One of the most intriguing aspects of Dororo is its capability to subvert expectations without drastic measures or overt shock value. Dororo begins with a daimyo who sacrifices his son’s organs and limbs to the demons to rule his land and bring prosperity to it. But another condition, allows demons to roam free and cause havoc in the countryside. This malformed son of his, Hyakkimaru, named for his inhumane nature, grows up seeking to regain his body parts and feel whole again. Along this journey, he comes across the titular character Dororo.
IS DORORO A BOY OR A GIRL?
The anime plays on the concept of gender to subvert expectations. Is Dororo a boy or a girl? Biologically, Dororo is a girl yet identifies as a boy. It is not often you see trans characters being handled subtly and maturely in anime but Dororo is an example and possibly a rule. Dororo’s sex is hinted at through his slight tilt towards feminity in scenes where Dororo’s body was integral. Yet this is underplayed mostly and more power is given to Dororo’s personality and how he carries himself. Through his lifestyle and behavior, Dororo’s gender is congruent with that of a boy’s.
WHY DOES DORORO IDENTIFY AS A BOY?
Dororo is an orphan whose parents were killed thanks to betrayal. Considering this past, it can be easily assumed that Dororo is quite distrustful despite his perceived innocence and young age. Dororo learned to become a thief who would sell items to survive in the Sengoku period of Japan. The Sengoku period of Japan was not particularly known for having any protection or the concept of rights for women. Women were exploited heavily in this war-stricken period. They were either kidnapped, killed or trafficked, crimes for which no one was held accountable. In a period where raids by enemies are considered a strategy, we can come to the conclusion that the safety of women was out of the window. With this perspective in mind, Dororo identifying as a boy makes sense. As a boy, Dororo escaped the chains of oppression where he could have been sold or forced to work by people in power.
Another reason for Dororo identifying as a boy is that this lifestyle and has been ingrained in him. Therefore, he does not consider this weird or unconventional since societal and gender expectations are not something that occupies prime focus. The anime wishes to view Dororo as an innocent little sibling of Hyakkimaru who managed to make him feel a little more human again. Dororo acts as his tether to society. Although Dororo might not be aware of societal expectations, he sure knows what being human is. Dororo wears his heart on his sleeve and hopes to help the only family he has.
DORORO WAS RAISED AS A BOY
Dororo’s lifestyle was molded by his parents who did not raise Dororo like a “girl”. Disregarding the societal expectations that came from a girl, his parents chose to inculcate traits of a “boy” within Dororo. Given the distrustful and violent environment of the Sengoku period of Japan, which is also called the “Warring States period”, we can assume that Dororo’s parents wanted to make Dororo tough enough to survive such a period. In such a period, gender expectations, were not flexible at all so his parents would associate “boy” with being tough. This can simply be traced to his parents’ concern, rightfully so, given the circumstances of their death. Even after their death, Dororo did grow up tough by learning how to survive on his own. Despite his terrible past, Dororo is probably the most human character in the show which ends up being one of the underlying themes.
Unlike other anime, where gender is used for comical purposes such as “traps” or comical reveals, this anime casually yet boldly stands out. It does not emphasize the potential shock value where Dororo is in fact biologically a girl but provides subtle clues and hints throughout the season to build a foundation to reveal – which, again, was not made out as a huge deal. With its slightly casual but knowing approach to this element of Dororo – the anime teaches an important lesson on how to handle such sensitive topics.
There might not be any overzealous explanations as to why Dororo identifies as a boy and this makes the setup and the plot even more heartwarming. The anime attempts to say, “this is Dororo, his life made him who he is and it is what it is”. And it is a beautiful rendition of a trans character in anime!
While watching the anime for the first time, given the direction of the plot and the focus on characters, you’d expect Hyakkimaru is Dororo but that’s where the show pulls one above us. Dororo is the character that helps Hyakkimaru through his journey of becoming human again. Dororo is the little kid who becomes attached to Hyakkimaru and vice versa. But why is the show named after Dororo? Because what’s important is the person who stuck by you and pulled you through your dark times. Dororo and Hyakkimaru’s paths cross through coincidence yet their bond of a family is definitely fate. Hyakkimaru and Dororo’s family backgrounds pull them closer together to create something beautiful. They only know and understand family through each other. Family is a very important theme in the anime but another one that does not speak as loudly as that of gender.