Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 19 – The Unseverable Fire

Shinobu praises Zenitsu for holding out administers the antidote to the spider’s poison, Giyuu ties the injured Inosuku up for his own good, and that’s literally it for those four characters. The remaining runtime is spent exclusively on Tanjirou, Rui, and Nezuko, resulting in Demon Slayer’s finest episode to date.

After getting his head cut by Rui’s threads, Tanjirou tries to get close once again, refusing to take back what he said about Rui’s familial bonds being false. Rui reveals he is one of the Twelve Kizuki and unleashes a web of threads, forcing Nezuko to leap out of her box to shield her brother from wounds that would surely kill him.

This changes the entire complexion of the battle, as Tanjirou is no longer on his own, and now that Rui knows that Tanjirou actually does have such an unassailable bond with his sister, he carries her with him even though she’s now a demon. Naturally, Rui wants that kind of bond, but knows no way of attaining it except by stealing Nezuko.

When both Tanjirou and Nezuko protest and fight back, Rui suspends Nezuko in a web of threads that squeeze her limbs so tightly they threaten to slice her into bits, pulling tighter when she won’t settle down until she passes out.

Of course, Tanjirou can’t bear to see his sister so viciously treated—especially under the guise of Rui asserting his newly-established familial “bond” with her. Tanjirou digs deep into his Water Breathing and manages to unleash the Final Form, which is just enough to slice through Rui’s threads.

The only problem is that the threads are not at their maximum strength, and even if they were, they’re not as tough as Rui’s skin. Tanjirou simply cannot spin the water fast enough to be a considerable threat to Rui; worse, the attempt only makes Rui grow tired of the battle, and he strengthens his threads with his own blood to ensure Tanjirou will get sliced.

With Nezuko out cold and those deadly threads about to close around Tanjirou, his life flashes before his eyes, something Shinobu told Zenitsu earlier could be a person’s way of trying to find some way, any way, of delaying death by looking back on one’s life.

In Tanjirou’s case, he looks back to when he and Nezuko were happy little kids, both watching and imitating their father’s Hinokami (fire god) Kagura dance. Despite being frail, their dad was able to dance beautifully in the freezing cold thanks to a specific type of breathing which, along with his distinctive earrings, he vowed to pass to his eldest son.

Tanjirou only remembers that he has inherited Hinokami Kagura Breathing now because he has to; because otherwise death is imminent. Blue water turns to red fire which Tanjirou uses to slash away Rui’s reinforced threads on his way to the demon’s neck. However, he needs one more push, courtesy of a familial bond Rui doesn’t have, and thus could never truly defeat the Kamados.

That bond is expressed when Tanjirou and Nezuko’s mom urges the unconscious Nezuko to wake up, because she has to save her brother. In another first, Nezuko unleashes her own Blood Demon Art, “Exploding Blood”, which is exactly that. Her blood travels along the threads until it reaches Rui just as Tanjirou makes contact with his neck.

The combined powers of true loving brother and sister successfully decapitate Rui, who never knew what hit him. ufotable pulls out all of the visual and musical stops, from dad’s fluid Kagura dance to the climactic decisive strike. It all plays out like the crescendo of a full-length feature film, complete with epic orchestral score, and transitions into a unique credit sequence with images of the Kamado family united as one.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 18 – Big Bad Spider Daddy

Puppet Mama and Spider Boy were only a warm-up for two of the three remaining members of the Spider Demon Family: Father and Rui. Needless to say they are much tougher customers, which is as it should be; why would the difficulty level go down in a demon gauntlet?

Even with Water Breathing, Tanjirou isn’t able to slice through one of Papa’s arms, and Inosuke inarguably saves his life by parrying the counterattack. Even dropping a huge tree on Papa doesn’t kill him, it only seems to make him mad. As Tanjirou goes flying, he begs Inosuke not to die, but wait for him to make his way back to him.

Zenitsu defeated Spider Boy definitively, but continues to pay the price as the poison starts shutting down his limbs. He’s all but ready to step into the light when a series of butterflies appear before him, followed by Shinobu, one of the two elite Demon Slayers sent to salvage the mission.

Tanjirou manages to cushion his fall with water breathing, but he’s only thrown from the frying pan to the freezer. Due to his strong sense of family and morality, he objects to the Spider Brother Rui apparently punishing his sister by cutting her face with his threads as she cries out in pain. Demon or no, that’s not cool. The Brother doesn’t take well to being told his familial bond with his sister is nothing but a sham.

