「どろろと百鬼丸」 (Dororo to Hyakkimaru)
“Dororo and Hyakkimaru”
For our last episode of Dororo, Hyakkimaru’s duel with Tahoumaru comes to a close as a majority of the main characters come together to diffuse the situation. Because Hyakkimaru has finally reached a point where he has moved past his desire to kill Tahoumaru for his eyes back, it allows the cast to gain the closure they have been seeking throughout the series.
The finale conveniently allows Hyakkimaru to calm down and think rationally about casting aside his vengeful wrath to get better acquainted with his younger brother. Tahoumaru’s seething rage over Hyakkimaru gaining a majority of his mother’s attention was just the right breakthrough Hyakkimaru needed to understand how humans continue to feel loss even if they have a roof over their heads and almost all of their limbs. It did feel rushed to not have this slowly eased to us and give Hyakkimaru only one instance of introspection before realizing that he learned quite a bit about empathy throughout his journey with Dororo. Still, it was pleasant to see that they decided to wrap it up on a more optimistic note where Dororo would use her fortune to help revitalize civilization and Hyakkimaru go on a soul-searching trip after he had gained both his limbs and the emotions he needed to take the high road and spare his younger brother and his father. Killing off Nui, Jukai, and Tahoumaru in one fell swoop is much harder to defend. Operating off of the assumption that Nui’s obsession with atonement and Jukai’s suicidal tendencies as reasons why they didn’t bother to carry Tahoumaru with them to the escape cave to safety is also too convenient of an explanation for why they just wrote them out of the picture like that.
It was the ideal way to end Dororo to give a unique twist to the ending that Tezuka previously mapped out. The original manga left us with an open ending where Hyakkimaru continued to look for his lost parts alone, separating from Dororo until the last of the demons is slain. Because the anime narrowed down the number of demons that Hyakkimaru had to fight, it made sense that he would separate from Dororo because he wanted to figure out his role in life now that he has all of the body parts he has and the emotional capacity to use his body responsibly. It makes the payoff all the more rewarding when Dororo reunites with Hyakkimaru in the golden rice fields he aimed to restore for Mio.
If I’m being honest, it was intimidating at first to write about Dororo during the Winter. I came to embrace my reputation as the moe blogger and felt like my expertise in slice-of-life or comedy worked against me in writing on more serious fare. Especially when the first half of Dororo was unbelievably outstanding. Between the anime’s examination on the toll that war can take on people whether they be peasants, workers, samurai, or Hyakkimaru and Dororo themselves and the devastating degree of tragedy that came from the anime’s dramatic moments such as Mio’s arc, Jukai’s origin story, and Hyakkimaru meeting his family for the first time, it was incredibly poignant. So much to the point that I didn’t want to disgrace it by taking it on with the brevity and weight it deserved with how well it executed both Tezuka Osamu’s material and the original episodes that the anime staff came up with. Everything from the writing and art direction to the music and voice acting was spot-on and could easily be a shoo-in for AOTY immediately as of the first few months of 2019.
I hit my stride with the series and absolutely devoured it much like the ravenous and horrific demons that plagued the world of Dororo, but unfortunately, it wasn’t my insecurity that made the anime harder to look forward to blogging; it was the direction that the second half of the anime took to get from Point B to Point C. The second cour started out with the powerhouse episode that was the flashback of Dororo’s upbringing and the series of tragedies that the young girl faced when both of her parents died. There was a reason to believe that the series could continue to keep this momentum going, but as the episodes started to pass by, it became apparent that there were issues in building up to the climax where Hyakkimaru regains his body’s full capabilities. The demons that Hyakkimaru and Dororo would encounter became inconsequential save for their ability to cause the pair to go into the same routine where Dororo tries to get Hyakkimaru to calm down to no avail as he gladly tears more apart and shrugs off his pint-sized partner’s warnings with ease. Dororo’s pathway to her family’s treasure was stunted by efforts to legitimize shark demons and milk sympathy from that scumbag Itachi. One comedic filler episode also aimed to throw the anime off-track by having very little value to make it a worthwhile inclusion to their journey. To add icing on the cake, the artwork had become noticeably worse with every new episode, amplifying at its worst when Hyakkimaru was in the moth demon’s village. Although it steered back into decent territory by the time the anime was ready to confront Tahoumaru and Hyakkimaru’s seething rage as they resort to less angelic methods of achieving their goals, the damage done had already hindered the series from being perfect from start-to-finish.
In hindsight, Dororo had a great trajectory towards its overall story that helps to transcend it beyond its original, unfinished source. It effectively tells the tale of Hyakkimaru in a way that emphasizes the suffering that comes from loss and the fight to regain that which is lost. Through the pain that Hyakkimaru experiences, his journey worsens until he is forced to confront what it means to be human as he recovers almost all of his missing body parts. His self-reflective journey to learn who he is and what it means to be human after spending his entire light without most of his body being intact is reasonably stunted, but ultimately rewarding when he finally learns that being human means having to constantly search for that which is lost or unfulfilled. At the same time, Dororo takes on the responsibility of her parents by coming to realize how much power and influence she has towards using her own capabilities to usher in a new era of change. Some of the strongest development came from the side-characters as Hyakkimaru’s mother takes a proactive role in trying to correct her presumed powerlessness and taking on the responsibility to bring her sons together and acknowledge the shameful feelings she left repressed and inspire those around her to take measures to revitalize their land without spilling any more blood. The anime also gives Jukai and Biwamaru far more to work with as rugged men worn down by conflict who aim to guide Hyakkimaru and Dororo towards the right direction in spite of their best efforts to move ahead from the past or get through to Hyakkimaru when their words fall on the ears of a man too incensed by vengeance for reason. Although the second half of the anime hadn’t reached the heights that its first cour had hit time and time again, Dororo remains one of the best anime you could catch this year. It was nice to follow Hyakkimaru and Dororo’s journey and great to see that they were able to not only bring Tezuka’s manga to life, but also build upon the original material so that it could end on a rewarding, conclusive, and satisfying note.