Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 11 – Playtime’s Over

TRIGGER WARNING: This episode contains a sequence of graphic violence.

The last nine episodes and change of Moonlight Fantasy have largely consisted of Makoto, Tomoe, and Mio basically goofing off while demonstrating their immense powers in this world. Then, just when he’s gained a third companion in the newly-humanized Lich he names Shiki, Tomoe starts bleeding profusely and keels over.

Like most of Moonlight’s cliffhangers, I expected this one to be resolved in the first five minutes, possibly in a comedic way. It…didn’t. Shit suddenly got real at the end of last week’s episode, and it stays real and very dark for the vast majority of this week. It’s almost as if Moonlight wanted both Makoto and us to experience the sudden realization that we don’t really know the first thing about this new world.

The adventurer woman and her two associates raid the Illusory City, and the magical ring Drahpnir explodes in an ensuing fight, killing an orc who was just doing his job as well as Tomoe’s Fragment, hence her keeling over. In response, and after reading her deeply prejudiced memories, Makoto takes his revenge on the adventurer woman by stalking her, cutting off her forearms, and then stabbing her through the throat. Fuckin’ Yikes.

It is without doubt the most dark and disturbingly violent this series has ever gotten, and it doesn’t spare the blood. Like Tomoe’s collapse, it comes out of nowhere, but maybe that’s the point: this show is done taking it easy on Makoto, and is now treating him more like Re:Zero treats Subie: like the new world he’s in is always trying to kill him and those he holds most dear, and surviving is a constant struggle.

While it’s laudable for Moonlight to take a chance at going dark, it kind of undermines that a bit by throwing us back in its usual goofy comedic milieu before we’ve even had sufficient time to process the shocking gore we just witnessed. Makoto brutally murdered a woman, and is back to being the straight man in between Mio and a recovering Tomoe bickering. After a memorial service, it’s just tonal whiplash. It’s…odd.

But while things return to “normal”, the reset button is not hit on Makoto’s psyche. His experience that night changed him forever, and also told him that if he wants the Demiplane to be safe, he’s going to have to learn a lot more about this world. For him, that means leaving Tomoe and Mio and enrolling at a university in the neutral town Rembrandt told him about.

But in the first instance since the first episode of the Goddess interfering in his existence on this world, when he goes through a mist gate to the city with Shiki, he ends up materializing alone in the middle of another wasteland, and is immediately attacked by Sophia and Mitsurugi, who don’t just look like a couple of tough customers…the former is able to lop off a couple of Makoto’s fingers!

The shit truly hit the fan at the start of  this episode, and by the end Makoto finds himself just about neck-deep in it. I appreciate the show’s ambition in picking the path of grim drama, but I can’t deny my neck still aches from that sudden direction change. All that said, this episode, the second-to-last of this cour, makes the previous ten feel like an extended prologue to the real story.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

P.S. It remains bizarre that nearly all humans think Makoto without his mask is some kind of hideous monster, when his character design just doesn’t read that way. The show could at least show us how they see him through their eyes…

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 10 – Underlord

After two straight cliffhangers involving the two forest-dwelling sisters, Eris and Aqua (which does sound like a sports drink!) are effortlessly defeated by Makoto and Mio. The weaker adventurers are teleported to the Illusory City, which is apparently an actual physical place…albeit a foggy one.

Eris and Aqua are fun enough in their quirky/serious sister act, but when they take Makoto and Mio to the “Forest Ogre” village is when the episode really starts to bog down. I honestly cannot tell you how many village elder scenes I’ve sat through in my day, but it’s a lot.

Most of them put in more effort than Moonlight Fantasy here. It’s all very by-the-numbers listless, aside from Mio’s adorable envy at Eris and Aqua’s shisho holding Makoto’s hand a second longer than she got to

The obligatory village banquet takes place, and again, it’s just kinda there, not really distinguishing itself in any way. Thankfully, Ains Ooal Gown’s freakin’ cousin crashes the party and livens things up. Yes, the lich has more vitality than the anonymous, homogenous villagers. The lich talks a big game, but obviously Makoto ain’t losin’ to no skeleton.

Rather than kill him, they take him to the Demiplane to hear his story. He’s been striving all his life (and death) trying to become a “Grant”, a rare and special human that can travel between worlds. [Nudges your side hard] Sounds familiar, mmmmm? 

