Anime and manga made it into the world because Osamu Tezuka left a legacy through his phenomenal Dororo manga series. The guy’s basically a legendary god himself no matter what era you put his works into!
On the 2019 reboot of his famed work, Dororo (1967-1969), there is one question that always intrigue fans’ minds: “Is Dororo a Boy or a Girl?” And the mangaka pulled a fixer-upper on us because he left fans hanging on this subplot until the end of his original 4-volume Dororo manga series.
To ease fans’ curiosity, allow me to answer and discuss this question here.
Disclaimer: I will be discussing the anime a lot to answer this question properly. So please, be careful of spoilers!
Let’s begin with the first episode. Upon watching Episode 1 of Dororo, the shock factor is strong. I was dumbfounded, no less, because of how the anime progressed in the first 10 minutes.
First of all, enormous curiosity struck me because the show doesn’t even seem to be about Dororo! The young child called Dororo popped up only on the second half of the episode anyway.
Second, Dororo’s characterization confused me. “What exactly am I looking at?” were the first thoughts that came to mind. I kept asking, “Is this child a boy or a girl?”
1. So…Is Dororo a Boy or Girl?
Fans, including myself, are confused of the true gender because Dororo never acted like a girl. However, reality is slightly different than what it seems to be.
Dororo is a girl. Dororo, however, insisted on being a boy in the entire anime series. This is because of the era the series takes place in. After the death of her parents, as a boy, Dororo escaped the chains of oppression where he could have been sold or forced to work by people in power.
There is not a single feminine bone in her tiny body when fans first meet this intriguing character. She talks like a boy, acts like a boy, and even dresses like one!
In the Sengoku Jidai Era (the timeline that the anime series takes place in), girls or women are wearing kimonos and yukatas.
These lovely traditional outfits complement the refinement and quaintness of women. It also prohibits girls from brash movements because the long trails of kimonos and yukatas might cause them to stumble.
But upon seeing Dororo for the first time, there is almost no hint of her being a little lady! She does not wear a feminine attire suited for her size. And because of that, I was even confused myself.
2. The Voice Behind Dororo
When I finished the first episode, one tiny hint in uncovering Dororo’s gender almost slipped pass me – Dororo’s voice acting. This is the strongest clue available in the first episode that Dororo is a girl.
It is a subtle hint but fans listening closely to the voice acting are smart! They have quickly caught up to the gender of the person providing Dororo’s dialogue.
In Episode 1, a sweet gentle voice came out when Dororo made her debut. But the anime attempts to hide this by emphasizing the boyish sides of Dororo.
When I listened again to the voice acting, I am convinced it belongs to a girl. And upon looking at the show in ‘IMDb’, my curiosities dwindled down. A photograph of a female voice actress, ‘Rio Suzuki’, was provided in the database.
Just going with the above points alone would be enough for me to conclude that Dororo is a boy as of the first episode. However, the voice acting bringing Dororo’s character to life says otherwise!
In fact, the now 15-year old female actress, Rio Suzuki, has been acting in several live-action TV-miniseries and movies since 2013! This goes to show how superb she is in the film industry.
She was also only 13 to 14 years old when she was cast as the deuteragonist Dororo in the reboot! What an adorable child actress to play the part! 😁
3. Why does Dororo dress as a Boy?
The next question is why? Why is Dororo introducing herself as a boy? Well, there are several answers to this question, especially when it comes to parenthood.
Dororo’s parents raised her to dress like a boy because they believe she had better opportunities staying alive. Constant warfare is happening throughout the lands.
If she presents herself as a girl strolling around the countryside, her corpse would likely be found beside a river within three days.
I’m not kidding. That’s the worse that can happen to a girl or a female teenager if you wander around on that period. Living in the Sengoku Jidai Era is no joke.
Women were also vulnerable when they become widows: they could be banished to the streets by their husbands’ family.
Dororo’s aim is to protect herself – not just staying alive! Young ladies in the Warring States Era are constantly defending themselves from thieves, slave-traders, and even pimps! Therefore, it makes sense that Dororo disguised herself as a boy during her travels with Hyakkimaru.
Even if some fans disagree on the methods the parents enforced on their daughter, Dororo’s survival chances increased. I hate to admit it, but her parents made the right choice! In doing so, Dororo’s lifespan was not cut short.
An urchin boy living in the streets of Sengoku Jidai (the Warring States Era of Japan) has a better chance of survival compared to an urchin girl.
And for another thing, if Dororo presented herself as a girl, she would have been exploited. She would have been sold off to child slavery or to high-end brothels! 🥺 It’s tragic, I tell you!
