Dororo Review

A cross between Pinocchio, Sinbad and wu xia. John reviews the big screen adaptation of Tezuku Osamu’s manga

The Film

Dororo could be better. It could be gorier or sexier to satisfy adults, and it could be sweeter and less violent in order to engage younger or more sensitive viewers. The female companion could have been less of a slapstick magnet and more mature. There definitely could have been better CGI effects or another solution all together for the fantasy sequences. Yep, there’s a lot that could have been improved with Dororo.I am a sucker for fantasy films with fights, mysteries, demons and all manner of silliness. The worst sin that such films can commit is to be too serious, too earnest or too obviously dramatic. After all, most viewers know that there are no giant caterpillar like demons that hide in the guise of cute kids, and if they are watching a movie that includes such a sight they still know that it’s not real. The viewer accepts the nonsense, and as long as the action and story remain within a single absurd universe then they are fine with that.

This allowance gives projects like Dororo the ability to get away with some dodgy pieces of animation as the really terrific films in this genre are the ones that make hay with the artificiality of the fantasy. The falsehood and the unreal quality can become an invitation for imagination, and as long as the result is creative, witty or charming, the viewer will go along with it.Dororo could have been executed with cleverer effects or a shorter running time. It might not have hedged its bets by having such an arch comedy sidekick. It could… well, it could have been better.

Yet, I can forgive the slow exposition and uneven tempo as the basis of the story involves almost 50 battles within the running time. Incidentally, even with the aid of montage it only gets about halfway, a clear opening for a sequel there, but still that is a lot of demon decimation for a single film. The action is adventurous and the storyline lies somewhere between Pinocchio and an abbreviated Zatoichi – there is murderous mayhem and a semi artificial man who wishes to become fully human.

Fans of the original manga series will probably find this version a little too friendly, but to my unfamiliar and western eye this is almost as much fun as Takashi Miike’s The Great Yokai War of a couple of years back. A bigger budget may have helped to tidy up some of the monsters and allowed the viewer to be more immersed in the action, although the film does well in the drama department and even the annoying sidekick becomes sympathetic by the conclusion.Dororo could have been better, but heck it’s a lot of fun as it is. Battles, monsters, sentimentality and a few laughs crammed into just over 2 hours – now what’s so wrong with that?

Technical Specs

The presentation of the feature is within a small windowbox throughout that looks awfully like 1.78:1 rather than the 1.85:1 original aspect ratio claimed on the box. The film has been properly converted and with PAL speedup the running time of 133 minutes seems to suggest that this is uncut. This looks very like video which given the plethora of CGI effects within the film is pretty appropriate. Colours are muted and kept within an autumnal palate, contrast is a little murky and detail is good but not perfect.Both 5.1 tracks offered here are encoded at high bitrates and they both offer plenty of definition and speaker coverage. The greater clarity and superior treble of the DTS track means there is far less approaching distortion and the greater ability to hear subtle effect like flames flickering in the wind. Both tracks are supported by excellent removable English subs in yellow type.

Special Features

The Road to Dororo is a making of featurette with an intense narration and endless positivity. So Dororo possesses a superb script and has the “star of our time”! The piece moves on to introduce the characters, talk about filming in New Zealand and move on to marketing and post-production. The final half is all footage of premieres and press conferences.

There are 8 minutes of deleted scenes with more on the creation of false limbs and extended versions of scenes with the storyteller, more on Hyakkimaru’s childhood. These scenes are presented as extensions to existing footage within the movie with a little ticker counting in the excised moments of much poorer quality stock.

Three trailers and a TV spot, a navigable 15 image still gallery and a trailer for Cutie Honey complete the package on this dual layer region 2 encoded disc.


Dororo is an entertaining romp that might have been improved technically but has got it’s heart in exactly the right place. This release from MVM has a good transfer and fine sound options, for those new to the film it’s definitely worth seeking out.

John White

Updated: Aug 22, 2009

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