「地獄変の巻」 (Jigokuhen no Maki)
“The Story of the Scene from Hell”
This week’s episode concludes Dororo and Hyakkimaru’s stay at Sabame’s village on a dire note. Directed by the infamous episode director of Gurren Lagann‘s fourth episode (the “breathing deeply” one), this episode captures the unwavering fury and violent backlash that follows Hyakkimaru’s demon-slaying journey through an aesthetic that is as raw and messy as the episode’s underlying conflict.
While Sabame’s allegiance to the moth demon resembled the village compromised by Bandai, his town actually has more in common with Daigo’s empire than it seems. For instance, Sabame’s prosperity is derived entirely from demonic influence as the bales and bales of rice that his village was able to produce is all due to Sabame and his citizens’ outright approval of turning to demons for help. But rather than trying to fabricate a mythos of self-earned glory like Daigo, the whole town is in on what Sabame did as they justify using demons to avoid the grim fate of killing one another for food and survival as they used to. As with most demonic pacts, the sacrifice they make to gain such prosperity is to rob the lives of others, and for Sabame’s village to succeed, their target-of-choice was a temple full of children. It explains the presence of the large baby as it was a collection of the spirits of the deceased children murdered to fulfill the demon’s sacrifice. There is an underlying conflict regarding the morality of triggering a spiritual uprising to exact revenge on the village for killing the nuns and children that satiated the demon moth enough to bless the land with bountiful fields of rice.
Much of this conflict comes to a head with Hyakkimaru’s one-track-mind. Because he is so fixated on killing the demons he needs to in order to restore his body, he doesn’t take into account the human toll that comes with his vengeance. Although Dororo helped spark the fire, it was Hyakkimaru’s blade that effectively wiped out any chance for the village to recover. Much like Sabame’s story of famine and savagery, the outcome of the moth demon’s demise would return the village to these times as the distraught villagers are quick to try to fight for one another’s rice. Dororo might have been upset to see the villagers pay the price for their pact with demons and it didn’t help that there were other children in the village who are affected by losing their homes and parental figures. This is not the case for Hyakkimaru. Far from it, in fact, as he shows no concern for the plight that was left behind as they left the village. Having brutally regained his spine did little to quench his thirst for revenge as every episode finds him more and more focused on killing demons than anything else.
It’s Hyakkimaru’s insistence in trudging forward and ignoring anything other than the instinctual force that compels him to kill more demons that causes a rift between him and Dororo. After finding out the truth behind the village and being saved by the souls of the sacrificed children, Dororo finds herself at odds with the role that she and Hyakkimaru played in the town’s crumbling. Even if the villagers were deplorable in killing numerous children, she retains a sense of guilt from the pattern that tends to come from the demons they kill causing more lives to be thrown away, like a demonic game of Jenga where taking one demon away could cost the lives of hundreds. It’s not something that Hyakkimaru has the time or patience to focus on, but in the grand scheme of things, Dororo has been conscious about trying to get Hyakkimaru to embrace his newfound humanity by being more civil and aware of avoiding consequences that cost more human life. Hyakkimaru’s lack of concern for the newly homeless villagers was the last straw for Dororo as she mournfully turned away from Hyakkimaru as he would continue remaining more fixated on the killing and destruction that the monk warned him against than any kind of empathy. This wasn’t the most opportune time as Itachi swung in with the unfortunate knowledge of knowing Dororo had the second half of the map on her back. It will be neat to see what happens to Hyakkimaru from here as it seems that his concern for Dororo’s absence could cause him to reflect back on what he did that hurt her and ultimately lead him closer to growing to be a more empathetic person as he regains even more of his humanity in the process.