Sunday, June 8, 2014

Piecing together revenge and honor

Book: Dororo
Author/artist: Osamu Tezuka
Published: 2008 (Vertical) (this translation)

Pages: three volumes

Y'all, I realize I used a phrase from this series to title my post about Black Jack vol. 1, but it just fit so perfectly and both series deal with what makes people whole. Also bionic body parts - or are they only bionic if they've got some sort of mechanical self-powered thing going on? But this guy has sword arms and hollow, chemical-shooting legs, so I get the feeling he can label them whatever the hell he wants.

 But he ain't got time for that, son. He's busy wandering around and fighting off the forty-eight demons that represent the forty-eight body parts he lost when he was born and his dad sacrificed him to forty-eight demon statues to secure land for himself. 

 Yeah. And you bet your ass he stumbles across his family again, including his jealousy-crazed brother and his did-I-mention-the-demon-sacrificing-of-young-child father. Eventually Our Hero kills his brother in a reluctant dual - but that's all the way at the end of the story. Our Hero first has to battle all these different demons, most who are disguising themselves or hitching rides inside actual humans and terrorizing towns and villages, and pick up a determined little squirt named Dororo (loosely translated to "thief" in Japanese) who wants his sword and eventually just becomes a pesky but kind of useful tagalong.

 This kid's parents were bandits and marked a map to their treasure on his back, which leads to the awesome side story about other bandits kidnapping him and getting mixed up with a guy who has hungry sharks for pets guarding the bay they're trying to get to, and then it turns out the kid's dad didn't trust anybody as far as he could throw them so he didn't actually hide anything but a note on the bay.

 And every time Our Hero defeats a demon, one of his body parts grows back. And SPOILER ALERT that doesn't have much to do with the actual story, which was refreshing when you know that Dororo turns out to be a girl (who of course bears a striking resemblance to Astro Boy). 

 The way Our Hero moves, it's hard to tell, and then remember after he mentions it, that he goes into this blind and deaf as well as limbless. He moves preternaturally well due to his determined training and stuff, and it really doesn't seem to affect him at all, so that's a slight take out of the story when he reminds you about it, but everything's drawn so dynamically, I can't complain. I love Tezuka's instincts for when to make things sharply dramatic and then when to make them rounded with comedy. His young ladies all look like Disney does, and each of his samurai have a distinctive pattern on their robes, and finding his tiny self-portraits hiding in the corner of frames makes me giggle, and I liked this translation's footnotes on name puns. 

 I know for a fact there is accessible scholarship about how Tezuka uses the "star system" to cast the same characters in different "roles" in his different works, and I caught my own undereducated glimpses of that here, and it does add an extra dimension of appreciation, but when you get down to the truly important bits, this is an exciting story that explores what it means to be human and what it means to have honor in a literal and fanciful way. You should go check it out after I turn in these volumes to the library tomorrow. 

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