Title: Dororo Vol 1
Author: Osamu Tezuka
May Contain Spoilers
Power hungry Daigo Kagemitsu longs for complete control over Japan, and he’ll do anything to get it. Promising his unborn child’s body parts to 48 demons, he’s willing to forfeit the life of his child for his ambitions. When his son is born hideously deformed, Kagemitsu orders that the child be thrown into the river to die. The infant is found by a kind physician, who names him Hyakkimaru and rears him as his own son. When demons and ghouls begin to attack them, Hyakkimura realizes that he must set off on his own on a quest to recover his body parts. Along the way, he encounters Dororo, a young thief, and the two battle monsters as Hyakkimura seeks to have his body restored.
I originally thought this series sounded kind of gross, what with all of those missing body parts, but I was soon sucked into Hyakkimaru’s adventures. The pacing is blistering, as he and Dororo encounter one demon after another. Set in the Warring States period (1467-1573), the misery of the common people is recounted, both through their encounters with starving villagers and through Dororo’s own sad background. Dressed in tatters and readily snacking on grubs, the poverty portrayed was more terrifying than the ghouls pursuing our heroes. Osamu Tezuka’s ability to immerse his readers in the lives and hardships of his characters is staggering.
At its core, Dororo is an awesome action/adventure title with strong characterizations and a gripping setting. Kagemitsu gets the ball rolling by sacrificing his unborn child for his desire for the conquest of Japan, tossing the infant out like so much trash when he realizes that the demons have accepted his offering of the boy’s 48 body parts. Poor kid. More like a worm than a child, the pathetic thing is thrown into the river. Rescued by the wise doctor, he’s given prosthetic arms, legs, and eyes. Able to communicate telepathically, Hyakkimaru learns to walk with his artificial limbs. After the ghouls and monsters start to attack, the doctor gives him one more gift, swords hidden in his prosthetic arms so he can defend himself, and sends him on his journey to regain his stolen body parts.
Along the way, he encounters Dororo, a thief, who follows after Hyakkimaru in hopes of stealing the swords concealed in his prosthetic arms. Dororo is a brat, and is wise beyond his years. His past is riddled with tragedy, and an orphan, he’s been forced to fend for himself. The two form an unlikely allegiance, as they wander the countryside battling demons and equally evil humans. They’re always outcasts, even after saving villages from certain doom after vanquishing the evils that threaten the populace. In times of such overwhelming hardship, even kindness is too dear to spare for strangers.
The horrors of war and its effect on the common people was also examined. Even in this time of abject poverty, pride vied with common sense, and a humble rice cake could ignite a flame of hatred. In a moving scene with Dororo’s father, the inequities that plagued the peasant class simmered to the surface, leading to even more misfortune. The struggle to survive in this harsh setting is a fiercer foe than battling the deadliest demon, and it’s just another detail to enrich the world of Dororo.
Rated for NR
Review copy provided by Vertical