Monday, October 31, 2011

Manga Monday: Everyone has a past, even demon hunting orphans

Hyakkimaru and Dororo travel on, defeating evil spirits in Dororo Volume 2.
Note: Dororo Volume 2 is, of course the sequel to Dororo Volume 1.  The review of Dororo Volume 1 is here.  Otherwise, read on!
This volume delves much more deeply into the past lives of our two heroes.  Hyakkimaru comes face-to-face with the father who sacrificed him for power, his brother who has taken his rightful place as firstborn son, and the mother who was forced to abandon him but still loves him dearly. And in the midst of this terrible family reunion, Hyakkimaru has to decide whether he needs to kill the brother he has just met.

We also discover why Dororo won't bathe in front of Hyakkimaru.  We learn that Dororo's parents were peasant bandits, who stole from the wealthy to survive and keep their troupe of rogues going.  Dororo's father, especially, wanted to lead the peasants in an uprising against the rich warlords that made their lives so hard.  When it became obvious that Dororo's parents wouldn't live to see their dream realized, they tattooed a map to the stash of riches they'd saved to start their uprising on Dororo's back, in the hopes that someday Dororo would succeed where they had failed.  But that also makes Dororo a target for every mercenary who has heard rumors of a certain treasure map.

But of course Hyakkimaru battles plenty of evil spirits as well.  At the site of an orphanage that was slaughtered is an amalgam of the spirits of those children.  Another lives in a monastery, stealing the faces of those who come to meditate.

The most well-known of the spirits so far, though, is the kyue no kitsune, the nine-tailed fox.  Even appearing in Pokemon as an evolution of Evee, the fox spirit shares some of the trickster element of European fox spirits, but can also be a good or evil spirit.  A fox spirit doesn't start gaining tails until at least a hundred years of existence, and gains them as they get more powerful.  A nine-tail fox spirit is the most powerful, and generally turns either white or gold.  Hyakkimaru facing a nine-tail kitsune with an army of fox spirits has his demon-banishing work cut out for him.

As we learn more about our characters' histories, we start to feel even more for Hyakkimaru and Dororo, and we cheer all the harder as they work towards their goals.

Highs:  Dororo always tries hard, but perhaps could have handled spying on the moth lady a bit better.

Lows:  The art is getting easier to follow, but some panels are still very busy.

Verdict:  Very much a 'middle volume' of a trilogy, it has more character development than action at times, but sets up volume 3 very well.

Further Reading:  Dragon Ball Vizbig 1, Moribito

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