Rui threatens to carve Tanjirou up, but is momentarily distracted by another Demon Slayer who comes out of nowhere. While claiming to be taking the easiest path to higher ranks (and higher paydays), he doesn’t practice what he preaches. He rushes in without knowing a thing about Rui, who dices him into cubic chunks with his threads.

Finally, we have Inosuke, trying to hold out against Papa Spider. While he briefly starts “using his head” like Tanjirou, he shakes that off and follows his own primal instinct to charge the enemy without fear. He keeps hacking at the arm until he manages to slice through, and Papa flees…but only to molt his own skin, revealing a bigger, tougher, meaner skin beneath it.

Inosuke’s chipped blades shatter when he attempts Beast Breathing, and Papa grabs him by the head and squeezes. Inosuke’s life flashes before his eyes, including when his bloodied mother sent him away to avoid being killed, and the interactions with Tanjirou and Zenitsu which seems to value.

Just before his skull pops (and the foley is pretty ripe) Inosuke is rescued by Giyuu, who cuts off Papa’s arm with one slash and defeats him with a single elegant Water Breathing Form. It’s a pretty convincing and awesome demonstration of just how much more powerful Giyuu is than Tanjirou, Zenitsu, or Inosuke.

Inosuke is safe, and so too is Zenitsu, but Tanjirou is still out there on his own against Rui, and we get a cliffhanger of Rui’s vicious thread cutting straight through Tanjirou’s sword on a collision course with his face. It’s a big forest, so it could take a while for help to arrive. Could the sister demon be an unlikely ally to Tanjirou? And what about his own sister—when will she pop out of her box?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 17 – Lightning in a Bottle

Zenitsu would rather be anywhere than Mount Natagumo. He is literally shaking in his sandals, and that crushing fear is only compounded when he spots a shack and numerous bodies suspended from threads, the latter in various stages of gruesome transformation. It feels like a nightmare, and Zenitsu just wants to wake from it. Unfortunately, he’s already wide awake, and since he didn’t follow Tanjirou, he’s on his own.

It gets worse: the Spider Demon Brother’s lesser spider minions bit Zenitsu earlier, which means he’s currently doomed to transform into one of the hundreds of grotesque spiders with human heads that are currently chasing him. The Brother doesn’t see Zenitsu as much of a threat, mocking his cowardice. When Zenitsu notices his hair start to fall out, he faints in a tree.

If there’s anything we know about Zenitsu, it’s that he’s at his most effective when he’s unconscious. He recalls the day he was struck by lightning while hiding in a tree, turning his hair yellow. During his ensuing training he was only ever able to pull off the first of six Lightning Breathing Forms.

His master urged him not to be discouraged. If he could only unleash one form, then he needed to perfect that one form, just as a swordsmith hones steel into the hardest, strongest blade. Brother doesn’t expect and isn’t able to deal the fruits of Zenitsu’s rigorous training, and as a result, is beheaded.

While brother’s pocket watch breaks upon his death, his poison is still coursing through Zenitsu’s blood. Zenitsu attempts to slow his breathing and blood flow, the better to hold out if and when someone finds him.

While this episode spent a lot of time fleshing out Zenitsu’s character, it also continues the development of Inosuke as someone who detests being coddled or seen as weak. He laughs off his clearly serious bleeding wounds, and refuses to leave the mountain until the job’s done.

Tanjirou, obviously, isn’t going anywhere until he’s had his shot at the member of the Twelve Kizuki, whose blood could help cure Nezuko. Unfortunately his usually reliable sense of smell continues to be adversely affected by a distractingly acrid odor, such that he doesn’t even notice the presence of the Spider Demon Sister.

Sister gets Inosuke to chase after her, but she’s only posing as a lure for her Father, who looks to be the berserker (and possibly the Kizuki) of the family. Inosuke may end up learning the hard way not to leap headlong into a battle when you’re at less than 100%.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 16 – The Webs that Bind

Tanjirou, Inosuke, and Murata continue to battle the spider thread puppets, leading me to wonder why these demon slayers don’t have individual styles like our leads. Once cut, their threads are quickly reconnected, and the Mother spider demon has no qualms about cruelly contorting their bodies until their bones break.

Murata urges the other two to head to the Mother while he handles his comrades. Tanjirou finally determines he can immobilize the puppets without harming them by tangling up their threads along branches; Inosuke follows suit. Meanwhile, Zenitsu wanders around wearily with his sparrow, calling out for Nezuko, who stays in her box this week.

