The story is rapidly coming to a climax in Dororo. Hyakkimaru realizes that slaying random demons no longer helps him regain powers and parts of his body, his brother Tahomaru has vowed to put an end to him, and his traveling companion Dororo has been kidnapped by Daigo’s retainers. The fight between Hyakkimaru and Tahomaru with his two bodyguards has to be the best in the series, but I can only expect the action to get better.
The closest anime to which one may compare Dororo is Samurai Deeper Kyo. These both share a tale of a hero who wishes to regain his own body as others try to stop him. While Hyakkimaru’s body parts were stripped from him at infancy, Kyo’s soul was trapped in the body of his antagonist, and Kyo’s body was stripped from him at the Battle of Sekigahara. Kyo was considered far too destructive to be left as he was, and his opponents acted out of a desire to protect themselves.
Despite Kyo’s former destructive existence, no one ever tries to convince him that his quest to regain his own body is morally wrong. We see the opposite in Dororo: many persons make Hyakkimaru out to be a villain for wanting to regain his rightful property. (And what can we consider rightfully ours if not our own body and soul, i.e. that which we are?) The heads of the Daigo clan argue on consequentialist and utilitarian grounds that the sacrifice of Hyakkimaru’s body to demons was essential to the prosperity of their fief. Each demon Hyakkimaru slays brings Daigo closer to ruin, and he needs to be stopped.
Yet, is the prosperity of Daigo actually a good thing? Perhaps it is a bad thing, because it is based on an evil thing. A good deed requires a good intention, a good means, and a good end for it to be really good. When Hyakkimaru’s father sacrificed his own son for power and prosperity, we know that his intent and means were corrupt and that his end held a great deal of selfishness no matter how he tries to package it in the present. Tahomaru is a little different in that we can discern a good intention and a good end, but the means—fratricide and sustaining a diabolic pact—are still evil.
If this be the only means for Daigo to prosper, the people of Daigo deserve to endure poverty, pestilence, famine, and war rather than to allow a single individual to be murdered. No country has the right to have prosperity through human sacrifice and Satanic pacts. Perhaps some excuse could be found if Hyakkimaru, like Demon Eyes Kyo, had been causing harm, but babies are by definition innocent. It was as an innocent baby that parts of Hyakkimaru’s humanity were stolen and he was left to die. Rather than Hyakkimaru owing anything to Daigo, that fief owes him restitution.
Yet, child sacrifice for the sake of future prosperity is more ubiquitous than we care to think. At the state level, we know that child sacrifice was carried out by the ancient Aztec, Chimu, and Incan Empires. (The site of the largest child sacrifice in history lies near Trujillo, Peru, where the remains of 140 children were unearthed.) The cult of Moloch in Scripture is famous for inciting God’s wrath by their child sacrifices. On the individual level, child sacrifice has been carried out in prehistoric times and has reemerged in the last century.
The ancients sacrificed their children to gods in the hope that the gods would increase their prosperity—the idea behind child sacrifice is that the more precious the sacrifice, the better its chance of the worshiper being heard. In modern times, the goal remains the same though the reasons are less superstitious. Parents who sacrifice their offspring hope to preserve their current or future prosperity by killing their children, whom they expect will be a huge drain on their time and resources. In a compassionate society like ours, it would be just as easy to offer the baby up for adoption as to the knife. But, the secular Zeitgeist prefers a bloody sacrifice over a bloodless one.
There are a couple of factors which make Lord Daigo more evil than moderns: 1) full knowledge of him sacrificing his son for his own ambition, and 2) deliberately sacrificing to the forces of evil. Those guilty of child sacrifice in modern times don’t realize that there is a war between good and evil. Also, they have been subject to a long brainwashing campaign. Thus, people blithely compare a fetus to a tumor. Or, they say that it is a potential human life. Yet, is not even a “potential human life” invaluable? Has anyone ever seen cancer morph into a functional human being? The idea that one can dehumanize a person on the grounds of youth and helplessness is antithetical to reason and to charity.
In Dororo, Hyakkimaru has the good fortune of being discovered by Dr. Jukai after he had been discarded. Jukai represents someone disgusted by the lack of humanity he finds in the world. This is particularly present in the Warring States period in which he exists, where samurai and brigands can murder on the slightest pretext and get away with it. Jukai recognizing the humanity of Hyakkimaru who appears inhuman is a rebuke to all of the inhuman samurai and brigands parading as human beings.
Conseqentialist or utilitarian reasons cannot erase the penalty of sin from child sacrifice. One can’t build real morality on the end results alone. In real life, the reckoning for child sacrifice won’t come in the form of the sacrifice returning to claim his rights, as we see in Dororo. Yet, the perpetrator will have to repent or end by destroying his conscience and by suffering eternal destruction in hell. One can’t build a happy society or a happy life on human sacrifice. In Dororo, the people of Daigo will only obtain real happiness when the evil committed by their lord has been atoned. God is stronger than all hell, and we should expect good from the divine rather than from demons.