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.

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Dororo – 22 – Stay The Bro You Are

Things get more and more dire in Dororoland with this week’s events, with Hyakkimaru pushed over the edge in more ways than one by the capture of Dororo. The damage he did to Hyougou and Mutsu seems to render them no longer able to protect Tahoumaru, which means he’s more pissed off than ever.

Mutsu is the worse-off off the two, however, as she’s caught the disease that’s gripped parts of Daigo’s lands, and will soon claim her life. I feel for these siblings, now that I know what they’ve already been through when they were the same age as Dororo. But hey, at least Hyakkimaru doesn’t have to kill the demon horse Midoro right out of the gate.

Nui decides she won’t let another innocent child die for her sake, so she releases him, and hides him in her robes when guards pass by. Dororo lingers under those robes just a bit and called “Nui” mama. Nui can probably tell right there that Dororo has suffered too much already. Nui ends up following Dororo out of Daigo’s castle just as Midoro arrives to wreak havoc, and they take a boat downriver.

Dororo tells her more about Hyakkimaru and how unfair it is that he has to go through with all this, and she tells him how even without skin or limbs, Hyakkimaru was the most precious thing in her life. He hopes Dororo will tell him that. Dororo hopes she can help keep Hyakkimaru from becoming a demon. But due to the rains, they lose control of the boat and crash…

Fortunately, they’re both okay, as Dororo wakes up in the same stable as Midoro’s child; the two of them having to live on without their mothers. Biwamaru is watching over him, and later shows him that Niu is aiding in the care and feeding of the sick and invalid who had nowhere else to go.

Meanwhile, Hyakkimaru is revealed to have taken Midoro as his horse, and the two form a tornado of wrath that cuts through Daigo’s soldiers like softened butter. If Dororo wants to save him, he’d better hurry…if he’s not already too late.

Mutsu, deciding she can’t simply die in a room, heads to the Hall of Hell to offer her body to the one demon who didn’t eat a part of Hyakkimaru. Tahoumaru and Hyougou arrive in the nick of time to stop her, but something far worse happens instead, the three of them desperate beyond words for the power to protect their lands people, and each other.

After Hyakkimaru disposes of the fixer who kidnapped Dororo, he ends up crossing paths with Tahoumaru, Mutsu and Hyougou. Only they’re not the same people anymore. Thanks to a new deal with the demons, Mutsu and Hyougou have their arms back, and Tahoumaru has his eye back, along with a third one.

Those arms and eyes are Hyakkimaru’s. They were no doubt given to the three for one purpose: to get the remaining body parts back. Only then will the demons honor the pact and restore Daigo’s lands to prosperity…or so they probably told Tahoumaru. But it was a mistake for his father to deal with the demons in the first place, and it’s an even bigger mistake to deal with them now.

Dororo – 21 – Dororo Has a Bad Feeling About This

The title of this post says it all: Dororo has stayed alive as long as he has for two reasons: She’s pretended to be a he, and he’s had very good instincts for danger. Sure, he’s gotten himself into innumerable tough spots, but has had the luck to slip out of them, thanks to Hyakkimaru, Biwamaru, and other allies along the way.

So when Dororo says he has a bad feeling about heading to Daigo, Hyakkimaru should use those new ears of his and listen. He doesn’t, and grave misfortune follows, just as Daigo is dealing with the worst misfortune since before he made his demon pact. As epidemics and blights plague his lands, Asakura has fielded a 2,000-strong invasion army, far larger than anything he can muster.

As such, what few troops he has left are forced to recruit any able-bodied men and boys from the healthy villages (leaving too much work for the women and children, which will have serious consequences) and burning the infected villages and shooting anyone who tries to escape. It’s time for desperate measures all around, and not a place Hyakkimaru and Dororo should go anywhere near.

Short-handed as he is, Lord Daigo cannot refuse his son’s demand to hunt down Hyakkimaru with no one but Mutsu and Hyougou—there’s no talking Tahoumaru down—but still assigns his “fixer” to follow them. Speaking from experience when their village was raided, their parents slain in front of them, and taken captive by samurai, Mutsu and Hyougou voice their extreme dislike of war in all its forms. More distressingly, Mutsu’s malady is worsening, and can no longer be hidden.

