Dropping Expectations for an Anime Series

Reviewing Episode 16 of the Dororo 2019 anime! Where I really examine what has been bugging me about the series’ direction in cour two.

Need to catch up with the series? Use this link for a free 30 day Amazon Prime Video trial and support the anime legally! Check out last week’s Episode 15 review here.

So I’m sure those who are following these reviews have noticed by now, that I am fairly inconsistent when it comes to this show.

It’s not that I dislike it, on the contrary this is currently my favorite show airing in the Spring 2019 lineup. However, for the past few weeks since the cour shift, I’ve been left feeling unsatisfied. Hence the shorter reviews where I forced myself to say nice things. I couldn’t quite articulate what my problem with the show was, and I’d start and stop writing various reviews with differing tones; each leaving me more annoyed than the last.

The days would pass and yet again, my Dororo review was late. Finally, I sat down and really thought long and hard about it. Longer than I really should have, in all honestly. After all, it’s just a TV show – that is what some would say – but I really enjoy this show and the drop of quality I could not put my finger on irked me.

So I’m going to be going on a tiny rant while talking about episode sixteen. I feel the need to state that I do not hate this show, and I understand just how much time and effort are put into any show, let alone an anime series.  In fact, just this past April one of the workers at Madhouse studios was hospitalized due to overwork.

Karoshi [過労死], or death by overwork is a very real thing in Japan and I don’t want my criticism of the anime to make like of that. I’m not in the business of, nor do I ever want to trash a work just for the sake of trashing it. Even if it’s not apparent, someone did their very best and worked hard on that project, even if not reflected in the final product.

With that being said, I cannot ignore the tonal shift in the series from the first to the second cour.

I have not viewed the previous adaptations of Tezuka Osamu’s work, but I do know that this portrayal has been steeped in realism. In the first five episodes of the series, the audience is made to understand the gravity of war, the atrocities during this time, and shown how those with a powerless innocence are made to suffer.

Mio, from episode five and six, is the first that comes to mind during this discussion. When Hyakkimaru meets Mio, she is quite literally washing her privates in the river. Given what we learn about the character, we can assume she had just come back from “work”. I merely have the word ‘work’ in quotations because the character herself is vague about what she does, despite in actuality having a viable job to make ends meet. I will not judge this woman for how she survived, the same way I won’t judge Itachi for his own methods of self-preservation.

Whether it be love or infatuation, Hyakkimaru falls for the young woman. In a world too noisy for the rouge ronin, her sweet voice soothed his tender new ears. The old priest Biwamaru points out to Dororo that “when you take a toy from a baby, it will cry”, to the effect that Mio served as Hyakkimaru’s shiny new toy; stealing his attention away from quests of vengeance. A toy that caused him to lash out more so than usual in pursuit of freeing the demon on the distant plot of land to make her happy.

Hyakkimaru used Mio as his own personal calming device, noted by Biwamaru during one of her songs.
Hyakkimaru used Mio as his own personal calming device, noted by Biwamaru during one of her songs

She didn’t ask him to do this, he took it upon himself and suffered the consequences. Along this reactionary chain of cause-and-effect, Mio decides to start working between two enemy camps – realizing the risk that she could be labeled a spy and sequentially killed. Mio takes a gamble, and ends up losing.

This is the first instance in Dororo where we see that despite a character’s best efforts, they themselves cannot change the world around them. No one is going to just say “oh, we understand you are trying to take care of a gaggle of orphans while you can barely take care of yourself. We understand that this is the only way you know how to make money during this war. We are all broken during these times – here, take the seeds and claim that plot of land. Live long and happily”.

That is not going to happen. Nobody cares about her suffering.

What happened is that Mio went to these camps, and had sex with drunk and rowdy soldiers. No doubt some refused to pay, hence Mio returning exhausted, bruised and bloodied from work. Dororo understood what was happening, but Mio wanted to protect her image in the orphan’s eyes. So they never knew a thing.

They all died still believing their big sister was serving drinks to soldiers and receiving food and other supplies in addition to money for her patriotic service. It was just easier that way, and that is understandable and very realistic. She wanted to preserve their innocence in a cruel world.

Dororo mentions that Mio’s job was one “no matter what…her mother would not do” while reflecting on her death. Even a young child could grasp the situation without explanation. I often wonder if Dororo just for a second, thought that maybe if her mother had, she would still be alive and not alone in the world as she is today.

This is the level of complexity the show set for itself. Little nuggets of information scattered in contextual instances. Another example, because that arc was just so great: occurrences where Mio sings.

Mio lets Hyakkimaru know her secret
Mio lets Hyakkimaru know her secret

While washing in the river upon the initial meeting, Mio is singing. She sings again before asking Hyakkimaru not to stare at her, and on the ground while the heat of the flames negate the chill of death washing upon her body. Earlier in the episode the woman explained she only sings when she is sad, and again the audience thinks of her walk through the woods, her songs through tears as she is being raped my soldiers.  

