Review

by Lynzee Loveridge,

Dorohedoro

Synopsis:
REVIEW: Dorohedoro
In a world of have and have-nots, residents of The Hole suffer unspeakable horror. At any moment a masked Sorcerer could appear from a conjured door and subject them to grotesque enchantments as part of their magic training. Residents of the Hole are fed up, and that includes the Lizard-headed Caiman and his gyoza-cooking bestie Nikaido. Together they've decided to find the truth behind Caiman's transformation and kill every Sorcerer that gets in their way. Their quest brings them face to face with Sorcerer-sided enforcers Noi and Shin, sent by the peculiar and powerful mobster En, as they traverse a blood-soaked wonderland for answers.
Review:

Imagine yourself in the remnants of a industrial wasteland. The horizon is nothing but rusted metal, billowing smoke, and cold grey skies. There are few options to make your way in a world like this. Businesses hire residents to clean up viscera in the back alleys where Sorcerer victims are abandoned and their killers never caught. Doctors with questionable skills care for survivors in abandoned high-rises. On the outskirts of the death-ridden metropolis, Nikaido runs a gyoza shop and entertains her most dedicated customer, and best friend, Caiman.

Caiman has a lizard head. He also has another head, this one human, that lives inside his mouth. He's never seen the guy but Caiman is sure that his body's other resident is somehow tied to his true, human identity and why he's strangely immune to magic. In fact, if he and Nikaido could just kill the right Sorcerer it would free Caiman from the spell that he's under, and Sorcerers in The Hole are a dime-a-dozen. Caiman just has to pop each unsuspecting magic user into his gaping maw to be judged by the mystery man inside. Dorohedoro is nothing short of a bloodbath but it revels in its absurdity. Neither Caiman or Nikaido think much of wiping out Sorcerers, and for good reason. Everyone living in The Hole is a potential experiment subject waiting to happen. Sorcerers drop in and think nothing of subjecting the residents to various spells for no reason other than to hone their craft, leaving mutilated corpses and suffering in their wake.

The circumstances of The Hole helps endear the audience to Caiman and Nikaido's blatant indifference to Sorcerers as they wantonly smash their way toward answers. The gyoza-devouring duo is juxtaposed against Noi and Shin, two Sorcerers under the command of the magic mobster En. En becomes enamoured with the mystery surrounding Caiman's magic-cancelling ability and his rising bodycount. We see most of Sorcerer's world in relation to En, and its doozy. It becomes clear at the series' halfway point that the world of magic is literally Hell itself, a point foreshadowed in En's own name. He enjoys his position of power and indulges in his own eccentricities for seemingly no other reason that to amuse himself. He dictates that Shin and Noi wear masks for no discernable reason; Shin eschews this responsibility most of the time by intentionally wearing his backwards. En is also nothing if not a man dedicated to theming, having taken Alice in Wonderland's Caterpillar as a motif for every aspect of his life.

Dorohedoro references the Lewis Carroll classic, if not textually than at least visually, throughout its entire run. One of Nikaido's regular outfits is light blue coveralls that, paired with her blonde hair, is enough to make the reference. When paired with Caiman I couldn't help but to think of Alice and Bill the Lizard wandering around a truly nightmarish wonderland. Later, Caiman puts on a full suit and mask to hide amongst Sorcerer society, essentially transforming from a lizard to the White Rabbit. The series' connection to the classic book can be interpreted in numerous ways, whether it be a merely a stylistic choice based on Japan's love of Alice or a heartier declaration of the series' intention of satire. Dorohedoro's world exists with strict class lines, and casting the oppressors as denizens of Hell isn't exactly subtle. The series' playful humor despite the ongoing grotesqueries on display doesn't negate the point; Alice in Wonderland was nothing if not commentary on the 19th century Victorian class—Carroll just utilized Dodos and other birds racing around instead.

Caiman and Nikaido's own rabbit hole is a twisty one. Each episode shines a smidge more light on the circumstances that ties all the prominent players together but anime-only viewers will want to keep in mind that the single cour season never fully addresses the central mystery. Things only twist around more as the series goes on until I felt like I had a reasonable (but unverified) theory of the truth while simultaneously barely grasping onto the plot's many threads. There is a lot of meat on Dorohedoro's bones but its shape can be difficult to make out even with its tightly focused cast. As strange as it sounds, I found it impossible to dislike any of the characters even though they were often times trying to kill one another or bludgeoning some poor schmuck to death with a hammer. Viewers are bound to to latch on to a favorite, whether it's the main duo, the beautiful and buff Noi, the sensitive Fujita, or the flesh-eating giant roach Jonson.

Dorohedoro somehow perfected the balance of mystery, absurd violence, and humor into a single hellishly beautiful package. The background artistry is a major highlight, especially the scenes around En's mansion and Sorcerer's world where highly detailed minutiae create something both beautiful and frightening. The animation itself is frustrating, not because it detracts from the overall show but because I couldn't help but see it as what 2016 Berserk should have looked like. The character designs exhibit the same sort of pencil-line scratch detail that Berserk tried to implement but in Dorohedoro it's effective. Every ass-kicking scene includes the weight and timing of some of 2D anime's best moments. If there's any proof that 3DCG anime deserves to have its reputation reevaluated, it's Orange's BEASTARS and MAPPA's Dorohedoro.

Grade:
Overall : A-
Overall (sub) : A
Story : A-
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : A

+ Absurdly funny, well-realized characters, a fleshed-out horrific world
Central mystery is not fully resolved; viewers will come away with pieces but not the whole picture

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Production Info:
Director: Yuichiro Hayashi
Series Composition: Hiroshi Seko
Script: Hiroshi Seko
Storyboard: Yuichiro Hayashi
Episode Director:
Nobuyoshi Arai
Hidekazu Hara
Yuichiro Hayashi
Hiroko Komatsu
Jutaro Sekino
Barako Shinohara
Norihito Takahashi
Daisuke Tokudo
Atsushi Tsukasa
Unit Director: Yuichiro Hayashi
Music:
R.O.N
[K]NoW_NAME
Original creator: Q Hayashida
Character Design: Tomohiro Kishi
Art Director: Shinji Kimura
Chief Animation Director:
Sayaka Koiso
Minami Seki
Komami Yoshida
Animation Director:
Reimi Eda
Saki Hasegawa
Yoshihide Ideue
Satoshi Ikeda
Shinya Itō
Masayuki Katou
Sayaka Koiso
Hiroko Komatsu
Akiko Kumada
Tomomi Noda
Gosei Oda
Minami Seki
Takako Shimizu
Anri Yamazaki
Komami Yoshida
3D Animation Director:
Hideki Abo
Motomu Endo
Kouhei Iwasaki
Toshio Nishiiri
Yuki Nomoto
Yoshino Ogata
Motoi Okunou
Sound Director: Akiko Fujita
Director of Photography:
Hyo Gyu Park
Yusuke Tannawa
Executive producer:
Sosuke Asano
Yasunori Ikeda
Kozue Kananiwa
Meika Kanbe
Tomoyuki Ohwada
Nobumasa Sawabe
Akito Takahashi
Takahiro Yamaguchi
Masako Yoshikawa
Producer:
Hiroyuki Aoi
Yoshinori Hasegawa
Takehiko Hayashi
Yuito Hirahara
Akihiro Matsumoto
Masaya Saito
Reiko Sasaki
Yuichi Tada
Daiki Tomihara
Atsushi Yoshikawa

Full encyclopedia details about
Dorohedoro (TV)

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