「守り子唄の巻・上」 (Mamori Ko Uta no Maki: Kami)
“The Story of the Moriko Song, part 1”
Dororo continues to examine the vulnerability that Hyakkimaru undergoes as his quest to regain his senses and body parts end up teaching him the sorrow and pain that can come from regaining the sensations he would need to feel to reach his goal of taking his body back. With his ability to hear returning, Hyakkimaru finds himself in his most frail state yet as he tries to cope with these new sensations he is forced to face head-on through his interactions with new demons, a severe fever, and the sound of singing.
Much like how he faced the concept of pain, Hyakkimaru is initially unable to handle the overabundance of new sounds that reach him. Having him be forced to learn which sounds are connected to which beings is fascinating in that it examines how much Hyakkimaru has to struggle with his newly-gained abilities as he has to treat the world around him as if he’s a newborn. In a world without pain or sound, Hyakkimaru not only has to figure out what it means to discover how it feels to hear voices and feel pain but also bear with having to learn how to handle having both in a cruel and unforgiving world.
Part of this discovery is through a girl named Mio who draws him in with her singing as the one sound he can stand listening to. Because he finds that her song is his only refuge from the suffering he faces with his wounds, fever, and intolerance of sound, he is learning to gesture towards his mouth to let her know he wants to hear her voice and her song. Mio faces tragic circumstances, however, since she is forced into prostitution to take care of wounded children in her war-torn village. While she could keep the children’s living situation stable using the money she makes from Lord Sakai’s army, the desperation to move away from the empty plot of land places her in a tricky situation where she has to start trying to offer herself to Daigo’s army as well to afford to move her and the children away. The cruel nature of her circumstances can only be initially seen through context clues such as her pulling up the sides of her outfit or the fact that she’s visiting soldiers at night, but the episode’s conclusion reveals the agony she endures in the most brutal and wicked way.
The juxtaposition between Mio and Hyakkimaru has such a profound impact in the closing moments of the episode as they both confront immense suffering and how sound plays a role in their responses to trauma. What was once a harmonic song that was soothing enough to help Hyakkimaru cope with hearing sound became agonized humming to keep Mio from screaming as she was raped by soldiers of Daigo’s army. Simultaneously, Hyakkimaru’s fight with a sand demon ended with his one organic leg being bitten off, resulting in the blood-curdling scream me made as the very first noise he’s heard come from his own mouth. While it continues the torment that Hyakkimaru has to face whenever he regains a new, painful sensation, his pain also acts as an introduction to the neverending cruelty of the world around him. Loss of innocence, or fighting as hard as you can to retain your innocence, is a reoccurring theme in this episode, especially as Mio and Hyakkimaru are constantly torn apart by their circumstances. While Hyakkimaru’s first-hand experience of the sensations he regains beginning with that harsh reminder that suffering and live as a living organism go hand-in-hand, Mio undergoes the worst that anyone can go through in a war-torn village by being driven out of desperation to sell herself to afford raising wounded orphans and end up getting brutalized the moment she thought she could make enough to give the orphans a brighter future. Mio’s song was the only thing that kept both of them from losing themselves, but ultimately, it can only do so much in the face of trauma.
In the midst of Hyakkimaru and Mio’s story, we also find out that Daigo’s fortunes are starting to run low in relation to the demons getting picked off. On top of his conflict with Lord Sakai, Daigo’s land is also going through a draught with little end in sight. That is, until the possibility of Tahoumaru coming into the fold to make sure that the kingdom he is set to inherit will be rid of any omens against their prosperity. As the plot continues to have Hyakkimaru gather the parts of himself he’s missing, it will only be a matter of time before he ends up reuniting with someone in his family ready to strike.