by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 22 of
Dororo (TV 2019) ?
As Dororo approaches its endgame, this is turning out to be the worst family reunion ever. Mom, Dad, and each of their boys are all off doing largely destructive things. As they each fixate on their own problems, the people who love them get swept up in the mess. “The Story of Nui” reminds us that while Dororo is many things—an adventure story, a supernatural fable, and a travelogue—it is primarily a story about relationships. With the castle in chaos, each member of the ruling family is at odds with one another, showing that the real discord at the center of Dororo is human rather than demon in origin. This episode is all buildup for an unknown climax, so its success as a story is less easy to assess, but it does deliver its character development from the heart.
Nui, Hyakkimaru and Tahomaru's mom, is not an easy character to appraise. She didn't want to give up her firstborn baby, but she wasn't given a choice. She was an absentee mom to her second child, but considering her grief over losing the first one, who are we to judge? Her stunt at the series midpoint was a culmination of her character up to that point, as a well-meaning but ineffective show of remorse. Now Nui is getting her own episode, and with it a new chance to impact the plot. When she escapes the castle with Dororo and finally gets some agency of her own, she wastes no time tending to the sick in the castle village. Meanwhile, Dororo spends the episode wrestling with the same questions of whether Nui is a good mom or not. I think by the time Nui hides him under her robes and he is recalcitrant to leave her maternal embrace, he's made up his mind. Nui says she doesn't regret what she did as a lord's wife, but she clearly has regrets as a mother when she tells Dororo about the day of Hyakkimaru's birth: “I felt he was the most precious thing in my life." Dororo asks Nui later, “Could you tell that to him when we meet him? So he knows that his mama really cared for him.” Nui has made some poor choices almost entirely through her passivity, but next episode might be her time to finally shine.
Meanwhile, Mutsu is also struggling with familial ties. Laid low by the plague and an impromptu amputation, the bodyguard is unable to fight alongside Tahomaru any longer. This does not sit well with them as they recall the words of Daigo's spy last episode: “Why are you the ones being protected by him?” There's still one thing Mutsu has left to offer—their life. When Hyogo and Tahomaru find Mutsu at the Hall of Hell, it leads them all to a loan from the demons that will almost certainly seal their fate. Hyogo and Mutsu each take one of Hyakki's arms, while Tahomaru acquires both of his eyes. Now this has become a zero-sum game; if Hyakkimaru is still fully committed to taking back what's his, he'll have to kill his brother and his aides in the process. Mutsu's decision is a desperate one, prioritizing short-term gains over any hope of longevity, and it's a demonstration of how even the most well-meaning things we do for love can harm the person we care about.
With the priest in town and Hyakkimaru's adoptive parent on the outskirts of the castle grounds, all of the surviving Dororo characters have gathered in one place for the final showdown. In the midst of everything is Hyakkimaru, who must fight against Daigo's entire army while also wrestling with the demon inside himself. “Please just stay the bro you are” is Dororo's prayer contrasted against Hyakki's fiery horse-demon slaughter-fest. Hyakki's only hope lies in the power of his scattered loved ones to help him regain his humanity. This emotional episode demonstrates that it won't be Hyakki's physical strength, but the strength of his interpersonal relationships that saves the day.
Dororo is currently streaming on Amazon.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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