Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun – 10 – Through the Very Rude Looking Glass

It looks like it’s back to business as usual in Hanako’s bathroom, as Nene reports disembodied arm lesser spirits infesting the school garden. They quickly learn the way to make them disappear is to fulfill their desires, i.e. play with them. Whether it’s arm wrestling or rock paper scissors, they dispatch the spirits one by one, and have a lot of fun in the process.

Unfortunately, the very last arm remaining, which has emerged from a bathroom mirror, is actually a snare for the living Nene. She’s grabbed and pulled through the mirror into the world behind the mirror; in other words, the boundary of a School Wonder. There, she meets someone she doesn’t remember, but whom we know intimately.

There’s no reason she would necessarily know Mitsuba, as she was barely present in the episode where he was the focus. But wait, back up a bit: Mitsuba is ALIVE?!? Well, not alive, but not in the horrible pathetic monstrous form Tsukasa left him in, which shook Kou to his very core. He’s a cute boy in this mirror, and he’s initially just as much of an asshole to Nene as he was with Kou.

However he’s back in this form, I’m glad to see him again. The thing is, he’s trapped in the boundary just like Nene, and it’s apparently his first, making her his senpai in more ways than one. She knows in order to exit the boundary they’ll have to find the rogue wonder’s yoshihiko, and spots it at the very top of the vast, spiraling Hell of Mirrors, the name of both the Wonder and its realm.

But on their way to the top they encounter a mirror that blocks their path, and the Wonder demonstrates its power to reflect a person’s fears—in Nene’s case, her distinctively stout ankles. While Mitsuba was just ragging on her based on observation and vanity, the Wonder shows her the face of everyone she knows in other mirrors—even the kind Aoi—and has them bully her until she’s virtually swimming in her tears.

Things take a sinister turn when the Wonder reveals his true, crow-like form and unleashes a legion of mannequin-like minions to “hunt the Ugly Daikon down” and replace her in the living world; the Wonder’s ultimate goal and why he didn’t really care about Mitsuba. When Nene is captured and about to be devoured, Mitsuba actually sticks his neck out to distract them.

While he has no real plan after that, he didn’t end up needing one since Tsukasa—not Hanako—appears to free Nene and beat the Wonder to a pulp, leaving both Nene and Mitsuba somewhat confused. I’m not sure yet what Tsukasa is up to, but I wager he’s far more dangerous than the Hell of Mirrors, with whom he kinda mopped the floor. More importantly, I hope Nene can find away to get herself and Mitsuba out of this boundary…but for that we’ll have to wait until Part II.

Dororo – 24 (Fin) – Proof of Existence, Proof of Humanity

In the end, the brothers Hyakkimaru and Tahoumaru only had to endure one last thing: the missteps of their parents. When Hyakkimaru was born, Daigo decided to sacrifice him to the demons. Nui would have Tahoumaru later, but she never stopped loving her firstborn, and that ate at her second in its own way. Even Mutsu and Hyougou couldn’t replace the love of a mother that he always lacked.

As they continue their swordfight in the castle, Tahoumaru goes on about how the likes of Hyakkimaru doesn’t belong within the walls, and that unlike the post where Mutsu and Hyougou marked their heights over the years, there’s nothing there to prove his existence. This is ironic, as the castle itself is burning and crumbling around them, and all of that physical proof Tahoumaru values so along with it.

But even though Tahoumaru still has his human eyes, Hyakkimaru can still see the void in his brother’s heart; the same sense of lacking something as himself. They are no different, and despite their crazed fighting and bizarre modifications, they are both humans who have simply forgotten themselves, lashing out to fill those voids.

As Nui and Jukai enter the castle to try to stop the fighting, Hyakkimaru ends things on his own, not by killing Tahoumaru, but by sparing him. The demon eyes in his head still burn even after Tahoumaru accepts defeat, but he rips them out and offers them to their rightful owner. Hyakkimaru’s false eyes are ejected and his human eyes restored.

As a mass of demonic crystal surges with anger, the castle starts to come down, but both Nui and Jukai arrive in time to save him from being crushed by burning debris. He plunges his swords into the crystal mass, apparently exorcising the residual evil energy, but that also completes the destruction of the temple literally kept up by the power of those now-forsaken demons.