Tomoe, demonstrating a knowledge of other worlds that surprises Makoto a bit, says Grants are Grants not for what they are, it’s more bestowed upon someone by dint of having found a passage between worlds.

Lich (I didn’t hear a name) ends up forming a contract with Makoto, and gains a ripped bishounen body, which combined with seiyu Tsuda Kenjirou being particularly velvety, makes the Lich the third member of Makoto’s now unisex harem. But no sooner does he gain one member than he seems on the brink of losing another!

Without any explanation whatsoever, Tomoe keels over and starts bleeding out. It’s the highest stakes we’ve ever seen in this show. And while I’m fairly tired of these cliffhangers-for-the-sake-of-cliffhangers, I need to know dear sweet dashing Tomoe will be okay. Wait…what’s that? The next episode is titled “Goodbye?!” 

Shiiiiiiiiiit…

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 09 – Into the Woods

As two forest-dwelling sisters named Aqua and Eris bring ruin upon any intruding adventurers, Makoto celebrates the anniversary of the establishment of the Demiplane by meeting one-one-one with its denizens, from Akina the Alke (who has learned to perfectly mimic humans) to Liddy the Lizardman (who still looks like a lizardman). He also learns that when he pats the head of Tomoe’s fragment, she feels it too.

After a night of meeting, greeting his many admirers from Demiplane society, Makoto goes off on his own to practice his archery. Only both Tomoe and Mio suddenly feel his presence vanish, and find that by focusing on archery, he’s dying and being reborn over and over again. By being continually reborn, his mana continues to expand, as does the demiplane. Tomoe worries it will lead to the Goddess ordering his elimination.

Thus Makoto must learn to mask his enormous mana even more, both with his own magic and the gear the dwarves make for him. In the meantime, he still has a business to get up and running, which means returning to Tsige, where he helps a demihuman in need who also happens to look  a bit like him.

A prostitute witnesses his kindness and decides to reward him with a night of fun, but a jealous Tomoe and Mio come out of nowhere to drag him off. He doesn’t want to tell them he loves them like family—as the ED indicates, they’re basically surrogate sisters. But by not saying so he creates a misunderstanding, and both women feel they need to make him a man immediately. Thankfully, he cools them off with an ice spell before they can assault him.

The next day Tomoe, and Mio in particular, regret how aggressive they were, and Makoto lays down some boundaries. That said, he’s happy to have Mio accompany him to Tinarak Forest to check out the ambrosia flowers that grow there. Makoto slips into the habit of his previous life in his world by offering to “hold handsies” with Mio, like he once did with his sister. Mio, obviously elated, takes his hand without hesitation.

Alas, she only gets to bask in the loveliness of that moment for 31 scant seconds before she and Makoto are rudely interrupted by two different parties: a trio of human adventurers led by the prostitute, and the pair of forest-dwelling sisters. Obviously Makoto and Mio are more more than a match for either, so it will really come down to how Makoto will de-escalate the situation and come to an understanding.

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 08 – Tough Love Tomoe

For a show called Moonlit Fantasy, there’s an awful lot of reality rearing its practical head this week. Tomoe reports that the orc and lizardmen warriors are, in a word, terrible; not 10% as strong as she’d like them to be. No doubt inspired by her historical dramas, Tomoe organizes a tournament of sorts in which the various races fight each other, thus making each other stronger. Mio doesn’t really participate in any of this, while Makoto simply has to sit and look stoic.

Makoto factors even less in the next segment, in which Tomoe focuses her drill sergeant skills on the four-person party of Toa, Hazal, and the elf and dwarf women. Blessed as they were by the goddess, she knows there’s a lot more she can get out of them if properly trained, which translates to exhausting, torturous and life-threatening for the four adventurers.

When the four go up against a group of boss-level monsters called shadow tails, they forget their training and three of them rush headlong into the fight while Hazal stays back and heals/supports. This is all wrong, and is the real reason they think they can’t beat the beasts, not because they’re not powerful enough. She has them set a trap and then play to their strengths, and they make quick work of the shadow tails, surprising themselves in the process.

They’re again weary when Tomoe sends them to clear out an entire cave of shadow tails, this time without her supervision, but just as the guild girl is telling Tomoe what a low chance of success the four will have, they burst through the doors of the adventurer’s guild tired, bloodied, but victorious. Tomoe isn’t just talk (and mimicking TV); she really can bring out the best in people.

