We don’t get a monster-of-the-week this time. Instead, we get unrelenting human suffering. Yay! So what’s the dealio? What’s the haps? With his newfound sense of smell, Hyakkimaru is busy smelling everything; he even smells his partner. But speaking of Dororo, the kid suddenly falls ill, which doesn’t surprise me. Children aren’t known for their sturdy immune system, and the kid is always running around in rags. Luckily, the formerly deaf and mute Hyakkimaru has somehow managed to grasp enough of the Japanese language to seek help. It’s amazing, isn’t it? And as a Dororo is cared for, she — yeah, yeah, it turns out the kid is actually a girl — opens up about her parents and how she lost them. This story is, as you might expect, just a complete downer.
When you think of brigands, you think looters, pillagers, murderers, rapists, etc. Brigands aren’t normally portrayed as nice people. But apparently, Dororo’s father Hibukuro led a band of honorable thieves, because they only attack the samurai. Teaching them a lesson, y’see. They were poor, scrappy farmers just trying to take back what was originally stolen from them by the samurai. Itachi, his right hand man, tried to convince him that staying rogue forever is folly. There are more of them than there are of us, so let’s be smart. Let’s bend the knee to the cruel, selfish lords and join the samurai. Even if we can’t keep our pride, we can at least keep our lives. But in Hibukuro’s other ear was Dororo’s mother Ojiya. She was a principled woman, so she proceeded to tell Itachi off. Well, to nobody’s surprise, Itachi betrayed Hibukuro and sold him out to the samurai.
Even so, Dororo’s father did not lose his life. He merely lost his men and a lot of his fighting prowess. Hibukuro and his wife then tried to pick up the pieces of their broken lives and at least try to survive with their only daughter. Try is the key word. There’s nothing pleasant about looting corpses for blood-soaked rations, but you do what you gotta do. Still, I couldn’t help but laugh at the clumsy dialogue. Is this hell, Dororo asks? It might even be worse than hell, her mother replies. Oh lord… but I digress. One day, a samurai spotted Hibukuro’s unique pole sword (there’s gotta be a better name for it than that, but I’m no expert on weapons). On the one hand, he only targeted the samurai, but on the other hand, that doesn’t mean that innocent people won’t end up being collateral damage in your righteous mission. Even though Ojiya wanted her husband to walk away this time and not pick a fight, he got drawn into one anyways. He fought valiantly, but he still lost his life.
Still, even if Dororo’s father had survived, you can’t help but imagine that neither he nor his wife was going to last for much longer. He’s a fighter who can’t fight as well anymore, and it didn’t appear as though either of them had any trade skills. Eventually, Ojiya succumbed to starvation (either that or starvation made her weak to everything else that can kill you) and died in a field of red spider lilies. Dororo tells us that she has hated those flowers ever since. So what exactly did we learn here? Well, that’s a good question. I suppose we can always blame hubris. After all, it’s an easy, catch-all explanation to a lot of human errors. Why marry a woman and bring a child into this world if you insist on being a brigand (even if you’re supposedly an honorable one)? Why continue trusting Itachi after he showed you his true colors (and especially after you dressed him down in front of everybody)? Why drag your easily recognizable weapon around with you when a warrior like yourself can probably fight with any weapon? Hubris, I guess. We always think we have it under control.
And y’know, maybe Itachi had a point. It’s easy to be principled when you’re young and have few obligations to worry about. As the saying goes, people are born liberals and slowly grow into conservatives. I’m not saying that I’ll ever vote for conservative policies when I’m in my old age, but you can bet your ass that I probably won’t be as radical as I am now. If you have a family to protect, is it really wise to be principled? Would anyone blame you for putting your family first? Plus, our options in life are rarely ever binary. Maybe Hibukuro didn’t need to bend the knee and obey those evil lords. Maybe he just needed to compromise and not constantly wage violent retributive justice. Clearly, something needs to be done about the evil lords. There are always causes worth fighting and dying for… buuuuut I kinda feel like you forfeit that when you form a family. You have something else that you need to fight for now.
Having said that, my biggest problem with this show lately is just that, well, all the unending agony of human existence that it continues to shove down our throats. At one point in the flashback, we see Ojiya and Dororo lining up at a temple for hand-outs. When they got to the front of the ravenous crowd, however, they learned that there were no more bowls left to hand out. I guess nobody in the crowd had enough empathy to help a desperate mother and her starving kid out either. So naturally, the woman told the man to scoop hot, scalding porridge (soup?) into her bare hands so that she may feed her starving daughter. Naturally, the selfless mother wasn’t even concerned with feeding herself. And as I’m watching this, my reaction is (of course), “Wow, that sucks. My heart hurts. But what am I supposed to be getting out of this?” Then at the end of Dororo’s flashback, she tells us, “That’s why I’m never going to give up.” Haha, really? That’s what I’m supposed to take away from the show’s bottomless pit of despair?
I dunno, man… Dororo is hardly the first show to try and tease out a life-affirming message from uncompromising human darkness, but I don’t feel as though it’s doing so correctly. Here’s twenty minutes of soul-draining hopelessness, and here’s a single line uttered by the main character to contrast it! You could argue that maybe there’s only so much that you can do with a TV show and its 24-minute format, but that seems like a cop-out. I think, like most things MAPPA has churned out, the execution is just sloppy. But hey, didja hear? Dororo’s a girl! And she’s kinda embarrassed about it! Oh well, it’s not like Hyakkimaru can see anything anyways. Maybe in the last few episodes, he’ll finally be able to see what the kid looks like.
Anyways, Daigo has finally confirmed that his first son is still alive. Tahomaru also overhears everything. So y’know how Hyakkimaru is missing parts of his body, and he needs to slay demons in order to get them back? He’s just taking back what is rightfully his. We then have Tahomaru who feels as though he’s missing something crucial from his father and mother’s love. As a result, he probably now thinks that he needs to slay Hyakkimaru to get that back. Unfortunately, we can’t quite say that like his brother Tahomaru is taking back what is rightfully his. I mean, imagine being born with a silver spoon in your mouth in stark contrast to your abandoned and handicapped brother and still being dissatisfied. But I guess that’s why he is his father’s son.