Mio, Episode 6 of Dororo
Mio, Episode 6 of Dororo

Mio was a fully fleshed out character in a stupendous arc.

I found a striking parallel between Mio and Shino from episode 11 of Samurai Champloo. Sold into sexual slavery to cover her husband’s debts, the woman meets ronin Jin during her last day of freedom.

The two have an instant connection and Jin talks her out of suicide upon their first meeting.

In this world, you don't always get what you want.
In this world, you don’t always get what you want.

A whirlwind of events later in the endless rain, Jin finally convinces Shino to accept an escape plan. Upon being discovered before leaving the brothel, Shino jumps out of the window and runs through the streets with a weaponless Jin. The owner of the Brothel tells the two “In this world, you don’t always get what you want” before the ronin’s friends come through and help.

In the end of Gamblers and Gallantry, Shino is ferried across the river to a Tōkei-ji, or Buddhist temple where she could live amongst a nunnery for three years. The stay would lead to grounds necessary to dissolve her marriage.

It is never implied whether or not they accepted Shino into refuge, or if the two reunite after the series. Hell, the brothel thugs could have rowed across the river after Jin left, stormed the temple and took the woman back by force.

All we see before the credits is an image of the storm clouds clearing, allowing the group to move on from that town. If the rain had cleared sooner, would Jin and Shino have met?

In this world, you don’t always get what you want and that is life. Despite your best efforts, the universe will not bend to your will or whims. It just does not work that way.

Shino developed a coping method similar to Mio.
Shino developed a coping method similar to Mio.
Shino, Samurai Champloo Episode 11
Shino, Samurai Champloo Episode 11

Leading up to the Battle of Banmon arc, we get to know Hyakkimaru’s brother, Tahomaru. And turns out, he is a well-rounded, and decent guy. Sure, he was raised by a homicidal, egotistical maniac of a warlord father and a distant mother – but given his place and status in life he’s a decent kid. Tahomaru cares about his subjects, even going so far as to construct a fake canal to defeat the oni crab monstrosity. The young lord was willing to give his life to defend his subjects, and channeled that same passion into discovering the truth surrounding his brother.

Come the zenith of Banmon and given the contextual evidence the audience learned along with Tahomaru, his actions are extremely sympathetic. If I’m honest, I actually like Tahomaru as a character more than I like Hyakkimaru. I understand that he wants to protect the prosperity he has grown up in, and that had Hyakkimaru not survived they would not even be having this conversation.

What is one life meant to be sacrificed, in the grand scheme of things? In a war-torn, disarrayed land, the few do not outweigh the many. Then their mother’s confession makes you question whether or not she had prayed to Kanon for sixteen years for the safety of her firstborn son, or for forgiveness because she had no remorse over her actions.

All of this development falls stagnant as we shift into cour two of the series. The poor episode directed by Kobayashi aside, we find out Dororo has a map on her back. During that scene I thought to myself:

“Hmph, the show is named Dororo. I guess we will focus on her now.”

Dororo is Hyakkimaru’s biggest hype man. Alone in the world after her mother’s death, she is determined to outlive the civil strife. Then in a spot of luck (or fate), she meets someone strong enough to take care of her, and whom also serves as a protector. The brawn to her brain, Hyakkimaru is the pair’s meal ticket; exchanging extermination of monsters for food and lodgings.

The shift to Dororo becoming the primary focus and the (previously) unadapted to screen arc where Dororo is kidnapped by Itachi could have been handled better. I want to blame Kobayashi’s episode for this disconnect, but the second cour seemingly had no intention from a storytelling point to ignite this shift in intelligent ways previously explored by the series.

Dororo Season 1 2019 Opening Credits
Dororo Season 1 2019 Opening Credits

Yes, Dororo has a map on her back. The little girl buried her mother in a grave which Itachi dug up after their meeting. Hyakkimaru and Dororo have traveled a considerable amount since her mother’s death, but somehow Itachi happened to be on the trail? Maybe he heard rumors of the boy with prosthetics who was going around murdering monsters and soldiers alike. Maybe he didn’t – either way he found her.

Yes, the priest has been hinting at Hyakkimaru completely losing his humanity for weeks. But the ronin being so lost in thought he didn’t notice Dororo felt off to me. Not to mention Hyakki tracking her original location from the mountains he realized in, to the field of white using one peg leg felt off to me. The lazily edited pan of stills to denote the transition of time and illustrate the distance between the two felt lazy to me. Hyakkimaru after the credits finding out his father Jukai was nearby when all hope was lost in rescuing Dororo in time felt like the show was issuing its first piece of plot armour to the story.

I swear, if next week he finds the strength to overcome his nature and the demon flames within him through a talk-no-justsu, a prosthetic power-up, and comes to the aid of Dororo when her situation becomes perilous I will scream. Bonus points if the bag with his clan sigil breaks and Mio’s seeds remind him who he is once he no doubt, lamely gets his sight back from defeating the baddie of the week – shark boy.

