Thursday, August 16, 2012

Palmer's Picks: Gimmie Some Manga! Review of Dororo by Osamu Tezuka

Hi guys! My name's Palmer, and I work in the Young Adult Services department of the Charleston County Public Library. I love graphic novels, root beer floats and thunderstorms (and flip glasses). I also love finding truly awesome books and sharing them with you avid readers! Remember to click on any title to put it on




Is is cheesy for me to describe Dororo as a super-sweet story of adventure, friendship, and family that mixes in some amazing Japanese supernatural lore? What if by super sweet, I mean super awesome, super action-packed, and super funny (although Dororo does have a few tender moments)? The hero of Dororo is a young ronin (a masterless warrior) named Hyakkimaru who was born with some serious issues. Our story opens with Hyakkimaru's father, quite the power-hungry guy, offering up fourty-eight parts of his yet unborn son to fourty-eight demons in exchange for control of the region. As a result, Hyakkimaru is born without things like eyes, ears, arms, legs, a nose, and a voice. Fourty-eight missing parts in all makes Hyakkimaru quite unlike your typical infant and unlikely to survive, so his grieving mother sends him downriver in a basket to his fate. Lucky for Hyakkimaru, a kindly doctor discovers him in the river and raises the child as his own, discovering that despite his fourty-eight disadvantages, Hyakkimaru has developed senses beyond the abilities of a normal human and can function quite well without his missing parts. As Hyakkimaru grows into a boy, the doctor begins to construct prosthetics to help the lad appear a little less unusual to the outside world. The prosthetics make Hyakkimaru's life easier for a while, but the growing boy seems to be attracting some unwanted supernatural attention...

The belief in demons, ghosts, ghouls, ogres, and goblins is a very old and rich part of Japanese tradition, particularly in rural areas, like where the events of Dororo take place. I recently visited the Morikami Japanese Museum and Gardens in Delray Beach, FL, which happened to be featuring an exhibition on supernatural elements in Japanese art. Some of the beautiful illustrations from centuries-old scrolls and pottery look just like Tezuka's depictions of the many diabolical spirits that Hyakkmaru encounters on his adventures.

And what adventures they are! Hyakkimaru discovers that he regains a part of his body with each demon he destroys and soon finds himself able to see, speak, and do all the things that normal human boys can do. Accompanying him on his adventures is our title character Dororo, meaning "little monster", a young but skilled thief with a lot of spunk and a soft spot for good food, shiny swords, and anything cute.

To my mind, Dororo is a true work of art. Author Osamu Tezuka's style is unmistakable and so inviting to read. For those who aren't already familiar with his work, Osamu Tezuka is also known as the father of manga. In fact, it was Tezuka who originated the large-eyed look we so often associate with manga today, having drawn on influences such as Disney's Bambi and American comic book characters like Betty Boop. Anyone who reads Dororo or any of Tezuka's works can see the similaries in his drawing style and the "Disney" and old comic-book styles we American readers are so familiar with. Despite being over 30 years old, Dororo holds the distinction of being a 2009 Eisner Award winner and its new Omnibus edition, containing all volumes of Dororo in one delightfully thick package, features a wonderfully modern cover for this timeless manga.

If you're at all a fan of manga, or just regular ol' comics, do yourself a favor and check out Dororo. Not only will you get a little culture from this golden piece of manga history, you'll have a darn fine time reading it as well.

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