Evidently, some undisclosed amount of time has passed since the events of the previous episode and Hyakkimaru and Dororo are traveling by themselves again. Biwamaru is nowhere to be found here though I suppose he was just some guy the two main characters bumped into so maybe them parting ways for the time being is to be expected. I am beginning to notice Dororo 2019 is very episodic in nature. Aside from the overarching premise and recurring main characters, the continuity in Dororo isn’t terribly demanding. I only bring that up as an observation though as truth be told, this approach to the narrative seems to working just fine. Last episode rocked and the same could said about this week’s offering.
When the episode begins, Dororo and Hyakkimaru meets a young woman named Osushi. Dororo learns that Osushi has been visiting a shrine for the past five years, praying that her brother, Tanosuke, would return home after leaving to fight a war for his lord. Shortly after, Hyakkimaru stumbles upon a massacre and encounters a man wielding a cursed sword, Nihiru, that has warped him into a bloodthirsty killer. As they fight, Osushi recognizes the man as her long lost brother.
As one might expect, this plot is a tragedy from the get go. Tanosuke is very much a victim in this story, having been forced to wield Nihiru by his lord after first refusing to kill an architect for him. The lord does end up getting his comeuppance — he made the idiotic mistake of not believing in Nihiru’s demonic nature — but the carnage doesn’t end there and Tanosuke spends the next few years of his life doing the sword’s bidding. By the time he does meet Osushi again, he may very well be a lost cause. Dororo ends up taking possession of Nihiru by accident during the middle act but the sword’s influence still has its hold on Tanosuke’s mind and the poor soul takes the sword during the climax so that he can continue the murder spree. It’s an upsetting development as all Osushi wants is to have Tanosuke back in her life. Worse is that Tanosuke still loves his sister as evidenced by him creating one last paper crane for her, something that used to calm her down when she cried as a child.
While the action involving Hyakkimaru and the many demons he fight have been highly entertaining, it felt refreshingly exhilarating seeing him fight a human for a change. Barring the fact that our protagonist has blades affixed to his elbow joints, the fight between him and Tanosuke feels like it was ripped straight from a samurai film. It feels a little more close quarters, a little less grand than tackling otherworldly beings yet still very intense nevertheless. Adding to the suspense is the fact that now Hyakkimaru can now feel pain. Granted, it turns out that only his actual flesh gets dictated by his nerves but you can tell that he is aware that he is becoming less able to shrug off attacks dealt to him. During the first round with Tanosuke, Hyakkimaru very deliberately blocks an attack with a prosthetic limb and after the fight ends, you see him checking a fresh cut against his cheek, presumably still try to understand this new feeling of pain is.
It always makes for an engrossing experience figuring out what exactly Hyakkimaru is thinking but this episode especially throws you on a loop at times. I figured he was simply trying to disarm Dororo when the boy accidentally becomes Nihiru’s next puppet though for a split second, it really did look like he was trying to kill him. Every time Hyakkimaru slashes at Dororo looked way too close for comfort. What really feels grey though is when he kills Tanosuke at the end of the episode. Was that truly the right thing to do? Tanosuke seemed like a lost cause but the fact that his soul is colored white meant that Hyakkimaru recognizes that he is but a victim with Nihiru being the real being of malice. Perhaps killing Tanosuke was in self defense but considering his skills, surely Hyakkimaru didn’t need to resort to a fatal blow. Then again, it’s possible Tanosuke wanted to die, as evidenced by him smiling before succumbing to his injuries. Maybe that was him thinking he had won but given that he still cares for Osushi, I’d like to think he wanted to keep his sister safe from himself and that dying is the only way for that to happen.
After Tanosuke dies, Nihiru shatters and Hyakkimaru regains his ears, therefore allowing him to hear. His reaction to regaining them is an evocative moment in of itself. You see him clutch his head in agony; just the sound of rainfall is enough to overwhelm his senses. The real poetry in the scene though is that Hyakkimaru’s ears return right as Osushi weeps for the deceased Tanosuke. You have to wonder how well the scene registers to Hyakkimaru. I doubt anyone has or was able to teach him about crying and even if that was case, the man lacks the eyes that he can shed tears with. It’s just hard to imagine he could recognize the act of crying at the moment Osushi mourns, let alone what it means. But while the details of the situation eludes him, the gravity of it seems to not, perhaps making Hyakkimaru realize that taking a life isn’t so easy.
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