by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 15 of
Dororo (TV 2019) ?
I'll be blunt: this is the worst-looking episode of Dororo yet, in terms of both storyboarding and animation. However, it's not lacking in artistic vision. You can credit episode fifteen's fuzzy look to its director, Osamu Kobayashi, an industry veteran whose work just looks like that. While the narrative of “The story of the scene from hell” is interesting and nuanced, the choppy scenes and ugly animation make its finer points difficult to appreciate.
My first exposure to Osamu Kobayashi was episode four of Gurren Lagann. I understand now that Kobayashi's style is intentionally experimental, but at the time, it had me worried that something was wrong with my favorite show. The resulting controversy over that episode's divergent look led to a Gainax board member's resignation, though the drama was over that board member's harsh comments to complaining fans and not the look of the episode itself. This week's Dororo looked rough to me because of Kobayashi's preference for switching between oddly flat facial closeups and blurry, abstract shots of scenery. His editing also gave me whiplash, especially when it swapped between Hyakkimaru tailing the unsettling Sabame and Dororo's adventures beneath the rice warehouse's hidden trap door. I think both scenes would have had more emotional impact if they had been conveyed consecutively, rather than in constantly alternating glimpses.
After Dororo and Hyakkimaru learn the town's secret, that Sabame and the villagers fed orphan children to demons in order to save their own skins, things quickly go south. While Hyakkimaru kills the town's demonic protector, Dororo knocks over the oil used to burn the orphanage, though he's only partially responsible for the fire that engulfs the village (a demon moth does the rest). Now that their food supply is gone, the villagers quickly turn on each other, showing that the peace Sabame built on a foundation of evil deeds would not last; like the wandering priest Biwamaru told Dororo, it's easy to be benevolent when you have a full belly, but it's hard when your own circumstances aren't great. “Did we do the right thing?” Dororo asks Hyakkimaru. “This happened because we came here.” Hyakkimaru seems unbothered, but to Dororo and the audience, this is becoming more complicated. The children of the village did nothing wrong. Like Biwamaru said, killing demons here and there won't change the world. It will continue to be unjust as always, and Dororo fears that Hyakkimaru might become a demon himself.
The only visuals I liked in this episode were the watercolor-wash green backdrops that looked to be right out of the Ukiyo-e style, and the hypnotic character design of this episode's main baddie, the Maimai-onba, Sabame's demonic moth wife with spirals on her wings. She turns out to be one of the demons who has possessed part of Hyakkimaru, and he regains his spine upon her death—a body part I didn't even realize was on the list! Hyakkimaru's doctor is nothing short of a genius to create a prosthetic spine with spools of thread! But the duo's problems are far from over, especially now that Hyakkimaru's brother is regaining his fighting prowess sans one eye, and Itachi knows about the map on Dororo's back. Stylistic choices made this episode an unexpected low point, but the final moments of this episode show there's still a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks.
Dororo is currently streaming on Amazon.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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