Dororo – 17 – They’re Still Eating

After a Dororo-centric episode, we switch to Hyakkimaru’s POV as he slays a demon that was about to kill the man who gave him a body, Jukai, who continues to provide the dead with limbs and eyes on the battlefield.

He embraces Hyakkimaru like long-lost family, and is amazed to learn that his former charge can now hear, talk, and feel. But he’s also somewhat scared of the person he helped to make—like a Dr. Frankenstein regarding the Modern Prometheus he hath wrought.

At first, Hyakkimaru regards this fortuitous encounter with the utmost practicality: he’s missing a leg and needs a new one, and Jukai can provide him what he needs. But Jukai would prefer it if Hyakkimaru took it easy, sat down and had a meal with his old guardian.

Even when a landslide closes the entrance to Jukai’s cave home, Hykkimaru is all business trying to open up a new hole. The demons who took everything from Hyakkimaru—with his father’s consent—are still feeding. There’s no time to waste.

Throuhgout the episode, we sometimes cut from Hyakkimaru’s time with Jukai to Tahoumaru, who both Mutsu and Hyougo agree has changed since his encounter with his older brother. Even as his mother awakens, recovered from her injuries, Tahoumaru is more concerned with the latest ghoul threat.

Taho is singularly committed to protecting his people—in other words, the best son Lord Daigo could hope for. But there’s a sadness in Mutsu and Hyougo’s reckoning of this new, colder Tahoumaru.

Even as he admits that he is well within his rights to reclaim his body, Jukai weeps over what Hyakkimaru has become as a direct result of his handiwork. He believes all he did by restoring the boy’s body is allow him to continue travelling down the River of Hell.

He is comforted when he learns that Hyakkimaru isn’t navigating that river alone—there is someone close to him, not an enemy, who can keep him human—and when Hyakkimaru calls him “mama,” well…there shouldn’t be a dry eye in the room!

Jukai doesn’t give Hyakkimaru a new leg, but he doesn’t condemn him for fighting to take back what’s his, even if it will cause great pain, suffering, and misfortune for the people of Daigo’s domain. All of this falls on Daigo’s shoulders, not Hyakkimaru’s or Tahoumaru’s or Nuinokata’s.

And yet Tahoumaru is taking up the mantle of lord of a realm whose prosperity is owed to a single young man who had no say in the matter at the time. But thanks to Jukai, Hyakkimaru does have a say. And once he tracks down Dororo at that cove, he’s no doubt going to continue contributing his “two cents.”

Dororo – 15 – Moths to a Flame

The longer Dororo and Hyakkimaru stay at Lord Sabame’s village, the fishier things get. Dororo finds an almost ideal village full of simple but happy folk who have more than enough to eat. But when he questions an old lady about the nuns and children, she wanders off without answering. The villagers are hiding something, and the ghoul they fought last night was a big part of that something—as well as the reason Sabame insists they stay as long as they like.

Hyakkimaru follows Sabame, but isn’t that good at staying hidden. Sabame shows him the best vantage point of the village, which he would do anything to protect. That includes ghouls, as it happens, and if Hyakki is there to kill them, Sabame intends to stop him. As for Dororo, the villagers trap him under a rice storehouse where he’s to be caterpillar food, but the big baby rescues him as thanks for his earlier kindness, and out of the baby’s head sprout the ghosts of the children who were killed in the fire with the nun.

The fire was set intentionally by Sabame and the villagers as a sacrifice to the demon Maimai-onba, whom he took as his wife. In exchange, they have peace, prosperity, and don’t want for anything. But that butts up against Hyakkimaru’s zero tolerance policy on demons and ghouls, and he attacks Maimai-onba. Almost immediately it’s as if the deal struck with Sabame is called off, as the village is engulfed by flames. When Dororo meets up with Hyakkimaru, the latter’s left leg is shattered.

That night Hyakkimaru, with a makeshift peg leg with a bladder of oil, takes a boat out to a lake where Maimai-onba dwells, enticing it to pluck him up with a flame, then shooting the oil bladder at its body, torching it into ash. In exchange, another statue in the Hall of Hell cracks, and Hyakkimaru gets his real spine back, with his body expelling the artificial one.

But unlike previous demon-slayings, Dororo doesn’t feel right about this. It’s true the villagers got their peace and prosperity through ill-gotten means, but it’s not like the children had any say, and they’re the ones who will suffer most in the conflict that immediately flares up once they realize they no longer have enough food.

