Dororo 2 by Osamu Tezuka: A-

Book description:
Hyakkimaru and Dororo continue to travel the land, protecting ungrateful villagers from demons and collecting missing body parts along the way. An encounter with a former mentor causes Hyakkimaru to reexamine his goals, however, and start considering what he wants to do with his life after the last of the demons has been defeated.

I really liked this volume of Dororo! The stories were continuous rather than purely episodic and Dororo really grew on me as a character. Hyakkimaru gained some angst when he learned about his family and also a cause, when the existence of a cache of money destined to fund a revolution was made known to him.

Although I liked pretty much everything (pesky anachronisms aside), my favorite bit was a story about a spirit dedicated to collecting new faces for a demon possessing a statue. She’s supposed to collect Dororo’s face, and takes on his mother’s visage to beguile him, but he ends up charming her by calling her “mama” and stuff, and in the end, she can’t sacrifice him.

I liked the first volume fine, so wasn’t expecting such an improvement for the second one. I’m not really sure how the story can wrap up with just one more volume—Hyakkimaru still has 27 or 28 demons left to vanquish—but hopefully it’ll deliver on the promise exhibited here.

Dororo 1 by Osamu Tezuka: B

Book description:
Dororo is Tezuka’s classic thriller manga featuring a youth who has been robbed of 48 body parts by devils, and his epic struggle against a host of demons to get them back.

Daigo Kagemitsu, who works for a samurai general in Japan’s Warring States period, 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 48 demons. Each time he eliminates one, he retrieves one of his missing parts. Hyakkimaru meets a boy thief named Dororo, and together they travel the countryside, confronting mosters and ghosts again and again.

This was my first time reading Tezuka. Although I have a couple of other things by him, the shounen adventure qualities of Dororo made it seem a more accessible starting point.

While I enjoyed the volume overall, I ended up liking the beginning more than the middle or the end. The setting for Daigo’s bargain was immediately atmospheric and interesting. The second chapter recounted how baby Hyakkimaru (who looked kind of like Jack Skellington) was found by a doctor who raised him and fitted him with snazzy prosthetics.

From that point on, things were a bit more episodic, with varying degrees of success. It was interesting to see how Dororo probably influenced shounen tales to come. For example, a skilled swordsman and his companion(s) must wander around, collecting bits of something from a whole bunch of demons. These demons enjoy terrorizing innocent villagers. Hmm, what does that remind me of? One difference I appreciated was that the villagers in this series actually take part in fighting off the monsters, and they’re also not particularly welcoming of the freakish Hyakkimaru and the thieving Dororo after the battle’s been won.

Much suspension of disbelief is required for this series, and it was kind of weird which things I just accepted and which bugged me. For instance—a baby born missing 48 body parts not only survives but somehow possesses special sensory abilities enabling him to see, hear, and speak telepathically. Okay, fine. His foster dad is able to perform surgery on him and fit weaponry inside his prosthetic limbs (swords in his arms and poison spritzer thingies in his legs). Sure, why not? But then when Hyakkimaru is somehow able to bend the arms with swords inside, my illogic detector went, “Hang on just a minute!”

I’ll definitely be reading the rest of this series; there are only 2 more volumes, anyway. Now that flashbacks and such are out of the way, I hope that we’ll see more of the collection of Hyakkimaru’s missing bits, though I still have no idea what to expect when he’s succeeded in getting them all. He doesn’t seem to have a goal beyond that at this point.