While it’s generally good fun watching Tomoe put Toa & Co. through their paces and showing them they’re stronger than they thought, Makoto is relegated to side character status, asking Rembrandt for some shop space to rent. Rembrandt gives him a counteroffer of some space in a neutral city where the Kingdom in which Tsige resides can’t bother Makoto with their passionate devotion to espionage.

Mio also gets very little to do until the very end of the episode when Makoto orders her to Tinarak Forest to gather ambrosia fruit. But as another adventuring party trudges through the dense woods, they are shadowed by a pair of silver-haired elves(?) who don’t think very highly of humans at all. In all, it was a serviceable, functional episode, but it was neither all that exciting nor all that humorous. It was just kind of there.

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 07 – Incidental Income

Makoto brings to Rembrandt a talented alchemist in Hazal, but he’s super-nervous, which makes him clumsy. Fortunately, Makoto is able to parkour himself into a position to catch the precious vials of ambrosia medicine. When it comes time to administer them to Rembrandt’s wife and daughters, Makoto employs the same Judo his sisters used on him to put the women into restraining holds without injuring them.

Makoto leaves the Rembrandt manor having cured his beloved family, and Tomoe and Mio are waiting for him. Unfortunately, so is a band of adventurer assassins. Makoto dodges, but Tomoe and Mio intentionally don’t, so as to gauge their adversaries’ power. Turns out it’s nothing to worry about. That’s when we learn that Makoto now has a system for employing his ultra-powerful retainers.

In this situation, that system involves Mio pretending to take the gold of the lead adventurer—named Lime Latte, which does sound like a gross Starbucks drink—and simply sitting this one out. She, Tomoe, and Makoto coordinate via telepathy, making it look like Mio is betraying Makoto for a quick buck. In reality, she has every confidence Tomoe and/or her Young Master can handle Lime and his crew without her.

And they do—obviously—but while there’s no tension about who will emerge victorious, some actual nuance emerges with regards to their adversary. While Lime and his crew agreed that Rembrandt needed to be taught a lesson, he just thought they’d be putting his wife and daughter into a harmless deep sleep. The witch doctor who approached him duped him into something far more sinister.

Our of gratitude and respect for Makoto, Rembrandt spares Lime’s life when he profusely apologizes. Later, Tomoe even gives Lime the katana the dwarves made her—which she deems “imperfect” but is without doubt the most valuable thing Lime has ever touched—and even takes him on as a squire of sorts. Looks like we’ll be seeing more of Lime.

Lime, who unlike the baddies in the previous town is not a manifestly bad guy, but Tomoe, who Sees All, eavesdrops on Rembrandt and his trusty butler Morris talking about the possibility of taking hostile action against the Young Master should his trading company continue to prosper.

This week, the bad guy turned out to be not that bad, while the apparently good guy with the recently cured wife and daughters may not be too good after all. I for one welcome this infusion of shades of grey!

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 06 – Gettin’ Tsige With It

Tsukimichi starts out rather dry with some TenSura-style sitting around talking, but last week’s cliffhanger is nicely solved as Rembrandt gravely underestimates Makoto. But even here Tsukimichi pulls off a nice trick, as Rembrandt isnt a haughty blowhard but just a guy who is desperate for the materials to make the Ambrosia that aids his cursed wife and daughters. When his employees hear that Makoto has enough Ruby Eyes for all three, they all rush in to tearfully congratulate him.

Makoto’s productive visit to Rembrandt leads to him officially signing up for the Merchant’s Guild, for which there is both a written and practical exam. Fortunately, the education in this isekai is far below the modern Japanese standard, so Makoto aces the written exam with ease. He also has no problem producing the rare items he’s tasked with procuring in the practical exam, thanks to his high-level wagon fellowship.

Just as Makoto is trying out what looks like a beer but turns out to be…banana, we abruptly cut to Tomoe’s little excursion in errantry, exposing her bandaged bosom as she poses over a massive Gain Crab she slaughtered with as much ease as Makoto slaughtered the Merchant’s Guild tests. It’s good to see that she’s not always thinking about where Makoto is or what he’s doing, but perfectly happy doing her own thing out in the isekai.

Tomoe is vibeing so hard on her historical drama reenactment, she returns to the Demiplane without so much of an “FYI” message to Makoto—who is telepathically linked, after all. Her giant crab feast is interrupted by a summons to the library from Emma, who wants her and Mio to work on translating Makoto’s many memories. In doing so, Mio becomes an anime and tokusatsu otaku, just as Tomoe became a historical drama otaku.