Hyakkimaru is utterly dismissive of Dororo’s concerns, and has no sympathy for anyone—not Sabame, not his father Daigo—who makes deals with demons. By the time he realizes Dororo isn’t still right behind him, the kid is suddenly in the clutches of Itashi, who already has one half of the map and wants the rest that’s etched on Dororo’s back. Talk about the wrong time to split up.

Suddenly throwing Itashi into the mix at the end of a monster-of-the-week (spread across two weeks with mixed results), basically immediately after Dororo lagged behind Hyakki out of anger, definitely upped the stakes for next week. On the other hand, Itashi’s appearance felt almost too abrupt and coincidental here. We’ll see how next week pans out.

Fate / Zero – 19

In Part 2 of How Kiritsugu Got So Messed Up, young Kiritsugu finds himself in a gender-swapped version of The Professional. Natalia is Leon, the ‘cleaner’ with a heart of gold who suddenly isn’t alone, and Kiritsugu is Matilda, the trauma-stricken, anger-filled youth searching for purpose.

After saving him, Natalia takes Kiri under her wing, gradually teaching him the basics. Before long he’s accompanying her on jobs, and if there’s one complaint I have with this episode (and it’s not a biggie), it’s that there’s really no transition between Kiri’s ‘kid’ and ‘adult’ voices.

What Nat continually drives into Kiri (whatever voice he has) is that her line of work, one’s own survival is the most important consideration. If you’re dead, it’s all for nothing. As a result of her training and care, Kiri becomes a highly capable and reliable apprentice. (She also eventually powders some of his ribs into 66 bullets).

The moment a Dead Apostle named Odd Vorzak appears in the tray of Natalia’s fax machine, I had the ominous feeling that it would be her last job, but while the destination was basically known, I still greatly enjoyed the journey. As a big job in which Kiritsugu plays a crucial role, flying to NYC ahead of Natalia and utilizing his bullets, there’s an auspicious tone to the proceedings.

While there are few things worse than getting the back of your seat kicked on a plane, what Natalia does to Vorzak is most definitely one of them. It’s a great scheme, transporting Kiri’s bullet into Vorzak’s back, and it’s executed perfectly. But it’s also all too easy, and I couldn’t help but think there would have been better, and more importantly safer ways to eliminate him.

Sure enough, while taking care of the bees in Vorzak’s luggage in the hold, all hell breaks loose in the cabin, as Vorzak was carrying more bees in his body. All 300 crew and passengers are quickly turned into vicious ghouls. By some miracle, Natalia is able to reach the cockpit, but it’s a long, tense trip to New York with those ghouls at the doo, and you can feel it.

Kiritsugu keeps Natalia company over the radio, in a beautiful scene that lessons the tension but still feels like it captures the specific emotions of the situation perfectly. As they talk, Natalia gets more an more sentimental, wondering if “playing at a family” is what caused her to screw up so badly, while Kiritsugu subtly talks of her in the past tense, sailing out into open water on one of the small, efficient little boats he loves to use.

There’s a wonderful ambiguity to what Natalia’s particular thoughts are about the conversation she’s having with Kiritsugu, and if and when she realizes that he’s preparing to destroy the plane before it lands. After all, she trained him, and always knew he had way too much potential in her line of work, not to mention her edict that her apprentice think of his survival first and foremost.

Whatever she feels or knows, the reveal of the missile launcher just as the dawn arrives, with a flock of seagulls circling Kiritsugu as if he were the center of a storm—it’s all wonderfully staged and directed. And before pulling the trigger Kiritsugu makes sure Natalia knows: he was glad to have her as a mother.

As is usually the case with Kiritsugu, I can totally understand why he does what he does, even if it’s absolutely horrible: that plane could not be allowed to land just because Natalia is dear to him. The other 300 people on the plane weren’t people anymore, and if they get out into the city, many many more people would’ve died. Kiritsugu couldn’t allow that, so he does what he couldn’t do when Shirley turned into a vampire: nothing more or less than What Has To Be Done.

There’s such a dark, bleak symmetry to Kiritsugu killing his real father and adoptive mother as bookends to his transformation into the Emiya Kiritsugu currently fighting the Holy Grail War. Natalia was such a great character who came out of nowhere, it was sad to see her go so soon, but we were dealing with flashbacks after all, and I had no reasonable expectation she would survive them.

