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Dororo Vol. 1
posted May 14, 2008
Vertical Inc., softcover, 312 pages, April 2008, $13.95
is Vertical Inc.'s latest translation project from the massive life's output of Osamu Tezuka. It's a straight-forward adventure story. An ambitious father lets 48 demons have a piece of his child in return for political gain. Although the child is sent down the river to die, it survives, and eventually builds a battery of compensating, deadly skills. This first volume tells the back story of that character, Hyakkimaru, that of the boy-thief he meets, Dororo, and details their first few adventures together as budding demon hunters.
Although the narratives prove rather old-fashioned in the sense they depend on formula and the outcomes are never truly in doubt, the tremendously atmospheric cartooning makes this an entertaining effort no matter how you feel about this kind of work. The designs nearly quiver under the burden of their own awesomeness; they're the kind you see on the page holding ideas in how they're drawn that you can't believe anyone was loopy enough to execute. That so much here seems lurid -- there are moments of wet, nasty horror, and instances of psychological trauma and some scary violence -- says a lot about how well grounded Dororo
is in positive elements. The story is frequently funny, the relationship between the two characters never feels forced any more than the dictates of convention demand, and there's a theme that I think we can now say was a definite 20th Century cultural point that incompleteness in character and body can be healed through devotion to duty, a kind of vocational transformation that's touching and sweet.
This isn't necessary work, and it lacks the "where the hell did that come from?" charm of past previous Tezuka comics from Vertical, but it's easy to see how this might have been an audience favorite and a fruitful source for cross-media exploitation.