by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 16 of
Dororo (TV 2019) ?
Dororo lives up to its name this week, with Hyakkimaru out of the picture. In “The story of Shiranui,” Dororo must survive by his wits alone, without Big Bro to come to the rescue. As Dororo gets stuck between two morally gray opponents, this episode is frequently painful to watch—illustrating that in the war-torn Sengoku period, nobody who manages to survive comes out looking like a hero.
I hate Itachi (as the show wants me to) but I love his inclusion in this show. He's loyal only to himself, a trait that has helped him survive in these desperate times, even if it hasn't made him many friends along the way. It's a reminder that war makes monsters out of men; if Itachi had been born into more peaceful times, the content of his character never would have been tested. He's simply a flawed human. He digs up Dororo's mom's grave to find out about the gold but tells Dororo he regrets doing it and eventually apologizes. Even though Itachi has found himself the leader of a new band of brigands, his easy acceptance of defeat under pressure shows that he's still a follower at heart. When the group is stuck on a boat facing certain death, Itachi and his crew turn to a literal child instead for a survival plan. Dororo even warned them not to get on that boat in the first place! Dororo is even more likable in contrast to Itachi, because struggling to survive hasn't made him more selfish yet.
On the other hand, we have Shiranui, a creature just as self-centered, dangerous, and unpredictable as Itachi. This unsettling youth claims he fed his own arm (not to mention his entire village) to his pet sharks to give them a taste for human flesh. There's also the implication that Shiranui is a cannibal; after Jiromaru brings him a brigand's arm, he waves the shark away saying he'll eat later. Shiranui sees people as food, but it's no surprise that coming of age in the warring states period has given him such a warped view of humankind that he can only trust his man-eating sharks. Shiranui is pretty messed up, but Dororo shows compassion toward the man who just hours ago tried to kill him, begging Itachi not to beat Shiranui to death. Since this is a two-parter, that decision may end up being Dororo's salvation.
Right after Dororo saves Itachi's life, the power dynamic shifts right back to where it was before, as a strong adult prepares to make a small child suffer for his greed. It was heartbreaking to see Dororo stripped and curled up into a ball with shame. Itachi's surprise and his comments about Dororo being raised so thoroughly as a boy that everyone just assumed further cements my dedication to using he/him pronouns for the character. Not only has he known no other way of life outside of boyhood, but he's happier that way! If only Hyakkimaru could swoop in and save him, but he seems to be getting sidetracked by a potential reunion with his foster dad, so it looks like Dororo will have to navigate this one alone—intensely raising the stakes. Stuck between two volatile and self-centered forces, Dororo's day is only going to get worse. But at the same time, these morally gray characters are giving the show new depth. The world is rarely as simple as good vs. evil, and Dororo goes out of its way to drive that difficult truth home.
Dororo is currently streaming on Amazon.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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