Friday, 16 August 2013


A female warrior raised as a man joins forces with a young samurai on a quest to kill the 48 demons in control of his body parts. Sound a little bit strange? You bet it does. Dororo is based on a comic series of the same name and tells the story of Hyakkimaru, a warrior cursed at birth; born faceless, organ-less and limbless. The man responsible is Kagemitsu Daigo, and he just so happens to be Hyakkimaru’s father. I can sense family domestics ahead.

It's all about greed and power you see, and lots of it. Daigo offers his sons life for ultimate power but fortunately for us – not to mention the rest of the movie – his mother is on hand to stage a rescue, leaving her son to float down the river and start a new life. Hyakkimaru has a new father now, a man well versed in the recreation of artificial tissue from the remains of the dead, which comes in handy when you’re faced with this kind of situation (forgive the poor choice of words). So the young warrior sets out to kill the 48 demons and restore his body parts, thus restoring both humanity and soul. Glad we cleared that one up.

Dororo is best described as a live action Miyazaki animation, mixing martial arts swordplay and demonic entities to exhilarating effect. It's a wonderful cinematic experience from start to finish. The two lead characters make for an extremely likeable couple; Dororo (Kou Shibasaki) in particular is a joy to behold. Even though I found her a touch annoying at first, her tomboy antics really grew on me as the film progressed. It’s an appealing performance from Kou; all pent up aggression and childlike enthusiasm. As a child she was told to act like her father, and that the only way to survive was to be tough like a man. Which is why she spends the rest of the movie doing just that.

Hyakkimaru by comparison is the strong silent type; he has swords where his arms should be and an undeniable attraction to his feisty companion. The contrasting personalities make for a winning combination and there’s plenty of warmth and humour to be found in their growing relationship. The action choreography is suitably impressive, and I haven’t even mentioned the demons yet.

While the visuals are nowhere near as crisp as your Hollywood household variety they do overflow with creativity, leaping off the screen with ingenuity and originality. The blend of rubber monsters and CGI is commendable too; even the undeniably rubbish costumes add to the overall appeal of a unique vision. Dororo is a film that feels very old school at times and is all the more agreeable for it. In fact, it's very hard to fault such an enjoyable waste of time.

The final act does perhaps outstay its welcome but only the harshest critic will care. I for one hope the filmmakers get off their collective asses and finish the alleged trilogy; the proposed sequels are a tantalising prospect and it’s frustrating to me that they have yet to see the light of day. Having said that, you really need this film in your collection. Not only is it a great example of Japanese cinema, it’s also what fantasy cinema is all about. AW

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