This spring season’s anime selection is paltry, despite the return of several heavy-hitters. One Punch Man’s animation studio switched from MadHouse to J.C. Staff, relegating its visual excitement to abysmal platitudes— the action stinks! And Attack on Titan’s 3rd season isn’t faring any better, in my opinion. Everyone’s initial investment in the show has pretty much depleted despite the humble resurgence of interest its recent episodes have been experiencing.
Apologies, I almost forgot to introduce myself. Greetings from California! My name is Quito, and I’m a new content contributor here at Dashing Nerds. Korekara osewa ni narimasu! Well isn’t that quite a mellifluous mouthful. I suppose I’m saying ‘thank you, I’ll be in your care!’ Don’t worry, I had to look that one up, too. I’m not a weeb…I promise. *Yeets in denial.*
Woes of One Punch Man and Attack on Titan aside, there has to be at least one good anime keeping this season from falling apart before summer hits the waves. Surfs up! And I think that’s gotta be Dororo.
Durarara!! Wait, I meant Dororo!
Dororo isn’t anything too special at first glance. It’s a monster of the week anime that takes its audience on an ultra-linear hero’s journey— not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. It’s just…predictable?
However, what Dororo lacks in plot ingenuity it makes up for with intriguing characters, one of which is disabled. Hyakkimaru has neither eyes nor limbs, and then some, but that’s not stopping him! He’s a nimble swordsman on a journey to get those parts of his body back from the demons who stole them from him!
The unlikely hero(es)
Dororo is especially intriguing because it features a decoy protagonist. Yes, this is a real thing! Perhaps you’ve seen the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, or Gurren Lagann. In such shows, the plot revolves around one character. In the aforementioned examples, they are Hyakkimaru, Haruhi, and Kamina. However, the real protagonist is the narrating or perspective character— the one who serves as an insert, or from whose perspective we engage with the story.
I hardly see much Western fiction tackle storytelling from this point of view. The closest I can think of is The Great Gatsby, and even I’m unsure if that constitutes decoy protagonism. Protagonism? Antagonism is a word. Protagonism. Why not.
Characters you’ll actually care about…
Our insert character in Dororo is a girl named…Dororo. If that doesn’t spell out who the real protagonist is, then I don’t know what does! She’s a cheeky little thing but quickly takes a real liking to Hyakkimaru after he saves her from an indignant gang of thugs she thieved from. Hyakkimaru and Dororo become traveling companions, and the rest is history! Or is it? I shall give nothing away!
This is the part where I tell you exactly why these two are intriguing…Do any of you dashing lady nerds like the mysterious, silent type? Well, Hyakkimaru can’t speak! I did mention he was missing eyes and limbs and then some, right? Who is he, really? Minus our knowledge of what’s happened to him, we know as little as Dororo.
Dororo flocks to him, then she talks to him. You’d think that might bother Hyakkimaru since he never asks for any of this, but she approaches him anyway. Despite his lack of, well, every useful part of the human body for communicating, Dororo tries to get him to open up the little. And bless her soul, she really tries. It’s almost like watching a reverse Hellen Keller fanfic set in a fantasy world, except Hellen Keller’s a samurai badass. And as the audience, it makes us care. We want to try just as hard as Dororo to know how Hyakkimaru feels about his circumstances, and Dororo herself.
As the journey unfolds, the mystery that is Hyakkimaru will inevitably demystify. Take reprieve in remembering each demon he kills returns his body parts, but of course, that won’t stop Dororo or us from trying to figure him out before discovering what’s spinning through his mind.
Given the early January release and 24 episode run, the show will finish airing sometime this June (streaming on Amazon Prime), so now would be a good time to start watching if you’re a binge addict. Don’t catch withdrawals, ya’ll! FYI, Californians don’t say ya’ll, you guys. It just happens to rhyme.
Here’s to Hyakkimaru finding his voice soon.
Artwork credit to Amazarashi