Dororo (どろろ) is a historical, dark fantasy, supernatural anime adaptation of the original manga series written by Osamu Tezuka, who was such a brilliant legend. It’s being produced by MAPPA and Tezuka Productions and is scheduled for 24-total episodes.
When the anime first began airing, I wasn’t planning on picking it up since I had heard that there were previous adaptations of the series. I didn’t want to start something halfway through. Nevertheless, a few days ago while I was on bedrest, I went ahead and watched the first three episodes, and I must say that I am positively blown away by the phenomenal quality of the narrative as well as its production. Also, from what little I have seen, I believe it is safe for people who are unfamiliar with the franchise to begin with this anime as it seems to start from the very beginning of the story. Veteran fans are always welcome to correct me if I’m mistaken about that.
Dororo is a story about a young boy—Hyakkimaru—who technically shouldn’t be alive as his father sacrificed his existence on an alter to twelve demons in exchange for political power and influence. However, due to certain extenuating circumstances, the kid survives. Eventually, he finds himself in the company of a little boy named Dororo, and the story follows them from this point onwards. This is a very basic synopsis. Dororo is, honestly speaking, a serial that is best to learn about as it unfolds whilst watching. The evocative power of it is that much more compelling, to say the least.
My first impressions here will roughly cover the first three episodes, spoiler-free. If I had to choose a single word to describe my literal first impression upon finishing the first episode, is would have to be, “Goddamn.” My real first words were, “Holy shit, that was so good. NEXT!” But you get the idea.
Most first episodes tend to be very introductory and basic in their execution. The best of the best animation quality is given, we get to meet some of the characters, and obtain a simple idea of what the overarching plot shall entail (if we’re lucky). While Dororo encapsulated all of these fundamental traits of a pilot episode, it went above and beyond by showing us exceptional writing and that it’s not afraid to push the bounds of gross discomfort to tell a riveting story.
When the young boy is shown as a baby, he is absolutely fucking terrifying. He looks like a spawn from Hell, literally. When you think about the fact that he is an innocent kid who was forced to be born like this due to some selfish fucking ambitions of the person who is supposed to love and care for and nurture him, it’s quite disturbing. The morbid and fucked-up ambiance that is created from this event sort of hangs over the watcher until the end of the episode. In fact, I noticed it lingering in the background with each episode that I watched. We aren’t ever truly allowed to forget where the kid comes from and why he faces the challenges that he does. I positively adored this so much. Dark fantasy is one of my favourite things. When supernatural elements are mixed in, especially on the more malevolent side, it’s an irresistible concoction to me.
The pacing is tight and carefully thought-out. As the anime transitions from one point to the next, including the flashbacks that reveal some of Hyakkimaru’s past, each aspect works towards plot progression and adding depth to the narrative as a whole. I never felt like something was out-of-place, or overtly rushed, or even unnecessary filler (at least not yet, I am only three episodes in thus far, after all). It contributed to the tension and the suspense of current settings and situations marvellously. My interest kept getting drawn in further and further, to the point where the episodes stopped feeling like they were twenty-some-odd minutes. Being able to get so utterly lost and shrouded in an anime like that is a bloody brilliant feeling that I have missed quite sincerely.
These wonderful facets do make the series quite watchable, however, my absolute favourite quality thus far has to be the animation. It is so superb and a fabulous ode to Osamu Tezuka. The anime is far less cartoony that is akin to Tezuka’s artistic aesthetic, but it compensates for that in subtle ways that still makes it feel so wonderfully vintage and aged to match the era of which it was written. The outlines are all done in a charcoal style lines, which makes the drawings less sharp while maintaining lovely precision. The colours tend to be more muted, as if they are diluted with some sepia qualities, further enhancing that softness and older, washed-out look. There is one episode that is almost completely in black-and-white with the second half being muted sepia; there is very little colour at all in it (it’s a flashback episode).
These effects made the narrative power of this part of the story even more profound and evocative due to the severely sad and tragic occurrences that were happening. It almost reminds me of watching a Second World War documentary of sorts. These techniques also apply to the blood—there’s a shit ton of blood and violence—making them far less shiny than what is typically found in modern anime. It’s a bit of an homage to exquisitely classical Japanese artistry.
If I needed to choose some things that some watchers may not like, I would have to go with the animation style, as it can seem lower in quality when compared to serials like Attack on Titan Season 3, or Domestic Girlfriend even. I would argue it’s not lesser in quality, just a different panache of quality altogether, but that’s totally personal. The other thing some people may not like are the flashback sequences. Each episode has a few scenes of them thus far.
Overall, I’m so fucking psyched about Dororo. I am kicking myself for not picking it up sooner. By the time this post goes live, I should be completely caught up with it and I’m quite eager to see where it will go and how things shall end, assuming they end in one season.
If you are interested in watching Dororo, you can do so over on Amazon. New episodes release on Sundays.
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