Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Dororo: Goodbye to the series, and hello to more organs

Well, I was sick yesterday, so I didn't get to the weekly release list.  Sorry, anybody who was waiting with baited breath.  Eh, it was a boring week anyway.

And, in case anybody missed it, I've got a review of Thomas Ott's The Number 73304-23-4153-6-96-8 up over at IndiePulp, and also one of Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane Season 2 #3 at Comics Bulletin.  Guess which one is worth reading.

Dororo, volume 3
By Osamu Tezuka


Well, this is a bummer of a book, since it's the final one in the series, and it doesn't wrap up so much as just end.  Apparently, Osamu Tezuka moved on to other projects and never really finished the story, although he does find a bit of a stopping point.  It's too bad, since as with the previous two volumes, there's some good stuff here, including some excellent action and well-drawn emotional conflicts.  Our heroes, Hyakkimaru and Dororo, especially get some interesting dynamics here, with the latter fighting against his true nature, which gets revealed offhandedly (but which I won't spoil), and the former trying to find a balance between his desire to regain his body parts and the need to connect with his fellow humans.  One especially poignant story sees Dororo befriend a young horse whose mother was the steed of a great general, but who was possessed by a demon.  Hyakkimaru wants to kill it, excited at the prospect of recovering another organ:


But Dororo just wants his new friend to be happy:


It's an unfortunate conflict, and one that seems obvious in this series, bringing the two protagonists into opposition.  It doesn't last long (demons have got to be killed, you know), but it's an interesting idea, and one that could have used more exploration had the series lasted longer.  But at least we get an awesome scene of Hyakkimaru chopping the legs off a demon horse:


Other excellence in this volume includes a bandit who rides around on a shark:


A bunch of demon-possessed small animals:


And several of the large-scale battle scenes (and their aftermath) that Tezuka did so well:


That last image is pretty incredible, and the scene leading up to it contains one of my favorite of Tezuka's tropes: the villain who reforms somewhat and redeems himself, usually through self-sacrifice.  This one is a bandit who knew Dororo's father, and wishes to use the map on Dororo's back to locate his hidden treasure.  This leads to all sorts of crazy twists, including a battle scene that sees him turn honorable and continue fighting against the forces of a local magistrate long after he is mortally wounded:


I love that stuff.  

This volume, being the final one, also sees Hyakkimaru finally confront his father, even leading a sort of workers' rebellion against his evil rule:


Did I mention that Tezuka does awesome battle scenes?  We get some great stuff here, and while it's not a completely satisfying destination, the journey feels more than worth it.

But even though the large-scale battles and fights are excellent, Tezuka still nails the smaller moments, like Hyakkimaru realizing that he likes having Dororo around:


Or the goofy slapstick-style bits that he occasionally indulges in:


You get a full experience when you read a Tezuka book, from the large to the small, and it's all worth the time spent.  While this series was unfortunately truncated, he has plenty of other material available (even among the fraction that has been translated into English), and every bit of it is good reading.  While he won't be producing any more of it, hopefully it will continue to be imported, and we'll get to experience his genius for years and years to come.