I’d be completely fine if none of the things I just mentioned happened, because that would mean the story is following a stale formula and becoming predictable. Which I hope it won’t.

Let’s just point out, Dororo’s whole encounter with Itachi was blasé. Sure, I understand the initial compliance at being kidnapped by this man, but I don’t understand the indifference towards the man who betrayed her father and indirectly caused the death of her mother. THEN to FURTHER add insult to injury, desecrated her grave and stripped her naked to view the treasure map on her back.

THEN while being saved by the man you betrayed’s daughter, be reminded of him, only to continually screw over the little girl and strip her naked in search of a treasure map. Only to stupidly remark “hmm, I have no clue why your dad would raise you as a boy” all the while grown men stand over a naked little girl by a fire.

The same reason Dororo was raised a boy, is also why Osushi cut her hair once she lost her estate and fell into poverty. In episode four Dororo mentions that the woman spoke “pretty words [and had] a ladylike face”. Had Osushi been draped in finery with long hair common for her status, she would had been raped a dozen times or ransomed. Once the revelation came that she was broke and had no one to pay this ransom, she would have been raped and most likely murdered.

Osushi reflecting on her fate in Dororo episode 4
Osushi reflecting on her fate in Dororo episode 4

Dororo’s speech and mannerisms match that of a boy, as does her prepubescent body. Similar to Arya Stark from A Song of Ice and Fire, during war times it is safer to be perceived as a little boy alone in the world, rather than a naïve little girl looking for a family.

And I may be a terrible person for saying this, but I am sure if the show hadn’t doled out the plot armour, something would have happened to Dororo. I am not saying I would want that, in no shape or form do I enjoy human suffering – especially that of children.

But they are at war. Even if Itachi is not a pedophile himself, there is always one in the group. A creep who would wait until night, and a friend who would aid in. Itachi (given his character) would turn a blind eye, feel bad about it, and leave her tied to the tree as he did to go forth in search of the treasure. Only to find treasures and in a stroke of bad luck, run into an old adversary or maybe even lose it – deeming it all for naught.

That would be a realistic option, but instead Dororo is just tied to a tree waiting for Hyakkimaru to rescue her, while the latter is getting a prosthetic power up and chatting with dear old adoptive dad about his morality.

Sigh. I know this was a lot to read and maybe I am looking too far into this, but given the established world rules the last few episodes have been a slap in the face.

I didn’t truly enjoy them, and I didn’t know why until I laid it all out.

Hopefully the following episodes return to the shows earlier pace, and aren’t contrived by plot armour and other nonsense. That’s one thing I hate the most in media, when realism is featured in a story and it is abandoned in favor of saving a character. If you are going to be gritty, be gritty until the very end. Don’t allow one character to suffer, while the other doesn’t while placed in a similar situation that would have otherwise killed them.

It’s lazy, cheap, and diminishes the audiences’ intelligence.

Again, maybe I’m being too harsh – but that’s just how I feel about Dororo right now.

Dororo, On to the next adventure...
Dororo, On to the next adventure…

Do you feel the same way? Have you noticed any changes? Does it even matter at this point? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us for more Dororo 2019 episode reviews!

See you back here next Monday for another one!

次の巻: When Good Intentions Are Not Enough 

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The Battle for Shiganshina District!

Shingeki no Kyojin Season 3 Episode 13 Review!

Welcome to my Attack on Titan Season 3 part 2 Episode 1 (or 13) Review!

Just to start out, I should mention that after part 1 ended, I read the manga up until a certain point. So for the most part (unless the adaptation deviates) I already know what is going to happen. I was nervous while watching thinking it would diminish my enjoyment, but thankfully it only enhanced it. It’s always fun seeing a manga you enjoy be adapted; watching the characters come to life.

We were even greeted with the usual monologue from Armin detailing the events that lead them to this point. I will try my best not to spoil anything for anime-only watchers. With that being said, let’s get back into it!

So I’m not even going to lie, I meant to rewatch the earlier portion of the season but ended up just skimming its last episode as a refresher.

The survey corps is on a mission to re-Wall Maria with Eren’s new hardening ability. Within Shiganshina District lies Dr. Yeager’s basement, along with the secrets of their world. I am curious how long they will focus on the retrieval mission, and its aftermath since we only have ten episodes.

Anyway, ever sharp – Armin realizes that their arrival was foreseen, and alerts Erwin. Due to his past actions, Armin is given a position of power and leads the search for Reiner, Bertholdt and the ape titan Zeke. Might I add that while typing this, I have My Anime List open for the spelling of everyone’s names but in my laziness to expand the characters section I googled Bertholdt.

Bertholdt x Reiner BL Results...
Bertholdt x Reiner BL Results…

Why are the first results yaoi uke BL ships?

