The Best Movie Critic + review

Dororo

Justin here with a look at the awesome dark fantasy samurai epic, Dororo.

Dororo begins with the story of a warlord, Daigo Kagemitsu, who pledges 48 body parts from his unborn son to demons in order to consolidate power and end a 40 year war. The son, Hyakkimaru is born looking like a slightly more normal version of the Eraserhead baby. He is raised by an inventor who uses discarded body parts of children who died during the war to build Hyakkimaru a working body. When he reaches adolescence, the boy sets out to slay the 48 demons and reclaim his original body parts.

This probably sounds totally crazy to you. Interestingly enough, this crazy dark, gory, and ridiculous gem is an adaptation of the manga by Astro Boy creator, Osamu Tezuka. Dororo was published in the late 60's but a live action version was not attempted until this film came out in 2007. It's as awesome and it's as compelling as it is weird.

After watching as many exploitation films as I have, I've come to expect very little from movies as high concept as Dororo. I went in hoping for a few awesome samurai vs. demon sword fights. Dororo delivered all around though. The chemistry between Hyakkimaru and his traveling companion, the female thief, Dororo was much deeper and more interesting than I thought it would be. The character Dororo was raised as a boy after watching her parents be murdered by Daigo. She affects a fun tomboy posture and bangs on a small drum to announce her presence. When Hyakkimaru's path of vengeance leads back to his father, mother, and brother, each reacts in a way that feels very real emotionally if diametrically grounded by the magical realism that this movie abounds in.

Quickly, the movie's themes start to emerge. Hyakkimaru's story is as much about revenge as it is a coming of age story about the difficulties of forging your own identity. Throughout the journey Hyakkimaru and Dororo are haunted and assisted by the spirits of the children who died needlessly during the war; an obvious reference that Tezuka drew to WWII. Every character in Dororo has a cleanly defined and compelling need that they must fulfill. For some it is acceptance, for others like Hyakkimaru it is literally to become a whole person. As the movie progresses, Hyakkimaru gets his sensory organs for the first time in his life.

The action and special effects are quite good too. The movie finds a nice blend of practical and computer generated effects. In a given sequence you're as likely to see wire-fu and well choregraphed sword fighting as you are CG demons.

I didn't hear about this movie until earlier this year. I have no idea what kind of support Dororo got when it was released, but this is a really fun and smart movie well-deserving of a wide audience. I haven't had a chance to read the book yet (it's in the mail right now!) so I can't speak to how well Dororo works as an adaptation, but on it's own, the movie works quite well. In spite of a run time over two and a half hours, the movie zips by. Strongly recommended.

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Dororo + review