by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Dororo (TV 2019) ?
Dororo came to a climax this week and hardly anyone left unscathed. In “The story of Banmon, part 2,” all of the characters who were previously on parallel paths confronted one another head-on with emotional (not to mention bloody) repercussions. The result is a gut-wrenching midpoint that realizes the most painful truth of Hyakkimaru's existence: his survival is seemingly at odds with everyone else's. Dororo serves as witness to the traumatic family reunion that ends the first half of this story with everything in pieces, sometimes literally.
At long last, Tahomaru has figured out what's going on. Within Daigo's domain, everyone enjoys prosperity. But beyond the Banmon wall, as Dororo's captors tell us, Daigo's domain is considered “the land of monsters.” Tahomaru and his aides visit the Hall of Hell at his father's urging, and Daigo's pact with the demons over his firstborn's body becomes clear. Tahomaru's internal conflict is portrayed beautifully. Over the season, we've spent more time getting to know Tahomaru than in any other version of Dororo, and we've learned that he's a staunchly moral person deep-down. When he initially discovers what his parents have done, he is righteously furious. But when he visits the Hall of Hell, his reasoning transforms into a timeless philosophical Trolley Problem with no clear answer: if you could kill one person to save hundreds, would you? Tahomaru would, even if it means succumbing to the sin of fratricide. Even though he's now an antagonist (par for the course in Dororo canon), this is still the most emphatic portrayal of Tahomaru I've seen. His decision is difficult and certainly made under misguided circumstances, but his reasoning is clear to the viewer.
Dororo can never keep a smile off his face when he reminisces about his mother. So when Hyakkimaru finds his own mom in the midst of a rooftop skirmish, it's no wonder that recounting this fact to Dororo causes them both to smile. Hyakkimaru's tiny smiles are bittersweet, so rare and so often harbingers of subsequent disappointment. This time is no different. Hyakkimaru's reunion with his mother soon turns incredibly dark. “I cannot save you,” she says to him. “No matter how immoral, no matter how much you've suffered, all our people can do is ask for your forgiveness. We must continue to devour you like demons in order to live.” Even his own mother acknowledges that Hyakkimaru has to die in order for the domain to thrive, and it's devastating to see Hyakkimaru's expression when that particular knife twists in his heart. To say his day goes from bad to worse is an understatement; first he cuts out his brother's eye in a duel on the defense and then he watches his mother sacrifice her own life. Here at Banmon, the music quickly goes from crescendo to silence and back again, hitting the right emotional notes for what is certain to be one of the most dramatic scenes in Dororo.
But did Daigo's pact really make the land more prosperous? Or was it Hyakkimaru's mother and her endless prayer to the Goddess of Mercy? We saw that the Goddess of Mercy, through the blind priest Biwamaru's eyes, was a bright and hopeful green before fading away. Perhaps when Hyakkimaru's mother prayed, it was her loyalty that was keeping the land prosperous despite Daigo's sins. Her suicide was a rejection of that faith, which may have unleashed the floodgates for true suffering. I loved the shots that framed Hyakkimaru and Dororo inside the Goddess's halo, indicating their potential role in restoring the balance. Hyakkimaru's crappy family reunion is paralleled with Sukeroku's much more positive one, showing instead of telling that there is still something to be redeemed in this world. This episode marked a devastating and climactic low point in Hyakkimaru's life, but it also establishes that hope, while distant, may still be within our protagonists' reach.
Dororo is currently streaming on Amazon.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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