The episode begins as Dororo comes upon Biwamaru helping the severely maimed Hyakkimaru back to the temple. The Priest informs Dororo that Hyakkimaru lost his leg to the demon, but regained his voice. Mio returns to the temple visibly exhausted and injured, and does her best to hide her bruises from the children. She discovers Hyakkimaru’s condition, and immediately begins to care for him and help him to heal despite her own pain. Take tells Dororo of the orphans’ collective dream of owning their own rice paddy with Mio, so that she will never have to work for the samurai again and they will never go hungry.
We next see that the rains have yet to fall hard enough over Daigo’s domain to sustain the rice paddies for very long, and a drought is imminent. Tahoumaru begs his father, Daigo, to allow him to go to war against the Sakai clan, claiming that he will crush their domain like it’s nothing. Daigo admonishes his son by telling him never to underestimate wars, and that he’s not ready for battle with his current mindset. Tahoumaru tells his mother that he wants to go to war to distinguish himself in battle and make her proud, feeling that she doesn’t care about him or any of his accomplishments. Tahoumaru knows that his mother loves him, but feels like she and his father are hiding something. Hyakkimaru ruminates on his loss against the demon, and Mio soothes him once more with her song.
Observing the scene silently, Biwamaru tells Dororo that Mio’s song calms the demon flames that Hyakkimaru’s had since he was a baby. The red blotches in his essence are the embers left from when the demons took his body. Biwamaru goes on to warn Dororo that, if he isn’t careful, Hyakkimaru could easily become a monster. Eager to please his lord, Daigo’s commander instructs his soldiers to be on the watch for Sakai spies. Mio surprises Dororo by admitting she’s aware of his knowledge about her job, and that she’s not ashamed of it because it allows her and the orphans to survive. Dororo remembers his mother who wouldn’t turn to prostitution for any reason, and laments that she ended up dying for lack of food. At night while Mio is at the Sakai camp and the orphans are asleep, Hyakkimaru goes off to challenge the demon once more.
A light rain begins to fall during the battle between Hyakkimaru and the demon, but it is quickly cut short when the beast is vanquished. Another demon statue is shattered, and Hyakkimaru’s leg is restored to him. While Hyakkimaru and Dororo are headed back to the temple, it is besieged by samurai from Daigo’s army. The samurai accuse Mio and the orphans of being spies for the Sakai clan, and proceed to set fire to the temple and slaughter them all mercilessly. Dororo reaches the temple in time to see the last of the orphans speared by the samurai, and is about to be killed himself when Hyakkimaru arrives and severs the samurai’s arm in one swift stroke. Seeing Mio dying, Hyakkmaru flies into a rage and butchers the samurai in a whirling dervish of blood and steel. Dororo realizes that this is the pivotal moment when Hyakkimaru could become a monster, and moves to intercept him before he can execute the final adversary. Dororo succeeds, the maimed samurai escapes, and Hyakkimaru mourns by uttering his first word – Mio.
This episode was amazing. Beautiful, devastating, brutal – some of the many words to describe this masterpiece. The plot of Dororo is complex beyond a revenge story, the world deeper and more intricate than most other anime. The scream of sheer agony that burst forth from Hyakkimaru as he witnessed Mio dying was one of the most impactful and heart-wrenching moments in recent anime. The ensuing sequence where Hyakkimaru slaughtered the samurai was animated perfectly, the action frenetic and visceral. I could continue to wax eloquent about Dororo, but suffice to say it continues to be my favorite of the season.
Score: 5/5 (I loved it)