Dororo is a show I like to refer to as a phoenix. An old classic from the mind of the grandfather of manga – Osamu Tezuka, which had an anime adaptation years ago was revived in a glorious manner by MAPPA and Tezuka Productions. Sporting an enthralling soundtrack which was incredibly effective in grabbing attention, as well as fantastic animation, fitting for a story of this calibre, Dororo was a fantastic show, vying for a high spot in my top anime of 2019 already. I would not have expected any similar competition but Spring 2019’s Kimetsu No Yaiba shook that thought.
The story revolves around a boy whose body parts have been bargained off to 12 different demons by his father in exchange for a prosperous nation. The story is about this boy reclaiming what he has lost. In the original manga and anime, it was forty-eight demons; however, the studio made a smart decision to switch it to twelve to prevent being forced to rush the story and not do it justice.
As expected from the legendary Tezuka-Sama, Dororo’s story element is of the highest calibre. An interesting premise with fantastic development and devoid of filler arcs. All the episode arcs that did not deal with the main plot of the show were integral to character development and building of tensions, as well as a little bit of comic relief after a sad episode. Most of the arcs in the story spanned over either one or two episodes depending on the length and importance of the arc. Not a moment in the series felt wasted and all of the arcs were able to reveal different aspects of each character’s personality and allowed for an interesting and incredibly enjoyable series overall which wrapped up with an emotional finale.
The characters in Dororo are plentiful, ranging from one side of the spectrum to the other, and none of them felt wasted. Hyakkimaru, the protagonist (or is that Dororo?), is a brash young fellow who believes that he has been wronged (he has) and that it is his right to go around killing demons to reclaim his body parts (which it is). He is a character which we see evolve over the course of the story, falling and rising at different points with his own highs and lows during or after certain events. A very complex and dynamic character who takes no bullsh*t. His relationship with Dororo is what builds the show though.
Dororo, an orphaned child who survives by running scams, meets Hyakkimaru after he takes down a demon in the first episode. It is a fated meeting and after that they set off together. Dororo acts as Hyakkimaru’s link to the world, his eyes and ears as Hyakkimaru has neither. Dororo’s character does not evolve as much as Hyakkimaru does throughout the course of the series; however, their relationship does a lot. Originally tagging along after seeing Hyakkimaru as a means to an end (that end being making money and living), Dororo eventually begins to care deeply for Hyakkimaru’s cause as well, soon pushing their own objective to the side and prioritizing Hyakkimaru’s mission. It is relationship development which is very pleasing to see as it is a subtle growth which happens gradually but definitely. There are no sudden jumps, but an perfectly paced growth which feels organic and natural.
The other characters, whom I won’t get into much detail about, are all also very well developed. They all have their own trials and tribulations as well as moral dilemmas and regrets. These all come out in their own arcs, allowing us to see multiple viewpoints of many situations to understand the world better. Each character is developed and built well, and none of them feel shallow or lifeless.
Throughout the show the background music was a very important part of the aesthetic and dynamic of the show. It does exactly what a background soundtrack is meant to do. It doesn’t stand out, you don’t notice it but you know it’s there, and it makes an impact on how you perceive and understand certain moments in the show depending on the volume, pitch and dynamic of the music. An incredible job. The sound builds anticipation and tension extremely well and adds an incredible amount of depth to the show.
The openings and endings were all absolute bangers. Starting with “Fire” (Kaen) by QUEEN BEE and “Sayonara Gokko” by Amazarashi, the anime quickly forced me to watch all twenty-four minutes, and not skip either the opening or the ending. Both songs quickly made their way onto my Spotify playlist and Amazarashi is now one of my favourite bands. The tone of the songs fit the mood and atmosphere of the first half of the show very well, and when the OP and ED changed, viewers were able to tell how that signified how the show was changing. The second set of songs used were “Dororo” by ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION and “Yamiyo” by Eve. Also fantastic songs, I couldn’t pick my favourite. They absolutely knocked it out of the park with the selection.
Voice acting was also well done. Not much to say about it except that the actors did their jobs well and without any variation, keeping a good consistency to the characters and their different emotions.
MAPPA is amazing. A studio on-par, in terms of quality, with Makoto Shinkai’s works. They do absolutely stunning animation and Dororo’s was just spectacular. Actually just as I am writing this review I finished the first episode of Vinland Saga, the new show they are debuting in Summer 2019 and the opening moments stunned me. MAPPA’s animation never ceases to amaze me.
Crisp images, clear, defined characters and vibrant backgrounds. Fluid, dynamic motion and movements, fitting the mood of the show perfectly. Dororo’s animation was slightly bleak at times but I felt as if it fitted with the show perfectly during those gritty moments that it had. Absolutely fabulous. There’s nothing more to say, and it’s all just mindblowing.
Personally, I see enjoyment as the most important factor when it comes to deciding the rating of a show. The characters, story, sound and art could all be poor, but if the show is very enjoyable then it may still be worth a recommendation. Of course, the other four categories also play a huge part in how enjoyable a show is to watch, as different art styles have different aesthetics which may or may not work. And et cetera.
Dororo is probably one of the shows I have enjoyed watching the most in my whole life. A myriad of twists and turns so that the viewer is pleasantly surprised all the time. The scenario’s aren’t predictable all the time, but the fact that it is possible to see what is coming next means that the scenario is plausible and believable and that the show has laid enough foundation for it to be realistic. In Dororo, it is tough to guess what will happen next at times because the foundation lain by the writers is so brilliantly devised, that the plot could go in many different ways. In my opinion that’s how it should be.
Every episode left me wanting more, yet satisfied at the same time, with my weekly dose of Dororo. In the end however, the show concluded in a spectacular manner, one which I only have one problem with. Nevertheless, the show was an incredible joy to watch and I could recommend it to anyone and everyone.
With a spectacular soundtrack, breathtaking and alluring animation, a polished and refined story, and defined and complex characters, Dororo is already lined up to be in my top 5 anime of 2019. The show throws so much at you and always keeps you hooked, interested and invested in the plot and the characters. It lays a broad foundation, explaining everything and making a plethora of different ways forward possible, making it extremely difficult to guess what will happen next. Dororo is sad, happy, dark, and light all at the same time. This is a show I would recommend to almost everybody and may even be an ideal place to start for people who are watching anime for the first time.
Final Score: A Masterpiece (46/50)
Now that the Winter and Spring 2019 seasons are over, Summer is upon us, and it brings a lot of shows. If you’d like to see my list and what I will be watching check it out here.