There's never been anything quite like Q Hayashida's Dorohedoro. Sorcerers, hell-adjacent mobsters, a giant flesh-eating cockroach that plays baseball. MAPPA has brought the strange manga series to life at a rip-roaring pace but parsing out the actual plot proves a bit difficult.
You can read our full review of Dorohedoro here!
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Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
Well Nick, I just finished watching the first season of Dorohedoro
about an hour ago, and I've got exactly one thing on my mind:
I too love 90's grunge rock, Steve. And boy is "grungey" an apt description for this show.
I gather this adaptation is somewhat divisive among longtime fans of the manga, but having watched this first season and read the first 2 volumes of the original, I think this show absolute captures what makes Dorohedoro
In that every single location, person, and object in it looks like it smells worse than an Arby's dumpster:
So I'm very thankful I've been able to take advantage of this column and proselytize about a lot of anime and manga I love, but Dorohedoro
is quite possibly my favorite manga of all time. While I used to dream up potential anime staff who'd be able to translate its bizarre appeal onto the screen, I never really expected it'd actually get an adaptation. But here we are!
And to cut to the chase, I think they freaking nailed a lot of it.
I'm a lot less familiar myself. Outside of checking out the early volumes a few years back, mostly I know this series by its reputation among hardcore manga fans. Like there's Golden Kamuy
, Delicious in Dungeon
, and this. If you've been on mangatwitter for more than 5 minutes you've been insistently recommended one of those.
It's certainly garnered quite the cult following among my fellow weirdos during its 18-year run, and I think a lot of us were similarly apprehensive about anyone actually pulling off an adaptation. Mangaka Q Hayashida
's style is both very rough and very detailed, on top of being used to depict surreal ultraviolence and reality-bending magic powers. Like, this is how much visual information can go into a single joke panel:
Well you need a lot of detail to pull off the style of this series. That style being "Las Vegas Truckstop Bathroom."
And in that respect, arguably the anime's ace in the hole is getting Shinji Kimura
as the art director. He's worked on a lot of stuff, but he was art director for the Tekkonkinkreet
film and Blood Blockade Battlefront
, and that's pretty much all I needed to see on his CV to be convinced he'd get the job done. Dude knows how to make sure cities look beautifully filthy.
It's really important, honestly. A big part of what makes this show stand out so much is that it's the very rare anime where things just look filthy so often. In a landscape where even other ultraviolence shows still have sterile hallways and cityscapes, Dorohedoro is dedicated to making every character look like they pulled their clothes out of a landfill.
Yeah, even the characters/character models tend to look dirty and roughed up, to roughly approximate Q Hayashida
's scratchy style. I can tell the staff understood what they were doing and why they were doing it, and that's a rare, precious thing.
Also, seriously, what a wonderfully disgusting toilet.
Speaking of ultraviolence, hoo fucking BOY is there a lot of it. Not a single episode goes by without some kind of intense body horror. Hell, 2 character even create a fighting style around it:
Yeah, one of Dorohedoro
's cleverer moves is including a main character whose magic specialty is healing, so everybody has permission to get their bodies busted up as gnarly as possible. And Dorohedoro
does not let those opportunities go to waste!
Yes that is (or was) someone's face.
She's fine. It's fine.
See that's the other thing about Dorohedoro
: for all the very, very visceral violence the show almost universally treats it like when Wile E. Coyote gets blown up. All the knives in this show might as well have ACME logos on the side.
That to me is Dorohedoro
's secret sauce. A much lesser work would take its violence and aesthetics in edgy, grimdark directions, but Dorohedoro
just has fun with everything. It's a love letter to goofy B horror flicks, with a full cast of lovable homicidal weirdos you legit end up caring about even as they constantly try to murder each other.
I'm not entirely sold on that aspect, myself. Overall I find Dorohedoro
's cast fun to follow in the moment, but if any of them were to finally be on the serious end of a mutilation I don't think I'd be bothered much. Except maybe Ebisu.
Ebisu is normal for the first 30 seconds we know her and then spends the remainder of the show with permanent brain damage. Relatable for sure.
I think Hayashida does a pretty remarkable job balancing the over-the-top murder antics with the comparatively more droll moments when they're off the job and just hanging out with each other. There's a lot of tonal whiplash to be sure, but that's a part of Dorohedoro
's strangeness that appeals to me.
