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Osamu Tezuka’s Dororo series, previously printed in three separate volumes, has been collected and released as an omnibus edition. Although cheaper, this edition is a beast to carry around. The content, however is well worth the weight of this colossus volume. At first, the main character is highly unbelievable.
Going by the name of Hyakkimaru, readers are told that he cannot hear or see, yet it is obvious by his actions that he acts as if he is a normal human. Then, he takes off his arms and in their place are swords. At once confusing and awestruck the reader will question whether the author will be able to back up this type of character to make the story enjoyable and just plausible enough to quench the questioning readers protests.
It is interesting to notice that this manga is entitled Dororo, not Hyakkimaru. Dororo is not the main character, but is eventually introduced and becomes a sidekick to Hyakkimaru’s demon killing spree. Ever in awe of Hyakkimaru’s sword, Dororo tags along using the excuse that he wants to steal one of the swords in Hyakkimaru’s arms as his reason for following him.
It becomes clear that Dororo’s reason goes beyond his petty thievery and that he actually becomes quite attached to Hyakkimaru, even calling him “bro”. Dororo soon proves himself to be the backbone to Hyakkimaru’s adventures and is worthy of being the subject of the title.
Hyakkimaru tries to scare of Dororo by popping his eyes out into his hands and showing him that they are fake. Dororo appears shocked and then immediately thinks it is the coolest thing ever. He turns out to be one of the few people that looks beyond Hyakkimaru’s monstrous body which is missing 48 various organs because his father made a pact with 48 demons to take parts of his son so he could rule the country.
Even when Hyakkimaru and Dororo save various villages from demons they are immediately kicked out once the villagers see that Hyakkimaru has what they fear are inhuman qualities. In each and every case Dororo sticks up for his “brother” and is surprised by Hyakkimaru’s acceptance of the villagers’ prejudice.
It is ironic that the villagers kick Hyakkimaru out because they think he is a monster in disguise, but they are easily tricked by real demons who disguise themselves as beautiful women. Hyakkimaru even explains and shows them how they were tricked, but they still throw him out, despite his lack of hiding his disfigurements from them.
Other parts of the manga that are a bit annoying are the inserts of phrases that would not be used in the samurai period the story takes place in. Aliens are referred to, walkie-talkie speech is used, gymnastic terminology is used by Dororo, and many other somewhat distracting instances.
These places in the story add a comical flare to the events, but they also draw the reader out of the story if they are paying too much attention to details. As the story draws on the comedic elements increase and it is both entertaining and distancing. By the end of the story, readers will wonder why it ends and may not even realize that the end is coming, perhaps because of the added distance caused by the humor.
Overall this over-sized edition of Osuma Tezuka’s Dororo manga was amusing, but towards the end seemed to go downhill. Changes in the amount of comedy were not the only things to be seen. The relationship between demons and humans also changes and it is not clear why. Instead of seeing humans tricked by demons, readers will see a human attached to a demon and give his life for it, as well as individuals (human and animal) who try to get vengeance in death and turn into demons.
What does remain constant throughout Dororo is the author/artist’s art style. Most of the characters appear quite simplistic when compared to the demons and scenery that are far more detailed than the main characters. This serves to draw the reader into the atmosphere of the story, but the mood almost always seems to be a dark one because of the intricate demons, night scenes, and awe striking landmarks.
Overall rating: 3.5/5