Hey friends! I hope everyone is doing lovely at whatever time/day you come across this post!
I noticed on my blog I tend to rant a lot about the things that I hate/dislike, and while that’s sometimes fun, I want to post about things that I love! I think besides the D.N Angel post I made right at the beginning of my blog, I haven’t made that many individualized posts about shows/reads that I actually think are amazing. So I thought to myself: what better way to start this than to talk about a show that changed my perception of specific genres after I viewed it?
A little backstory about this show: I watched it about a year and a half ago for the weekly anime challenge I was still doing, and I can’t remember what genre it was for. I want to say it might have been action or shonen, but I don’t exactly know for sure! Sometimes I throw wildcards on the list that I didn’t have on my plan-to-watch list in order to expose myself to different genres/things I don’t think I would like. And Dororo was no exception to that.
In the past, I haven’t really been super interested in Japanese historical-centric stories. I think a lot of that stemmed from the fact that I was viewing it from a purely historical standpoint since I am a history nerd, and maybe couldn’t have fathomed a fictional story taking place in it that would be good? I don’t really wanna completely psychoanalyze myself here but for the most part, I think I was just ignorant and stubborn in not watching something with that theme. Add onto the fact that many famous samurai-centric shows in the anime world were floating around as must-sees as well like Samurai Champloo, Afro Samurai, Rurouni Kenshin, etc.
Sometimes I get in those moods where since a show is popular, I’m likely not going to like it. That’s not to say I want to be a hipster or feel more elite because of that, it’s just largely the truth sometimes, especially when it comes to action and shonen shows. So I also think that played a bit into why I was so hesitant to watch something like that as well.
So with all of those variables against it, Dororo got picked to be one of the shows I watched during that themed month. Skeptical going into it, I popped it on while I was at my dorm, during my job as a tutor when no one came in, and when I was doing household chores or playing solitaire. And slowly but surely, it blew my mind.
If you’ve never heard of Dororo, I’ll give a basic synopsis. After that synopsis, I may or may not go into spoiler territory, so read with caution. If you want to avoid spoilers altogether, I suggest you click off as soon as you can!
Dororo takes place during the period in Japan where samurai were revered and seen as important political figures as well as heads of entire cities. We meet a samurai lord by the name of Daigo Kagemitsu, whose land is not flourishing and is quickly heading towards poverty. He does whatever he can to save the land, but nothing is working. That’s when he comes across 12 demons who offer to grant his wish at the price of sacrificing his firstborn son.
When that son is born, he has no limbs, eyes, ears, nose, or skin, yet the boy still lives. Horrified, Daigo disposes of his son in a river. The son eventually lives and is saved by a medicine man who provides him with prosthetics and weapons so he can survive on his own. Thus we follow the son, whose name is Hyakkimaru, on his journey to defeat the 12 demons that sacrificed him and gain all of his body parts back.
First of all, what a riveting plot. Not only does it follow an episodic adventure type of vibe with the monster defeating and regaining one’s limbs, but it also offers high tension to be built up during the story. That plot, when introduced in the first episode, felt so enchanting to me that I had to watch on to see what would go down. I was hooked, but not all the way. I had to see what all the fuss was about.
Not only does Hyakkimaru largely operate solo, but when we first meet him, he is unable to see, hear, or talk. Yet when you watch him fight, you can completely read how he’s feeling in a very effective way of show don’t tell that I adore. Hyakkimaru is my favorite character because every emotion you see him go through is so raw and unfiltered since he’s never interacted with human society like all the other characters have. Some of his reactions to things that happen in the series made me so emotional, and I’ll go into those in a bit, but I just wanted to highlight how amazing of a protagonist he is. And that’s coming from someone who hates main characters most of the time.
Not to mention his prosthetics have blades in them! How cool is that!? So different from any other action anime, I love it.
Hyakkimaru and Dororo’s bond
Hyakkimaru doesn’t stay solo forever, though. Fast-forward 16 years and he eventually meets Dororo, a child who is getting heckled by three men. It turns out Dororo is a petty thief and has nowhere to return to like Hyakkimaru. Dororo watches Hyakkimaru defeat a demon and regain his skin. Afterward, they start to travel together. Dororo soon finds out Hyakkimaru has superhuman strength, amazing sword skills, and the ability to see if someone is a friend or foe depending on the color of their soul. And Hyakkimaru learns who Dororo truly is on their travels as well.
Their bond was the most wholesome thing in the entire world. It wasn’t like they were ever taking advantage of one another and no one was stronger than the other. Hyakkimaru had more physical advantages whereas Dororo was good at the social side of things. Not to mention the secret of Dororo being revealed as a girl was quite shocking to us, the audience, but the fact that Hyakkimaru really didn’t care was super cute.
