All of us are born into this world in different ways and into our own different situations and stories. Some of us are gifted with wealth and others are given poverty. Some can suffer from disease and others could come into this world without problem. There are those born with care and sadly those that are simply unwanted. All of this occurs as if by nothing more than chance or what some would construe as being fate. Still despite all of this the question that stands is if how we are born determines who we will inevitably become. Is it the faults laid throughout our past that determine our future?
Every once in a while, very rarely, I come across the opportunity to analyze a character from two different forms of media. Now a character hailing from multiple forms of media isn’t exactly uncommon but it’s not often that I’m able to sit down and take in both or all of these different outlets at once. This week, however, I’m able to bring to you one of these rare occurrences as I not only analyze this week’s character but also compare him to the different versions of himself. As such I’ll be dividing my usual article format for this analysis into two different sections. One for the version of the character coming from the manga entitled “Dororo“, and the second coming from the live action movie of the same name. This is going to be a different experience for both yourselves and me so lets try to make it interesting.
Regardless of the version, the story of Hyakkimaru remains a constant and unchanging one. He’s a character that was born into this world stricken of everything, including his very body. Cursed by his own father before his birth his body is divided amongst the possession of forty-eight demons. As he is sent down the river, abandoned by his birth parents, he is found by a passing by alchemist. With prosthetics forged by the kind medicine man who would go on to raise him Hyakkimaru is able to live his life despite being devoid of sight, hearing, touch, smell or even a voice. Using the blades hidden within his prosthetic arms, and with his constant companion Dororo by his side, he hunts down the forty-eight demons one by one to retrieve the pieces of his body that were wrongfully taken from him.
-Warning: There are things past this point that are spoilers. You’ve been warned, so don’t come complaining if something gets spoiled for you.-
Hyakkimaru in the manga is a rather kind hearted young man. Since he cannot speak he developed the ability to see and speak through his heart, in a sense a sort of telepathy. Due to this he’s able to read what other people feel or think and is there by capable of connecting to them and understanding them more than most people. Thanks to his ability to understand people’s feelings he’s able to fairly easily associate himself with society despite not having much contact with others during his youth. Hyakkimaru is a very friendly person to others despite most people seeing him to be a monster.
While Hyakkimaru is often outcast by those he comes across he rarely grows angry towards them, instead remaining calm in such unfavorable conditions. This is largely due to Hyakkimaru’s understanding of others as he knows how much fear can affect the perception and logic of your average person. Still this doesn’t come without a bit of sadness as he’s forced to constantly move on, never being able to live a normal life. Still despite his handicaps and position as an outcast Hyakkimaru remains optimistic in the face of his unfortunate circumstance. It’s rare to see him become openly upset or even frustrated over his situation though the underlying sadness is still evident.
While Hyakkimaru tends to be a friendly person towards others he’s stated that he tends to have a visceral reaction whenever he sees a samurai. This distaste for samurai is most likely linked to an event that happened to him and Dororo early in their travels. When the two reached the kingdom ruled by Kagemitsu Daigo they witnessed the horrors that the samurai where committing on the people of the land. At this point in his journey Hyakkimaru discovers that Daigo was his birth father and the man that initially sold his body to the forty-eight demons. Knowing that it was his own father that was committing the horrors across the kingdom Hyakkimaru attempted to run away but was confronted by his brother, Tahomaru, and was forced to kill him. This event left him emotionally scarred for a short time, to the point of abandoning Dororo to continue journeying on his own. Since this time Hyakkimaru has grown increasingly vengeful towards samurai showing little mercy or sympathy towards them.
Over the course of his journey Hyakkimaru has routinely shown to be adept at coming up with strategies and tactics in order to defeat his enemies. He has a clearly understanding of his surroundings and thanks to his ability to read people’s hearts he’s capable of reading the motives of those he’s fighting against. With this he’s also shown to be capable with various medicines and poisons most likely do to growing up with the man that created his prosthetics. Also interestingly enough Hyakkimaru is adept at ventriloquism as he often moves his mouth when speaking through his heart despite not needing to. This is largely out of consideration for other people and to allow himself to appear more normally.