But despite Tomoe and Mio being like oil and water, they both agree on one key thing: the Young Master needs to get laid. Makoto is resolutely disinterested, averting his eyes from the two loosening their robes on the two inn beds and content with sleeping on what looks like Fushi’s chair from To Your Eternity. Perhaps it’s because, as the ED seems to indicate, they remind him so much of his sisters back home.

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 05 – Ruby Eyes and Caveman Meat

With Zetsuya left utterly destroyed by Tomoe and Mio’s OP one-upmanship, they, along with Makoto, Toa, Rinon, and a “fellowship” of other adventurers (an elf, a dwarf, and a dude) pile into a wagon and head for the next human town, the less feral Tsige.

While stopping at an guild outpost Makoto manages to convince Tomoe of the merit of becoming a “knight-errant”, or ronin, and she heads off on her own, never to be seen again!

Tomoe would be a huge loss if the other characters both old and new couldn’t hold their own, but they totally can. Toa’s penchant for graphically dissecting defeated monsters while looking exactly like Hasegawa haunts Makoto, while a Mio without a Tomoe to snipe at is still jockeying for her master’s attention…though she deems Rinon “a charming little girl” for assuming Mio and Makoto are dating.

Makoto and his new friends are reluctant to part once arriving at Tsige, so they have a big celebratory feast at a blue-collar tavern of Toa’s choosing. Perhaps due to him being served one too many orders of  Brazen Youngster-Style Primeval Meat, Mio’s dreams of a steamy night alone with Master are dashed when he hits the hay and falls right to sleep. There’s also the fact that he’s just a kid, and has eyes only for Hasegawa or her isekai equivalent.

Thanks to the use of Mist Gates, Makoto and Mio return to the Demiplane where a far more confident and forthright Emma is waiting for them, along with Mini-Tomoe, who also has no idea where her counterpart is. I like how Makoto obviously isn’t worried about Tomoe (except perhaps whether she’ll destroy any other towns), but he does seem to miss her towards the end.

So did I towards the end, but like Makoto I was sufficiently distracted by the lively goings-on quickly of his expanding Demiplane empire, including that one grizzled dwarf who is absolutely hell-bent on creating a garment or accessory that will kill Makoto instantly. He’s got a long way to go!

On the way to Tsige Makoto uses his trusty bow to swiftly deal with some pretty rare monsters, who drop valuable ruby eyes that the Rembrandt Trading Company is looking for. The only problem is, Makoto has heard some ill rumors about misfortune befalling anyone who deals with Rembrandt.

Thankfully, this does not dissuade Makoto from doing a deal with them anyway, though as soon as he arrives he is summarily rebuffed. Perhaps he needs a bit of Tomoe’s memory-altering powers…or maybe he’s going to try to negotiate his way to a profit without the many OP tricks at his disposal. Either way, Makoto & Co.’s journey has never not been extremely fun, zippy, and more often than not, hilarious.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

P.S., the show has now cycled through three distinct EDs. This one went back to showing Makoto and his sisters growing up, which is very sweet and uplifting. My favorite, however, continues to be Tomoe and Mio’s shred-tastic power metal cover of the first episode’s Enka-style ending, as seen below:

That’s the good shit.

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 04 – Town at the End of the World

Moonlight Fantasy really is running on all cylinders this week, giving us a deliriously fun blend of bawdy comedy and righteous violence against bad guys who have no idea who they’re up against. Makoto does very little this week aside from hear a little girl out and try and fail to reign his two overpowered companions, who themselves find it exceedingly difficult to hold back enough to keep their human opponents alive. That this is played for comedy—quite successfully, I might add—is a credit to the writing, direction, and above all voice acting.

Rinon is in a pinch: her big sister, whom she drew a sketch of and who looks just like Makoto’s friend Hasegawa from his world, is missing after setting out to repay her debts against the local unsavory element. In truth, Rinon is being used by those same fiends to rob something they believe to be a spoiled rich kid. Rinon’s love for her sister means she’ll do anything, even spy on and agree to steal from someone who was nothing but kind to her. Rinon’s pure heart and inner conflict serve as both moral lodestar and emotional core of the episode.

