Japanese Movie Review: Dororo (2007)

Last night I watched this:

A stylized dance number!

A stylized dance number!

Surpise! It’s not a Bollywood flick!  This is actually one of the first scene’s to Dororo, a fantasy movie based on the work of classic Japanese manga-ka Osamu Tezuka.  I usually balk at his stuff, because it’s usually a little to different for me.  I admit that he was a genious and very prolific.  I think that some of his work are just too over my head.  I read Phoenix, but I ended up confused most of the time, and never read it again.  I watched Metropolis, and wanted enchanted by it, but I didn’t love it.  So, it was a delightful surprise that Dororo has shoved it’s way into my top…well, it’s one of my favorites of the year.  On to the what and why.  There may or may not be spoilers ahead, so read on if you have seen it already.  I promise not to give away the ending!

Hyakkimaru (Satoshi Tsumabuki) is a man with a mission.  He is out to reclaim the 48 parts of his body that he was born without.  Read:

Aww! It's such a CUTE blob.

Aww! It's such a CUTE blob.

In order to accomplish this task he must kill all of the demons that were given a piece when he was born.  Hyakkimaru does not know why he was born this way, or who is responsible, and along the way begins to unravel the mystery.  As a child he is taken care of an elderly oji-san who claims Hyakkimaru as his own child and through his awesome shaman-y powers manages to create body parts for him using the (ew!) remains of children who died in war (always recycle!) One day, while battling a demon in a bar:

Smile! You're on Yokai Camera!

Smile! You're on Yokai Camera!

Hyakkimaru runs into a theif that decides she is going to follow him, and tags along.  Relcutantly he tells his new friend that he has not one true name but that he has been called Hyakkimaru, Dororo, bakemono and a number of others.  She decides that Dororo (an actually mis-pronuciacion of dorobo=theif) suits her better and picks it for herself, leaving him to be Hyakkimaru.  She convinces him to treat her as a boy and routinely refers to him as Aniki (traditional term for a respected (slightly) older man, not generally used by women.)  So, Dororo (Kou Shibasaki) joins him in the fight against the majin (demon gods) that he must kill.

I'll get this tail for you...

I'll get this tail for you...

While there is a LOT more that happens in this film, I hate reading reviews or synopses that ruin the entire film and leave you with nothing new to learn when you actually do see it for yourself; so I’m starting the review.

I LOVED this movie.  It was fun, depressing and thought-provoking too. The beginning of the film was the most fun.  There is good comic relief throughout the movie, mostly provided by Dororo (oy0i-iiyoi!)

Eeh?

Eeh?

I give this movie credit for having the best yokai/demon/bakemono/majin I’ve ever seen too.  In most of the movies that I have seen, they seem comical or ridiculous.  Some of them in this one were a bit silly like the giant sakura tree, but I think they at least looked menacing versus just laughable.

Impressive Wing Span.

Impressive Wing Span.

This Godzilla-esque lizard was the most ridiculous one, and even then I still liked it because it was such a fun and entertaining fight.

Rawr!

Rawr!

The sakura monster was probably the one I was most surprised by and intrigued with.  I usually think that the sakura tree is a positive symbol of Japan and the fact that it was used as a monster came unexpected.  I’ve come across versions of the different demon’s in other movies and shows before so I wasn’t really super stunned by any of the others.

Too close for comfort.

Too close for comfort.

Run! The blossoms smell too good!

Run! The blossoms smell too good!

No, not even the weird conglomerate-baby spirit surpised me.  No, really…

What She Said!

Me: What She Said!

I was surprised by it at first, but it grew on me like it did with Dororo.  In a battle with a different majin I was reminded of The Matrix and Shaolin Soccer. I think I liked this movie better than those two.  I’m thinking of actually researching yokai/majin in a more serious form after this movie.  I also love GeGeGe no Kitarou and other movies with traditional Japanese monsters, so it would be a fun and interesting research topic.

Flying GONGFU!!!!!!

Flying GONGFU!!!!!!


I had a few kokoro♥ squishing moments too.  Like this one:


Squish!

Squish!

Dororo and Hyakkimaru help to free the spirits of these children and release them into the after life.  Immediately after-wards however, their families stone our heroes out of town because Hyakkimaru is a bakemono.  😦  Another example of people being ignorant and scared of what they don’t take the time to understand.

You can come to my village Hyakkimaru!

You can come to my village Hyakkimaru!

I really liked a few of his acquisitions too.  When he got back his voice the scene in the rain was very touching.  I bet they were tired of yelling and laying around in the rain though when filming ended that day.  In fact, I bet Satoshi-kun was REALLY tired of screaming in this movie, period.  I mean, he regained a lot of body parts and howled in agony after recieving each one.

I'm a real boy!

I'm a real boy!

After another battle, wherein he battles two demon dogs that strangely resembled the zombie-dogs from Resident Evil he gets two body parts back for the price of one (battle that is.)

What does Hyakkimaru see for the first time?

What does Hyakkimaru see for the first time?

Dororo, of course!

Dororo, of course!

It’s at about this time that the fun ends and they start to really get into the serious side of their reality. Dororo tells Hyakkimaru of her past, and why she instists on being treated as a man instead of a woman.  Dororo’s fate is a direct result of an evil shogun and the tyranny he pours onto his people.  Most of the real drama begins with the (surprise!) entrance of THIS GUY:

It's Eita!

It's Eita!

Eita Tahomaru is a bit of a key player to the rest of the movie, and I won’t spoil it any more than I may already have.  In short, I give this movie a high recommendation.  If, for no other reason than it was just plain fun. I can’t be the only one who thought it was good, considering that it has two sequels/continuations coming up.  The second one is due out this year.  Dororo might be a little over the heads of people not familiar with Japanese history or older fables.  Don’t let that stop you however, because you can catch on pretty quick and it explains itself really well.  The only thing that would have scared me off would be this:

Geh!

Geh!

I knew something fishy was up the moment Anna Tsuchiya these girls showed up.  Creepy.