Nothing against it, just unexpectedly hilarious that this is the first thing people search for. I myself would rather Historia/Krista x Ymir, but I digress…

Upon following Armin’s plan, a random officer finds and is killed by Reiner. Levi tries to murder him right on the spot, but Reiner does a super-secret titan move where he moves his life functions from his brain to his nervous system or something to that effect. It’s been a while since I read the manga.

Levi then explains to the audience and cadets that he failed because Reiner did his super-secret titan move and for once, I actually am happy I understand that bit of information before the explanation.

I usually go in blind, it was nice having background context for a change.

Any who, Bertholdt stays hidden in conjunction with the plan while Zeke destroys Eren and friends’ escape route. Reiner Titan’s up and sets the stage for next week’s elaborate battle sequence. I am excited to see the effects of the battle on Reiner’s psyche, who proves to be unstable…I also love that Armin has a new role in the story. Since Mikasa is the brawn and Eren is the (unreliable) muscle, Armin had yet to have a defined role. Sure, he has been the brains of many operations but he finally has the authority and clout he needs to enact those brilliant strategies.

This episode was just set up so I don’t have anything else to say, but that I’m looking forward to next week’s battle continuation!

Do you think Eren will win the battle against Reiner? What is your theory behind the secrets of the walls? Do you think Levi could take out Zeke? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us for more Shingeki no Kyojin Season 3 Reviews!

See you back here same time next week!

次のエピソード: The Beast Titan Blocks an Escape Route! 

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I’ve Been Recognized!

I’ve been nominated for the Blogger Recognition Award! I don’t even know what to say, I’m so grateful! Thank you Ray so very much! Check out their content, they deserve all the views, readership and success in the world.

The Blogger Recognition Award Rules

So I’m supposed to give a bit of backstory on how the blog came to be, the journey so far, advice for new bloggers, and nominate 10-15 people.  I’m a tad long winded, so forgive me for the “how this blog started” portion’s length. I just needed to get its origin story off my chest.

How In Asian Spaces Came to Be:

On February 14th of 2017, I began working at my dream job. I wasn’t anyone very important of course, just one of four receptionists at a Japanese Cultural Center. After years of studying Japanese culture, watching its media and developing this insurmountable passion – I was finally living the life I always imagined.

I had never given a damn about any job I held before, I’d always just taken what was available to me. There were petty cat fights, aggression and harassment from management – but finally things had changed. It was different. I was different and for once, I wanted to try.

So I did the very best I could, each and every day. I arrived early, helped everyone to the best of my abilities, and enrolled at the language school on the premises to continue formal lessons in Japanese. I made a lot of enemies being so passionate about my job.

Certain co-workers would ask why I was there, and even email me job offers for other places. I didn’t speak fluent Japanese, never completed the JET program, and was not a Japanese from Japan. So why was I there?

I ignored the snide comments from visitors who also wondered how “someone like me” got there – asking questions like:

“Are you part Japanese?”

“Do you know someone higher up?”

Or remarking

“It’s nice someone let you work here”

All the while not realizing that upstairs beyond the public’s eye, the building was an almost even split between Americans of all backgrounds and Japanese from Japan.

Mind you it was never the Japanese who said terrible things, even when I eavesdropped on their conversations in their native language. It was always another “American”; usually not from New York.

Go figure.

But I survived, and I thrived each time I interacted with an expert from Japan, the head of a corporation, small business owners and people from the anime and manga industry. Unfortunately for the latter, some of these people were the type to treat you like gum stuck to the bottom of their shoe and then put on a dazzling smile for the public. I always have to laugh at the hypocrisy each time I attend an anime convention and there they are, conducting their panels and acting as if they walk on water and are the absolute finite pillars of the community.

That’s the funny thing about being a ‘lowly’ receptionist, people show their asses and never know the person they treated like shit could be right there in the audience, watching them.

You never know who anybody is these days, which is why you should treat people with respect and courtesy if they have never offended you. That is a given anyway, but people seem to forget the golden rule.

The best moments I had during my time there were:

  • Watching Okashi no Ie (おかしの家 ) in 2015, only to see Odagiri Joe walk through the lobby with his security and get into the elevator.  Later that night a film event would occur and he flew in from Japan to promote it. I remember hearing businessmen who had meetings with the higher ups speaking in Japanese about the actor, playfully making fun of his English name and stardom. It was even funnier when they saw me laughing and realized I understood them, and we joked about him together.
  • Watching a language learning series on YouTube years earlier only to realize that the location was the park across the street from my job, and the kind sensei in the videos was now the lovely sensei teaching me Japanese in real life.

It had felt like kismet, but all good things must come to an end.

A co-worker I never really got along with had become the new manager, and I interviewed for a vacancy in another department. I didn’t get the position, and suddenly began being sent to HR for things I didn’t do – forced to defend myself against the most ostentatious lies shortly after.

I spoke to the manager along her immediate superior in a meeting where I was told that “because you are dependable, we will keep putting you on unfairly and you’ll just have to deal with it.” I argued that newer employees had preferential schedules – while I never took off, never complained and didn’t mind being there, I just didn’t understand why they were treating me so poorly.