Hyakkimaru and Tahoumaru’s mother also laments that despite being the wife of a great lord, she is helpless to stop the path of destruction upon which both of her sons have set themselves. Nothing Dororo says can convince Hyakkimaru to reconsider his quest to get all of his body back, not matter how much death and destruction it might cost; not matter how much it might change him into someone Dororo can no longer walk beside.

Hyakkimaru counters by saying he wants to see Dororo with his own eyes and touch him with his own hands, but in the grand scheme of human suffering, it doesn’t seem enough to justify his actions, no matter how unjustly he was treated.

Those looking for two-dimensional heroes or villains will find none in this episode. People may be fighting for or against Hyakkimaru’s interests, but everyone has good motives for doing so. In Mutsu and Hyougou’s case, their loyalty to Lord Daigo and Tahoumaru in particular is the consequence of Lord Daigo having saved them from both from a fate worse than death: to starve as captives among corpses.

I couldn’t help but cheer when Daigo entered that pit of hell and dragged the feral, mangy kids out of there. Yes, he put them to work as Tahoumaru’s official friends and protectors, which might not have been their choice, but theirs are still infinitely better (and longer) lives than they’d have lived had Daigo not saved them. Both have long since made peace with the fact that they won’t always like the orders their lord gives them, or the choices their young master makes, but their loyalty is absolute all the same.

So Mutsu and Hyougou join Tahoumaru in their latest confrontation of Hyakkimaru, as their master’s right and left hands. In a bout of sickening irony, those are the same hands Hyakkimaru chops off of the two of them, now more powerful and enraged than ever. It is Tahoumaru who has to save his own bodyguards from his wrath, and receives a nasty gash on his brow for his trouble.

What I couldn’t stop thinking about thorughout Tahoumaru’s efforts to rid the world of his older brother is that how does he know killing him will solve anything? The demon pact was broken, full stop. Those parts of Hyakkimaru they took were taken from a living baby; killing him won’t necessarily automatically return those parts to them. All of Tahoumaru’s rage and single-mindedness on his destruciton, and it may not end up making any difference. His father’s lands may simply be doomed regardless.


Things look bad for Tahoumaru, but we were never meant to forget about Lord Daigo’s fixer, who arrives on the back of a prized white horse named Midoro stolen from one of the villages and pressed into military service. What does the fixer do with this splendid horse? He blows it up in a cynically efficienty attempt to kill Hyakkimaru.

Yet even this fixer is not an evil man. He’s obeying his lord’s orders, protecting his lord’s son, and defending his lord’s domain and its people the only way he knows how.

Even if it means using Dororo as a hostage, something the maimed Mutsu and Hyougou strongly protest (no doubt because the child reminds them of themselves—and of history repeating itself—neither of them have an alternative for dealing with Hyakkimaru, who is still alive at the bottom of a gorge.

About that gorge: it is filled with the corpses of samurai and their armor, as well as the parts of poor Midoro the horse, all of which undergoes some kind of demonic transformation down there. Like Dororo said: he had a bad feeling about this. Maybe next time someone will listen…if there is a next time.

One parting nitpick: the quality of the horses this week is iffy at best, suggesting limited skill and experience rendering them on the part of the animators. Considering the importance of one particular horse, that was a rather distracting shortcoming, though not a deal-breaker.

Tales of Zestiria the X – 07

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And so we return to Sorey, Alisha, and Zestiria, right where we left them: staring down a massive storm with a dragon at its core. But just as soon as it appears, it disappears, and while everyone gives him credit as Shepherd for vanquishing it, Sorey didn’t actually do anything.

It was so anticlimactic, it made me wonder if it was the same dragon Velvet was fighting last week, and it vanished because she vanquished it? Maybe dragons transcend time and place, being the manifestation of malevolence and all?

Anyway, all Sorey can do is accept the gratitude of Alisha, the town, and even Lord Bartlow, who invites him to sup with him. Nobody trusts the guy, but he only seems to want to get the measure of the lad, and lets him go when dinner’s over.

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From there, Sorey, Alisha, and Mikleo’s paths diverge, although Alisha and Sorey travel together for a spell, affording Alisha the opportunity to learn more about the Shepherd. As for Milkeo, he’s starting to feel like Sorey has surpassed him so far, he doesn’t know what to do next.

Lailah steers him in the direction of the Galahad Ruins, where a scred relic similar to the holy sword lies; if he can retrieve and wield whatever it is, she believes he will have amassed the strength to continue standing beside his friend.