An interesting aspect of Hyakkimaru’s outlook on his handicap is represented by the treatment of his prosthetic body parts. As he kills the demons possessing the pieces of his body and regains those parts as his own he will always give a proper burial to the prosthetics that he no longer requires. To Hyakkimaru this is his way of showing respect and even a bit of mourning to something that to him was his body since his youth, keeping the memories of how it served him alive while laying it to rest. To Hyakkimaru it signifies a small piece of him dying while a new piece takes its place.
On the other hand when Hyakkimaru reclaims one of his stolen body parts it’s usually followed by a clear showing of joy. He often shows a fair amount of amusement out of his found body parts such as the sudden ability to smell or the sensation of feeling with his recovered arms and legs. Still while he’s clearly happy with his newly gained senses there’s rarely any emotional growth from the event possibly due to how content he had been with his prosthetics. It wasn’t until a time of separation from Dororo that Hyakkimaru began to take notice of how beautiful the world was with the ability to see and smell. This recognition of his environment was brought on by a feeling of loneliness potentially signifying the importance that Dororo had to him.
When it comes to the relationship between Dororo and Hyakkimaru it can clearly be seen that it is a rather strong friendship. While initially Hyakkimaru found the young child to be little more than a bother the two eventually grew accustomed to each other, to the extent that they are noticeably saddened when the other is missing. In terms of their friendship the two play off of each other well, influencing each other as well as providing each other with purpose and validation. To Hyakkimaru, Dororo is one of the few people that shows no signs of fear while being around him, treating him as a real person rather than a monster. It’s also thanks to Dororo that Hyakkimaru is given a bit of hope in finding a purpose after the time eventually comes the he would retrieve his full body. While the two rarely admit to enjoying each other’s company there is without a doubt a very strong friendship between the two.
Hyakkimaru is shown to be your pretty standard protagonist, inspiring kindness and hope in others while over coming the harshness of a world turned against him. While he is prone to anger is a few occurrences he nevertheless overcomes this draw back for the betterment of others. He’s an understanding, reasonable young man that, while not having much development, remains a constant figurehead for what a protagonist can be in their best light.
The movie version of Hyakkimaru shows a much grimmer personality. Often sporting a very sullen and emotionless expression he displays a less positive attitude towards his curse. He often does not speak and when he does it’s usually not much. It’s also to note that his “voice” when speaking through his heart is that of an almost inhuman echo causing him to seem more off putting. Hyakkimaru also displays little to no effort into making himself seem normal. He barely moves his lips while speaking through his telepathy and does not bother feigning interest in the things or people around him. It’s thanks to this that people do not usually approach him or attempt to socialize with him. Along with his grimmer expression, Hyakkimaru maintains a high level of composure rarely flinching even when major pain is being inflicted upon him. Since he is so composed he maintains a clear focus on his surroundings, occasionally being able to notice things others may not.
Hyakkimaru sports a somewhat negative view on his body and prosthetics to the extent of treating his body in a somewhat half hazard way as if it were little more than an expendable item. This gives him an almost hollow appearance making him seem even more similar to a simple item rather than a living being. His views on his body are more evident as he begins to acquire the pieces of his original body and discards his prosthetics, often watching them crumble to dust as he removes them. Hyakkimaru’s thankfulness for the prosthetics lies predominately with the man that created them rather than the limbs themselves.
Since the man that created his prosthetics also raised him for a large portion of his life Hyakkimaru sees this man as his father. While their relationship wasn’t the most nurturing he is however thankful for his guardian after being abandoned by his original parents because of his deformities. It is because of how he was abandoned as a child that Hyakkimaru is actually understanding and sympathetic towards children of a similar nature. One of the few moments along his journey that he shows a form of emotion is in the presence of orphans as they often remind him of his sad past.
“What do I look like to you?”
Hyakkimaru is a rather antisocial person predominately due to his curse. He will often avoid others with the exception of those that may see the truth of his body. When confronting those people he will often remark with a question of what they see him as. This is likely his way of judging whether or not certain people can be trusted or at the very least a method of reaching out with the possible hope of acceptance. It is because of how other people view him in a monstrous way that he is so shut off from society opting to simply travel alone.
