Studio MAPPA's update of the classic Dororo manga delivers brutality and gore alongside thoughtful digressions on human nature and politics. This week, Nick and Andy discuss their favorite characters and themes in this exciting and challenging series.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead. Not Safe For Work warning for content and language.
You can read our weekly coverage of Dororo here!
Andy! Good, you're here. I just realized we made it through the entire season retrospective
without talking about Dororo. So now we need to find Micchy and Steve and re-do the whole thing.
We have made a grave mistake. However, we could instead sacrifice them both to demons to make TWIA prosperous through minimal effort on our part, and then we'll never have to think about scheduling around Netflix dumps again!
You know, that's tempting. Dealing with Netflix is...
On the other hand, Micchy still owes me money, so for now I guess we'll do the second best thing and discuss the charming adventures of Dororo, from the godfather of manga! I'm sure we're in for a fun time!
I'm starting to think Tezuka might not like war very much. Since we last checked in
with our lovable monster hunting rascals, the story has taken a turn for the flashback-y. You want to know Dororo's deal? We got that. How about Tohomaru? Sure, why not. It's good stuff, but also pretty heavy on the suffering moms.
Moms and/or midwives. Basically anything that involves giving birth is going to end badly in this show.
Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves. After all, we can't skip the vital episode where Dororo befriends an
Ah yes, I forgot that the show has an anti-kink episode to make up for the Spider-Fuckin' of the previous week. I really like the part where this demon that appears as a black cloud and snatches people away is depicted as increasing black bars over a painting.
That episode is mostly there to give Hyakkimaru and Dororo more bonding time, but I do like that the kids' plan to set the giant centipede on fire just results in a pissed-off giant centipede that's now chasing them
while on fire.
My first reaction to seeing a centipede is also to burn down the entire area, so I'm proud of them for getting the job done. There's also some attempt at developing teamwork between Hyakkimaru and Dororo, when we learn that the demon cloud actually blinds our supernatural swordsman's spirit-sight.
Sadly, the plan of "tie myself to the giant centipede and yell" is ruined by Dororo immediately being knocked unconscious.
Nobody ever accused Dororo of being a genius. Thankfully, Hyakkimaru takes a note from his cousin Pinocchio and just Sonic-dashes through the monster's two-way esophagus.
It looks cool and punishes vore, so lets go with it. The end result is that our boy finally gets his nose back! He then realizes what all of us have been thinking from the beginning of the show, that if you spend your whole life bathing in monster guts, you're gonna reek like a freshman dorm on Spirit Week. Now learn to take a god damn bath!
Unfortunately, after they take a dunk in the lake, Dororo gets sick, setting us up for somehow the most tragic flashback in a show basically made up of tragic flashbacks.
It's hard to one-up being eaten by demons right out of the womb as a backstory, but Hyakkimaru literally wasn't aware of the details behind his situation until very recently. Dororo is well aware of what he's lost, and it's pretty damn heartbreaking.
Just lookit tiny Dororo. How could anyone think about hurting such a precious child?
Tiny gremlin with his cool bandit leader dad~ (look out for the asshole on the left tho)
There are a lot of interesting details to the story of Dororo's parents. His papa is the leader of a band of brigands who purposefully go after samurai, choosing to fight against the people perpetuating the war that destroyed their own lives.
He raises a band of angry farmers into a legit threat to the samurai because of how they've treated the lower class. He's a Japanese Robin Hood!
Well, if Robin Hood straight-up merc'd motherfuckers. Early on, Dororo has to deal with seeing multiple sides of people he loves as a kid. Dad may be kind and confident and "fighting the bad guys", but it's still a shock to see him drenched in blood.
Dororo's eagerness to join his dad in battle sure disappears quick after seeing how happily he mows down suckers. Anyway, everything is going pretty good for their band until someone decides it's time to sell out.
It's just the way things work out. You start out against the system, become successful enough to be a threat to the system, and then you join the system now that it values you. Screw everyone else, it's time to get yours! The most despicable thing about Itachi is that he truly has that Free Market Thinker mentality down pat. He doesn't feel bad for backstabbing his friends. He doesn't particularly hate them for not going along with him, but finds their pride and dignity worthless.
This nasty development adds much more meat to Dororo's anti-war messaging. Itachi's a duplicitous shit, but he's just a symptom of the larger waves of violence and domination that ravage the land based on all manner of human justifications.
That said, I could do with just a touch less misery porn. Watching Dororo's mother struggle to keep her child alive on her own is touching, but I didn't need the lingering shots of her bloody, burned hands.
Yeah, dick move, Itachi. Give her a damn bowl! We don't need to see a starving child drink boiling gruel out of his mother's burning hands.
Shout out to Dad going down as violently as possible to break up the greyscale of the flashback though!
DEATH HUG is a hell of a way to go out.
