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「鯖目の巻」 (Sabame no Maki)
“The Story of Sabame”

Admittedly, the demons of this episode and the one to follow aren’t here to steal the show. In fact, what would make this episode strong wasn’t so much who Hyakkimaru fought this time around, but rather what their current situation means for how they will carry on after the two have reached their goals. With a set path created from both Dororo’s back and Hyakkimaru’s quest for his lost limbs, the two are stuck wondering how they will handle themselves once they reach the end of the line.

The story behind the demons this time around mirrors two of the specters that Hyakkimaru has previously fought; the village demon Bandai who was satiated by a town’s mayor by having wandering travelers fed to her, and the Jorogumo Silk Spider who was protected by a villager because he grew to sympathize heavily with her. The build-up towards Sabame harboring the moth demon was intense given how much tension there was with the eerie feeling that something wasn’t right with him. Between his eyes and the plain look on his face, there had been something inhuman about how he behaved. What this tells us about his village and his relationship with the moth demon will be revealed with the next episode as will the role that they likely played in the temple burning and the formation of ghouls like the large baby and the lanky woman.

One aspect of the episode that made this episode a pivotal next step in Hyakkimaru and Dororo’s journeys is how it explored both of their motives. With Dororo discovering the mark on her back, she’s left to guess what exactly it’s all supposed to mean. The wandering monk has a general idea of what it symbolizes as a road map, but what Dororo has to figure out is how it was intended on being a map that her parents gave her to guide her towards their treasures. What Dororo will do once she reaches her answer and eventually uses the aforementioned fortune that the monk says awaits her is anyone’s guess as she is trying to piece together how exactly she’ll be able to enjoy any prosperity she gains without her parents.

Meanwhile, Hyakkimaru has a far bleaker road awaiting him. His goal has always been defined as slaughtering as many demons as possible. But this means that, once he kills all of the demons that would allow him to regain his limbs, his newer, fuller body will still hunger for blood as he knows no other way of life outside of killing demons. Dororo is trying to lead him towards a normal path of being in touch with his humanity, but after years of hunting demons for some sense of clarity, it’s become his way of life to the point that he sees no other future awaiting him despite Dororo’s pleas for him to reflect on everything he could be doing once he gets his full body back. When the monk asks if Hyakkimaru would continue killing until he wiped out his father’s land once he’s done with the demons, there is a cold silence on Hyakkimaru’s behalf as we are left unsure of whether he would want to seek vengeance against his family for what they did to him or if he’ll use his new senses to start life on a fresh page. While the story of Sabame continues to act as another roadblock towards Hyakkimaru’s quest for his body parts, he and Dororo are left with only their thoughts as they piece together what exactly their next step will be once they reach their end goals.

April 15, 2019 at 6:23 pm
  • April 15, 2019 at 9:07 pmzztop

    This episode (and the next) adapts the Mothmother arc of Tezuka’s source manga.
    The arc was split into 2 chapters; this episode rougly covers the 1st.

    The foreshadowing on Dororo’s tattoo is original; although the manga introduced it, its story was only addressed all at once in another arc. I don’t think the tattoo plotline was even used in the 1960s anime, the PS2 game or the live action movie.

    Sabame, 鯖目, literally translates as “mackerel eye”, a little joke from Tezuka’s pen.

    • April 16, 2019 at 9:12 amMagnus Tancred

      A mackerel’s eyes don’t close even when they’re asleep, right? I remember it being a punchline in an old 4koma.

  • April 18, 2019 at 5:13 pmStars

    Knowing now that Hyakkimaru doesn’t really want to think about the future outside of hunting demons actually puts a new spin on him walking away from Dororo/refusing to help him with the giant baby. He’s literally walking away from the conversation, but for a guy who’ lived most of his life fighting to live and not knowing why, thinking about a future where he doesn’t have to do that must be kind of scary