The Mother spider demon was all business last week, but her demeanor changes on a dime to someone desperate to kill all of the slayers lest she face the wrath of “Father”. It seems the spider demon family dynamic is a toxic one.

Mother ends up killing all of her demon slayer dolls by snapping their necks, rendering all of Tanjirou’s efforts to protect them moot. Then she sics a giant headless demon with swords for hands on Tanjirou and Inosuke. Rather than fight on his own, Inosuke learns the value of teamwork, especially when your partner is as capable and unselfish as Tanjirou.

With her giant headless doll defeated, Tanjirou proceeds to the Mother’s location, where she’s been sitting on a rock controlling things all this time. Tanjirou descends upon her, and she immediately resigns herself to defeat, as it will mean she’ll be free of her unrelenting torment.

To her surprise, Tanjirou employs a form that separates her head from her body without any pain, feeling like nothing but a gentle, soothing rain. She expresses her gratitude for finally being given peace by telling Tanjirou that one of the Twelve Kiseki is on the mountain.

While it’s good to be presented with demons conflicted about their existence like Mother, part of me wishes she hadn’t been defeated so easily. It’s as if she had no offense or defense beyond her dolls and simply…gave up. In a way she was no more than a puppet of Father, who used threats instead of threads to control her.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 15 – Night of the Spider Demons

As soon as Zenitsu learns (off-screen) that Nezuko is Tanjirou’s sister, he starts chasing her around their room. When Tanjirou tries to stop him, Zenitsu starts chasing him around too. Then Inosuke, who is ticked off from hunger, starts chasing them, leaving Nezuko out of the loop.

A fun time is had by all, but the next day the doctor declares the three lads have fully recovered, and a crow arrives with fresh destination: Mount Natagumo, with no further explanation except that there’s bound to be demons. With Nezuko secure in her box, the slayers set off for their first mission together.

Upon reaching the foot of the mountain, Zenitsu senses something creepy and chickens out. Tanjirou prepares to press on, but Inosuke rushes ahead of him; later Tanjirou thanks him for going with him, but Inosuke either didn’t do it for him, or he did and doesn’t realize it. He’s a very enigmatic fellow who is decidedly not brushed up on the social graces.

Once on the mountain, the two encounter a third demon slayer being carried off as if by some invisible threads. Eventually learn that he’s one of ten slayers sent to the mountain to deal with a demon infestation, but they’re all too low-ranked, and end up being turned into puppets, the strings connecting them to a family of spider demons.

Tanjirou and Inosuke sever the threads from the slayers, but neither that or killing the countless tiny spiders making the threads will solve the problem. They need to find the demons behind this, and that’s when Inosuke’s Beast Breathing Form Special Awareness comes in handy. In a very cool sequence his awareness stretches out across the forest until it locates the lead spider demoness, then travels back to Inosuke.

They now have her location, but her apparent son is standing on threads suspended high above the ground, just out of Inosuke’s vertical reach. The boy declares that no one will stop his family from living a happy life together, and that made me wonder: Why exactly are the Demon Slayers bothering with these guys? They’re secluded in the mountain forest, minding their own business. Their only victims seem to be intruders who couldn’t mind theirs.

I guess demons can’t be allowed to be left unchecked, lest they expand their territory and start threatening human settlements. The Demon Slayer Commander certainly seems resolved to eliminate the threat of them. When a crow arrives to report the lower-ranked slayers’ defeat, he prepares to send two Hashira slayers: Giyuu and Shinobu.

Combined with Zenitsu realizing Tanjirou took his beloved Nezuko into danger, that will eventually make it five slayers plus Nezuko against the five spider demons. They’ve just got to hold out and wait for the cavalry.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 14 – Aurora Boarialis

Tanjirou punches the boar-man to get him off Zenitsu, breaking his ribs in the process while scolding him for raising his sword(s) to a fellow Demon Slayer. The boar-man, named Hashibira Inosuke, decides to fight Tanjirou hand-to-hand (and foot-to-foot).

As both have cracked ribs, they fight on more or less an equal level. Inosuke has an advantage in flexibility and how damn low he can get (Tanjirou likens it to fighting a four-legged beast). Tanjirou isn’t really trying to fight, but when Inosuke won’t let up, he deploys his secret-weapon: his titanium-hard skull.

