サーチアンドデストロイ 1 (TCコミックス) (日本語) コミック (紙) – 2019/4/5
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The first thing you should probably know is that this manga is in Japanese and is not currently available in English. Japanese is not my first language (or even my second...) so I'm writing this review in English. If you're a horror fan and looking to get into reading Japanese, this is not a terrible place to start. The reading level is generally easier than the other two existing manga adaptations: the original, and currently running faithful-to-source version. It is conceptually much darker than either. Every panel means something, even in the gloriously bloody and violent shootouts that the hero stumbles into now and again. The mangaka, Kaneko Atsushi, shows clear familiarity with the original in every choice she makes, but she does not tell the story in the same way. Not even close.
And what is "Dororo's" story, anyway? Well, it's about a corrupt leader (Kagemitsu Daigo) that sacrifices their child's body parts to demonic/evil forces in exchange for power. The dispossessed child comes under the care of a doctor (Jukai; Tsukumo here) and miraculously survives with the support of synthetic-cum-cybernetic parts. The signature image of the hero is swords embedded in the elbow joints--sword arms. The child gets many names (read the novels if you don't believe me), but the one that sticks is usually Hyakkimaru. Hyakkimaru goes on a quest to kill the demons and recover his body. He encounters Dororo, an orphan and a thief, that illustrates and teaches the difference between being whole and being human. (In most adaptations, Hyakkimaru is male and Dororo is female. This version swaps their genders, to interesting effect.) Endings are divergent; Osamu Tezuka, the original creator, abandoned the work. Aside from these essential story elements, all the rest is fair game for adaptation. Kaneko Atsushi's first major adaptation shift is to steal a bit from the protagonists' names - Hyakkimaru becomes Hyaku, losing the gendered -maru for boys' names, and Dororo becomes just plain Doro. Bold move, considering the title of "Dororo" is a pun on the word "thief."
This world's miracle doctor is a survivalist that lives in the middle of nowhere. When Hyaku is abandoned in snow (flashbacks to Dororo and her mother, who died in a blizzard in the original anime, geek points +1), the doctor finds the genderless creature and builds her a body out of creechi parts, swords, and pointed hooks for feet. In this world, there are humans and creechi (obvious pun on "creature"). Humans are considered superior, but many humans will sell or exchange parts for money or status upgrades, or out of necessity.
Doro(ro) hangs around a creechi that has Deiki the mud demon's character design; the creechi is obsessed with devouring things and has even wired in a human tongue so that he can get more flavor out of what he eats. While creechi do take and install human body parts in this story repeatedly, this is very illegal. By the same token, selling body parts is also illegal, but the logic (naturally) does not work the other way--that is, humans are free to replace faulty body parts with mechanical equivalents whenever they wish. The effects of this policy cause a lot of moral and ethical gray areas; what makes someone human becomes a lot more open to interpretation. There is also a robust police force that gets itself involved when Hyaku
starts leaving a bloody trail in her wake. In most "Dororo" adaptation worlds, Hyakkimaru must take great pains to blend in, but in this one there's almost no need--survivors of war have had their limbs replaced by parts, and the robots created for labor gradually adapt and bring in more human parts for themselves. For once, Hyaku blends right in--Doro, by being fully human, is a lot more unusual in this world. Anyway...
The corrupt creechi is sick of Doro stealing and orders him killed. When Hyaku shows up to demand her tongue back, the boss goes wild, bullets fly, much property destruction is done, but in the end Hyaku manages to rip her own tongue out of the criminal's dead head and reinstall it. (Despite the discrepancy in law enforcement, human body parts are treated very similarly to mechanical parts. This is the gimmick. Frankenstein-like body horror abounds.) The minions holding Doro are also cut down, with the grossest sound effects ever, so Doro manages to get away.
Hyaku immediately tests her new (old? used?) tongue out by stealing cupcakes. It is completely adorable and somehow not at all out of place. Doro manages to lift a wallet, then smells Hyaku's odd smell and locates her at the cupcake stand. This is probably the thing I appreciate most about this adaptation: Hyaku is gendered lightly female, but is allowed to be as gross, unkempt, and disgusting as she damn well pleases. You be you, Hyaku!
I also appreciate that it is not just the genders that are reversed, here, but the spoken registers as well. Doro speaks a variant of Kansaiben (read: the most commonly spoken form of Japanese; it's big-city style, Tokyo specifically) while Hyaku speaks in an odd sort of dialect-less speech that was probably communicated to her through her out-in-the-sticks foster father. Some usages strike me as a little old-fashioned, but this is the first time I've been able to understand Doro(ro) clearly at all in manga adaptations of this story. I like this change because the communication frustration has usually been on Hyakkimaru's side, but in this version, Hyaku doesn't care if anyone can understand her or not, beyond such blunt utterances of things like "give it." (This was probably the case for Dororo in other adaptations as well. First time I'm really picking up on on that, though.)
During Hyaku and Doro's first real encounter, Doro has stolen a valuable part from an art gallery; the initial heist is led by this world's Itachi (a petty criminal that betrayed Doro's father) and a woman whose identity is not immediately clear. Turns out
this is another of Hyaku's body parts, so when she shows up to demand it, Doro offers it willingly and starts to talk about the war...the last war, when the creechi were created, robots took over cities and people started selling organs like computer parts. It's not quite the world of The Terminator movies, but the parallels are certainly present.
Doro does almost all the talking in this exchange. It is not revealed if Hyaku is even bothering to listen. The important thing is Doro's rage and loneliness; he will literally spill his guts to anyone that is not rotten to the core. When he proposes an alliance of sorts (as Doro always does), Hyaku aims the left sword arm right at his eyes and says, "Don't follow me." (Female Hyaku is identical to male Hyakkmaru in all the ways that matter and I love it.)
But Doro does. Because Doro(ro) always does. And so, the adventure begins.
Hyaku's past is also treated in this volume, and it is a whole mess of political intrigue and conspiratorial spy rings wrapped up in some pretty mucked up ethics. The doctor that raises Hyaku does a lot of digging into her origins. Out of kindness, he tells her that her family died in the war and that she lost her limbs in an explosion (throw shade on "Black Jack," geek points + 2). Neither of those things are true, and while he's not able to report much on her family, he is clear about one thing: the creechi
stole Hyaku's body. Why? Something to do with her DNA. (In the old version, Hyakkimaru was similarly afflicted with some kind of magical protection that attracts demons.) Tsukumo encourages her to move fast and break things in order to restore what's hers before going out in a blaze of glory. When Hyaku and Doro meet, she's fresh off the grief of losing Tsukumo, and the rage is raw. All emotions are raw in this manga. The options are to be repulsed or drawn in--I don't see any others available.
This review is very long.
TL;DR: Give this mangaka your money, especially if you're a Dororo fan. You will be pleased you did. Four volumes are planned; two are out. Stay tuned.