Dororo – 03 – Made to Live

The sun sets on a hillside by the sea, and a man is at work crucifying “rebels” with all the passion and intensity of a guy filling a vending machine. There’s a detached, workmanlike quality to his ghoulish work.

He’s finally snapped out of it when a woman arrives, perhaps his wife, pleading for him to stop. She is run through by a soldier and dies right in front of the man.  Whoever she is, he is now awake to the horrors he is committing, and decides to put an end to it, by leaping from the cliff into the sea.

Because this scene was in vivid color and the following scenes in monochrome, there’s some initial confusion as to which scene took place first—especially since he seemed to off himself. Here man, named Jukai, has a young apprentice in Kaname, who is also a recipient of one of his miraculous prostheses. Villagers and out-of-towners alike line up outside his workshop hoping he can help their loved ones live normal lives again.

We learn beyond a doubt the crucifying was a part of Jukai’s past when Kaname hears a rumor from one of the out-of-town beneficiaries of his services that Jukai once served Lord Shiba. Jukai didn’t die in the jump, but was picked up by a foreign ship and taken to their country, where he learned his prosthetic-making craft. He works not for forgiveness or atonement, but simply because he believes his life was spared so he could learn the craft and use it to help as many people as possible.

An honorable a notion that may be, but Kaname’s father was killed by Lord Shiba’s reign of terror. While he wants to kill Jukai for revenge, he lets him finish an arm for a young boy whose only crime was crossing paths with a samurai…then he sheds the artificial leg Jukai made for him and hobbles off, unable to live or work with Jukai anymore.

A bit later, while walking along a riverbank, Jukai, alone again, stumbles and discovers the boat bearing the newborn babe with no eyes, ears, limbs or skin…yet still clinging to life and clearly wanting to live. Jukai finds another reason to keep living himself, and builds all the parts necessary for Hyakkimaru to not just survive, but thrive.

As Jukai raises and trains Hyakkimaru (a name he gave him), Daigo’s healthy second son Tahoumaru is born, and grows into a highly skilled but also arrogant young man, who also rues the deserated diety his mother keeps around as a memento of her firstborn, of whom Tahoumaru probably knows nothing.

Jukai learns that whatever special gift Hyakkimaru possesses that enabled him to survive this long also draws demons to his vicinity. Hyakkimaru can’t feel pain, so he feels no fear, and dispatches each demon to cross his path with relative ease.

But when Hyakkimaru ends one specific demon and his left leg suddenly and miraulously grows back (ironically the same limb Kaname lost), Jukai concludes that someone made a terrible deal with the demons that resulted in Hyakkimaru losing almost everything. He’s seen firsthand that Hyakkimaru can retrieve those parts that were taken from him by fighting, so Jukai trains him to kill, even as he curses himself for doing so.

For while Hyakkimaru, like Jukai, was given the gift of survival under incalculable odds, Jukai laments that the boy is destined to spend that life mired in violence, blood, despair, and loneliness. But he lets him go anyway. He cannot choose for Hyakkimaru how to live the life he was given, nor can he accompany him on his quest without getting in the way.

Back in the present, Hyakkimaru explores his newfound sense of pain by stepping on the fire with his real foot, then stomping it, prompting Dororo to stop him. Pain is clearly so foreign to him that he’s not sure quite how to react to it; fortunately, he has friends in Dororo and Biwamaru to make sure he doesn’t get in too much trouble experimenting. Dororo, meanwhile, won’t soon forgive whatever scoundrel allowed so much to be taken from his friend.

Meanwhile, Jukai, alone once more, continues to ply the battlefields, fitting the living and the dead alike with his handmade prosthetic limbs, unable to go anywhere or do anything else, but still able to do at least this much.

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Dantalian no Shoka 12 (Fin)

Huey and Dalian encounter a phantom book in a batch of newspapers that give rise to zombies. When they investigate, they meet The Professor and the Red Biblioprincess, who plot to distribute the papers and unleash a zombie army that will destroy London. The Professor shoots Huey, who then escapes out a window with Dalian. He unlocks Dalian and convenes with the “Inner Dalian”, tries to release her, and acquires the phantom book that eliminates the zombies. Hal and Flamberge burn the remaining papers, and the Professor flees. Huey and Dalian continue their quest to hunt down phantom books.

“I go on to tomorows unknown,” says Huey. Well, he won’t be going alone. He’ll have a sweet-toothed biblioprincess talking down to him all the way while barely concealing her deep affection for him and everything he’s done for her. She can no longer pretend that there isn’t a part of her inside – one with pale pink hair. After all, that Inner Dalian even speaks to her when Huey is close to death’s door. She and Huey have been a good team, and will continue to be as they go on to tomorrow. The other two keykeeper/biblioprincess duos were almost afterthoughts by comparison, relegated to examples that Huey/Dalian weren’t unique in their relationship. But it isn’t like they needed to be anything more.

Gainax has a tendency to be all over the place with its series. The last I’d seen was Panty & Stocking, which couldn’t have been any different from this. But both were good. Shikabane Hime? Not so good. With only one hiccup to its name, Dantalian no Shoka was consistently fun to watch, its mysteries and themes were suitably clever and eclectic, it’s settings were pretty and often gorgeous, and the core duo and their verbal duelling grew on me as much as they grew on each other.


Rating: 4