by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Dororo (TV 2019) ?
After a near-brush with his family, Hyakkimaru is back to battling the monster of the week. But as a continued exploration of Dororo's most prevalent theme, things are not what they appear to be on the surface. An episode with an uncharacteristically low body count reveals that Hyakkimaru's worldview is less black and white than I previously thought. In “The story of the Jorogumo silk spider,” Dororo swaps its usual action for a sweet “opposites attract” love story. In an episode low on action, the story's atmospheric elements can really shine.
Hyakkimaru can hear and speak now, so Dororo wants to make him laugh. This innocuous ambition neatly bookends an episode that's perfectly contained on its own. Sonorous traditional music and a verdant color palette characterize the forest where Dororo and Hyakkimaru wander, making the quarry village at the center of this week's story all the more soulless. After a midnight clash, both our protagonists and a nearby ghoul (this is the first time I've heard "ayakashi" translated that way) wind up in this desolate place anyway. Hungry and opportunistic, Dororo sees a chance for Hyakkimaru to hunt down an alleged kidnapper at large. But it soon becomes clear that the kidnapper is not the ghoul they encountered in the forest, but a good Samaritan helping to guide people out of the feudal town to their freedom.
In Hyakkimaru's world, entities are either good or evil, and he can tell the difference by the color of their soul. White means good and red means evil (and lately, gold means value, based on how he saw both Mio's rice seeds and the lost traveler's horde from Lady Bandai's village). But in this episode, we saw for the first time that the color of somebody's soul can change. Yajiro's fateful encounter with the ghoul, who he names Ohagi, becomes a turning point in both of their lives. Neither Ohagi nor Yajiro are who the other might expect. Yajiro is entranced by this strange woman who eats rice without chopsticks. When he later learns that she's a ghoul, he's relieved once again to learn that unlike most of her kind, she doesn't kill humans. Meanwhile, the spiderlike Ohagi is touched by Yajiro's kindness to bugs and people alike. The big reveal is that while it first looks like Yajiro has brought a demon into his home, he's actually considered a bigger danger to the village than Ohagi (or at least a danger to the cruel lord's productivity). Their chance encounter fits perfectly in one episode because it's such a simple and enduring kind of love story. And in a first for this series, they get a happy ending, ambiguous though it may be.
On the note of Ohagi, if she never kills, why does Hyakkimaru see her soul as corrupted? Maybe that's because she sees people only as commodities she can use for food and never bothered to understand how they feel. But if that's the case, why is she making the effort not to kill people? Perhaps that isn't how her power works. Either way, it's her feelings for Yajiro that purify her, in an instant change that Hyakkimaru can see. This is completely lost on Dororo, who thought Hyakkimaru heard them talking and changed his mind. (“It's a good thing your hearing was back,” Dororo reflects later, “or else it would've ended in a really awkward way.”) Even though so much has changed for our protagonists, their continued inability to see eye to eye has remained. But this week's love story between human and ghoul shows that for these unlikely companions, understanding is still possible.
Dororo is currently streaming on Amazon.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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