Hyakkimaru was born with a curse, missing 48 body parts but still able to “see” and “hear.” Dororo is a young orphan who thinks he’s a great thief. These two characters make an unlikely match in Tezuka’s original Dororo and the new manga adaptation, The Legend of Dororo and Hyakkimaru.
Tezuka’s original, which is published in a complete omnibus edition of nearly 900 pages, recently received the option of reading it digitally. Hyakkimaru has the badassery of being able to pull off his prosthetic arms and fight with swords his adoptive doctor father gave him. He needs to vanquish 48 demons, and each time he does, he gets back a body part. Eventually he is actually able to see and hear for real. Dororo becomes his sidekick, with his name being the baby way of pronouncing the Japanese word for “thief.” Some of the demons they fight have very chilling stories and actions, and a few plot twists keep readers guessing what might come next.
The art is pure Tezuka, with his skill for expressions, his exuberance, and his Disney influence. The characters are much cuter than the story, which can get rather dark.
The new adaptation, The Legend of Dororo and Hyakkimaru, is by Satoshi Shiki (Attack on Titan: Before the Fall). For the most part the stories match up, but that doesn’t mean they’re the same. For instance, while the original Dororo explains what leads to Hyakkimaru’s curse at the very beginning, the adaptation just teases that it will be told at some point in the future. Instead of having Tezuka’s cute, Disney-esque art, Shiki has given real atmosphere and mood that fits with the subject of demons and war, using shadowing and slick character design. But when you ask, “Why bother adapting?,” you can see that this is a new vision that has its own feel and structure. It also gets you sympathetic to the character Dororo more quickly than the original does. Neither one of these manga would replace the other, and in fact it can be fun to check out both. And who doesn’t like a character who has swords for arms?
And if you check out one or both of these books and find yourself a fan, don’t forget the new Dororo anime.
Story & Art: Osamu Tezuka
The Legend of Dororo and Hyakkimaru
Story & Art: Osamu Tezuka and Satoshi Shiki
Publisher: Seven Seas
Danica Davidson is the author of the bestselling Manga Art for Beginners with artist Melanie Westin, and its sequel, Manga Art for Intermediates, with professional Japanese mangaka Rena Saiya. Check out her other comics and books at www.danicadavidson.com.