The break in the present-day story was abrupt (especially since I haven’t watched episode 17 yet), but it was well worth the detour to learn more about the key protagonist of the story. It also demonstrated that whatever the timeline or setting, Fate/Zero knows how to tell a damned compelling story.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – 06

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And so, aboard a zombie dragon, our variably gallant anti-heroes narrowly escape the clutches of both Azazel and the Jeanne d’Arc-led Orleans Knights–oh wait, scratch that. They’re free for just a few hours before they’re eventually taken prisoner by the latter. But our pals thrive in constant peril, so I wasn’t concerned.

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Azazel, meanwhile, is going to have to try to live (or unlive?) down the humiliaiton of letting Amira and the humans slip through his fingers. Heck, Lucifer won’t even see the man, and both Cerberus and another co-worker are quick to lay into the convert. I for one am glad Azazel’s failure isn’t simply shrugged off. He has to redeem himself, which means going after that God Key.

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Favaro, Kaisar, Amira and Rita are brought before the king in the royal capital of Antae, but their al fresco trial is crashed by not one or two but three angels – Raphael, Michael, and Uriel, who direct the king to place Amira under heavy guard and spare the lives of her companions.

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I love everything about this scene. The angels beaming onto the scene, as if on some medieval teleconference, reducing the impressive-looking King to a mere errand boy. His Majesty assumed the angels would want the captives executed at once, but the angels show everyone a feed of angels struggling to keep Bahamut contained. Amira is one of the keys to Bahamut, and they fear the emotional damage of having her friends executed could make an element that is presently stable unstable.

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Then, after shaking the king’s hand, Favaro immediately proceeds to upset Amira immensely, telling her he’s done risking his neck for her, wants his demon tail gone and to be left alone. It cuts Amira to the quick, and I must say, it’s not Favaro’s best moment, but this is who he is: almost always lookin’ out for Number One.

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Favaro and Amira don’t part on good terms when the former checks out what the demon alert warns of: a group of colossal ghouls headed towards the city. He then watches as Jeanne rides out with her heavenly spear and turns the ghouls into mincemeat with an awesome display of pyrotechnics. It’s a neat reminder of just how serious the demon threat is, and how vital Jeanne’s skills are. One even has to wonder how the city survived in her absence.

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Back in heaven (I guess?) the lady angels direct blame at Bowie-esque Michael for allowing Amira to escape with the key in the first place, causing this tenuous situation. Michael, for his part, did manage to cut one of her wings off, but the fact of the matter is, Amira is able to transform between angel and demon.

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After a night of epicurian delights, a very drunk Favaro settles in for the night against a cold stone wall, but is confronted by an uncertain Kaisar. No doubt Favaro is at the stage in his evening where the booze has stopped flowing and the boobs have stopped bouncing and he can’t help but look back upon how he treated Amira and feel a little regret, and so tells Kaisar to make with the dinner knife he swiped from the dining hall and have at him. He is a nefarious, lying, backstabbing villain, after all. Favaro, naturally, is armed with a fork, which can double as an afro pick if the need arises.

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This dinnerware duel, another novel invention of an gloriously inventive show, is broken up by Rita, who manages to smack both of them in the face with her arm-cannon to announce that Amira has flown the coop. They split up to look for her.

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The mysterious cloaked man who breaks Amira out claims to be able to fulfill her wish: to know who she is and what she was meant to do. He has a gem that glows like hers, and she even entertains the possibility this is her father, though that could just be because Favaro said she had to have a father because everyone has a father. Even though she’s surely quite angry with Favaro, his influence is felt.

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The episode could’ve ended right there, but it wasn’t done yet. We get one of the more intriguing conversations of the show, one between Favaro, who has stumbled upon a stone statue of Bahamut, and an off-duty Jeanne in street clothes. Jeanne tells Favaro the tale of Bahamut, who was sealed when Zeus and Satan sacrificed themselves, and the prophesied hero who would protect the world when Bahamut returned. Jeanne’s people believe she’s that hero, and she, once a simple farm girl, has come to as well.

Because of her own humble beginnings, she questions Favaro’s notion that he doesn’t have anything to do with this mess of angels, demons, and prophesies. I question it too: If booze, girls, and freedom were all he really needed, he wouldn’t be standing in that courtyard talking to Jeanne-freakin’-d’Arc. He met her, and Amira, and reunited with his old frenemy Kaisar for a reason. There’s a greater role than the one he’s settled for so far. He need only step upon the stage.

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