Dororo Anime Review
One of the more prominent anime of this year was Dororo, at least in my opinion. But during it’s run, that ended this Monday, I’ve changed my mind about this series way too many times.
One day I would think that it’s a modern classic in the making, the other one that it’s an average anime with a good production value. One day I would think that the characters are amazingly written, the other day that they are quite bland and not deep enough.
So in the end, how did that all pan out? Let’s find out.
Studio MAPPA is a fairly new animation studio, formed by several former Madhouse employess, and it seems like their new obsession is making anime adaptations of old, somewhat forgotten manga, and throwing some new coats of painting on them. We had Ushio to Tora a few years ago, we had Banana Fish last year, and their latest such adaptation was Dororo.
They made Dororo together with another studio, Tezuka Production, which may or may not be related to the Dororo manga’s original mangaka Tezuka Osamu… wink wink, nudge, nudge.
Tezuka Osamu created the Dororo manga back in 1967, and it quickly got an anime adaptation in 1969, just two years later.
I could go on and on about Tezuka Osamu as the grandfather of manga, his works, Dororo first anime adaptation and whatnot, but to keep this somewhat short, Dororo manga, and the original 1969 anime adaptation are not really critically acclaimed, and are not considered as one of Tezuka’s better works. If you go on sites like MyAnimeList you’ll see that they have subpar scores, but this 2019 readaptations has a fairly high score, and a lot of that is thanks to studio MAPPA , which I’ll elaborate on further on.
Narrative and Characters
Please keep in mind that there will be some light spoilers ahead, just to provide some main narrative points and some constrictive criticism, but I’ll keep away from revealing any major spoilers.
The story follows two main characters Dororo and Hyakkimaru. Dororo is a young thief that makes a living by swindling others by telling them all kinds of stories or lies, or straight on decieving them. One day, on the banks of the river, as he is being attacked by some brutes that the previously decieved, he meets Hyakkimaru, who is hunting a demon in that area.
Hyakimaru is actually the son of the lord of Daigo land, but his father offered his first born to be eaten by the demons, who would in return make Daigo’s land prosperous again.
As soon as Hyakkimaru is born, demons took almost all but one part of his body, and Hyakkimaru lived, although he was stripped of all of his organs, limbs, and senses. But he lived, and was lated found by a kind hearted man called Jukai, who makes prosthetics for Hyakkimaru’s limbs and some organs, and thought him how to fight.
Hyakkimaru has one goal, to defeat all of the demons that ate his body, as because when he defeats them, he gets the part of the body back from the demon he slays. When he was in pursuit of one such demon, he meets Dororo, and Dororo intrigued by Hyakimaru, who has no senses, other the one where he can look into people’s souls, decides to tag along with Hyakimaru. Also he is strong, so he can protect Dororo if needs be.
The narrative seems pretty straightforward, and in the manga, it is. In the manga most characters are labeled as one dimensional, mostly as good or evil, with no real depth to them.
But right at the start, this new anime adaptation put in a lot of changes, a lot of new stuff, compared to the original work. Usually when anime starts putting new stuff, that isn’t in the source material, It doesn’t really work. But in the case of Dororo, it actually saved this anime from mediocrity, and made it good.
For example, Hyakkimaru’s father Daigo Kagemitsu is in the manga labeled as just a plain evil character, with absolutely no compassion or moral compass, but in this anime, his character is deeper, and altough still evil, his actions makes sense, and you can kind of see his side of the story, and why he would sacrifice the life of his son for the prosperity of his land.
The same happens with the man that saved Hyakimaru and gave him prostetics, Jukai.
In the manga he is just a good natured man, who likes to help others, but in the anime they show how he made a lot of atrocities in the previous wars, and is now helping other to try and repent for his misdeeds he commited in the past.
And this happens altrough the adaptation, where in the anime the characters are much more human, and have deeper personalities and sound reasons to their actions.
I actually think side characters were, in the anime, written better than Hyakkimaru, who is the main character.
Hyakkimaru had something that could be called a turning moment, where the question if Hyakkimaru could retain his humanity, after being exposed to so many demons, and so much evil, but in retrospect I don’t really think that that was something too original or interesting.
Dororo, on the other hand, is a well written characters in my opinion. He also has an interesting backstory, and also a narrative that can be further explored, which actually makes me think that a season 2 is a possibility, even though nothing has been announced yet.
Animation & Soundtrack
When the anime first started airing, the animation was great, and the anime kept its excellent animation and character movement for a better part of the series, but as the show kept going the animation quality slowly decreased, and also had two episodes with a bad animation, but for the most part, the animation was good, or great.
As a dark fantasy, the colour pallete is quite shadowy and muted, so that gives us the ambience needed for this kind of an anime.
When it comes to design, you can easily see that its vastly different than the manga counterpart. The desing in the manga is arhaic, for obvious reasons, and those kinds of cartoonish design don’t really work well with dark fantasies, which is one of the biggest flaws of the manga. Luckily, in this new adaptation, the designs were completely revamped to fit in to the atmosphere that the narrative gives.
The soundtrack is also pretty good. It mostly consist of traditional japanese musical instruments, so it work very well with the setting.
I also really liked the opening and ending songs. I think that all of them very great, and I don’t really know which one is the best to me, but in any case, I love it when anime has some good openings or ending songs.
With all that said and done, I think that Dororo is a 7.5/10 anime, which is pretty good.
The original manga has a lot of flaws and drawback that I don’t really like, but I think that the anime production team did an excellent job mitigating those issues, and provide some original content, backed by good designs, animation and soundtrack.
If you want to watch Dororo, it’s available for legal streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
If you perhaps want to watch something similar to it, then I recommend a currently airing anime Kimetsu no Yaiba, which is also an anime about a young demon slayer.
Also I recommend watching Samurai Champloo, which is a story of two samurai, who are polar opposites, accompanied on a journey by a young girl named Fuu.