The headbutt is devastating enough to knock Inosuke’s boar mask off, revealing a beautiful, feminine face that seriously freaks out Zenitsu (though to be honest everything freaks the guy out). Inosuke passes out, then wakes up to find the others burying bodies from the mansion.

When he says he won’t help, Tanjirou chalks it up to Inosuke’s wounds hurting too much, only angering the boar-man more. A Kasugai crow arrives, gives the three rescued siblings a wisteria charm so they can return home safely, and leads the three slayers to a manor with a Wisteria crest at the gate, ordering them to rest there until fully recovered.

A comedy triad ensues at the inn-like manor, whose owners were saved by Demon Slayers and thus allow them to stay there free of charge. Tanjirou is glad for the change of clothes, food, and bedding, and even Zenitsu mostly calms down, but Inosuke is constantly trying to pick a fresh fight with Tanjirou.

Fortunately our laid-back protagonist doesn’t rise to the provocations, preferring to rest up so that he can more effectively fight the real enemy: demons. When the three lay down for the night, Inosuke tells the others how he, an orphan with no family, stole a Nichirin blade from a Demon Slayer who “trespassed” on “his mountain”, then heard about the Final Selection and basically thought it’d be cool to do that.

Zenitsu steers the conversation to the box Tanjirou has been carrying, and asks him straight up why he travels with a demon. Tanjirou thanks Zenitsu for protecting it even though he knew of its contents, and the praise goes straight to Zenitsu’s head (though he vehemently denies he’s strong). Before Tanjirou can tell him that the demon is his sister, Nezuko starts scratching at the door of her box, scaring the shit out of Zenitsu.

She crawls out and grows to her normal size. Once Zenitsu gets a good look at her, he draws his sword on Tanjirou for keeping such a “cute girl” in a box and not telling anyone, and threatens to “purge” him. Meanwhile, Inosuke can’t remember why he first picked a fight, and falls asleep instantly, missing the big Nezuko reveal. This was probably the most laid back and fun episode of Demon Slayer to date, a well-timed breather from all the recent demon battles.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

 

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 13 – Poetry in Motion

It was the previous episode combined with this one that I first started to notice Demon Slayer starting to develop some pacing issues. Yes, Kyogai’s (the name of the tsuzumi demon) ability to spin and change the rooms of the mansion Inception-style and launch fatal slashes is pretty cool…at first.

Then it simply goes on too long. Kyogai drums, Tanjirou is thrown around and gets frustrated, rinse, repeat. This episode tries to break up the repetition with a trip back to Kyogai’s past when he was still a human, and attempts to explain why he went bad: his editor/publisher thought the stories he wrote stunk. The anguish of failure curdled into hatred and Mr. Literary Critic was Kyogai’s first victim.

When psyching himself up doesn’t work, Tanjirou uses his nose and realizes that he needs to whip out a Water Breathing Form to get this guy, but first he asks him his name. There’s a lingering question of how much of Kyogai’s humanity is left, because he clearly reacts to Tanjirou not trampling on his pages as a sign the kid acknowledges his writing.

Before Tanjirou decapitates Kyogai, he also praises Kyogai’s Demon Art Form as pretty incredible, which it is, even if it’s a bit one-note. In fact, had Tanjirou not been suffering broken bones from his last battle, it feels like their stalemate would have gone on indefinitely. Instead, as Kyogai’s head slowly dissolves, he takes comfort that the opponent who defeated him finally recognized his dual passions of writing and drums.

When Tanjirou emerges from the house with two of the three kids, he finds Zenitsu shielding Nezuko’s box with his body as the boar-headed guy absolutely wails on him. It marks the second-straight episode where my opinion of the orange scaredy-cat has improved, as Zenitsu remembers Tanjirou saying the box’s contents are “more important than my life”, and protects them accordingly without hesitation, trusting in his new friend.

Zenitsu can hear things few people can, in the same way Tanjirou smells things others can’t. He could hear there was a demon in the box from the start, but could also hear such “kind” sounds emanating from Tanjirou, he felt he could trust him to explain what was in it if he asked.

Unfortunately, the scene of Tanjirou emerging from the house to find Zenitsu being beaten is repeated for no apparent reason, other than perhaps to pad out the run time. We watch Tanjirou react, then jump back to a few minutes ago when Zenitsu and the third kid ended up outside, then boar-man appears, then we watch Tanjirou react again. Finally, when Tanjirou decides to stop boar-man’s assault, his charge is almost comically drawn out, as that action ends up taking us to the credits.