I learned around that time that only one of my three supervisors fought for me to have the new position, the other two spoke against me. I know which two more than ever now. I guess they didn’t want to lose their “dependable” work horse.

It only got worse from there. So one day, after my shift I told them I quit. I had a very long meeting with HR where she seemingly tried to stall me; not understanding why one of their best employees was completely done. I tried explaining the events that lead to this, even writing a very long detailed list of grievances as a last stand weeks earlier at my penultimate visit with HR.

I was told none of that mattered, that she “couldn’t see the forest through the trees” and that they (basically) believed the manager over anything I could possibly say.

So I left, and never looked back.

Months later I was still home, running out of money. Then one day, a Hail Mary came through that provided me a limited amount of income to live on. I tried looking for remote work and received a few interviews, but nothing stuck. I read that starting a blog while you search could be helpful, so I did that. I just wrote about daily WordPress challenges, and occasional short poems.

Until one day, I had the idea to write about Japanese culture, positive experiences, and things I’d learned from the center. It wasn’t until my coverage of AFNYCC and its response that really made me pause and say – “hey, this could actually work out”.

I purchased the domain shortly afterward.

I’ve been home a little over a year now, and for the first time in my life I can truly say I’m happy. I don’t have much money coming in, but I’ve decided to take things one day at a time. This may sound strange, but a lot of random occurrences and coincidences (if you believe in those) have been cementing my decision to become self-sufficient. To be my own boss, and work for myself.

I now have two websites, where I can talk about whatever I’d like without fear that some editor above me will reject my thoughts. I’ve made progress on stories and projects I placed on the backburner years ago when I didn’t have time for myself, but rather had to work on making others rich and successful. One of my short stories should be ready to drop within the next two months, scripts for graphic novels are now completed. Other short stories only need a few edits before self-publish, my novella is halfway written and I’ve finally finished those short film scripts I’d written in college – because I really should put this expensive Cinema Studies degree to use.

I’ve moved on and I feel good. I still have my original goal to stride towards concerning this website, and I know I’ll get there someday. I have shared it once before on Twitter, but I’ll keep it a secret for now until I’m able to do it. Within the next two years it should come to fruition.

And to the person from the company who has been keeping tabs on me in private mode on LinkedIn since I quit: if you’ve found this website I have a message for you.

I hope that the woman who lied on me – we both know who she is – finds happiness. I hope it is something she has dreamed about for years and it’s so perfect it doesn’t feel real. And when she does, I hope someone systematically destroys her experience each and every day.

When that does happen, I’d like her to think of me and realize that in this world, you do reap what you sow.

Half the staff that were employed while I was there have since quit, so 山田 太郎さん, you should really focus on your existing relationships and how to improve your workplace, rather than trying to figure out what I am doing.

I am grateful and excited to start this new chapter of my life, and thank you to those who read this blog. It’s been a struggle, but better days are ahead!

Now, for the nominations. I nominate:

A Nerdy Perspective

Global Debauchery

Living in Japan

Seeing Wide

The Comic Vault

The Navigatio

The Shooting Star

TravelLit

Travels With Nano

#moe404 

Advice for New Bloggers:

  • Try to self-host as soon as possible. It gives you a greater sense of agency over your content and because you own the domain, definitive authority.
  • SEO and promoting your own work on social media is really important. There are many resources, but Neil Patel’s website is a great place to start.  He goes into long tail keywords, short tail keywords, SEO optimization, DA, Backlinks, and a whole bunch of other stuff I had no clue existed until I started blogging.
  • It may seem like no one is reading, and you’ll get discouraged. But then one day out of the blue, you may receive a nice comment that motivates you to keep going. People really are reading, even if it seems like sometimes you’re just talking to yourself.
  • Join a blogging community or Facebook group to meet and network with others. Twitter has a really supportive community, you can start with the hashtag #BloggingTribe and narrow it down to find your niche.
  • Schedules and consistency are important. I’m really bad at keeping schedules, but people need to know when to look for your new content or series so they can support you. They want to know when to drop by and say hi, let them come!

Thank you again Ray, and congratulations to everyone nominated! I wish you all the success in the world, please continue making original and amazing content!

✰In Asian Spaces

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Poor Direction Leads to Inconsistency

Reviewing Episode 15 of the Dororo 2019 anime!

Need to catch up with the series? Use this link for a free 30 day Amazon Prime Video trial and support the anime legally! Check out last week’s Episode 14 review here!

I found out on Reddit that this episode had a different director. Apparently this director will not have any more involvement in the show, and he is also credited with “ruining” episode four of Gurren Lagann.

It felt like the original plot was lost in favor of edgy jump cuts, pans, and experimental animation that had not been previously shown. Which is fine to switch it up, but not if it affects the story negatively.

Given the past cour’s attention to detail and respect for its characters, I could not focus on what was happening in this episode. We were not allowed to see the expressions on Hyakkimaru or Dororo’s faces, and there was this persistent awkwardness of their motivations.

