Osamu Tezuka is one of the most influential mangaka in the history of the medium, penning juggernaut hits like Mighty Atom (Astro Boy) and essentially launching manga and anime into the mainstream. But his 1967 historical manga Dororo never caught much traction until 2019, when Tezuka Productions and MAPPA adapted it into the serious drama anime that we’ve grown to love over these past two seasons.
So why is this version of Dororo so highly acclaimed, while the original languishes in forgotten old-school manga purgatory? Well, that’s because the 2019 anime completely overhauls the story to give it proper character arcs, suspense, drama, and a real conclusion. It’s astounding how many of the best parts have no basis in the lackluster source material—Hyakkimaru’s struggle to regain his senses and become human, the doctor’s backstory, pretty much everything about Tahomaru, and countless other integral aspects of this version were invented from scratch. This makes it the rare anime adaptation that clearly surpasses the original, so let’s check out 5 moments from the 2019 Dororo anime that make it better than the manga!
-- Spoilers Ahead! --
Mio Soothes Hyakkimaru With Her Song
In the original manga, Hyakkimaru is a confident and socially well-adjusted swordsman who is able to communicate with others from the get-go through a combination of telepathy and “speaking with his stomach”. 2019 Hyakkimaru is much more realistically closed off from the world because of his missing senses, so regaining a body part means that he’s flooded with sensations that he’s never experienced before.
When he meets Mio and her gaggle of orphans, he has recently regained his ears and is overwhelmed by the cacophonous sounds of the forest. The only thing that calms him down is Mio’s gentle singing, which strengthens their bond and makes it all the more heartbreaking when the cruel world snatches her away so soon. She wasn’t just a girl he loved—she was his lifeline when he couldn’t cope with the rest of the world.
Jukai is the doctor who raised Hyakkimaru and gave him his prosthetics after finding him abandoned in a river. He’s just a kindly small-town medical practitioner in the manga, but gets more to do in this version due to his expanded backstory and reappearance later in the series. He atones for his past as a warlord’s executioner by outfitting battlefield corpses with prosthetics, and he meets up with his foster son again to teach him about the importance of human kindness in the face of blind vengeance. He’s the best “mama” Hyakkimaru could’ve ever hoped for!
That Hilarious Filler Episode
Episode 19, “The Tale of Amanojaku”, is an anime-only filler episode that takes place right before the story takes a serious and violent turn in time for the finale. It’s a lighthearted tale about a town where a ghoul has cursed everybody to say the exact opposite of what they mean, which turns our heroes’ simple errand of getting their swords repaired into a full-blown ordeal that almost ends with Hyakkimaru marrying some girl he just met.
The manga tended to be clumsy with its humor, inserting strange anachronisms like cans and billboards where they weren’t needed and diverting into slapstick while children were being murdered in the background. But this episode plays Hyakkimaru’s social ineptitude and Dororo’s flustered stubbornness to the peak of their comedic potential without undermining any serious moments. And even better, it pays homage to Tezuka by including some of his most famous visual gags!
Hyakkimaru and Tahomaru’s Final Showdown
Tahomaru was present in the manga, but he only appeared for a few chapters and died at the Banmon battle without establishing much of a relationship with his estranged brother. The anime establishes the prince earlier on, giving him two attendants and a massive inferiority complex that drives him to commit atrocities and hunt down Hyakkimaru just to earn his parents’ approval.
The showdown in the burning castle excellently explores and concludes this fierce rivalry. Both brothers desperately lash out, each believing that the other is the last obstacle preventing them from being happy. But when Hyakkimaru finally realizes that Tahomaru is just a scared kid, he spares him and Tahomaru freely gives him back his eyes. After nearly losing themselves to revenge, they both gain the ability to see others as they truly are.
Adult Dororo Finds Hyakkimaru Again
Both the manga and the 2019 anime end with Hyakkimaru leaving Dororo so he can go on a journey to regain the rest of his humanity (physically in the former and emotionally in the latter), but the anime adds a short epilogue where Dororo finds her big bro again after they’ve both grown up. In the intervening years, Dororo has become a beautiful young lady and a more mature-looking Hyakkimaru greets her with a warm smile.
This ending is still a bit rushed and doesn’t do as much justice to their adorable friendship as we’d like, but we’re happy to know that their bond can pick up right where it left off. Though, without dialogue, we’ll never know if Hyakkimaru got more talkative or if Dororo retained her masculine speech patterns. We’d like to hope that both are true!
Because Tezuka’s original manga wasn’t a beloved classic to begin with, the anime production team was able to repurpose the essential components in whatever way they wanted to create an infinitely more entertaining and meaningful story. And now that we’ve seen their creation all the way through to the end, we’re so glad they did!
What did you think of our list? What are your favorite moments of Dororo 2019? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!