Jukai, Nui and Tahoumaru do not escape, but perish in the flames, while Dororo finds Hyakkimaru and the two climb up the well Nui used to gain access. Hyakkimaru sees Dororo with his own eyes for the first time and calls him—calls her—pretty, which really throws Dororo off. Biwamaru, who helped get them out of the well, stands with the two as they watch Daigo’s castle and surrounding lands burn in a purifying fire.

Once the flames recede and the smoke clears, Dororo is back in the village of survivors and invalids led by a few able-bodied individuals, including those he suggested start to live life without depending on samurai, using money instead of swords to maintain that life.

When they ask where that money will come from, Dororo says he’s got it covered. Dororo has decided, then, what to do with that fortune: use it to realize a community that runs itself, without fealty to some stern-faced lord.

As for the lord, Daigo is not quite ready to give up his quest to restore his lands to prosperity, no matter how many people, including Hyakkimaru again, he has to sacrifice to the demons in a new pact. That is, until Hyakkimaru takes a sword and instead of plunging it into Daigo’s back, pierces his helmet instead.

The helmet is a powerful symbol of Daigo’s status as something other than a mere human, so its destruction is a symbol of Hyakkimaru’s hope his father will live on as a human, something he too plans on doing. In the end, Daigo laments ever making the pact, as he now realizes he might have achieved prosperity simply by raising Hyakkimaru and letting him succeed him.

Bittersweetly, it’s not Happily Ever After for the duo of Dororo and Hyakkimaru. The two go their separate ways; Dororo to lead a new community in keeping with the legacy of her rebellious parents, and Hyakkimaru to learn how to walk the path of humanity after a lifetime of survival-and-revenge mode. With his new eyes, heart, and purpose in life, he has truly been reborn, and until he finds his way, it’s not safe for Dororo to be beside him.

However, the ending suggests that one day the two are reunited, as the young “boy” Dororo runs across a pier with a hopeful smile, he transforms into Dororo the older and more beautiful woman. At the end of the pier is a slightly older-looking Hyakkimaru, in all his human glory, welcoming her with a warm smile. It’s a shame a passing look is all we get, rather than an after-credits scene of the two conversing—but then again, perhaps their reunion is meant more symbolically, as something to which they both aspire.

In any case, both souls, once having lost and suffered so much, seem to be in a much better place, and have stepped out of the darkness and doubt and embraced their respective selves. While I wish we’d seen more of Dororo-as-a-leader, considering where we started, this was a logical and satisfying enough place to end.

Dororo – 23 – Chicks Fed by the Hen

Dororo, Nui, and Biwamaru can only watch as Hyakkimaru and Midoro battle the newly demon-possessed Tahoumaru, Hyougou and Mutsu. The latter two meet ignominious ends as Midoro lops Hyougou’s head off and kicks Mutsu to death, but Mutsu at least dies a human.

As the young foal finds and calms her mother, Nui laments her inability to calm either of her sons, as they run off fighting together. Hyakkimaru notably regains his arms, which bleed profusely as he grasps the blades that had up until only recently been his arms.

The three men who were chasing the foal agree it’s wrong to rely on Hyakkimaru’s parts being eaten by a demon – but neither they nor Nui are wrong in valuing an entire domain over one man.

As Lord Daigo abandons his castle and leads his troops to fight the advancing Asakura, Tahoumaru and Hyakkimaru turn the place into the venue of their final battle, setting the place ablaze in the process. Jukai also seems to have one last task to perform, perhaps depending on the outcome of the duel. As for the fighting itself and the dialogue between the brothers…it unfortunately grows repetitive and dull as it drags on.

As for Dororo and the three men who chased the foal, they all agree right then and there not to rely on the samurai (i.e. the strong) to take what they want out of live, but to rather acquire it with their own hands. If three men can get on board with that concept, rather than continuing to mooch on a demon pact (sorry Daigo, you did make the wrong choice) that only ever created only a very fragile prosperity, perhaps the rest of the domain can as well. One way or another, the lands of Daigo are going to change.