Hyakkimaru and foe, Episode 15, 2019
Hyakkimaru and foe, Episode 15, 2019

Clearly, Hyakkimaru is being corrupted by the darkness within his spirit. That is nothing new however, there has been abundant foreshadowing and Biwamaru gives cryptic warnings every time he runs into the pair. Dororo had been getting fed up and needed a catalyst to motivate her to find her father’s fortune, but not like this. It came out of left field that she would be this upset over a random podunk village.

Sure, they had been kind to her but at what expense does that kindness nullify their actions? They murdered an entire convent with children and lied to gain sympathy. Using this sympathy, Sabame and his villagers systematically isolated and murdered countless other travelers all for their gain. Dororo blames herself for the destruction of the village, but they were their own undoing.

Maimai-onba’s baby flew into the lookout tower and knocked into the torch, causing the thatch roofing to light up like a tinderbox. And where was Maimai-onba? In the ocean, hiding as her husband and their community burned to the ground. The demon had a sinister smile in last week’s episode when Sabame vowed to protect them, which (unsurprisingly) foreshadowed that he was being used. The oni exploited his love for his people and the dire circumstances surrounding them.

The only good thing I see coming out of this is that Dororo may have an idea of what type of community she would like to build in the future. I don’t think the little lady will be tempted by these otherworldly forces, especially after seeing the effects firsthand.

Hyakkimaru received a body part this episode, although I didn’t expect it to be his spine. I’m surprised he has been able to function thus far, with spools of thread and twine holding up his core. I also have no clue when he had the time to make an interim prosthetic leg and tour the destruction of the village with Dororo before they went their separate ways.

Again, the pacing was super off.

Dororo, Episode 15, 2019.
Dororo, Episode 15, 2019

Hyakkimaru was so lost in grief over his familial ties he failed to notice Dororo was no longer there. We received a random training montage with Tahomaru and his charges. No doubt the two brothers will fight once more, although once Hyakki receives his eyes he may feel differently about revenge. If he could see the enemies he faces, it would scare him. Hyakkimaru would have to rely on his intuition rather than seeing the make of a person’s soul. Things would become less white and red, so to speak.

Ah, I wish I could say I enjoyed this episode but I didn’t.  I’m not one who cares about animation quality usually but my gosh did it ruin this week’s tale…

Dororo to Hyakkimaru, On to the next adventure...
Dororo to Hyakkimaru, On to the next adventure…

How do you think Itachi got the second half of the map? How will Hyakkimaru find Dororo? Do you think it was the village’s fault they are suffering, or the dynamic duos? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us for more anime episode reviews!

See you back here next Monday for another one!

次の巻: Dropping Expectations for an Anime Series

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Demonic Pacts Ain’t Easy

This is a review for episode 14 of the Dororo (2019) anime.

Need to catch up with the series? Use this link for a free 30 day Amazon Prime Video trial and support the anime legally! Check out last week’s Episode 13 review here!

Okay, so I don’t know if this is intentional on the story’s part, but I distrust every wealthy person Dororo and Hyakkimaru encounter. Either the rich person made a soul pact with a demon in exchange for wealth, or they are a vicious, murderous, psychopath who took what they wanted by force. And on top of that, you have various youkai running around the rural villages of Nippon wreaking havoc and eating people. Needless to say, I don’t think the warring states period in Japan was easy at all. This train of thought is doubled by the fact that I am an active believer in native folklore across the globe. These stories all have common denominators when you really look closely and examine them.

There is always some demon that will promise wealth in exchange for a sacrifice. Some creature looking to simply murder humans for the sake of evildoing, or in their warped view as a cleanse to this world. Our universe is so much more than it seems on the surface and although we don’t hear about reports of ghouls and primordial beings anymore, I am sure they are still here. Lurking, waiting for their time on this earth to begin anew once more.

But I digress, you all came here for the Dororo episode 14 review, correct?

This week was a two-parter episode, the latter half of the story sure to concede next week. Another Podunk village, another bunch of demons trying to possess the local residents. I may be severely off topic at this point, but I don’t understand why certain people never fail to engage in soul pacts with these darker entities. It is almost always most certainly a trick.

I grew up reading and hearing oral traditions of folklore, mainly concerning here – in indigenous America. Those guided by greed or blind obsessions chose to make bargains that they could never keep, or ended up dying when the demon proved its nature and exploited a loop hole.

You never get what you truly ask for, and what you seek is warped in a sick way that you realize all but too late. While I’m writing this I have The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina in my head (mainly because I’m working on a review for my other website). In season 2, Lilith (a big baddie who acts like a Scooby Doo villain in her pursuit to murder the show’s namesake, Sabrina) glamours herself as a fortune teller and gives one sided prophecies to the inhabitants of Greendale by manipulating their inner insecurities. Harvey (Sabrina’s ex) is shown a vision where an artist is gaining his work subjects though communications with entities. They came during the witching hour through a portal in his room, whispering secrets of the universe in exchange for their image being brought to the human realm.

