Dororo Episode 20: The Story of the Nue
The fun and silliness from last episode is absolutely gone. While the start of this episode was sweet and pure, things really went to shit the second the Nue popped out. Things only escalated from there, and this episode left me with the depression and dread the earlier episodes left. The harsh emotions this episode were strong and in your face, with great storytelling that I feel like the second half of the show was missing for awhile. This episode was so good that it made me want to rip my hair out. Emotionally? I’m suffering.
I was wondering what Saburota’s role was for this episode, other than that little discovery in the end, but I think he was supposed to act as a foil to Hyakkimaru. I was worried he would be like Shiranui in that he would be a more boring lunatic sacrificing people to a demon, but he actually had more to him though he still ended up being a pitiful being. The story of his mother being eaten by the Nue wasn’t a lie, but there was a lot more to it that explained why Saburota would even work with the demon. The fact that his mother was eaten was partially his own fault. I say partially, though I should say it was completely his fault. Though I can’t fault him for being scared and weak since not anyone can hold their own against a giant Nue. Instead of protecting his mother, he crawled away like a coward and left her behind. To make it even worse, what he thought was the Nue grabbing him was actually his mother grabbing him. But not knowing that, he used his sword and sliced her arm off. That whole incident, with the villagers chastising his cowardice after he touted being a brave samurai left him in despair. But watching as some of the villagers who wanted to avenge his mother also screamed in fear as they died gave Saburota this validation that spiraled into broken insanity. It’s normal, right? To fear and scream in the face of death, so what happened with him wasn’t wrong. And while he has a hole in his chest, he finds people to feed to the Nue so they can experience what he did. That in his own way is how he can fill the hole in his chest, but only temporarily. It’s not until he meets Hyakkimaru that he starts to break down.
Hyakkimaru doesn’t fear the Nue. He doesn’t scream or run away from it, instead he faces it head on. Saburota envies this as he admits to Hyakkimaru that he’s always wanted to be like him: strong and brave. But Hyakkimaru, while he doesn’t say it, is most likely envious of Saburota mainly just because he has a human body. While Saburota may see him as strong, especially with his sword arms, Hyakkimaru sees himself as incomplete and useless and the mindset leading up to that was painful.
The episode starts off very soft and warm as Hyakki and Dororo walk through the beautiful autumn mountains. Dororo can’t get over how beautiful the scenery is and she realizes that she’s traveled through the mountains in the fall season, but she never noticed its beauty before because she was too busy trying to survive. The reason why she could really pay attention to her lovely surroundings this time around is because of how safe she feels with Hyakkimaru. When she’s with him, even though their journey is very dangerous, she still feels this warmth and security when she’s with him, and for once she can relax. And…that makes my heart so warm and happy. It gets even better as Hyakkimaru picks some fruit and offers her one after he hears her stomach growl, prompting her to cry at his nice gesture.
After they eat, Dororo goes on and on about how beautiful it is around them, and explains the seasons and what they are. Hyakkimaru smiles and nods the whole time, Dororo thinking he’s not even listening to her. But in fact he is, and he says he’d love to hear more of her stories. Dororo notes how much he’s changed, and I couldn’t agree more. And because Hyakki himself has changed, their relationship has changed as well. Hyakkimaru is able to emote and speak his mind and do more. While Dororo would do most things, Hyakkimaru is reaching out, offering her food for once. And where before he would ignore her ramblings or not seem as interested (especially when he first got his hearing back), he now wants to listen to it all. He shows he really wants to learn more, to see the things she’s describing, which is more reason for him to want his full body back. He also deeply loves and cares for Dororo, which we’ve been seeing a lot through his actions, and that love is what sends him into desperation.
As Hyakkimaru protected Dororo from the Nue attack, they fell of a cliff and Dororo’s arm was trapped between two rocks. Water started pooling around them but they weren’t able to free her, Dororo being close to drowning growing more every second. The emotions displayed in this scene, and in this episode in general, were so powerful and intense as Hyakkimaru desperately tried saving her, breaking his prosthetic arms in the process, resorting to him to bashing his forehead against the rock because he simply had no idea what to do and he was terrified of losing Dororo. I was terrified that Hyakkimaru would have to resort to slicing off Dororo’s arm to save her, but thankfully the wandering monk came out of literally nowhere and freed her just in time. Hyakkimaru wasn’t able to save her himself because his arms broke. If he had human arms, he could have done something. It’s this incident that set him off to run to the Nue to kill it and sets his obsession and desperation to the max. He wants his body because it’s his, he also wants it so he can see the things Dororo describes, and he wants it so he can protect Dororo. Cutting out the fight with the transformed Nue I don’t think was a bad idea. You could see the remnants of Hyakkimaru’s rampage with the Nue’s limbs strewn about, but you see it even more when he demands Saburota!Nue for a body part. He mercilessly kills him, and once he realizes that nothing came back to him, he slashes and hacks away at the carcass in sheer rage.
This scene was so heartbreaking and emotional, making it even harder when Dororo ran over to hug him and even rubbed his forehead just to make him calm down and stop before he would completely lose himself. The amazing OST and the animation and colors added to the intensity, especially the red. It’s funny how Dororo described the red leaves of autumn not being like the red color he sees demons as, and yet the red of the blood was indistinguishable from the red of the leaves. This scene left me speechless and in so much pain, and so very worried for the final stretch.
Hyakkimaru is off to face his father, as he thinks that if he kills him, he’ll get the rest of his body back. What worries me is what Saburota said at the end, that Hyakkimaru isn’t human as we see his heart as a red color. One of Daigo’s men describes that the large demon statue in the Hall of Hell emanates a faint heartbeat, but only sometimes. This makes me think, is Hyakkimaru the demon? Or, from what we saw of the demon statue’s arms glowing, does the failed demon have some sort of connection with Hyakkimaru through his heart? And ever since the Goddess of Mercy lost her last bit of protection, that the failed demon has been absorbing the body parts from the demons Hyakkimaru has killed? Which would be both his arms, one from the fox demon, and the other arm from the Nue?
And from what I understand, is that Daigo’s pact has been severed since episode 12? And Hyakkimaru regaining parts since then hasn’t had an effect on the land’s prosperity, so whatever is happening to the land isn’t his fault anymore? R-Right? I think.
Either way, I’m scared for Hyakkimaru and I’m feeling so much dread. Dororo is right there to keep him stable, but who knows what’s going to happen in these four remaining episodes? What exactly is happening with Hyakkimaru? But thankfully we’re going to be dealing with the Kagemitsu family, and I’m interested in seeing what they do with Tahoumaru as well. This episode was amazing, heartwrenching but amazing, and I hope the last four episodes are just as good as this one.