Dororo‘s premise sounds really cool on paper, but I don’t know if MAPPA has the chops to pull it off. In a war-torn Japan, Lord Kagemitsu makes a deal with a “devil”… several “devils,” actually. I’m told that there are ultimately 12 demons (48 in the manga?) to contend with. In exchange for power and wealth, he will give them anything. At first, it sounds like he wants to save his famine and disease-stricken land, but it quickly becomes apparent that he only cares for himself. So when his wife is about to give birth to their (presumably) first son, the servants recoil in terror when they see that the child is born without… well, practically everything that a young, healthy boy should have. No limbs, no eyes, no nose, so on and so forth. The demons left almost nothing behind. They even took his skin. I can only imagine that they left his brain intact. I mean, that’s gotta be the case, right? We are told that a statue sacrificed itself to protect the kid, so maybe this is the only reason why the boy even has his brain or whatever. Nevertheless, Lord Kagemitsu doesn’t feel an ounce of remorse for dooming his own flesh and blood. He literally orders his servants to toss the child, then tells his wife — a woman who has just given birth and still wants to care for her own son — that she better prepare herself to get pregnant again. This man is clearly a sociopath.
So the baby is supposed to have been disposed of, but the midwife takes pity on him. As a result, she puts him in a boat and lets him float down the river. I guess luck will sort things out. Meanwhile, the midwife is quickly killed by an ayakashi, which is kinda random but whatever. Sixteen years later, a young thief by the name of Dororo gets into trouble with a bunch of men that he had stolen from. On the one hand, they’re beating up a little kid. On the other hand, he did steal from them, and when they got mad at him, he threw feces at them. I’m just saying, this guy isn’t necessarily wrong. It’s one of those situations where everyone’s kind of an asshole. Maybe the men are also thieves, but Dororo doesn’t exactly have a heart of gold or anything. He’s not feudal Japan’s Robin Hood. Nevertheless, we’re meant to root for the kid anyways because he’s so gosh darn cute. Then all of a sudden, a sludge-like demon emerges from the river and starts gulping down the three men one-by-one. They don’t stand a chance. When it’s finally Dororo’s turn to die, our hero finally jumps into battle. We later learn that he’s been given the name “Hyakkimaru.” I wonder what his mother would’ve named him.
Wait, wasn’t Hyakkimaru born without limbs, eyes, etc? Yep, but in this universe, several characters just have the ability to sense evil even if they’re blind. Maybe it’s something you can learn. As for his limbs, he has a bunch of prosthetics that he must have gotten from a certain Dr. Jukai. We see this guy going from battlefield to battlefield, helping victims out by replacing their lost body parts with prosthetics. I can only assume that the good doctor had stumbled upon Hyakkimaru as baby sixteen years ago, and found the strength within himself to raise the child. As a result, our hero almost looks human from a distance. Anyways, the one action scene in the first episode is rather short-lived and, well, not very well-animated. After saving Dororo, Hyakkimaru lures the sludge-like demon onto the bridge. According to the eyecatch at the end of the episode, the demon is named Deiki. As its chasing after our hero, he starts cutting up the wooden bridge until the whole thing becomes unstable and collapses into the water. And just like that, Hyakkimaru has won? Huh? What happened to Deiki? Did it drown? If that’s the case, didn’t it emerge from the river in the first place? I think this is my biggest problem with the show. Action is all fine and dandy, but MAPPA doesn’t exactly have a good track record on that front. The last Garo series was kinda poorly done.
After the battle, the mask falls off of Hyakkimaru’s face. Thanks to defeating Deiki, his face has returned to him. Basically, he’s on a quest to hunt demons down and reclaim his body parts. As the story continues, he’ll slowly recover his body, and perhaps he’ll even get his humanity back. But what I find truly fascinating about this premise is that there’s only so much that can truly be recovered. More specifically, he’s been robbed of his childhood, and that’s something that he’ll never be able to get back. His mother wanted to raise him, and those formative years are what truly define us. He’s been deprived of his parents’ love, and that’s a deep psychological impact that can’t be fixed by just slaying a whole bunch of demons. As a result, even if he is eventually successful at the end of his journey, a small part of him will always remain inhuman. Maybe this is why our hero will allow Dororo to accompany him. Maybe caring for the kid is his way of reclaiming his humanity. After all, it’s doubtful that he’s had a lot of interpersonal relationships in the past sixteen years.
And once it is all said and done, who knows? Maybe he’ll pay his papa a visit and get his revenge. Even if his heart doesn’t lust for vengeance, Lord Kagemitsu seems evil enough. Someone has to put a stop to him. There’s also the fact that Hyakkimaru has a younger brother, and maybe the two of them will come to blows at some point in this series. So like I said, there’s potential in this series. It all sounds rad on paper, but not if MAPPA is going to put forth a half-hearted effort. For instance, I almost loved the first half of the episosde. When Lord Kagemitsu lost his humanity and made that hellish deal, I really liked the foreboding atmosphere. But when it came time for the demons to claim the boy’s body parts, all we get is a bunch of dopey-looking lightning effects. The same can be said about the ayakashi that killed the midwife. Look at it. Does it look like a cool demon? Or does it look like one of those lame monsters from the Garo series? The thing about Garo, however, is that it’s kind of a corny ride from start to finish. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, Garo is meant to be lame and cheesy. Maybe Dororo is the same way, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t somewhat disappointed by the art direction shown in the first episode. Even Deiki is just some generic toxic ooze monster. Ah well, hopefully the story can carry the show.