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Alisha is headed to the learned city of Mirland to deal with a worsening epidemic, while Sorey is headed to the intimidatingly-named Rayfalke Spiritcrest, where he hopes to find a dragon to slay.

By the episode’s end, everyone has gone their separate ways – an interesting development this far along in the show, considering the OP and ED are so gung-ho about a united party that includes Rose, whom we still barely see, and a few characters we have yet to meet.

Instead, everyone has their own business and are on their own in radically different (and beautiful) lands. Only Lailah is with Sorey, but he and Mikleo are looking at the same sky. We’ll see everyone fares in their solo missions—and when and how they’ll reunite.

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Shiki – 20 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 18 Dec 2010 – We were initially a bit dubious of Shiki’s unique, out-there character design, just as we were with House of Five Leaves, but in both cases, simply watching them through has totally eliminated that stigma. And having so intricately built up a story with so many characters and motivations, the final payoff is made all the more awesome. Toshio and his followers (led by Ookawa) go on a staking spree, but only succeed in destroying a third of the Shiki; there are other hiding places.

Some Shiki have resorted to desperate measures: murdering Toshio’s mother as retaliation and to send a message to other humans; an enraged Seishin picking off humans with his rifle; and even glamored humans being sent out as assassins. It’s all underhanded and not what Sunako wanted at all. She’s still in the basement with Seishin, growing more and more afraid of her expectant demise. You can’t help but sympathize with her: though she’s killed thousands in her centuries of life, it was always so she wouldn’t starve. She now questions whether it would have been better to starve; if her life itself is a sin that shouldn’t be.

Meanwhile, Tohru finally surrenders to Ritsuko’s refusal to feed off of her friend. She wishes to avoid detesting herself by not killing anyone, even at the cost of her life. She wishes she had never risen. Tohru’s pleas are no use; all he can do is make her comfortable in her waning hours. At some point, Sunako, Tohru, and all the others made the choice to live and live with the guilt, a choice Ritsuko isn’t capable of making. She is a nurse, after all. It is truly heart-wrenching to see her suffer, but breaking her will would be worse.

Which brings us to Toshio’s dilemma: their enemies aren’t just Shiki, but the humans they control through drinking their blood. Ookawa splits the village into black-and-white: good guys (them) versus bad guys (the Shiki and the “traitors”). Ookawa even stakes the human assassin, disturbing Toshio. He absolutely does not want humans murdering other humans, but what choice do they have when they’re coming to kill them? We’re in for a hell of a final two episodes.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Shiki – 19 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 12 Dec 2010 – The war begins between the surviving humans and the Shiki, as Chizuru is very publicly exposed and staked and Toshio is finally able to convince a mob to join him in driving out the “pests”. Yet we’re on the fence as to who’s truly in the right here; since we’ve learned so much about the Shiki. They aren’t killing because they’re evil demons. They’re killing because they need human blood to survive.

The Shiki must kill humans to live; the humans must destroy the Shiki to live. No wonder coexistence is so tough. Even if a segment of humans were okay with giving blood to feed them – and there is – there will always be extremists on both sides who will sabotage any chance at peace. Both overly wild and violent vampires and intolerant humans won’t agree to even the most mutually amicable compromise.

Sunako sheds tears not only for her child Chizuru, but because after coming so close to realizing the dream of a Shiki village, Toshio now threatens to crush that dream. Even worse, when day breaks, she falls asleep, leaving her defenseless. Who has been charged with protecting her in the basement? A supine, anemic, Seishin. Meaning if the mob finds them, they’re toast.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Shiki – 18 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 3 Dec 2010Oho! Now things are getting interesting…and they were already plenty interesting before. Toshio replenished the blood he lost with an infusion at the clinic, which lessons the effect of Chizuru’s glamor. Allowing her to bite him was an immense risk (though it was going to happen anyway), but it seems to have paid off big.

Sunako is the vampire queen, not Chizuru. Chizuru, it would seem, is her daughter, who lived part of her adult life as a human, and even had a husband. Toshio taps into that and lays on the charm, with good results: asking her out for a harmless date to help her mingle more with the still-living villagers and allay their fears, Toshio is able to get her close enough to a temple so that her worst fears surface. The fear weakens her, and Toshio gets everyone’s attention that this is indeed a okiagiri – including Megumi’s dad, who remembers the scent of her perfume. This scene where Toshio turns the tables is delicious – and vicious – in its justice.