Considering the promo art, OP and ED make it quite clear the boar-man will become a member of the “gang”, it seems odd to keep up the charade that he’s a “bad guy” for yet another episode. Had Kyogai’s backstory/demise and the scene with the two siblings throwing things at Tanjirou been tightened up a bit, there could have been more time at the end for Tanjirou to engage with the boar-man. Just some odd, clunky choices.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 12 – Bang the Drum Quickly

This week Tanjirou meets the boar-faced man with chipped blades while the guy is inexplicable stepping on poor little Teruko. Tanjirou throws him off and the guy is intrigued by his human opponent’s strength. Just when you thought this guy would help out, he doesn’t—but hopefully thanks to the tsuzumi demon’s room-spinning and slashing drums, he doesn’t have to deal with him too long.

For the record, I like the boar-man and his joyful belly laughing as he tears through the ever-changing layout of the mansion. He’s certainly less annoying than Zenitsu, for whom there is not enough cheese in the world to go with his whine.

It sure looks like Teruko’s brother Shouichi got paired up with the wrong demon slayer, as Zenitsu whines and quivers so much he only adds the boy’s considerable anxiety, especially when a long-tongued demon starts chasing them. Zenitsu eventually faints from acute terror, and we finally see his useful, dare I say badass side.

He’s able to literally defeat the demon in his sleep using his lightning breathing form, only to wake up freaking out with no memory of doing so. After an ignominious introduction, I like this new wrinkle in Zenitsu’s character, though it means that in order to be effective he has to be knocked out so his unconscious instincts can take over.

Tanjirou and Teruko eventually find the captive brother Kiyoshi, who has one of the demon’s tsuzumi that fell off when the three demons were fighting to determine who would eat him. Zenitsu destroyed one demon while boarman defeated another. The tsuzumi demon would seem to be the last demon standing. Tanjirou figures out which drums do what, but as he’s still recovering from his previous battle, he briefly loses his spirit along with his strength.

He has to remember Urokodaki’s training, in which he told his student that water can take on any form that could be needed. Even with limited mobility due to his injuries, as long as he trusts in his water breathing, he can adapt to the tsuzumi demon’s pattern of attack, dispel his fear, and go on the offensive.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 11 – The Pest House

How I wish Agatsuma Zenitsu stayed where he belonged: in the OP and ED and nowhere else. He was one note at the Final Selection when he was in constant fear of imminent death, and he’s one note here: a whiny, manic little creep who just. Can’t. Stop. Macking on some poor random woman who is already engaged. Apparently when she encountered him looking ill on the side of the road and asked if he was okay, he grew convinced she was in love with him.

Jesus Christ is this guy annoying. I’d rather watch an entire episode of nothing but Tanjirou’s crow yelling directions over and over again than listen to this sniveling little shit go on and on about how terrified he is of everything. Tanjirou is a saint for being as patient as he is. Nezuko is a saint for not bursting out of her box to kick him into the next prefecture.

Zenitsu is a serious irritant and a pest, and he drags down an otherwise decent episode involving a haunted mansion where the brother of two little kids and others are being held captive. The stakes are established when one of those captives is thrown out of the house from a height and falls to his painful, gruesome death. The kids are horrified, but he wasn’t their brother.

Tanjirou can smell that something’s not right in that house, but Zenitsu proves there might be something useful about him when he hears something Tanjirou doesn’t: a tsuzumi drum, as commonly used in Noh and Kabuki. Tanjirou heads in, and shames Zenitsu into following, but leaves Nezuko’s box outside to protect the little kids.

Once inside, Zenitsu has another exhausting tantrum. I really don’t understand why this character exists, why they made him so grating, and if there is any chance that he could ever be redeemed after this fiasco of a debut. The kids hear scratching from Nezuko’s box (Tanjirou should have explained his good demon sister was in there) and run into the house, and before long, Tanjirou and the little sister are separated from Zenitsu and the brother.

The room Tanjirou and the girl (named Teruko) occupy changes every time the tsuzumi is struck, and they eventually encounter a vicious-looking demon ignoring them and ranting about his prey being taken. Tanjirou rushes the demon and prepares to strike, but with another strike of one of the three tsuzumi growing out of his body, the entire room is turned 90 degrees, so that the floor is now a wall.