Rinon’s Hasegawa-lookalike sister Toa is very much just along for the ride once Tomoe and Mio find her wasting away in a dungeon. Mio soon heals her completely, then opens a hole in the wall of the cell, only to be confronted by the ringleader of the bad guys, a preening pimpernel who is the strongest adventurer in the city. He even manages to block Tomoe and Mio’s first blow, which was their best and most admirable effort of the episode to hold back.

Its also the last such effort, as Mils Ace’s unguarded insulting of their dear young master puts the Dragon Samurai and Spider Madam in a cranky mood. Tomoe dispatches Mils’ entire gang with one solid haymaker then creates an illusion of being choked by a tangle of snakes in the guy’s top henchman. Mio slaps Mils face so rapidly he’s left a grotesquely swollen mess. Annoyed by the narrowness of the hallway, the two then proceed to destroy the entire building.

As Toa stands by helplessly, Tomoe and Mio continue their bickering outside over who did more or was more useful to their master. They decide to keep the competition going by destroying buildings both nearby and far off into the distance, essentially levelling the city. This is after Mils attempted to take Toa hostage, only to be punched to the edge of space, never to be seen again.

The two eventually bring Toa before Rinon for a truly sweet and joyous reunion, accentuated by that time-tested anime custom, the dramatic still with the hand-drawn look. Moonlight Fantasy employs that a lot, and it’s never not great looking, even though they’re just stills. Later, Makoto confirms that Toa looks exactly like Hasegawa but for her hair and eyes. Part of me wishes she’d ended up in this isekai with him, but it’s apparently a coincidence…or is it???

All’s well that ends well…except for the fact that Makoto was trying very hard not to make too large an impact in his first human town. Tomoe and Mio, in their fixation on one-upping one another, deprived him of that desire, and for that, he uses Mio’s own spider silk to tie them up and then shot them into the stratosphere with an exquisitely made Dwarven bow. Amazing what an anime can do when it’s not just people sitting around talking! And to close it out with that absolute banger of an ending theme…*chefs kiss*

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 03 – The Sorrows of Young Master

~Moonlit Fantasy~ is scratching all the right irreverent isekai itches as Makoto comes to terms with the fact he now has not one but two gorgeous and horrifyingly powerful women in who are also a lot to deal with. That said, no one can blame them for their personalities considering one is a ravenous spider monster and the other was a freaking dragon.

While they’re ever deferent to their master (and grateful for the names he gives them, which also makes them even stronger), things never get skeevy the way they often can in these scenarios, and more admirably, Makoto has no desire for things to take that turn.

Makoto also learns that while Tomoe and Mio are essentially his retainers, they themselves have their own personal armies of dragon men and spider people, respectively. Combined with elder dwarves and orcs, Makoto quite suddenly finds himself at the nexus of a burgeoning multicultural nation-state that would make Rimuru Tempest take notice.

Still, Makoto isn’t primarily interested in statecraft or harems, but in following his parents’ path in this Isekai. Combined with being a bit demi-humaned out, he soon sets off for a human settlement. Unfortunately, the first human he spots—a lovely lass with flowing golden locks—runs away from him like he’s some kind of monster, and when he approaches the town, they’re ready for battle and loose a cloud of arrows at him!

Makoto thinks it’s because he’s ugly, but it’s really because his immense aura appears to humans like he’s being accompanied by several demon lords; plus he doesn’t speak the common tongue, only demi languages, thanks to the Goddess. So over a month or so, Makoto learns Common while an elder dwarf crafts a ring that can absorb and compress his aura.

Armed with this ring (plus many more—a delightful sight gag), a mask, and flanked by Tomoe and Mio, he heads back into town…which is unusually expensive. He also pays a visit to the adventurer’s guild, where Tomoe and Mio’s levels are 1,320 and 1,500, respectively, but despite his power, his is still only 1.

He and his retainers cause a big ruckus at the guild, resulting in them being followed by those adventurers who aren’t tolerant of boisterous newcomers. Makoto assigns Tomoe the task of guarding their wagon while he and Mio go out for dinner. While Tomoe is eventually approached by a group of baddies, Makoto and Mio encounter a little girl in rags…and then the episode ends!

While the baddies will no doubt regret going up against Tomoe very soon, I’m more intrigued by this girl. Whoever she is, and for whatever reason she approached Makoto, she’s prominent enough in the OP for me to presume she’ll play a larger role in the near future. For now, her appearance is little more than a tease, but it wrapped up a very brisk, fun episode.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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.