Truly, it was his last teachable moment with his kid. I forgot to mention this entire sequence is kicked off by a feverish Dororo seeing a spider lily, which is why we get this color scheme of greys and reds interrupted by the idea that these flowers get their color by growing from the blood of the battlefields.
It's a striking aesthetic, though I'd like it more if the show didn't default to those visuals for every sad flashback. I get stylistic consistency, but it does take away the power of the idea somewhat.
Eat your heart out, Steven Spielberg.
Okay, so I may have issues with some of the tonal choices in that episode, but that doesn't mean I didn't feel my stomach drop watching Dororo pleading and bargaining for his mom to come back.
Ouch, my heart.
Dororo has been a precocious child by necessity, but this one moment reminds you that our Dickensian
street urchin is still just a kid underneath, and it's heartbreaking. But beyond its sadness, this scene informs a lot of what we've seen about how he lives—
for the sake of the people he's lost, he won't let the pain destroy him.
It's both a good insight into what defines Dororo and a solid setup to the next step in Hyakkimaru's story. This brings us to the crucial argument of the show: is Hyakkimaru's life worth saving?
I mean, the answer is yes, but props to the show for offering some solid counterarguments. For as much as I find Hyakkimaru and Dororo's story interesting, the most fascinating character to me is honestly Tahomaru.
What if Baby Dororo was a dumb teenager instead? My liege here still asking for piggyback rides:
That's what I dig about him—Tahomaru is basically a manchild. He's got power and authority and the drive to use it, sometimes in genuinely noble ways, but he's also a true believer in his dad's hype. Plus he wields perhaps the greatest power of all: Civil Engineering!
It is impressive how quickly he gets that double sluice built.
My boy has watched a lot of Cities: Skylines Let's Plays.
Granted, his reason for doing so is a Giant Enemy Crab.
Tahomaru's brash and arrogant, but he does care. The problem is that these positive qualities aren't exactly mutually exclusive from evil actions, as evidenced by the man he admires most.
And that's what makes him interesting! Daigo himself is as cardboard a villain as you can get. He wants power, and if that means turning his own son into a meaty jellybean, so be it. But Tahomaru is legitimately conflicted about what happened to his brother.
He's pretty damn accusatory to his mom on this one. Like hey, maybe the reason she's been a little absentee and spends all her time crying over a Buddha statue is that she feels really bad about what happened and didn't have any actual say in it?
Learning that your entire upbringing was predicated on mutilating a newborn is bound to be a little upsetting, so I'll cut him some slack there. Daigo on the other hand can go dunk his head in a rice paddy.
He's the ultimate dick in this scenario. He's the one that made the decision, but he's placing the blame for it on literally everyone else.
He's using the lives of everyone in his dominion as emotional blackmail to control his son. If we didn't already know he doesn't care about the huddled masses, you can for sure tell he doesn't care now.
He must have quite a view of politics to straight up say "Hey, all of you are more than happy because I tried to murder a baby. Let any of you who would have not murdered a baby throw the first stone!"
Wait, does that make Hyakkimaru into Daigo's "Baby Hitler" scenario?
I don't want to say yes, but it appears some people might take it that way.
Hey buddy, I know you just watched a giant crab eat a bunch of people, found out your family has serious issues, and discovered that you're actually the baby brother in many ways, but what prosperity are you about to murder your already wronged sibling to keep? Hyakkimaru only recently started killing enough demons to make any difference, demons that were living off your own people anyway. Dororo is young enough that this pact was sealed before everything went to shit for his family. So like, maybe take a walk and think some more before defaulting to fratricide?
Eh, I get it. Tahomaru is still a True Believer, and it's established that Daigo's successfully positioned his prosperity as the result of Divine Right. So I can see why Tahomaru sides with the flawed world he knows over potential unknown calamity.
Captive Man ain't wrong about that punishment stuff.
And that's what makes this arc of Dororo so interesting. It paints a nuanced picture of somebody who would knowingly side with Daigo for reasons beyond just self-preservation. Even mama has a complicated reaction to finally reuniting with her first son.
Yeah, she takes it all pretty well.
Pro tip for surviving Dororo: don't be a mom.
The world of Dororo is not a safe one for women. This brings us to the one detail that I jumped past because I don't want to get into a debate on it until the show plays its whole hand, but:
Yeah, I'm not sure how to approach Dororo's gender "reveal", if you can call it that.
I'm not sure it's something Tezuka himself put much thought into at the time, but this adaptation is handling the twist in its own way, so we'll just have to come back when it becomes relevant again. For now, it's simply best to mention that it's a lingering detail about Dororo.
That's fair. There's potentially interesting places to go with Dororo's gender identity, but we'll have to wait til the second half to see if it does. So far, Dororo has impressed me a lot, and I'm excited for what's to come next. I just hope we get fewer dead moms going forward.
And more dead dads.