This Inception-style stuff is pretty neat, but before Tanjirou can adjust his tactics, a crazed shirtless man with a boar’s head busts into the room, bearing dual Nichirin blades. Zenitsu had encountered him previously and was—you guessed it—terrified of him. I can only hope going forward that Zenitsu learns to chill the fuck out, or otherwise gets an absolute minimum of screen time. Wishful thinking, I know…

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 10 – Just Like Family

Looks like Yahaba is toast, but before he’s destroyed he makes life particularly difficult for Tanjirou, shooting all his arrows at him one after the other and forcing the Demon Slayer to pull off a long chain of moves. By the time Yahaba is gone for good, Tanjirou can neither stand nor hold a sword. And because there’s still one enemy demon still very much standing.

Fortunately for Tanjirou, Nezuko’s leg heals and she re-enters the fray. For a couple of minutes that fray turns into a soccer match, with Nezzy and Susa kicking the ball to each other with increasing ferocity. When Yushirou looks at Tamayo, she insists this is Nezuko’s own strength.

Even so, Tamayo believes Susamaru is still only toying with Nezuko, and it’s only a matter of time before she becomes impatient and goes all-out. In order to preempt that eventuality, Tamayo uses her Blood Demon Art to deaden Susamaru’s senses, then provokes her by calling Kibutsuji Muzan nothing but a petty coward.

While essentially under Tamayo’s spell, Susamaru says her master’s name while defending him, which causes Kibutsuji’s cells within her to tear her apart from the inside out. When there’s nothing left of her but an arm and an eyeball, Tamayo notes that she and her companion weren’t Twelve Kizuki after all, as the real ones have their number emblazoned on their eyes. She also collects some of her blood in hope it will help with her research.

Tanjirou, ever the empathetic lad, comes to Susamaru when he hears her death throes, and makes sure she has her beloved temari ball when the sun comes up, and with it her time. Like him I couldn’t help but feel bad for her, as she was merely a naive child used as a tool for the monstrous Kibutsuji’s whims.

Tanjirou is again reunited with Nezuko, who is once again healed up from Tamayo. While Urokodaki’s hypnosis makes her see all humans as family, Tanjirou is heartened to see she still has a measure of free will, because she’s chosen to see both Tamayo and Yushirou as humans and thus family as well. Tamayo tears up as Nezuko hugs her, and even Yushirou can’t help but blush when she pats his head. Who can blame them? Nezuko is a nigh-unbeatable combo of adorable, caring, and absolutely badass—all without uttering a word.

Tamayo offers to let Tanjirou leave Nezuko with her, as she’ll likely be safer than if she stays with her Demon Slayer brother. Before Tanjirou can respectfully decline, Nezuko does it for him, again making her own choice and taking his hand as a sign she wants them to stick together. They continue on to their next assignment, running into the blond kid from the Final Selection on the way. I see a team-up in the offing…

Dororo – 06 – Not Everyone Can Get It All Back

Anyone who thought things were going to work out with Mio and her group of orphans has not been paying attention: Dororo is about people losing more than they can bear and trying to press on, but not everyone gets to survive. Some, like Mio and the kids, become another loss for our protagonists, who are cursed with the luck of survival, and with bearing witness to those who aren’t so lucky.

Dororo may have stumbled upon what Mio is up to all night, but Take is still blissfully unaware, and Dororo keeps it that way. Take, like Mio, dreams of the day they have the money to plant a rice paddy that will be green in spring and golden in the autumn. It’s what keeps them going, and it no doubt prompts Dororo to wonder what keeps him going.

At Casa de Daigo, Tahomaru urges his father to let him fight in the army. His head is full of steam and dreams of making his parents proud, but both father and mother forbid his demand, because they know all too well how easy it is to lose your life, no matter how good at martial arts one may be.

Tahomaru takes out his frustrations on his mother, who he’s suspected for some time loves and cares about something more than him. He knows he was childish to guilt trip her, but he’s continually vexed by the mystery of who or what dominates his parents’ thoughts. If he and Hyakkimaru ever meet, it’s not going to be cordial.

Dororo and Mio have to watch Hyakkimaru like a hawk from going back to fight the antlion demon while his leg wound is healing. Mio is eager to hear the voice Hyakkimaru gained , but he only wants to hear her song, which she says she sings to forget the pain. She lives with the pain of both everything she’s lost and what she must deal with nightly.

She worries her soul looks “filthy” to Hyakkimaru, but we can see through his eyes and it’s not; she’s being far too harsh on herself. Dororo also admits after his initial reaction that Mio is only doing what she must to survive. He tells her his mother never did what she did, and she died for it.

