One day, a man entered a temple that housed forty-eight statues possessed by demons and made a deal: in exchange for ultimate power, they could each take a piece of his soon-to-be born son. Soon after the child came into the world and the demons held up their end of the bargain; the man then left the crippled child in the river to die. Found by a kind doctor, the boy grew older with the help of prosthetic limbs and enhanced senses, but soon demons began to follow him, and the boy - who his new father named Hyakkimaru - left to find a way to complete himself. He searches for the forty-eight demons; each one he vanquishes returns a piece of his body. Alongside the child thief Dororo, Hyakkimaru travels from place to place, hoping to one day become whole.
Tezuka delivers a solid- and occasionally creepy- monster hunting manga that might not truly challenge his more well-known works, but is a good ride for those want to kick back and a watch a samurai hack and slash his way through Japanese folklore. STORY Monsters? Samurai? Revenge? You had me at 'Monsters', but the rest is good too. Our MC Hyakkimaru hacks and slashes his way across Muromachi-era Japan as he looks to reclaim the 48 parts of his body that demons took from him as a baby because of a Faustian bargain struck by his father. The set-up is certainly enticing, and the excection is good enough, even if it can sometimes feel like a 'Monster of the Week' story rather than a truly connected plot. However, the ending will make more experience manga fans start wondering if the series was cancelled early (a quick Google search later, and it apparently was) because it wraps up rather quickly and in a not entirely satisfying way. It wasn't a bad ride though.ART The art style is classic Tezuka. It may be a story about a monster-killing swordsman, but nobody will confuse this manga for Berserk. There is a certain creep factor going on when the series depicts things like mass executions and hell-spawned monstrosities in a style that looks like an old cartoon. If you watch closely, Tezuka even slips in some forshadowing via his artwork, setting up big reveals without saying a word (I don't want to spoil anything, but watch little Dororo's body language). Definitely the strongest point of the manga.CHARACTERS The story follows Hyakkimaru and Dororo, with most of the cast only sticking around for an arc aside from a few recurring characters. Most notable of these is a blind monk, largely for his cool factor. Unfortunately, our two leads aren't truly exceptional. They ARE solid characters with no real cause for complaint, but they don't stray far from their archetype or reach a unique level of depth. The rushed ending probably undercut some important later developments, but they weren't making themselves utterly amazing in the 800 pages the story had gotten up to that point either. OVERALL Definitely enjoyable for fans of Tezuka and/or Japanese monsters, but not a 'drop everything' manga either. If you find this series out there I recommend you give it a look, but don't go out of your way or break the bank to buy it.
"Watch this" a blind man says to another blind man, and then proceeds to cut a fly in half while the other blind man watches in amazement. And that about summarizes how Hyakkimaru's lack of body parts is treated throughout this manga. He can't see, but he can see. He can't hear, but he can hear. He can't speak, but he can speak. He can't smell, but he can smell. He has no limbs, but his prosthetic limbs can do everything regular limbs can do and more. And yet whenever he regains a body part, he acts as though he's gaining a body function he was missing before. The author clearly couldn't be bothered to draw a character actually incapable of doing certain things, so just pretended that's what the story was about. The basic premise of the story is Hyakkimaru traveling around the country, being chased by demons and defeating them. Demons are portrayed as taking advantage of feelings of resentment or dissatisfaction in order to possess people and animals, usually warping the base physical structure. There are some great monster designs. The creepier aspects of the manga are generally more interesting. For example, the baby version of Hyakkimaru is adorable and creepy at the same time. It was a great character design. But the normal humans (which make up the bulk of the manga) aren't very appealing.
Ever since I got into Astro Boy I've been a fan of Osamu Tezuka. A psychic swordsman off to kill 48 demons for his body parts makes for a cool premise. Dororo, the kid who travels with Hyakkimaru helped to add fun to the journey. Yeah, its a simple monster slayer manga but it did give me some feels. Not the most memoriable of his works, but it is a short and sweet series if you're looking for a quick read.
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