaru is barely human. Rather, he’s a straight up killing machine, but can you blame him? He doesn’t know who or what he is and just kinda figures that killing these monsters will give him answers, which just so happens to be true.

You know how Hyakkimaru’s father, the d*ckhead Daigo, tried to sacrifice him to the demons? Well that plan backfired when the boy survived, and so the demons set out to wreck havoc in parts of Japan along with other lesser monsters. And some of these monsters are creepy as hell. 

On their adventures, Dororo and Hyakkimaru (in which I mean just Hyakkimaru) fight a variety of monsters in different circumstances. Some villages ask for their help to stop a monster from killing its villagers or ruining its crops or other weird debilitating conditions, others are found on the road during their travels. Some of these demons are wild and ravenous predators, others are intelligent and speak, some require pre-existing conditions to summon (like a ritual), some are even non-threatening and even coexist among humans. The anime gets really creative with the different demons and creates tense environments that feel like life-or-death scenarios that keep the viewer on the edge of their seat.

There’s a lot of spooky demons in Dororo that the pair come across on their adventures, from a lizard demon with a gaping mouth, a couple very convincing human-like demons whose names would spoil their identity, Arijigoku the giant beatle-demon, Asura the possessing demon, Bakemonogani the giant spider crab, a slimy dirt demon Deiki, Kamaitachi – one of my personal favorites – a giant albino ferret with scythes for claws.

Some of the other demons include Yocho the giant bird monster, Nihil the demon sword, Nokosaregumo the giant centipede, a motherf*cking demon shark, and several other monsters unmentioned but worth checking out. 

What’s especially interesting is that 12 of these demons are the one’s that Daigo made a contract with, and each possess 1 of 12 of Hyakkimaru’s body parts, from his eyes, ears, skin, arms, legs, hearing, ability to feel pain, speech, and others. So when the pair succeed in defeating one of these specific demons, Hyakkimaru regains what was taken from him and he slowly becomes more human.

There is a sort of irony here, however. You see, I mentioned earlier that Hyakkimaru is a bad@ss killing machine. All he really knows is how to use his weapons to kill, and not just monsters. So as time goes on and he regains more of what literally makes him human, you could argue that he loses part of his humanity from killing all those monsters and people (not innocent people of course). He’s on a quest for revenge, and what started as mindless wandering and killing demons, he later faces choices he must make and have dire consequences. Not all the demons he meets are the ones who targeted him; sure they’re mostly all hostile towards Hyakkimaru, but some provide benefits to the local villages like rainfall and healthy crops (usually at the cost of a human sacrifice or other controversial thing of course). If he were to kill them all, that means the villagers would suffer. 

Do you think Hyakkimaru cares about others, especially after what happened to him? Well… Dororo certainly grows and takes it all in, and she could be what keeps him human. But she alone isn’t the only human Hyakkimaru comes in contact with and makes friendly with.

The pair meet a variety of friendly faces that change the way Hyakkimaru sees and treats the world. For one, there’s Jukai, who raised the Hyakkimaru to 16 and acted as his adopted father. Biwamaru, the blind old acupuncture doctor and master swordsman who randomly shows up from time to time to aid the pair say some cheeky dialogue.

There’s also Mio, who took care of children and sung a sweet song Hyakkimaru could hear and remember her by, Saru the monkey-faced boy who accompanies the pair for a time, Munetsuna the blacksmith who fixed his weapons, Midoro… er, not actually human but a horse, who lets Hyakkimaru ride her. Come to think of it, there’s probably twice as many antagonistic humans as there are friendly ones eh heh…. 

Listen though, there are so many characters in Dororo, both nice and not so much. I haven’t even mentioned any of Dororo’s family or the secret they share, but that’s a whole other discussion. But Dororo certainly plays an important role in Hyakkimaru’s story, as the two need each other for survival. I also don’t wish to spoil the ending if you haven’t checked the anime out yet. I will say though that Hyakkimaru, after such a long adventure, faces his family drama head-on, and the results actually surprised me, even made me a little emotional (like the hypersensitive jerk I am).

I can’t forget to mention the opening songs, “Kaen” by Ziyoou-vachi and “Dororo” by Asian Kung-Fu Generations are brilliant for bringing on the emotions of our protagonists and get us pumped to watch the anime. The closing songs are riveting as well, “Sayonara Gokko” by Amazarashi and especially “Yamiyo” by Eve are so melodic they make you want to download and listen to them in your car (at least… my friend does that).

I wasn’t very interested when I first heard of Dororo, hence historical things don’t exactly peak my interest, but watching Dororo is something else entirely. This anime really deserves a 10/10, I just felt like some of the side stories and all the friggin’ politics weren’t necessary, but the character development, the sketchy monsters, and the action-packed blood-soaked scenes make this an absolute must-watch if you haven’t checked it out already. It features a plot with mechanics I haven’t ever really seen before (getting one’s own body parts back from demons for example), and it worked out incredibly. The story also wraps up nicely and the morals aren’t obscure or cryptic.

Go watch it.




Thanks for sticking around this long and thanks for reading!


By: The Shy Otaku

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