But unlike Hyakkimaru and Dororo, Mio doesn’t get to survive anyway, despite going to such lengths. Daigo’s soldiers catch her working on both sides of the conflict, which was always a risk too great no matter the reward, and they punish her by killing her, slaughtering the orphans, and burning their temple shelter.

Worse still, Hyakkimaru’s need to finish his fight with the demon draws him away at the worst possible time. He successfully defeats the demon, and the leg it took from him last week is fully restored. But it wasn’t worth it. I will miss Mio terribly; Mizuki Nana really brought warmth and empathy to her role, but she was just too good for this world.

When Hyakkimaru takes out his hatred for the soldiers and anger at himself for not being there when it mattered, it is a terrifying sight to behold, and almost verbatim what Biwamaru had feared: that the beast that emerged from the cave would be a monster. He doesn’t just quickly, cleanly kill the murderous wretches, he evicerates them, ignoring their pleas for mercy.

Dororo manages to stop him from killing the last man, who escapes and will probably report Hyakkimaru to Daigo, officially ending his time in the shadows and putting him squarely in his father’s sights. That may end up being a very bad idea, but Dororo had to stop him from killing everyone, lest the darkness consume him. He shows Hyakkimaru the bag of rice seed Mio finally got for her services.

She was on the cusp of achieving her dreams and those of the orphans, but their idealized future was never going to be safe in this harsh brutal land of warring factions, whether Hyakkimaru stayed to protect them or not. He couldn’t be a hero to Mio and the kids. All he can do is accept his luck, keep surviving, keep fighting the demons both outside and within, with Dororo making sure to serve as a conscientious check when his aniki’s pain threatens to explode.

Dororo – 05 – A Beautiful Soul in an Ugly World

Hyakkimaru may have his hearing back, but at least initially it’s more of a curse than a blessing. Even in an eerily quiet forest he’s assaulted by what he perceives as an intolerable din of creature sounds, not to mention Dororo’s voice. Determining that something has to be done until he gets used to hearing, Dororo wraps his ears in several layers of fabric to lesson the suffering.

When a bird monster suddenly attacks, it’s clear that Hyakkimaru’s newfound hearing is also messing with his ability to fight. He gets a few licks in, but the bird gives as good as it gets, seriously injuring Hyakkimaru. It it isn’t for Biwamaru showing up to finish it off, it probably would have been curtains for Hyakkimaru and Dororo.

Biwamaru fixes him up as best he can, but Hyakkimaru will need medicine to recover properly. He’s also being very stubborn about accepting the fact he can now hear. Biwa compares him to a beast holed up in its cave; he’ll have to come out sooner or later. The boys have run into Biwamaru because the old priest has had to turn around after entering lands in which a war is currently being fought between the Sakai clan and the ally it betrayed.

In the morning, Hyakkimaru hears a sound he’s never heard before: a woman singing a sweet and gentle song. He follows the song and finds its owner, a beautiful young woman, washing her kimono in the river. While some might find the sight of Hyakkimaru frightening, she is concerned…especially when he nearly passes out in her arms.

The songstress, who goes by Mio, invites the three to the ruins of a village where she cares for a group of small war oprhans, most of whom are missing limbs like Hyakkimaru. Dororo meets a lad near his own age in Takebo, who serves as Mio’s second-in-command of the little ‘uns. Takebo also insists Mio get her sleep, as she works all through the night and needs to have her energy. Dororo doesn’t ask Takebo to elaborate.

Meanwhile, Lord Kagematsu’s wife Nuinokata impresses upon her husband the seriousness of recent unfortunate events that have befallen them, from landslides to drought to the betrayal of the Sakai clan. Tahoumaru overhears, and probably thinks he can do something to ease his father’s troubles. Of course, we know that as long as Hyakkimaru keeps killing the demons who stole pieces of him, the demons will continue to seek reparations from Daigo.

As Biwamaru searches for a safe path along which to continue, Mio goes to work when the sun sets. When she returns in the morning, her kimono slightly askwer, Hyakkimaru is waiting for her. She gets the feeling he can not only see her, but see deeper than most; Dororo tells her she’s right; he can see souls.

In both her selfless actions, charity towards both the orphans and her new guests, and the beauty of the song she sings, Hyakkimaru is now able to ascertain with both sight and sound that Mio is a particularly good soul. He signs that wants to hear her song again, and she obliges.

