by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Dororo (TV 2019) ?
War has taken so much from the characters of Dororo. But will it also take Hyakkimaru's humanity? This week's culmination of “The Story of the Moriko Song” two-parter was a tragedy where everything was at stake and not everyone made it out alive. The episode's stark and merciless portrayal of cause and effect portrays a world with nature out of balance. Even well-intentioned actions can have deadly consequences in this emotional episode that shows just how difficult a journey Dororo and Hyakkimaru still have ahead of them.
We launch right back into this two-parter with one leg down for the count, but also with a little more time to get to know Mio and her found family. While last week I critiqued the unnecessary veil of mystery around Mio's profession, I was particularly impressed with its resolution. Dororo telling Mio about the “one thing [his mother] would never do, no matter how hungry they got,” showed the trauma his discovery surfaced. His conclusion, that Mio is admirable for doing whatever it takes to be alive today, is surprisingly mature. It makes me wonder if Mio's profession was ever a mystery to the orphans at all.
“War is bad” is such an enduring message in so many stories that it's difficult to keep the theme impactful without a major emotional payoff. That's probably why Mappa chose to tell “The Story of the Moriko Song” in two parts. The first episode acquainted us with the orphans, Mio, and the depths she goes to in order to survive. The second episode makes their senseless deaths hurt dearly. Mio wasn't careful on her way back home, and some of the soldiers suspected her after being told to watch out for spies. In this high-tension warzone, that suspicion was strong enough to make them slaughter her and all the injured children she lived with.
It's presented as an ironic moment that tragedy strikes at the exact time Hyakkimaru is off impulsively fighting the ant lion. There was no need for him to fight right then, so the senseless murder is presented as a consequence of the warrior's impatience. This episode presents a clear if merciless view of a world where every action has meaning but not always the intended result. Because Hyakkimaru defeated the demon and recovered his right leg (again), the drought continued. Because the drought continued, Hyakkimaru's dad grew more suspicious that something is up with his demon pact. Because of the demon pact, Hyakkimaru's mother lost her first son and could never fully devote herself to her second. Because her first son was busy fighting a demon to reclaim his body, he wasn't aware that Mio was attacked until he heard her dying lips utter one final song. It's no wonder that Hyakkimaru explodes right then, killing the soldiers just as indiscriminately as they killed the children—until Dororo intervenes. Though the soldiers don't deserve mercy, Dororo is trying to ensure that Hyakkimaru is capable of mercy in the first place. War took everything from Mio and the children, but it hasn't made Hyakkimaru a monster. Yet.
As usual, this show's backdrops are rendered in a gorgeous watercolor wash like a traditional Japanese painting. But this week, it's the sound that takes center stage. As Hyakkimaru utters his first tragic word: “Mio,” his world continues to get darker as his senses return. While this conclusion changes very little from the manga (Mio and the kids die there too, just much faster), it's an emotional gut punch of an episode that stands on its own.
Dororo is currently streaming on Amazon.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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