「逆流[ぎゃくる]の巻」 (Gyakuru no Maki)
“The Story of Gyakuru”
With Dororo reaching its conclusion by Episode 24, this week’s episode aims to provide the backbone of what will be the anime’s end-game. Now that the Daigo empire is declaring war on Asakura, they make a power move to bait Hyakkimaru into a confrontation. However, at this point, Hyakkimaru is at wit’s end and is more than happy to oblige them with a head-on fight to the death. It might be the exact outcome that Dororo didn’t want to see Hyakkimaru come to, but unfortunately, the plot is not in her favor as the two parties begin clashing together with the same bloodlust in mind.
One disappointing detail in this week’s story is how Hyakkimaru and Dororo are stuck in the same spot that they were in episodes ago. Hyakkimaru is still on a violent warpath to cut through the Daigo empire to get his body back no matter the cost. After the last episode ended with him mindlessly slaughtering the Nue demon in a desperate attempt to get a part of his body back, he reverted back to his original mindset from the moth episode by demanding that blood be paid to regain his body. The only difference is that, instead of running off in a different direction, Dororo is coerced by Hyakkimaru to stick around using the guilt around him wanting to see and feel as she does to make her stay for him to threaten passing civilians and hack off the limbs of Tahoumaru’s retainers. It’d honestly be difficult to see an ending that would allow Hyakkimaru to not become the demon that the Monk and Dororo fear he’d shift into when he’s kept the same bloodthirsty mindset throughout the second half of the anime. Having Dororo get abducted after being thrown off a cliff by an exploding horse certainly won’t get him in a hopeful enough mindset to not slaughter countless people in a last-ditch effort to get his entire body back.
But what sets this episode apart is how much love it gives to Tahoumaru’s retainers, Mutsu and Hyogo. Their loyalty to the royal family is explained in a flashback where the two are rescued by Daigo himself, who takes them in after they were imprisoned and enslaved as children to be raised alongside Tahoumaru. It’s hard not to feel guilty for them being on the antagonistic side of the plot as they are far more sympathetic as survivors of a conflict who were given a second lease at life by someone who happened to ally himself with demons. Mutsu’s illness also puts a clock on whether the illness will eventually overtake them. They’re even critical of Daigo’s henchman for getting the idea to abduct a child to get the tactical advantage over Hyakkimaru. Had it not been for Hyakkimaru’s struggles and their treatment of him, Tahoumaru, Mutsu, Hyogo, and perhaps even Daigo would likely be looked at on fonder terms. But in an impressively fluid fight sequence, it becomes all the clearer that their inability to humanize Hyakkimaru as nothing more than a bane to their kingdom is what ultimately makes them adversarial towards his quest to regain his sight, sensations, and limbs. The anime does get kudos for humanizing the trio though and giving them all reasons to serve their country, whether it be to repay them for giving them a second chance or to bring about a new era that takes better care of its people. Although the odds are stacked against Hyakkimaru at the moment with Dororo being kidnapped again, the next episode shows potential for growth on his behalf when he is faced with the presence of Midoro, the enchanted flaming steed that was reanimated from the exploded horse bits and evolved from a mere Ponyta to the magestic Rapidash.