Osamu Tezuka is nicknamed both the “father of manga” and the “God of manga” due to his immense impact on the overall medium, as his stories cemented many of manga’s foundational elements. Because of this, Tezuka’s work has frequently been turned into anime.
While many of these anime adaptations are just as influential as the manga they are based on, but this can make knowing where to start be tricky for newcomers. Here’s the best anime for those looking to experience Tezuka’s work for the first time.
Why It’s So Hard to Pick One Adaptation of Osamu Tezuka’s Work
Osamu Tezuka has a long and storied history with the anime medium, and this has continued even after his passing and into the present day. The first significant anime based on Tezuka’s work, Astro Boy, was originally broadcast in 1963, and today over 100 TV shows, OVAs and anime movies have been based on Tezuka’s work or credit him for some role in their creation.
On top of this, many of Tezuka’s manga series have received multiple — often vastly different — anime adaptions, making it even harder to pick a good starting point for those new to the creator’s work. However, the best choice for an equally fun and easy way to dip those toes into Tezuka’s impressive catalog is 2019’s Dororo, and for several reasons.
Why the 2019 Version of Dororo Is the Best Tezuka Starter Anime
Dororo‘s story makes it a great starter anime for those new to Tezuka. Many fans say the Dororo manga is one of the best, if not the best, story the creator ever wrote; even today, it remains a gripping tale packed full of fun twists and turns. The manga follows Hyakkimaru, a rōnin who lacks facial features, internal organs and limbs. This is because Hyakkimaru’s father, Kagemitsu Daigō, made a pact with 48 demons, where they got to take anything they wanted in exchange for Kagemitsu becoming rich and powerful.
Of course, this deal went wrong and the demons were freed, and they began a reign of terror around the countryside. To prevent the young Hyakkimaru from being killed, his mother sent him off down the river. The infant was found by Jukai, a medicine man who used healing magic and prostheses to help the boy recover from his ordeal. However, due to the healing magic and prosthetic limbs, Hyakkimaru is practically invincible. When he is older, Hyakkimaru heads out to kill the demons who made the pact with his father and recover his body parts. During the early stages of this journey, Hyakkimaru meets Dororo, a young thief, and the pair soon become inseparable traveling partners.
The story is memorable because it effortlessly combines several genres together. It features some gripping and action-packed historical fantasy, highly emotional drama, and many darker moments that verge on full-on horror, meaning it has something for everyone. The lead characters are memorable and have plenty of depth, with Tezuka’s manga and this anime using them to explore several fascinating topics, including the sanctity of the human body and the nature of revenge.
Another nice detail about the 2019 version of Dororo is its length; it runs for an easy-to-watch 24 episodes, unlike some Tezuka adaptions that have gigantic runtimes. This means viewers can easily watch and get a good feel for Tezuka’s writing style — and the themes he regularly tackled — without having to dedicate several weeks to the endeavor. While this length does mean the story deviates from the manga quite a bit, these alterations still fit the manga’s tone while helping the story flow like a modern anime. All of this helps make it easier for newcomers to follow.
While many anime adaptions of Tezuka’s works featured high-quality or groundbreaking animation at the time of their release, it’s hard to deny that some older projects based on Tezuka’s work look quite dated now. Thankfully, the 2019 version of Dororo was animated by MAPPA and Tezuka Productions, meaning this series features stunning visuals that will quickly draw viewers in. Though the visuals have been modernized, the show still features elements of Tezuka’s signature design style, making it both a loving tribute and a beautiful work in its own right. This version also does a fantastic job of capturing and conveying Hyakkimaru’s emotions, which is important as the character rarely speaks.
Another reason Dororo 2019 is a fantastic entry anime is its accessibility — unlike some Tezuka adaptions, which have had few, if any, official Western releases. Sentai Filmworks owns the rights to this anime in America and has dubbed and released it on Blu-ray. It will also begin streaming on HIDIVE in January 2023, thus making it even easier to watch.
While it can be debated if the 2019 version of Dororo is the best anime based on one of Osamu Tezuka’s manga, it can’t be denied it’s the easiest to get into for modern audiences. It keeps all the elements that made the original story so memorable and mesmerizing while presenting them in an easily accessible way for modern viewers, giving them the visual fidelity and pacing they expect. This, plus its easy-to-find releases, makes Dororo 2019 the best choice for anime fans new to Tezuka’s massive catalog.