Dororo
Episode 21

by Lauren Orsini,

How would you rate episode 21 of
Dororo (TV 2019) ?

We continue the tumultuous ramp-up to Dororo's finale, and this week the stakes are higher than ever. As Daigo's lands descend into ever more dire crisis, Hyakkimaru is more determined than ever to get his body back—and Tahomaru and his ranks are more desperate than ever to prevent him from doing so. Caught up in the conflict are all the people who care about the two brothers: Dororo, Mutsu, and Hyogo. As these three and more get caught in the crossfire and bear the brunt of the havoc that the brothers are wreaking upon each other, “The story of breaking the cycle of suffering” becomes a more optimistic title than this episode deserves. It's a dark episode rife with symbolism that suggests things will get worse before they get better.

Hyakkimaru wants his body back, but at what cost? His own mom trivializes this struggle by comparing him to a kid trying to take back his “toys.” Even Dororo has his misgivings, saying that if Hyakkimaru weighs his own body over his parents' lives, he won't be able to be with them. “I'll have you,” Hyakki insists, underlining just how close the two have gotten. Dororo protests that he won't stick around: “I don't want you to become someone else. I'm scared.” But even Dororo can't respond to Hyakkimaru's surprisingly eloquent reasoning for wanting to take back what's his: “To touch with my hands. To see with my eyes. I want to feel. Just like you.” It's such a simple thing that most people take for granted, and Hyakki is so close to getting it back. This moves Dororo to tears. It's not about him feeling “incomplete,” it's about becoming closer to the person he cares about.

That said, it's not only Hyakkimaru or Daigo or Tahomaru who is affected by this conflict. Whole villages are feeling the results of the misfortune overcoming the land. Of course, how much of this misfortune is simply exacerbated by Daigo himself? When Daigo hears of a plague affecting multiple villages, he orders them burnt and their denizens killed. When he hears of an invading force, he has his troops recruit every able-bodied man, even if that dooms the crops by leaving too much work for the remaining women and children to tend. They take one family's “breadwinner,” a white horse who still has a young foal, and treat it so roughly that it's difficult to watch. As that horse is used as a sacrificial pawn, slaughtered into pieces, it repeats the titular “cycle of suffering” that started when Hyakkimaru's body was split up and fed to demons. Even as the horse transforms into something like Rapidash, its role feels like a waste and I think that's intentional—it's the senseless death of yet another innocent life caught in the crossfire.

Perhaps the pair that has it even worse than Hyakki and Dororo at this point is Hyogo and Mutsu. Mutsu tells Tahomaru that they are his right and left hand respectively, so it's true dramatic irony when Hyakki cuts off Mutsu's right arm and Hyogo's left. Even before that, Mutsu was in trouble—his life essence was faded in Hyakki's vision. The red patches on their neck are clearly some sort of plague, and even if Tahomaru makes it, his aides are in rough shape. The fight between the brothers looks fantastic this episode—I liked the different cuts to show their movement through dynamic angles. But it's laughable to think that Tahomaru will ever be Hyakki's equal in a one-on-one. Still, numbers make up the difference and our protagonist duo end the episode separated once again, calling out each other's names.

Things look bad indeed by the end of this installment of Dororo. The one silver lining is the ending sequence, where a final shot of Dororo is now shown in perfect clarity. I didn't realize until now, but the music is becoming less muffled too. In three episodes, it seems that Hyakki will have his sight and hands back. But how many living things will be sacrificed for him to get to that point? And what kind of person will Hyakkimaru become? This difficult yet gripping episode shows how many people will be haplessly affected by one man's struggle.

Rating:

Dororo is currently streaming on Amazon.

Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.


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