by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 14 of
Dororo (TV 2019) ?
It's interesting that this episode of Dororo isn't marked as a two-parter when it clearly ends without a resolution. It doesn't seem to be a translation error (as much as I'd like to blame Amazon Prime, considering how mad I already am at them for releasing this episode so late). But while streaming services (particularly Amazon) have their problems from time to time, these reviews evaluate the quality of the show's content itself, and in that respect, this episode didn't disappoint. While the story still dangles loose ends that leave it feeling more cryptic than I'd like, this week offers a satisfying story about the many variations that families can take.
The theme is all about family this week. There's the family you're born with, as shown through a somber flashback to Dororo's parents as they discuss what to do about the samurai treasure that will eventually become Dororo's legacy. Dororo's mom refuses to learn the location of the treasure, even though it would have ensured her survival, because her dedication to the family's shared ideals is more important. There's also the found family at the center of this story—Dororo and Hyakkimaru. The obvious family connection they share is as siblings, especially since Dororo frequently calls Hyakkimaru “big bro.” But they take turns protecting one another; Hyakkimaru through his impressive strength, and Dororo through his life experience and understanding of human love, which he attempts to pass on to Hyakkimaru by communicating how much he cares about him in various ways. At the old monk Biwamaru's prompting, Dororo attempts to initiate a discussion about the future with Hyakkimaru. Their closeness is most visible in Dororo clinging to Hyakkimaru or sharing his bed, but this failed discussion, which implies that Dororo wants to keep traveling with Hyakkimaru indefinitely, shows more clearly than ever that he sees him as his new family.
In “The story of Sabame,” there's a strange new family structure made up of humans and monsters alike. Between Sabame's wall-eyed stare and fishy story about a natural disaster that completely ignores the oil spilled right by the site of the burned temple, we know from the beginning that something is off about this ostensibly kind rich man. He treats Dororo and Hyakkimaru like kings (perhaps giving them a taste of what life would be like if they follow Biwamaru's suggestion to seek out Dororo's buried inheritance), but it appears that he wants their lives in exchange, to feed a (literally) monstrous woman and also children with his houseguests' bodies. It'll be tantalizing to spend the week (or longer, depending on Amazon's whims) dissecting the meat of the mystery so far. My theory is that whatever happens, it'll result in Hyakkimaru finally regaining his sight—Sadame's eyes are just so attention-getting.
What of the enormous monster baby that clung to Dororo or the motherly ayakashi who pointed out the oil spill to Hyakkimaru? This seemingly familial pair generates more questions than they answer. It's difficult to evaluate a two-parter when it leaves so much unresolved by design. Instead, it's the reward of the episode's overall message that makes me regard it so highly. Not all of the families featured are functional or healthy, but each unit shows a different side of the same struggle—sometimes people act against their own interests in order to find acceptance within a family unit. Everyone wants a group to which they feel like they belong.
Dororo is currently streaming on Amazon.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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