「鬼神の巻」 (Kishin no Maki)
“The Story of the Demons”
With Dororo‘s final episode inching closer and closer, the stakes continue to rise when Hyakkimaru has only one more demon to kill to regain all of his senses. But as Hyakkimaru continues to get incensed by anyone blocking his path towards getting his eyes back, the rest of the cast must contemplate how they will co-exist in the world with the future looking grimmer by the minute. The anime uses this next-to-last episode to solidify the notion that, no matter if Hyakkimaru or Tahoumaru wins their duel, there will be underlying consequences that will require more than just demonic influence or divine intervention to rely on.
The first half of the episode served to set the stage for a final duel between Hyakkimaru and Tahoumaru. The Rapidash of vengeance had the sole responsibility of eliminating Mutsu and Hyogo as the horse uses its last moments to kill both of them. Hyogo especially got the short end of the stick when he died from getting his head ripped from his body by a horse, flailing about through the last vestiges of his demonic arm’s influence like a headless chicken before collapsing. While it helped to make sure that Hyakkimaru’s hands and blade were untarnished by the blood of Tahoumaru’s retainers and friends, it mainly helped to get everyone else in the battlefield out of the way so that the two brothers could duke it out alone. It was impactful when Tahoumaru reacted to his retainers’ deaths since they were his closest companions who he had a mutual attachment to, committing himself to ensure their safety and comfort as they assure his. They pulled a similar move with the Rapidash and its child, but since we’ve spent more time with Mutsu and Hyogo, it stings far more to see Tahoumaru lose the two people that made him feel more human in the midst of his warpath to get rid of Hyakkimaru.
But what makes this episode meaningful is when Dororo is discussing Hyakkimaru and the demons with Nuinokata, Biwamaru, and the lost villagers. While two of the villagers are quick to jump towards the logic of allowing Hyakkimaru to get defeated if it means that it would save Daigo’s nation from perishing, Nuinokata helps rein in that line of thought by acknowledging that it would seem like a likely solution. However, “seem” is the key word as their prosperity would merely come from another’s hands, leaving them unprepared to face the world if that fortune were to reverse. This rationale is at its most valuable at this point considering that much of the suffering that had plagued the land had been a lack of preparedness towards draughts and turmoil. When their fortunes reversed, rather than being able to come together to find a solution outside of relying on the demons to help them out, Daigo had used the samurai to wage wars and use conflict as a means of regaining his fortunes. But force and conflict had only brought suffering, decay, and poverty to wherever Daigo’s troops and samurai roamed. War in Dororo is presented as completely unsustainable for the survival of not just nations, but people as well with the more blood-thirsty characters running the risk of being consumed by their lust for war, vengeance, and blood, driving otherwise well-intentioned people to become demons. It’s what drove Daigo and Tahoumaru to gladly use Hyakkimaru as a sacrifice for their nation’s well-being, and it is what Biwamaru and Dororo fear will transform Hyakkimaru into a demon who knows no other way of living than to find more and more people and demons to kill. As a majority of the main cast descends on the flaming castle where Hyakkimaru and Tahoumaru are having their final duel, it begs to question whether the victor will give in to their demonic urges, or if they will be able to walk away with a clear conscience and a solution that could bring about prosperity to their world without giving in to their rage.