UPDATE: Volume 3 out now
Osamu Tezuka is back, albeit from beyond the grave, with a series that first saw publication in Japan in 1967. There’s little to date though – this is a timeless Japanese fantasy about a young man called Hyakkimaru, who embarks on a quest to fight a series of demons.
Before Hyakkumaru is born, his greedy father trades forty of the boy’s body parts for wealth and power. Born a freak, Hyakkumaru’s father persuades his heart-broken mother to wrap the boy’s disfigured body in a basket and send him down the river. Luckily he is found by a doctor with a thing for prosthetics. He creates a series of limbs, replacing the body parts the boy is missing, and helps him develop his senses. Soon the boy can ‘see’ and ‘hear’, despite having no eyes or ears. The doctor also attaches swords where Hyakkumaru’s arms should be, sheathed inside his prosthetics, so he can defend himself.
His adventures really begin when he finds one of the demons his father promised a body part to and slays it, allowing the missing part of his body to regenerate. His path then becomes clear: to travel Japan until he’s found and destroyed all the demons in possession of his body. He soon picks up a sidekick, Dororo; a thieving street urchin with no parents, ready to learn a thing or two from his adopted friend.
If it sounds like a tale of a disabled person overcoming their problems, it isn’t – regrowing limbs isn’t the kind of option usually associated with disability and Hyakkumaru’s craving for normality is a long way from coming to terms with his unique physique. Instead, it’s a fantastic journey and an epic battle of will against adversity.
The art is classic Tezuka and all the better for it. His lead characters are cute but can still pull an aggressive stance if they need to head into battle. They fight on beautiful backdrops of ancient Japan, against demons with the look of traditional Japanese monsters about them.
When it comes down to it, this first volume is about scene setting and embarking on the journey, so it makes you wonder if the subsequent two volumes will have much more to them than a series of fights. Knowing Tezuka there’ll be more to it than this but we’ll have to wait and see.
|Buy volumes 2 and 3:
Other books by Osamu Tezuka:
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