Let’s chat about some anime, Dororo 2019 specifically. I recently got round to watching Dororo and I wanted to share some of my thoughts and feelings on the series and some of the interesting topics that it brings up. I want to immediately say that I really enjoyed Dororo. I’ve been in a bit of an anime drought as of late and Dororo managed to pull me out of it.
What’s it about?
Dororo is the story of two characters, Dororo and Hyakkimaru. It all starts off then Daigo Kagemitsu, the lord of Ishikawa, visits the “Hall of Hell”. This room houses 12 demons of the shinto religion and Daigo takes it upon himself to make a deal with these demons. In exchange for prosperity in Ishikawa, Daigo will let the demons take anything that he owns.
Upon the day of his first born son’s birth, a lightning strike hits as soon as the baby makes it’s first cry. The baby is completely skinless and limbless. Daigo was not distraight by this, in fact he was elated as this was a sign that the contract with the demons was real and prosperity would come to Ishikawa. The baby’s mother was shocked by her new son’s appearance, but she accepted him and loved him regardless. Daigo orders the handmaid to dispose of the child, but after she decides to let the child live, the legend of Hyakkimaru begins.
A Classic Formula
Despite the anime being remade in 2019, the Dororo manga was originally running in Weekly Shonen Sunday in 1967. Similarly to those most other Shonen series, and certainly some of the older series (Ushio to Tora comes to mind) the series starts off as a Monster-Of-The-Week episodic journey that begins to link up the story between these mini-arcs.
What’s great about Dororo though, is that each of these mini arcs help to give development to both Dororo and Hyakkimaru. Hyakkimaru begins as this barely human person made up of mostly prosthetics and dead set on finding and slaying the demons who stole his body. One of the most heartbreaking moments comes when Hyakkimaru regains his sense of hearing. Having been completely deaf for 16 years, this is the biggest hurdle that Hyakkimaru has encountered.
It’s through the help of a girl named Mio that he comes to understand that regaining his hearing was a gift as opposed to a curse. It’s also here that Hyakkimaru begins to fight for reasons beyond his own and he learns to care for another person despite the fact that he can neither see nor feel them.
Each of these mini-arcs end in a way that adds to the overarching story of the series. The events at the end of Mio’s arc are influenced by the actions and decisions of Daigo Kagemitsu. Daigo notices cracks and slashes through the demons in the Hall of Hell, beginning to grow weary of Ishikawa’s future, Daigo begins to suspect that his first born son somehow survived. Hyakkimaru and Dororo’s actions that follow this then cause Daigo to learn of Hyakkimaru’s survival, confirming his suspicions and affecting his relationships with his wife and second son Tahomaru.
For The Many Or The Few…
As we approach the end of the series, there is the constantly repeated question of what’s more important; The prosperity of many, or what rightfully belongs to a single man. Hyakkimarus father traded his son for the benefits of Ishikawa, it was only due to the Goddess of Mercy’s intervention that Hyakkimaru was not fully consumed by the demons.
As Dororo and Hyakkimaru travel throughout Japan slaying demon after demon, we see the slow descent of Ishikawa as it falls back into a state of poverty. After Tahomaru learns of his brother’s existence, he seeks answers and understanding of what happened to him. At first Tahomaru’s search comes from a place of wanting to understand and regain his brother, but he slowly begins to see things in the same eyes as his father.
Most interestingly is the fact that I don’t place any blame on either Hyakkimaru or Tahomaru. Their pursuits and reasonings make sense to me and I can understand them. It’s very easy to say that Daigo was the villain but you can still see why he did it, even if it slowly evolves into a craving for more political power. Our journey as the viewer has always been on the side of Hyakkimaru and Dororo, so it’s obvious that we would want what’s best for them and for Hyakkimaur to regain what rightfully belongs to him. However in his pursuit of that, he begins to show signs of becoming the very thing that he is fighting against and it’s because of Dororo’s existence that Hyakkimaru retains his humanity.
It’s a genuinely great series that poses some incredibly difficult questions, displays some heartbreaking scenes and some equally beautiful ones. If you haven’t watched it, I heavily suggest that you do.
Thanks for reading and stay safe!
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