by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 13 of
Dororo (TV 2019) ?
Dororo took a week off between cours, and it was sorely missed. Between its expressive visuals, minimalist color palette, and evocative musical score, this was one of the best shows of Winter 2019, so it's great that it's sticking around another season. The show wastes no time returning viewers to the story at its most affecting, giving us moments of true elation and tragedy all in one short episode. In “The story of the Blank-faced Buddha,” the show returns from a focus on Hyakkimaru back to Dororo for a real emotional gut punch.
Now that we're in the second cour of the show, there are new opening and ending sequences to match. I'm wistful that the “party is over,” but these new sequences are just as promising, and the ending sequence, which features blurred visuals evocative of Hyakkimaru's view of the world, gives me hope that we'll see him regain his sight as the anime progresses. But that's not happening yet: as Dororo points out early on, Hyakkimaru didn't regain anything after fighting the fox spirit last time. Instead, he got insomnia as he struggled to deal with his sudden family drama (and it's good that Mom survived her suicide attempt). Dororo wants Hyakkimaru to chill out, so he even lies about the presence of a demon near a relaxing hot spring in order to coax his stubborn big brother into visiting.
Instead, the pair run into Okaka, whose name's similarity to “mama” (Okaa-san) is no coincidence. Okaka takes on the appearance and voice of Dororo's mother, revealing a more vulnerable side to this normally tough and proud child. Dororo has been on his own for so long in a world that's dead set on dealing him a bad hand. His bond with Hyakkimaru is linked to an obvious anxiety that his “bro” will leave him behind. Dororo was intent on helping Hyakkimaru unwind, but he finds his own solace, however temporary, in Okaka. Never mind that Okaka is actually a sculptor twisted by an obsession with carving and re-carving (and slicing off innocent travelers' faces in the process) the face of a giant possessed Buddha statue. The face-stealer is loosely based on Tezuka's original Dororo manga, as an interpretation of a Buddhist myth that many Westerners may have seen before in Avatar: The Last Airbender, when Aang battles a version of this monster. But Hyakkimaru's lack of vision provokes an interesting weakness in the monster—you can't mimic the face of a mother that a child has never seen. It's another example of how Hyakkimaru's disabilities can prove to be strengths in this show. It makes me hope that Dororo gets an English dub so blind Western fans can watch it.
Okaka is far beyond redemption, but through Dororo's smile, she experiences a final moment of solace. I love the nuance of the animation, which shows Dororo's pained smile performed out of kindness at the same time that he's essentially losing his mother for the second time. Dororo finally receives some kindness from an increasingly talkative Hyakkimaru just when he needs it most, and the pair does visit the hot spring after all. The episode ends on a note of surprise rather than resolution when it becomes apparent that there's a burn on Dororo's back that seems to be in the shape of a map. Hyakkimaru's plotline is fully taking a backseat to Dororo's this week, but this show needs both of its protagonists to shine. Maybe this new discovery will bring the duo some good fortune for a change.
Dororo is currently streaming on Amazon.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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