Manga-ka: Osamu Tezuka
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: August 2008
Synopsis: “Daigo Kagemitsu promises to offer body parts of his unborn baby to 48 devils in exchange for complete domination of the country. Knowing the child to be deficient, Kagemitsu orders the newborn thrown into the river. The baby survives. Callling himself Hyakkimaru, he searches the world for the demons. Each time he eliminates one, he retrieves one of his missing parts. Hyakkimaru meets a thief named Dororo, and together they travel the country confronting monsters.”
Demons, sharks, a hunt for a gold and a family reunion all await readers in this third and final volume of Osamu Tezuka’s Dororo. While the ending may not be enough to entirely satisfy its fans, the volume possesses enough of the good stuff to sate the desire for more demonic quests and snarky sidekick commentary.
Present for a chapter in this third volume is a new antagonist who manages great presence despite the relatively short length of his relevance. With jagged teeth and an attitude to match, the intimidating young man has two pet sharks who he has raised with tender love and human flesh. He holds the strength and survival instinct of sharks above humans in worth and his callous, uncaring nature is feeding groups of unsuspecting people to his pets proves scary in an oddly compelling way. His demonically evil nature and pleasured grin makes him really stand out, and it’s all the more effective when he manages to garner at least a little sympathy from readers when Dororo and Hyakkimaru start filleting his family.
Amidst some of the more disposable villains, there’s also the return of Hyakkimaru’s parents. With his Father being the sole cause and benefactor of his son’s situation, it seems little surprise that a confrontation with him would be the final saga of the series. Yet things don’t play out as dramatically as one would expect. Hyakkimaru’s tearful deniable of his mother’s pleas is a good emotional pause from the demon hunting but what really seems anticlimactic is Hyakkimaru’s Father who never comes off as evil as expectations in the series would suggest. It isn’t to say there isn’t reason to loathe him from his military conquests and sacrificing his child for power, but comparatively to other part-time villains in the story, he falls short of being all that intimidating in person.
At least for those looking for some other plot satisfaction, there’s the inevitable relief in Dororo’s gender being openly discussed since readers have been able to easily deduce something was amiss about the young ‘boy’ since volume one. The slight dynamic shift for readers learning Dororo is actually a girl lends to possible added reason for her strong attachment to Hyakkimaru – her occasionally flustered expression and fluttered eyelashes hinting she may she him as more than just a big brother figure. Still the story ends before the possibility could be delved into, though without real complaint. Though the idea of such a crush is a little cute, it wouldn’t really fit in the whole feeling Dororo has. Granted, was it ever to have been given a sequel where Dororo grows to be a young woman and Hyakkimaru a man with all his body parts intact, Tezuka certainly would’ve had his options open.
With the end of this book also marking the end of the series, it may not feel entirely satisfying for readers has it halts itself before we see Hyakkimaru all the way to the conclusion of his demon hunting days. Coming this far, with body parts left missing and demons left haunting, there’s definitely a lack of completion to the story that a simple ‘we shall keep adventuring’ end-note does little to excuse. At least this third volume does manage to tie up several loose ends that have taunted readers since the beginning and it continued to deliver more of what’s kept us reading since the first book – a wild story of a dedicated samurai and his mouthy young protégé seeking survival against truly impossible odds.
In the greater scheme of things, Dororo isn’t Tezuka’s strongest work, with an attention to demon slaying and quirk over his often more poignant social commentary, but the greatest disappointment still lies in such a recreative series being over with no more volumes left to look forward to for some casual reading.