This is huge, as for once a good chunk of the living are forced to shed their denial and face facts. It also raises the stakes considerably for the vamps: a full-on assault to finish the villagers seems necessary. Meanwhile, Tatsumi, the blue-haired daywalker pays Natsuno (and his now-crazed dad) a visit. Tatsumi and Natsuno are called jinrou, the best of both worlds. But he won’t let Natsuno keep living if he won’t suck blood. Oh yeah, Ritsuko rose and doesn’t want to suck blood either. More power, more problems.


Rating: 8
 (Great)

Shiki – 17 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 27 Nov 2010 – Seishin still can’t get on board with Toshio’s methods, and this is driven home when he meets exactly what he’s been talking about: Toru, who is killing to live, not out of evil or hatred. Do vampires have just as much a right to kill humans as humans have to kill animals to live? Is this just the luck of the food chain? This seems to be his line of thinking: Killing vampires is still killing. He won’t kill. After a strange encounter with poor tormented Kaori, he goes to the Kirishikis’ mansion to hang out with Sunako. Will she bite him?

Meanwhile, Toshio is holed up in his clinic, carving stakes for the coming battle. He definitely seems resolved to go out fighting. When another victim arrives, he lets slip that it isn’t an epidemic. Ritsuko, remembering seeing Nao in action, asks Toshio what he meant, but the conversation stalls. When a fellow nurse is kidnapped, Ritsuko is drawn out into the night and bitten herself, and it’s over. It seemed she had come around to the conclusion about what was going on, but it was too late. She is glamored by her biter to refuse treatment and insist on being left alone.

Finally, Mrs. Kirishiki appears in the clinic, with her…interesting outfit. Toshio comes at her with a stake but Mr. Kirishiki shoots it to pieces with a sniper rifle. Is this...Game Over? Well, she bites him, and tells him to burn his data, and he does. But who said this wasn’t the next stage of the plan Natsuno suggested? Natsuno can think for himself; perhaps the risen Toshio will be rebellious as well.

Of course, first things first: Toshio has to die and rise. And his last words before being bitten suggested he didn’t care about the village anymore; it was full of idiots who did nothing to stop their plight. Excellent stuff.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Shiki – 16 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 26 Nov 2010 – One of the really neat aspects of any vampire-themed narratives is the ridiculously long lives vampires live. When Toru can’t seem to get over killing Natsuno, he’s summoned to the mansion to meet with Sunako. Who had been just your typical creepy little ghoul girl became orders of magnitude more interesting when she shared her rich and harrowing life experience with Toru. Killed, buried, then risen; she embarked on a quest to find her parents that spanned human lifetimes, all the while killing kind and weak humans for food. Compared to her, Toru has absolutely no reason to kvetch.

The Kirishikis would prefer all of their vampire servants to have an attitude more like Megumi. Parts of her human personality remain – her cheerfulness, fashion sense, and love for Natsuno, for instance – but she’s also become totally desensitized to the actions she now takes nightly as a risen. She’s not going to let anyone rain on her human-draining parade. But she’s still just a baby vampire;  perhaps decades or even centuries from fully understanding what she is.

This week Toshio meets covertly with Natsuno, who is a daywalker…and seems to now get fashion tips from Megumi (we’re not knocking it; after all some people have to look correct in this backwater village). However he’s dressed, he’s not interested in falling into line like Megumi; he wants to help Toshio get rid of the Shiki, including himself. But they must bide their time. We’re curious to learn how they’ll do it, and why they have to wait until the moment the vamps think they’ve achieved irreversible victory.

Not a party to these plans, Akira takes it upon himself to start the war early, but fails pretty quickly when the blue-haired daywalker appears. It would seem Akira is a goner, which will leave poor timid Kaori as the only living Tanaka – a family that’s gotten the short end of the stick in this series. One thing’s clear: if the living are to take back the village, an uncoordinated direct attack isn’t gonna cut it.

Rating: 8 (Great)

Shiki – 15 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 15 Nov 2010 – Seishin walks in on Toshio just having staked his dead wife through the heart. But however Toshio justifies it, Seishin is against all killing, be it human or risen. Considering he hasn’t been targeted yet, its as pragmatic a position as it is moral. Toshio then stops by the health office, only to find no one there during the day.

