「寿海の巻」 (Jukai no Maki)
“The Story of Jukai”
This week’s Dororo explores the origin story of the country doctor Jukai and his search for redemption. It takes the concept of seeking atonement for past sins and explores it in-depth with the struggles that Jukai faces to come to terms with the lives he had taken and the violence he had caused.
Whereas past episodes showed Jukai while he placed prosthetics on dismembered dead soldiers to honor their lives, the first scene of this episode flips the script on Jukai by showing him brutally killing people for Lord Shiba. Brutal and gory scenes of him severing limbs and fingers as he nailed soldiers to crosses set the tone for the life that he had lead up. Seeing a fleeing woman get stabbed in the chest was what changed him from that day forward as his failed suicide attempt caused him to lead a new life as a country doctor who gave people prosthetic limbs so they can return to their old selves. The ghosts of his past, however, would continue to follow him as his apprentice leaves him upon finding out that Jukai’s army had killed his father, and his attempt to raise Hyakkimaru resulted in only teaching him how to kill.
Jukai’s guilt and search for redemption are complicated and nuanced since he clearly has emotions and a conscious, but the fact that he had helped commit several atrocities weighed down on him to the point of causing him to never be able to see himself as anything beyond his older days. Because Jukai loathes who he used to be, the guilt keeps following him in spite of the many lives that he has improved along the way, and even though he raised Hyakkimaru to keep him healthy and alive with his missing body parts, helping Hyakkimaru with his destiny to hunt and kill demons only reminded him of the suffering he once caused. The episode ends with him wandering in the rain, but by raising Hyakkimaru, it solidified why Jukai decided to spend the rest of his life trying to take responsibility for his actions and place more value on the lives of others.
Additionally, it was interesting to see the quick juxtaposition between Hyakkimaru and Tahoumaru. The attraction that demons had to Hyakkimaru had forced Jukai to raise him to defend himself against demons. As a result, much of his childhood and adulthood was spent training in combat using the only senses he had, leaving him to face years of rigorous training just to be able to fend for himself. His limited senses had restricted his ability to grow attached to anyone or anything around him beyond the human-shaped gray blob that cared for him. While Hyakkimaru’s birth was seen as by his father as a fortunate omen to be discarded, Tahoumaru’s birth was a blessed day that was only offset by the omen of the destroyed statue in their estate that was left during Hyakkimaru’s nativity. The anime highlighted their differences by comparing the difficult training that Hyakkimaru faced with the light-hearted practice that Tahoumaru took part in to hone his sword-fighting abilities. With a loving father and mother praising his every move, he seemed to have it relatively easy except for the foreboding feeling that the destroyed statue gave him. But at the moment, the sheltered nature of Tahoumaru’s childhood is contrasted with the uphill battle Hyakkimaru faces as he grew up only knowing of the demons that follow him, the threat they pose to him, and how he needs to kill each of them, especially if he wants to restore his body parts.
Flashback episodes tend to break up the momentum of a series sometimes, but the third episode of Dororo is impressive in giving Jukai a thorough and hard-hitting backstory that sets the scene for how Hyakkimaru came to be who he is today. The direction of telling this week’s story in black & white was impressive as were the events the lead to Hyakkimaru and Jukai going on the paths they presently face. Although Hyakkimaru was blessed with the curse of feeling physical pain, it should give him the development he needs to search for meaning as he slowly transitions into a fully-functioning human.