Disclaimer this is a clean review; meaning i have yet to watch any previous episodes or read any manga chapters. Taken from the Wikipedia article Dororo revolves around a rōnin named Hyakkimaru (百鬼丸) and young orphan thief named Dororo (どろろ) during the Sengoku period. The unnamed child was born malformed, limbless and without facial features or internal organs. This was the result of his birth father daimyō Daigō Kagemitsu forging a pact with 48 sealed demons so that he might rule the world. In return, he promised the demons could each obtain a piece of his unborn child’s body.
First, I’d like to say I did enjoy this anime. The concept is original, the animation is so lovely to the eye, and the character designs are all quite interesting. We start with a man sitting before a fire with astral images of animals haunting him, the sounds of the forest plague him. I think by the time I got to this scene I thought to myself the most interesting part of this is how unemotional or robotic this man is. When he gets in a fight with a large bird in the forest he doesn’t exactly experience anger but confusion using the only tools he has to deal with this problem he swings away with swords attached to his body. In fact, it’s almost as if he’s experiencing this world for the first time. The way Hyakkimaru and Dororo interact is reminiscent to that of Astro boy, or Johnny Sokko and his flying robot but taken down a darker road given the plot of this anime. Which I think if I’m right about the author’s intentions is a fantastic way of subverting this genre. In a swipe, we are introduced to a character called Priest, and wow what an entrance as he cleanly swipes with his katana killing the bird and rescuing the two. This is when I fell in love with the animation style. Using a white line to outline the movement of his Katana is a fantastic way of displaying swordplay. Something that some animes have a very hard time trying to do is animating swordplay at a higher level and usually substitute classical sword strikes with powerful special moves (Roronoa Zoro, One Piece etc.)
After the threat has been dealt with Priest and Dororo discuss going to a nearby settlement for medicine to help aid Hyakkimaru deal with this new ability to hear. Unfortunately, this nearby settlement is at war. The Sakai clan who rules the area has betrayed an ally, and now the two armies are ready for a fight. I love this, in most anime based during a historical time of Japan it feels as if the protagonists are the only thing from that time period. The world doesn’t feel like its alive because our protagonist is hacking and slashing through the same villains they would in any other time. In Dororo this is not the case, there are outside forces at play and our protagonists live very much in the world around them and thus are subject to this world.
After a night of anguish from hearing sound for the first time, Hyakkimaru is given a taste of the beautiful sounds of our world. Hyakkimaru follows the sounds of a lovely singing voice to a river where he meets a young woman singing in the river named Mio. Mio brings them back to her home which has been ravaged by the fighting to help heal Hyakkimaru. Mio takes care of, young children orphaned by the war.
We are then introduced to the leader of the clan at war with the Sakai, who speaks about provisions, and crops. Again drawing out this realistic view of feudal Japan. And we are greeted by an ominous foreshadowing of sorts, as he and his wife speak possibly of past evil deeds that are coming back in a karmic way. Mio leaves for work for the day to retrieve medicinal herbs for Hyakkimaru, she is employed by the Sakai, and as she walks away she sings her song again.
Hyakkimaru reaches out in the distance hoping to hear her sing. I think if this turns into a love interest, this would be the only way of introducing one. Once again playing on the robot who may have a heart theme, Hyakkimaru likes Mio because she sang a sweet song that eased his pain. Funnily enough, as she leaves for medicine. Cleary creating a parallel between the medicine and the song she sings as it is the only relief Hyakkimaru can find. The Priest, who had set out to find a route to the settlement has found a place for Mio and her adopted brothers and sisters to stay, but a demon resides in this lot of land. Hyakkimaru has his call to action and sets out. The time for healing is no longer, it is in his nature to hunt ghouls, and demons I believe and for added motivation, the songbird that helped relieve his pain is in need of help herself.
After the Priest and Hyakkimaru head off to slay a demon, Mio reveals to one of her siblings that she will be working for both sides of the conflict to help with the move the siblings fear for her safety and Dororo tells them he will go with Mio and watch over her. Hyakkimaru and the Priest approach the lair of the demon and his wounds still pain him. They battle the demon cockroach beetle, killing it with a decisive blow.
As the demon dies he bites down on Hyakkimaru’s leg taking it clean off, Hyakkimaru finds his voice for the first time with a scream of pain. It seems the more of Hyakkimaru’s body he loses the more he gains in power or humanity. Back to Dororo, we see he has found Mio who is having sex with three men humming her song to Dororo’s horror and creating a parallel between Mio and Hyakkimaru’s pain with a final shot of Hyakkimaru screaming in agony
I loved this episode of Dororo, and as a first-time watcher, I am very eager for the next episode. The themes, ideas, subversions, and characters are all so interesting. And you can tell, that this anime has places to go and a story to tell. Definitely would recommend adding it to your list if you haven’t started watching it.
Thanks for reading!