Once the artist tells Harvey his secret, the entities drive the young man to kill himself.

There is always a hidden, sinister clause or agenda. When Dororo and Hyakkimaru meet Sabame at the burned down temple, I just knew he had something to do with the disappearances of travelers at night. However, I was surprised he wasn’t actually the monster. I mean the dude doesn’t even blink and he has turquoise colored eyes, I don’t know why none of the villagers found that strange.

Then again, a united Japan doesn’t exist yet and each state is warring. Lord Daigo’s lands were the only prosperous ones for miles around and even then, its citizens were just happy to be safe – magical interference be damned. So I can understand the residents of Sabame’s hamlet truly not caring what is going on outside of their safe space in a cruel world.

In exchange for safety and power, the baddie of the week needs life forces to feed on. As usual, they made the mistake of assuming the blind young man and the little girl would be easy targets. I am truly glad Hyakkimaru was awake and feigning sleep when the monster showed its intention to attack because the way he was treating Dororo earlier I thought he was lost.

Poor Dororo was being molested by a big belligerent baby reminiscent of Boh from Spirited Away. For those of you who may not have seen the film or forgotten his role, Boh was the name-stealing witch Yubaba’s child.

Bō , the belligerent baby from Miyazaki's Spirited Away

Bō , the belligerent baby from Miyazaki’s Spirited Away

Bō enjoyed being a holy terror and threatened to break Chihiro’s arm if she didn’t play with him. Towards the end of the film he has a change of heart and stops his mother from hurting her.

Dororo being accosted by a devilish fiend.
Dororo being accosted by a devilish fiend.

The complete disregard for anything not an oni by Hyakkimaru is starting to bother me. He wasn’t even sure if they encountered neutral spirits or evil ones with a dormant intent, but allowed the harassment of Dororo. The blind priest Biwamaru may be correct in reminding Dororo that she has options, and urging her in subtle ways to plan for the future. Biwamaru, as well as us – the audience, can see the negativity infiltrating Hyakkimaru’s fragile soul.

I wonder what she will do with the money in the end. Dororo cried when thinking about her parent’s sacrifice, so I don’t think she will abandon their life mission just to watch her big bro Hyakki. Either way, I’m excited to see what she chooses, and how that will affect her and whomever else she decides to live by.

Hyakkimaru to Dororo, On to the next adventure...
Hyakkimaru to Dororo, On to the next adventure…

Do you think the map on Dororo’s back was intended to be seen by a lover? What do you think Hyakkimaru’s fate will be? Would you make a pact with a demon? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you. Also be sure to follow us for more anime episode reviews of the spring 2019 season!

See you back here next Monday for another one!

次の巻: Poor Direction Leads to Inconsistency  

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Deception on Buddha’s Mountain Top

Reviewing Episode 13 of the Dororo 2019 anime!

Welcome to my first Dororo review!

As I mentioned in this post, I decided to start reviewing this show in its second cour. I am starting with episode 13, you will not find any prior reviews on this blog. Do you need to catch up with the series? Use this link for a free 30 day Amazon Prime Video trial and support the anime legally.

With that being said, let’s get jump into it!

I guess carrying on with last episodes theme, this weeks could be “eye-deceiving” which “lack in reality or substance or genuineness; not corresponding to acknowledged facts or criteria.”

When shown last week’s flashback, I still can’t help but be annoyed at the irony of Hyakkimaru’s mother. Oku prayed to Kannon for her son’s life each day for seventeen years, even seemingly neglecting her second born son Tahomaru growing up. The mother finally gets to meet the boy and she decides…she’d rather he die to retain the feudal land’s comfort and wealth? That was a total deception on our, the viewers, part as (most of us who had no familiarity with the series) assumed she regretted letting Hyakkimaru go. I personally thought she wanted to reunite with Hyakki and bring him into their household, not side with her son and husband in securing his demise. It totally left a bad taste in my mouth and since Kannon saved Oku, I’m sure we will see more of her before the series ends.

An unspecified time skip shows us that Hyakkimaru has ran himself to near exhaustion after the events near Asakusa. He has not reclaimed any body parts in some time, and that can no doubt be extremely frustrating to him. So much so, that he has decided to speak more – to Dororo’s delight. She must get lonely. I’m glad her character is there to ground him, he has become far too reckless after meeting his family.

This episode revolved around a sculptor named Okaka. With war in the air, his patrons demanded depictions of Fudo Myo-o. Fudo Myo-o (or Acala) is a deity that protects his believers and burns away all “impediments and defilements” that block the way towards enlightenment. The sculptor could not find a suitable face for the deity, and ends up dying in ruin. A demon enters the sacred statue and revives Okaka, changing him from male to female in his new life.

It is quite ironic that Fudo Myo-o protects his followers by clearing obstacles, and a demon enters his statue and reanimates Okaka to prevent him from finding salvation in the afterlife.