During one of his demon hunts he comes across a young woman that chooses to follow him after finding him to be interesting. During their first meeting the woman asks for his name and he responds that he has no constant name, giving out a list of names; Drifter, Hyakkimaru, Dororo. The woman finds the last name particularly fitting for herself and claims the name Dororo while telling him that he can keep the name Hyakkimaru. This first confrontation with Dororo is taken with very little interest on Hyakkimaru’s part, showing no amusement from the girl’s incessant ramblings.
As he progresses through his demon hunt and reclaims his original body parts Hyakkimaru begins to experience new feelings through his acquired senses. The recovery of his ear comes with a great deal of excitement as he’s finally capable of hearing the world around him, expressing his delight from the chance to finally hear Dororo’s voice. Equally as thrilling to him is the recovery of his throat allowing him to finally speak for himself rather than through telepathy. His excitement is expressed through his constant yelling of Dororo’s name as he reveled in the sound of his new found voice. A notable point after the acquirement of his eyes comes when he remarks at how beautiful the land is. Dororo proclaims that the ocean is a far beautiful sight, inspiring within Hyakkimaru the longing to set eyes on the ocean. These moments are some of the rare moments of happiness to be seen out of Hyakkimaru and are big turning points in not only his view on the world but his relationship with Dororo as well.
It wasn’t until the procurement of his final organ with the movie, his heart, that he began to experience a major break through in his emotions. Unfortunately this saddening breakthrough comes from a scarring event as he kills his biological father, Daigo, in a stressful struggle. Despite the horrors that Daigo had inflicted upon him through the barter with the demons Hyakkimaru still experiences a great deal of grief knowing that he was force to strike down his own father. Through this progression Hyakkimaru as taken one major step forward towards reclaiming some form of humanity within himself as well as showing that while he was responsible for Daigo’s death he was still human enough to show remorse after such an action, something that set him morally higher than his father.
In the case of his relationship with Dororo it is undoubtedly a strained one in the beginning. Showing little signs of interest in the girl it was only through several struggles that the two began to create a small friendship. Through Dororo Hyakkimaru was capable to feeling more like a human and a large amount of his joy expressed through the gain of his body parts was due impart to Dororo’s presence and the fact that he had someone to share the experience with. While they do eventually create a friendship it is not without its conflict as it is revealed that Daigo was responsible for the death of Dororo’s parents leading her to become rather vengeful towards him and his family. Despite this she resolves to discard her anger towards Daigo due to the value of her friendship with Hyakkimaru. Through this action Hyakkimaru himself becomes inspired by her to discard his own anger towards the curse that his father forced upon him allowing for the breakthrough in emotion that he was eventually able to experience. When everything was said and done Hyakkimaru discarded his chance to rule Daigo’s kingdom in order to continue traveling with Dororo to hunt down the remaining demons. This causes an otherwise very tough and strong willed Dororo to break into tears showing that through everything their friendship had become a very strong and lasting bond.
Hyakkimaru comes across as your basic anti-hero, being distant from others and following his own person journey while still maintaining a level of protection over those around him. Despite being sincerely good his grim expression and vicious way of fighting make him seem closer to the monsters he’s trying to kill than the people he’s managed to save. Still with some help he’s able to develop into a more peaceful individual capable of throwing away his anger and vengeance replace with the feeling of companionship from a close friend.
While the difference between the two versions becomes more apparent now their story and their struggles remain the same. In an interesting contrast from last week’s thoughts on predestination, Hyakkimaru was cursed to be who he was from even before his birth but despite all of that remained constant in his mission to change what had been wrongfully done to him. In this case Hyakkimaru is a character that over comes predestination showing that even when fate turns against you it’s possible to keep fighting for the purpose you’ve chosen for yourself. Unfortunately in these two versions Hyakkimaru’s story remains incomplete but regardless the lesson of over coming the hand that fate deals you remains strong and it’s not without reason to conclude that that’s exactly how Hyakkimaru continued to live, fighting his heavy handed destiny.