Growing up as a boy, Dororo also viewed the world from the eyes of men. She learned how to act brave, become tough, and fight bullies when the need arises.
The parents were strong supporters of their daughter’s masculinity, of course. And with Dororo’s outlandish behavior, her boyish lifestyle consumed the formative years of her childhood.
Not long after, her parents died because of a betrayal. And so, Dororo is left to fend for herself. The only values from her parents that stayed with her are, “If you act like a tough boy, you can survive longer on this world.” It’s sad, but true!
Since this is how her early childhood years were, she carried those values even during her first meeting with Hyakkimaru (the main character of the show).
To minimize the risk of a gender reveal, I am betting she was told that she is prohibited to act as a girl in front of others! But there could have been a time in the past when this is impossible.
For instance, should she pose as a boy to others when taking a bath or when nature calls? I bet that would be hard for her since she was not taught the ways a girl should act on these situations. Rather, she must adapt to the situation as she sees fit.
Dororo’s streetwise, not book smart. Even if it seems she doesn’t have proper academic education, she learns by doing. No wonder she’s able to hide her true gender after all these years!
Her practicality and resourcefulness also helped her survive on these war-torn lands even if she’s just a child. And for Dororo and Hyakkimaru who are currently living in a terrible era, “survival of the fittest” is all that matters in a time and place where a curfew at 6 pm seems to cause the least worries!
4. Hints About Dororo’s Gender You May Have Missed!
As the anime progresses, there are scenes when Dororo’s true gender is hinted to the audience:
- Episode 9 – a nun exclaimed to Hyakkimaru how difficult it must be to travel with a young girl;
- Episode 15 – this episode explained what I have discussed in the previous paragraphs: if you are a female living in a chaotic time and place like the Sengoku Jidai, your life is going to be exploited!
Girls and widows alike are taken advantage of by the rich and powerful oppressors of the land. If you remember how Daimyo Daigo Kagemitsu made a pact with the demons in Hell Hall, you’ll understand how cold and heartless he would have been towards his own son!
Take note that “Daimyo” is the Japanese terminology used for nobles or local lords in the Feudal Era. Hyakkimaru is Daigo’s own flesh and blood – his firstborn son.
However, when Daigo saw how skinless his son is when he came out from his mother’s womb, he abandoned Hyakkimaru!
The nerve of that man after making a pact with the 12 demons of Hell Hall (12 demons in the anime, 48 demons in the manga). Daigo’s evil deed reveals to the audience how ghoulish and monster-like his soul really is as the anime progresses.
5. Osamu Tezuka’s Masterpiece
“Being transgender is okay! Look at how Dororo carries herself in the series. It’s the heart that matters!”Tezuka
In my opinion, Dororo is better than a real heart, real arms, and real legs because she stayed by Hyakkimaru’s side.
Dororo’s transgender identity may not have sent strong ripples in the manga industry when it first came out. After all, the LGBT community might not have had strong supporters yet during the late 1960s.
But when you compare to today’s generation, Dororo’s representation in the anime speaks loud and clear to its audience. She might just be a deuteragonist despite being the anime’s titular character.
However, she acts as the reliable “hands and feet” of Hyakkimaru, who relies a lot on prosthetic limbs.
Many of the animes I have seen nowadays also focus on high school romance-comedies and magic. (I am not complaining on these types of shows though. As a matter of fact, I’m in love with “Fruits Basket”, “Jibaku Shōnen Hanako-kun”, and “Kaguya-sama: Love is War” anime shows myself.)
However, it would be nice to get a new anime with a flavorful plotline once in a while. And that is how this masterpiece of a series comes into play: stumbling upon Dororo (2019) is like finding a pearl that is hidden twenty-thousand leagues under the sea!
6. About Dororo
Dororo is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by the manga artist, Osamu Tezuka, in the late 1960s. An anime television series based on the manga consists of 26 half-hour episodes that aired in 1969.
A 24-episode second anime television series adaptation by MAPPA and Tezuka Productions aired from January to June 2019.
Hyakkimaru is a young boy who was born without any limbs or organs. He was born from the house of a Feudal Lord, Daigo, who abandoned his own son because he is limbless. Years passed and Hyakkimaru grew up and accidentally stumbles upon a young child.
A young girl, Dororo, runs a small business and helps the destitute and impoverish of the empire. She wanders the streets in search for a few stalls to sell her wares.
While Hyakkimaru searches for his lost body parts, Dororo ran into some shop owner bullies! They set off on their adventures and their meeting sparked an endearing friendship!