Seemingly invigorated by the song, Hyakkimaru wastes no time heading off when Biwamaru informs them all that there’s a safe area to which to relocate, provided they can defeat the tough demon that dwells there. But with his wounds still held together with hope and still dealing with his new sense of hearing, Hyakkimaru loses a step. He defeats the demon, but loses his one real leg below the knee. Defeating this demon unlocks his voice, and he uses it to cry out in what must be excruciating pain, while Biwamaru looks at him like he’s already got one foot in the grave.

Later that night, while following Mio to town where she hopes to do business with both sides of the conflict to fund her little group’s relocation, Dororo loses track of her. When he finally finds her, it’s due in part because she’s singing, but the reason she’s singing gives Dororo pause: she’s singing while being raped by three soldiers.

Once again Dororo takes a cold hard look at the casual brutality and injustice of feudal Japan. It takes a particularly dim view of lords and the samurai they wield as tools of terror and death. In this time and place wars can pop up at the drop of an obi, leaving children without their parents or even their very limbs. They are only able to survive because poor Mio sells her body every night.

I would hope that Hyakkimaru, Dororo, and Biwamaru could do something to help them, but with Hyakkimaru’s new horrifying injury, it’s hard to believe he’ll be doing anything anytime soon.

Dororo – 04 – Tears In Rain

Osushi is a merchant who used to be far better off, but her parents died and her brother Tanousuke went off to fight for his lord. She’s prayed for his safe return every day since…for five years. Dororo, not exactly master of tact, tells her that’s…pretty long.

But Dororo is also a master of reading people, and he can immediately tell she came from money despite her tattered clothes. Osushi’s prayers are answered, but the brother who left her to uphold his honor and loyalty is not the same man anymore.

When Hyakkimaru, standing in the rain, “listening” to the drops fall, rushes towards the red sword he sees in the distance, he and Dororo find an entire convoy of people slaughtered. The swordsman tells them his blade thirsts for blood, always.

To Hyakkimaru, it’s just another demon, even if it’s using a human as its instrument. He makes good use of his prostheses by taking having his fake leg run through then tossing it aside, separating it from the man. But when Dororo runs to retrieve the leg (as he always does) and touches the sword, he becomes its new servant.

Like the One Ring, the sword bends its holder to its own twisted will, putting Dororo in a trance when he tries to resist. Back in the village, Osushi has retrieve the sword’s original holder, who turns out to be her brother Tanousuke. While initially elated by his return, he was accompanied by so much blood and death and won’t speak to her, so she knows something’s not right.

Filling out the broad strokes of the cold open, we see Tanousuke’s lord order him to use a dull, rusty sword he’d pulled out of storage to behead a captive. But with each captive he kills, the sword, called Nihiru grows sharper…and thirstier. Eventually Tanousuke turns the blade on his lord (serves the lord right, really) and massacres the entire camp.

Needless to say, if there’s any part of Tanousuke left, that part probably laments still being alive and being used only to quench Nihiru’s thirst. But the part of him the sword twisted into its service only wants Nihiru to return to him, hence his utter ignoring of Osushi’s tearful pleas to stay with her.

Nihiru has Dororo bring the sword to Nihiru, but is intercepted by Hyakkimaru. For a moment, Dororo isn’t sure Hyakkimaru knows he’s not a foe, and attempts to dodge his strikes, but there’s no doubt who’s the superior warrior. Thankfully, Hyakkimaru merely knocks the sword out of Dororo’s hand without harming him.

Unfortunately, Tanousuke is there to pick Nihiru back up, but the sword has taken its toll on his body and mind, and he can’t quite keep up with Hyakkimaru, who kills Tanousuke and breaks Nihiru’s blade. Her brother’s imminently peaceful expression upon dying, as if he’d finally been released from an extended stay in hell, is little consolation for poor Osuhi, who is alone once more.

Nihiru, being one of the demons in the Hall of Hell with which Daigo made a deal, releases another part of Hyakkimaru upon its defeat: his real ears and sense of hearing. The first things he hears in his life are the steady falling of rain and Osushi’s weeping.

Meanwhile, back in the Hall of Hell, Daigo is now aware that someone out there is killing off the demons he made a deal with. Even if the demons haven’t double-crossed him yet (why would they uphold their end of the deal once they got his son’s parts? They’re demons), the good fortune he’s enjoyed is unlikely to last if Hyakkimaru continues knocking them off.