「問答の巻」 (Mondou no Maki)
“The Story of Questions and Answers”
Expectations were all over the place on how this episode would go as it was one of the more explicitly anime-only stories, reintroducing Jukai as he reunites with the young boy he raised. But despite Jukai only honing in on the parts of Hyakkimaru that have yet to fully realize the extent of his own humanity, he comes to realize that the growth that Hyakkimaru has undergone wasn’t fully stunted as he shows Jukai how he sees him in his heart as the man who gave him a chance.
Jukai’s introductory episode did wonders in fleshing out his character as the atrocities he committed under Lord Shiba continued to fuel the guilt that caused him to create prosthetics to atone for his sins. This episode examines how he hasn’t stopped carrying this burden, especially knowing how Hyakkimaru’s return reminds him of the measures he wasn’t able to take to prevent him from being a ruthless demon slayer. When he sees parts of his past self in Hyakkimaru’s insistence to have his leg fixed so he can return to killing demons, he outright refuses, knowing that the path he treads will quickly result in his body count rising beyond the world of the demons who took his limbs. In his guilt, he can’t help but feel like his efforts to save a baby only caused more suffering as he is only able to project Hyakkimaru’s desperation to continue killing more and more demons onto his failure to keep him from thrusting himself into the internal and external hell that is the battlefield. His idea that the more of his body Hyakkimaru gains, the more suffering he causes himself is particularly significant as the karma Houdini behind his demon-slaying seems to only restore parts of Hyakkimaru that can feel pain and remain injured. Not just this, but with the path of blood Hyakkimaru walks, Jukai is able to foretell that many non-demons are bound to be caught in the line of fire as Hyakkimaru will have to kill more than just demons if he defines himself by his ability to kill. In a way, Jukai’s self-loathing mirrors the state that Hyakkimaru’s mother is in as their shared guilt over their helplessness to save Hyakkimaru from his fate causes them to think of themselves in only their worst light.
It’s an important episode for Hyakkimaru as well since it puts him in the tough situation of confronting his own motives. Unable to win Jukai over to get him to fix his leg, he grows frustrated as he insists that he needs it to regain his body. His need to have his own body for himself drives him towards the one-track-minded goal of needing to continue killing to achieve this goal. While Jukai discusses how the body count can only rise if he treads his path alone, Hyakkimaru mentions Dororo and how she’s followed him up to this point. Jukai finds that Dororo would ultimately be the one to help Hyakkimaru find his humanity, but in the process, Hyakkimaru shows him that he does have more humanity to him through what Dororo has helped him realize. Through his bond with Dororo, it was possible for him to see how significant Jukai is to him and call him his “mama”.
While Hyakkimaru’s grapplings with his humanity lie on whether he can hone in on his connection with Dororo enough so to identify himself as more than just a demon slayer, Tahoumaru’s decline is resulted from how he internalizes his empire’s prosperity. After his father convinced him to maintain his empire’s demonic influence to protect his village, he’s been insistent on trying to shut out as many of his emotions as possible. By forcibly making himself more robotic in his emotional core, his regression attempts to position himself in the same situation as Hyakkimaru by driving him to define himself by the cold and blood-thirsty measures he takes to accomplish his goals. But whereas Dororo acts as the emotional crutch that Hyakkimaru needs to realize the worth behind keeping his emotions grounded, his retainers can only disagree in disbelief over the lengths that Tahoumaru goes to position himself as a worthy successor to his father’s throne. Hyogo, in particular, is taken aback with Tahoumaru’s shift in morals as he burns down a building to get rid of an entire family of rat demons and how much he pushes himself to hold back his emotions if it means he can protect his land and people at any cost. With the intersection that is bound to happen as Hyakkimaru and Tahoumaru head to the same island that Dororo is trapped on, the next few episodes are looking to be highly explosive with a possible reunion that Hyakkimaru would have with both Dororo and Tahoumaru.