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Manga Review: Dororo, Vol. 1

Posted by: on May 8, 2008 at 12:32 am

Dororo, Vol. 1

By Osamu Tezuka
Vertical, 312 pp.

dororo1.jpgA greedy warlord in feudal Japan makes a deal with 48 devils: in exchange for pledging pieces of his unborn child to them, he will achieve his goals of fortune and power. The child is born horribly deformed, little more than a torso and a head, then set adrift like Moses in a reed basket. The warlord’s life continues, and unknown to him… so does that of his child’s. Now, years later, Hyakkimaru roams Japan, searching for the demons in possession of his missing body parts, and reclaiming them as he slays them. Unfortunately for him, he’s about to gain an unwanted sidekick by the name of Dororo.

Tezuka’s artwork is very cartoony, and at times this works to a perhaps unintentional comical effect. Large scenes depicting wars are highly detailed, but all the soldiers bear that cartoonish look giving an oddly amusing look and feel to a fairly dramatic and serious moment. In fact, that’s the case with several moments throughout the volume, generally though the artwork works far better than one would think. Tezuka’s monsters and demons are freakish and weird, even a bit creepy and disturbing in some scenes. And while the artwork looks cartoony, it’s still quite capable of depicting emotional moments. The flashbacks to Dororo’s or Hyakkimaru’s pasts are both surprisingly powerful. Meanwhile the action sequences are lovely to behold. The fight sequences are fast paced and entertaining, with Hyakkimaru’s artificial limbs providing for some interesting moments in several of them.

The writing is light but suits the material. While Tezuka briefly plays with ideas like the exploitation of the poor or even the traumatic effects of warfare, most of the book, at least so far, has been a light adventure romp. The characters and their various back stories are interesting and engaging. A fair amount of room is given over to showing the backgrounds of both Hyakkimaru and Dororo. They’re slipped nicely into the story without getting in the way of any of the action sequences or other stories. Despite being a shonen book, Dororo manages to avoid extended pauses in the middle of a fight scene so someone can recite their life story. If that was enough, their respective histories do a lot to further the unlikely friendship that quickly forms between the two. Both have had endured a horrible event, and each one is the result of the warfare that ravages the land. The dialogue is as light as most of the material in the book. It’s also very informal and prone to anachronistic words, like Hyakkimaru describing himself as a cyborg in one scene, and with his father talking about space aliens in another.

Time to come clean, this is the first Tezuka manga I’ve ever read. I know, I know. For shame. But better late than never! While I can’t really compare this to his other work that’s made it to the US, I can safely say that Dororo is a really fun, really well executed action adventure story. The material should be easily followed and enjoyed by just about anyone, and it might even help serve as a gateway drug for some of his meatier works. Lord knows it’s having that affect on me.

Volume 1 of Dororo is available now.

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2 Responses to "Manga Review: Dororo, Vol. 1"

1 | Erin F.

May 9th, 2008 at 3:59 pm

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Now read Phoenix “Space” and “Karma”! Also Ode to Kirihito

2 | Ken Haley

May 12th, 2008 at 3:59 pm

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Yeah, hunting down more of Tezuka’s work is definitely on the menu now! I forgot about Phoenix though.. ^_^;



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