by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Dororo (TV 2019) ?
There's something much more sinister than a monster of the week this time on Dororo. More terrifying than any demon is… man. Allow me some levity because you won't find any in this week's episode. Since it's a fairly direct interpretation of the original manga's story arc, this is one of the darker chapters in Dororo's narrative. Though it's portrayed in stark monochrome with violent dashes of red, its story is more nuanced in its evils than you might guess at first.
When Dororo isn't feeling well, Hyakkimaru uses his rudimentary speaking skills to find him sanctuary. A cut spider lily sets off Dororo's feverish retelling of a backstory that contains far too much tragedy for somebody who's still a child. Dororo's parents consider themselves to be righteous brigands that only take from the samurai who took from them, but the situation is becoming complicated. The self-serving and deceptive Itachi is the villain of this story, but he's not as black-or-white evil as this flashback's color scheme. Dororo's parents' aren't exactly innocent either, even if they pick their victims carefully. Dororo's father may go out like a hero, but his downfall is in itself somebody else's act of revenge, just like the vengeance he has been enacting all this time. The times are changing, and both Dororo's parents and Itachi had to determine what matters more: their principles or their survival. Itachi made his choice, even though it meant betraying others.
Itachi's portrayal is not flattering, but arguably he's doing the same thing as Dororo's parents, by converting dire circumstances into a means to keep on living. This is the same thing that Dororo's mother repeatedly tells her child: “The war will end someday. You mustn't lose to it until then.” She did everything she could to give Dororo a chance, even burning her own hands to give him a hot meal and depriving herself of food. Through her words, she shows that the real enemy isn't the brigands or the samurai, but the war they're all being forced to try and survive. War made monsters out of so many people in this episode, and her only wish is that Dororo doesn't succumb to that too. “The story of the merciless” is not about one singular merciless entity—it's about the war itself. Dororo's flashback does a superb job of showing the layered complexities of humanity's evil.
Now, a final word about Dororo's sex. Though Dororo is biologically female, he's very resolute in the manga about being a boy, so I will continue to use he/him when referring to the character unless the anime adaptation clarifies its stance on Dororo's identity. Hyakkimaru certainly doesn't have much to say about this revelation, and Dororo will only refer to it indirectly. Still, this discovery does little to lighten the mood—male or female, Dororo has been through hell, and if the conversation at the end of the episode is any indication, more bad times lie ahead. This starkly illustrated episode was painful to watch, but it excelled as an emotional and nuanced portrayal of a difficult topic.
Dororo is currently streaming on Amazon.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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