The act of stealing faces for the statue who was never satisfied reminded me a lot of Koh, the Face Stealer from Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Koh, the Face Stealer from Avatar: The Last Airbender

Only Okaka seems to take it one step further, by putting her victims under a spell while using their loved ones image. Dororo falls under this spell, but then again the little girl finds her mother’s face in many other women in the series. Okaka exploits the child in order to get to Hyakkimaru because she desires his face. Which was…odd. He recently just got his skin back and his ears, but he still doesn’t have eyes.

Would a prosthetic face really be that unique amongst the faces of villagers?

Okaka drugs the pair and after Dororo realizes what is going on, she saves Hyakkimaru. The sculptor then tries to fool a blind man with the face and voice of his mother and is then…surprised that he sees through the genjutsu. Okaka remarks “you’ve never seen your mother’s face before?” in shock that her ‘gift’ didn’t work. I love this show, but I don’t understand why Hyakkimaru would have supposedly fallen for this rouse. Upon their first meeting he isn’t even sure if the woman is human. I don’t understand why the baddie of the week thought he would, it was quite silly.

With death upon her, Okaka realizes the error of her ways and remarks that Dororo’s face is that of a smiling Buddha. Then Dororo deals with the pain of losing her mother all over again.

Towards the end of the episode the two go to an onsen, and meet the blind old man who often shows up in their travels. We then learn of a map Dororo has on her back that looks more like a flower to me.

A map on Dororo’s back.

I am surprised the priestess episodes back (when we learned Dororo’s gender) never said anything. Either way, I’m sure we’ll find out more next week concerning the map and why this show is called Dororo and not Hyakkimaru.

Dororo to Hyakkimaru, On to the next adventure…

Where do you think the map on Dororo’s back leads? Why do you think Okaka couldn’t find the face she was searching for (until seemingly the end)? Do you think Hyakkimaru will get his eyes back soon?

Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us for more episode reviews! See you again next Monday!

次の巻: Demonic Pacts Ain’t Easy

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I’ve been Nominated!

I’ve been nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award! It’s such an honor and has taken me by surprise. I would like to thank Andrew Comte of excuse my Thai (@excusemythai ) for thinking of me and the work we do on the blog. Please check out his blog, he does some amazing work concerning Thailand and ultimately has a goal of creating a non-profit to help provide rural Thai families with children’s school supplies.

So the rules are to nominate fellow bloggers, and list seven things about myself.

I nominate:

K, Amalog – A millennial lifestyle blog with a focus on underrated locations in Europe. (@amalog)

Mikhail Koulikov, Anime and Manga Studies – Takes an erudite approach to Japan through the cultural mediums of anime and manga. (@AnimeStudies)

Simon Gao, I can’t believe it’s not animeFeatures wacky and obscure Japanese film reviews that lend great insight into J pop culture and the inner society as a whole.

Japanese Tabi – An expat living in Japan and experiencing the country as the locals would. Hopefully they come back from hiatus soon! (@japan_tips17)

Jennifer, Japan’s Wonders – A glimpse into the lesser known areas of Japan, coupled with phenomenal photography!

Kay, Kdrama Kisses Brings you the latest in kdrama news, media and reviews. It is a great site to find your next new seasonal obsession! (@Kdrama_Kisses)

Karandi James, 100 Word Anime – Your one stop source for a spotlight on the anime community and reviews for ongoing shows! (@100wordanime)

7 Things About In Asian Spaces

I really enjoy taking walks in the rain. I don’t know what it is, but it creates an extremely peaceful atmosphere. The air smells fresh, the earth is quiet and cars move more slowly. No one is rushing and the earth seems still for a few hours.

I’m a huge fan of Lofi music and lately I’ve been getting back into Bon Iver.

I’m a woman! Lol. I’m intentionally vague on this blog and I notice that when interacting with people on social media they assume I’m a man for some reason. It’s actually kind of funny.

When I was younger, my mom used to have this elaborate plant wall in the house. As I’ve grown, it doesn’t look as big anymore but she has a green thumb for sure. Me? Not so much. Luckily, succulents (desert plants) seem to like me…so there’s that haha.

I grew up and still live by the ocean and miss it when I’m far away. On warm days or after a storm the air smells like salt water and sometime seagulls fly overhead.

Shinkai Makoto is my favorite animation director, and Children Who Chase Lost Voices (from Deep Below) is my favorite film by him.

I absolutely ADORE period dramas of any kind! Some of my favs are: The Borgias, Reign (some differ on calling it a “period drama” because it aired on The CW but I digress) and The Last Kingdom. I would add Game of Thrones, but only before season 5 – after that it kind of went to shit.  I may be turning into A Song of Ice and Fire book snob…

Thank you again Andrew for the nomination (and sorry I’m getting to this so late!!)

I never thought I’d receive something like this! Everyone, please check out the bloggers I’ve nominated! They are all gems!

✰In Asian Spaces

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