Everyone works at night, now that they’re risen. Chizuru Kirishiki happens to be lounging around in that very office when he visits. While that particular fact doesn’t make much sense, it is made quite clear to Toshio that he’s on their list. It’s only a matter of time before they come knockin’ on his door.

No one else who’s still alive is interested in what Toshio has to say. They either don’t or won’t believe him (or in Seishin’s case, cannot help him). Things look pretty bleak, until BAM, Yuuki’s back! Despite being risen, he still has his regular purple eyes, but his get-up is much more Vampire Chic (I’m going to assume he’s risen unless they say otherwise). He isn’t there to kill Toshio. He’s there to tell him he’s not the only one who believes Megumi is still walking around. Tasty…now what’s gonna happen next?


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Shiki – 14 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 13 Nov 2010 – Yowza…just when we think Toshio’s checked out emotionally, he springs into action once his wife rises. He even gets it all on tape. It must take an ungodly amount of dedication to treat one’s recently-deceased wife like, well, a fetal pig in biology class, and treat her arm like a pincushion. Toshio won’t let the risen corpse speak, even though she knows his name. As far as he’s concerned, his wife is dead. Whatever this is, it’s a golden opportunity to discover what makes the vamps tick.

Even so, you can’t help but sympathize with his corpse-wife: he’s doing these terrible things to her while she’s wide awake, listening and watching. Even for a vamp, this is clearly torture, which then leads to a staking, Toshio’s last resort to extinguish her. We all know staking and beheading vampires is the only way to get rid of them, but he had to be scientifically sure. With possession of this concrete knowledge, he’s perhaps the only one who can save the town.

Meanwhile, Megumi kills the Tanaka kids’ dad, and later expresses her concern that Yuuki hasn’t risen yet. We love how she still has the hots for him. It would be a shame if Yuuki ended up cremated in the “big city”, since the first half spent so much time on his character. When the creepy effeminate guy (bad with names) who did rise rubs it in Megumi’s face, she has a rock and Chuck Taylor ready for his face. We’ll admit a macabre satisfaction when this kid’s big mouth gets him in trouble.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Shiki – 13 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 29 Oct 2010 – Things just keep getting worse in the ol’ village. Tohru ends up drinking enough of Natsuno’s blood to finally do him in. He’s definitely not gone, though, he’s sure to become the newest okiagari (vampire), which will have all kinds of ramifications. Meanwhile, even Toshio’s wife ensnared by the risen, and he’s powerless to stop her death.

When Natsuno’s dad emerges from his workshop to find his wife has run off and his son is dead, he has Natsuno’s body taken away by the new funeral home (apparently, word’s gotten out there’s mad mortuary money to be made in this village), but the good doctor decides to put his recently deceased spouse on ice, presumably to wait for her to…rise.

Both deaths are surprisingly austere and there isn’t much exposition, a testament to how accustomed everyone is getting to death. With one of the main characters sure to become a vampire, and no sure solutions in sight, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to imagine how anyone is going to survive this.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Shiki – 12 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 16 Oct 2010 – After a hiatus of a couple weeks, the dark, angsty vampire series has returned for its second half. It doesn’t start off with a bang nor a whimper, preferring to take the middle road. Natsuno was bitten by Tohru, and continues to be bitten, so he’s well on his way to dying of anemia and likely becoming a vampire himself. Interestingly, Megumi doesn’t seem to care about him either way anymore.

Natsuno wants to find a solution for the risen to coexist with humans, but Tohru doesn’t want to hear it. Sure it’s hard to kill people for food at first, but like all things, with practice it gets easier and less of a big deal. The more human lives you take, the less human you become. When and if Natsuno becomes one of the risen, he’s bound to find this out for himself. His urban-minded, anti-superstitious father tricks Natsuno’s friends into leaving him alone and tosses out all of their crosses and talismans. So no help there.

There’s still hope for the human Natsuno; if his family moved out of the village, back to the city, and he was admitted to a hospital and given a blood transfusion, he could recover. But it isn’t entirely clear one can even leave the village, and it isn’t known whether anyone who ‘moved away’ is even alive anymore. That’s kind of a downer. What are the humans gonna do?


Rating: 6 (Good)