「無残帳の巻」 (Muzan Chou no Maki)
“The Story of the Merciless”
There have been a few instances where we have heard about Dororo’s parents, especially his mother. However, in this episode, we learn about why memories of Dororo’s parents leave such a strong, resonating imprint on the characters. Through the vivid brutality of Dororo’s flashback, it becomes much clearer why the pain and suffering they faced forced Dororo to experience life’s biting cruelty so suddenly.
As brigands who ambush samurai in retaliation for the wars that tore through their land and families, Hibukuro and Ojiya are also caring and selfless parents for Dororo. After they were betrayed by their close colleague Itachi, who used his mutiny to align himself with the samurai, they continued to try to care for Dororo in spite of their dire circumstances. The series spares no expense in showing the grittiest side of surviving poor in the anime’s universe as the family had to pick-pocket the corpses from warzones, one of which was currently being consumed by a fatally wounded samurai. Through these circumstances, Dororo’s parents tried their best to support their child through means that reflect on keeping them nurtured and safe. In the face of death, Hibukuro defends his family further by skewering his assailant with the same spear that sealed his fate.
The most depressing circumstance Dororo had to face were the sacrifices Ojiya made that lead to her death. Because of Hibukuro’s early demise, Ojiya had spent the most time raising Dororo and trying to teach her child about the world around them. But as their chances of survival had begun to wane, Ojiya stumbles across a soup line organized by the samurai, one of which being Itachi’s traitorous self. However, when the man administering the soup finds that she can’t be given food without a bowl, Ojiya takes it upon herself to demand that they pour it directly in her hands. For Dororo’s survival, she cups a ladle-full of boiling hot soup in her hands to feed her child, even if the scaling burns and starvation cost Ojiya her life. Flashbacks in Dororo are often shown in black-and-white with colors being utilized to punctuate certain wounds, objects, or matter. In Dororo’s flashback during this episode, the colors seen gather attention towards details that Dororo has experienced with Hibukuro and Ojiya. Golden rice fields and purple fruit end up being the few changes of pace from the suffering seen in the blood spilled, Ojiya’s scalded hands, and the higanbana that continue to follow Dororo as reminders of the grisly fates of Hibukuro and Ojiya.
Aside from shining light on Dororo’s past, this is also an episode where Hyakkimaru gets more used to his current capabilities. He’s been using his power to smell to his fullest as he sniffs anything within his general vicinity to get a feel for what he’s interacting with. At the same time, Hyakkimaru has started to pick up on the meanings of words as he tries to communicate for the first time by telling a nearby person that Dororo is feeling sick. How many words he picks up on is still a mystery though as the priestess tending to Dororo reveals her gender. The ambiguity of Dororo’s gender/sex made for some speculation on whether she was a boy or a girl, but the story hasn’t had to draw a larger target on Dororo’s gender so it’s still an adjustment to start using “she” and whatnot. Dororo was concerned if Hyakkimaru picked up on what the priestess said as her clothes getting cleaned means that she would have to know and might have told Hyakkimaru. But his silence on the situation does beg to question if he understands what signifiers would link to one’s gender or what pronouns hint towards whether someone’s male or female. It is the difficulty in having a character whose grasp on language perception is a work-in-progress when you’re not sure which words he’s picked up on or which phrases he is able to process meaning from. Regardless, the anime leaves us on a more alarming note with both Daigo and Tahomaru being aware that Hyakkimaru’s presence is close by.