I loved how much they supported each other, especially since they were essentially a part of the same type of scenario on how they started life. Exiled from where they came from and roaming around to find purpose and correct things that were right. It was so riveting to see them conquer challenges and win the hearts of those around them. It made the show that much more enjoyable because not only did we have one protagonist that was great but another one as well!
Since Dororo is a child, I can understand why someone would find her annoying, but I didn’t really feel that at all. I had no problems with the way she was portrayed!
Not only are we following Hyakkimaru with Dororo on their journey to defeat the 12 demons who stole Hyakkimaru’s body parts, but we also get a glimpse of how the village is doing, still run by Daigo. At this point, he has a new heir, named Tahoumaru. Tahoumaru’s mom is still thinking about Hyakkimaru, still devastated that she lost her baby. Daigo doesn’t seem to care. The village is prosperous and the family is rolling in newfound riches.
However as Hyakkimaru defeats more demons, the village starts to fall into ruin. Drought, low crop turnout, natural disasters, internal strife, and impending war are on the horizon. Daigo doesn’t understand how this could happen until he thinks of the possibility that Hyakkimaru may be alive. He tries to go to the room with all the demons to make negotiations from time to time as well. I like this aspect of the story because it gives you a sense of the bigger picture of when Hyakkimaru achieves his goals whereas, in another world, his actions are having consequences somewhere else.
Tahoumaru comes across as a snotty rich kid. And it’s understandable. All he’s ever known is prosperity since he was born after Hyakkimaru’s sacrifice when the village got better. As the village gets worse due to Hyakkimaru’s successes, he doesn’t understand what went wrong since he knows little to no information about Hyakkimaru and places his rage and tension on false footing.
His character frustrated me, I’m not going to lie. But I can’t fault him for it. He had no idea what his dad had done to make the village as prosperous as it was. His characterization was flawlessly done and completely understandable from the audience’s perspective. Did it make him any less annoying? No. I think that’s what made the final battle so intriguing and emotional because even though Tahoumaru comes off that certain way, we still see he has regained a type of humanity his dad didn’t have, which was refreshing.
Other storylines/relationships that stuck with me
Out of everything that happened in the show, I think the thing that stuck with me the most is the relationship between Hyakkimaru and Mio and the aftermath of the storyline between them when Mio is fatally wounded.
First of all, their bond was so enjoyable to watch unfold. I don’t think Hyakkimaru has ever encountered a similar feeling to romantic love, but I think that exchange between them came pretty close. Especially since her singing voice likely comforted him in a way he couldn’t pinpoint. However, when she gets wounded by Daigo’s samurai, he goes ballistic and almost massacres them all before Dororo stops him. The raw emotion that came off of him at that moment made the scene so emotional and wrecking for the audience to see because we know he didn’t deserve that.
I still think to this day if I watched that scene, it would give me goosebumps and the show deserves a rewatch just for that.
Another relationship I really enjoyed the development of was Jukai and Hyakkimaru’s relationship. Especially with the internal strife of Jukai wanting to give up being a doctor/help people because he killed many people in the past. Hyakkimaru and Dororo’s way of reassuring him that he can live free of sins because he’s helping people now was so heartwarming, and seeing Hyakkimaru bond with him once again brought a goofy smile to my face. I loved his role as a father figure in Hyakkimaru’s life.
I also really liked the episode where they were talking about the faceless Buddha statue and the demon that inhabited it. The fight that came from that was really fun to watch and I felt the raw emotions in that episode as well. And that’s not to say that all of the episodic storylines with the demons/anything else I mentioned isn’t good. It just didn’t stick with me after almost 2 years. I did really enjoy the show.
Gosh, the animation is just gorgeous. The scenery especially! I found myself gawking at the landscapes as well as the colors they were dabbling into more than the actual character designs themselves. Whoever worked on this, A+. You deserve all the praise!
The music was atmospheric and just perfect. Not to mention all of the openings and endings were bangers, especially that first opening. I still play it to this day and it’s very high up on my favorite anime openings of all time!
And the fights? Choreographed beautifully. I don’t think a single fight looked clunky or was unbelievable to me. I loved every single moment of the action, which is something I don’t say often.
I loved Dororo. It showed me that a samurai/historical anime can be impactful. Going into this show, I thought it would be a mind-turn-off shonen anime that didn’t have anything to make me latch on super hard because most shonen is like that for me. But this anime was raw, it was emotional, and it’s stuck with me since I finished that last episode it made me want to open my heart toward similar shows.
Since then, I’ve watched Samurai Champloo and Orient, with plans to give more sword-fighting and samurai-based anime a shot. I did really enjoy those as well, so I’m just thinking past me was just a bitch!
Let me know what you thought of Dororo. And how do you feel about historical/samurai anime? Were you like me, completely turned off, or are you super interested?
I hope you have a great day/night/morning/afternoon or whatever time it is for you to read this now. Much love!