When I started reading this series, I was really shocked to find that there was a recent video game based on it, and it was brought out in the US. This struck me as unlikely enough that I bought and played it, and even more unlikely, the game is actually pretty fantastic, unlike almost every other license-type game I’ve ever played. The plot sticks really close to the manga, close enough that I put off reading the last volume until I had gotten far enough in the game that I hit these stories.
It’s called “Blood Will Tell” for the PS2. The character designs are, oddly enough, by Hiroaki Samura, of Blade of the Immortal and Ohikkoshi fame (Ohikkoshi being the review posted below this one, for later reference when this drops off the front page).
I’m not sure how I felt about this volume. I didn’t like the first story dealing with the bandits from Dororo’s past, and the map on Dororo’s back came into play a little sooner than I thought it would. I was disappointed with the outcome of that story, though it got suitably epic towards the end when Dororo and the leader of the bandits take on an entire army from a mountaintop and a one-legged Hyakkimaru helps them out down below. I also liked the demon-possessed shark duo. That one of the demons was possessing sharks was a pretty awesome plot device.
It was also a little disappointing that Hyakkimaru kept trying to split with Dororo. Two of the stories dealt with Hyakkimaru forcing a parting of ways, then coming to Dororo’s rescue, the latter one dealing with a storming of Daigo’s castle (this was also the final chapter). The demon battles leading up to the final battle were pretty good… one was a gluttony demon and one was some sort of animal demon that had taken over the spirit of a priest. The stories themselves were a little weak, though. We also meet Saburota, a ronin who has some sort of macho battle with Hyakkimaru and then teams up with Daigo since he seems to be the dominant lord in the area. It kind of felt like he was going to be a recurring character, except the series ends a few chapters after he was introduced.
The ultimate ending was pretty disappointing, mostly because it was cut short. We see one more demon battle with a chimera-like monster (that gives out multiple body parts, which struck me as kind of lazy) before Hyakkimaru strikes out on his own, there’s a really random plot point involving Dororo that I would say was tagged on if not for the fact it was vaguely referenced earlier in the volume, and it just wasn’t satisfying. It’s a shame it didn’t have a proper ending, because it was otherwise a great series.
I wound up loving this series. A lot. Even with no ending. Enough so that after I finished this volume, I dove right into Black Jack because I wanted more. Enough that I went out and bought the video game. If you want more of the same from the manga and have a PS2, I highly recommend the video game.
While reading through this volume, I couldn’t help but notice that this reads sort of like Astro Boy advance. It’s got some elements which have been simplified, it’s got a lot of action, and it’s got some of the same weird and somewhat antiquated pacing devices that Astro Boy uses. But while reading Astro Boy is sort of a chore, I really enjoy reading Dororo very much.
I had a much easier time accepting Hyakkimaru and Dororo’s situation now that I was just sort of dropped in the middle of it here. It’s a real shame that this series wasn’t longer, because this volume has most of what I could see being the guts of the series… stories where Hyakkimaru wanders into an area where a story plays out around a demon that he eventually slays and gets one of his body parts back. It’s a great formula, and I wouldn’t mind a lot more of it.
In addition to the above story meat, there is also some plot development for Hyakkimaru concerning his family. There’s a great story in this volume about a city which has been split in a border dispute, and the residents on either side of town are now locked in an extremely bloody battle. Both Hyakkimaru and Dororo get drawn into the struggle fairly deep, and while Hyakkimaru has more of a stake in things, something fairly shocking happens to Dororo as well. Even though it’s a story about wandering samurai and demon slaying, I’m always kind of surprised by how violent it is. It’s not gory or anything, and not even what I would call excessively violent, but Tezuka uses the violence to make a point, and that makes it a lot more effective in the context of this series.
Hyakkimaru seems to be changing a little bit personality-wise as well. At one point, he sends Dororo away for no really good reason, but to be fair, Dororo doesn’t really have a good reason to follow Hyakkimaru around in the first place. Their relationship is sort of rough after that, and while they both seem to be watching out for each other, they don’t get along as well anymore. It’s sad, especially when it’s plain that Dororo looks up to Hyakkimaru so much. A character from last volume comes back and suggest Hyakkimaru stick with Dororo to help Dororo with a quest his parents left him with, because Hyakkimaru may lose the will to live once he’s finally gotten back all his body parts. This hints at an extremely dark ending, especially since Hyakkimaru is now pushing Dororo away. I would have loved to see it play out.
It’s wonderful stuff, and I liked it a lot more after this second volume. I’ll be interested to see what kind of resolution will be in the third volume, which should be available right now.
Meh, this series gets serious points for an amazing idea, but something about the execution put me off a little. Not much, just a little. I still enjoyed it quite a bit more than your average Shounen Sunday series, but not as much as, say, Ode to Kirihito. This could have something to do with the age range, because that seems to greatly affect my enjoyment of Tezuka’s series.
Much like every other of his series released by Vertical, for whatever reason no plot summary gave me an adequate idea of what the series was about because it’s just so… out there. I mean, I could tell you that an ambitious man sacrificed his firstborn son’s body parts to 48 demons in exchange for power and this is the son’s struggle to get them back, but would that make any sense to you? The logic in the story is pretty flimsy (the boy was born a lump of flesh since all his body parts were stolen and must talk and see telepathically. He was taught to fight and outfitted with working appendages and a face by a skilled… puppetmaker?), but it’s perfectly acceptable, I suppose. This character is Hyakkimaru, the “Dororo” of the title is a little kid thief that follows him around and says he’s going to steal his sword.
The plot itself is a lot more awesome than most of the series I’m reading now. There’s some very obvious calculation to this, and I feel a little bad with how much I liked Hyakkimaru’s weapon arrangement. Like I said, the puppetmaker gave him a normal-looking body, but when he fights, he pulls his normal-looking arms off and fights with two sword arms, and at least one of his legs is a gun or cannon of some sort, I think. That’s the sort of thing little boys go nuts over, and… like I said, the explanation for this didn’t make much sense to me, but the thing itself was pretty awesome all the same.
We do get some action. It seems like we didn’t, since a lot of what was in this volume was the setup to the story and Hyakkimaru and Dororo flashbacks, but body parts are recovered and demons are slain. It makes me wonder about the structure of the rest of the series, though, since there are supposed to be 48 body parts recovered and I don’t think it’s all that long.
It’s fun, but I feel like the first volume was too much exposition for me to get a feel for how things will go for the rest of the series. I am looking forward to the 2nd volume, though.