When I first read the manga I'm pretty sure I described it as "What if The Office
took place inside your nightmares?" and that stays more or less true through this first season. It's a slapstick sitcom wearing the hollowed out skin of a seinen
Like sure, Caiman is on a quest to hunt down the sorcerer that turned his head into a lizard's and uncover his lost memories, but that doesn't mean he won't put aside the time to play baseball for a whole episode.
Oh I can't tell you how happy I was to see them fully adapt the baseball chapter.
I DARE you to find another story featuring a giant sneaker-wearing cockroach.
Or an episode where the crew go to a literal corpse party just for the free food.
Or just enjoying the Dark Souls
I'd consider backstab fishing part of the authentic Dark Souls PVP experience. Dude didn't even do the duel bow first smh.
I think the fact that we're this far into this column and have barely mentioned the plot tells you what Dorohedoro
's priorities are pretty well. There is the skeleton of a story to tell and a mystery to decipher, but it's mainly there to shove the characters together for wacky explosions of violence. Like that time Ebisu turns into a velociraptor for a bit.
Did it tells us anything new? Did it inform the larger character arcs or dynamics? Nope! But we got to see a dinosaur eat a Frankenstein.
For as wild as its characters and aesthetics are, the central plot of Dorohedoro is a very long, very slow burn with a lot of red herrings and a surprising number of moving parts. There are actually incidental details here that become relevant later, but things only start fully coalescing later in the manga, well past what one cour of anime is able to cover.
And that's all good for a manga series that runs in perpetuity, but it leaves this first season, even for its relentless pacing, feeling kind of inconsequential. A lot of stuff sure happens in it, but by the end of it I had very little idea what any of it meant or was leading towards.
Yeah I definitely won't be surprised if that's a common sentiment among anime-first viewers. For what it's worth, I think the core mystery does a good enough job maintaining momentum, but there's pretty much zero closure on anything this early in the story lol.
It also just bugs me that there's a ton of interesting worldbuilding going on in the background that never gets capitalized on. Like hey, Shin's backstory about being a half-sorcerer on the run from an anti-magic militia in The Hole? That's a really interesting story that begs a lot of questions about what the show could explore!
But sorry, no time left since we needed to fit in the episode about competing hot dog stands based around an oral sex joke.
also likes to dole out her worldbuilding one small piece at a time, and often in inscrutable, shitposty ways. But that, too, is Dorohedoro
! And there's actually some really neat and subtle stuff here. Like this one line from En both informs a little bit about the customs of Sorcerers and informs a lot about Fujita's personality.
If you look, you'll notice that Fujita keeps wearing his funeral shoes for the rest of the show, to demonstrate that he's still in mourning for Matsumura. Plus, they look just like clown shoes, which is funny.
Fujita needs to recognize he's got a valuable partner right there next to him. Granted she's like if GIR from Invader Zim
were my sleep paralysis demon, but still.
They do make a perfect couple, and hopefully they'll be able to formally notarize their bond as partners next Blue Night, provided Ebisu doesn't get the runs again.
Gotta watch out for those street meat pies.
You know the moment the show introduced the meat pies shop, my brain asked "What kind of meat?" and answered "Actually I don't want to know." And yet Q. Hayashida refused to let me live in ignorance.
That's why she's good!
Also said pie-ification happens to one of 2 sorcerers trying to kidnap Noi and Shin, but before they can get away they run into Caiman and his new baker friends and piss him off, so he kills them. Then 2 days later Ebisu runs into that meat pie while looking for Shin and THAT causes her to literally shit away her chance to partner with Fujita. It's like watching an episode of Seinfeld filmed in Hell.
There are lots of little interwoven details and quick gags that add so much personality to Dorohedoro
and its characters. Like, En would be just another stuffy mob boss if not for all the silly vain art projects that keep popping up in the background.
The man loves his mushrooms.
And his...dog? cat? I have no idea what this thing is but he sure loves it.
Judas' Ear is precious and that's all we need to know. And I suppose I've been dancing around this long enough, but the real actual number one reason why Dorohedoro
is the best and why everyone should love it is: girl big
Cue all of anitwitter marking out in 3...2...1...
Personally, while I can respect your taste, I can't really find anyone in this show attractive. The sheer omnipresent stench of leather sweat and viscera is just too much of a mood killer.
It's okay, not everyone can possess a brain as big as mine. And Dorohedoro
's first episode is honestly brilliant in that regard, because it begins by introducing Nikaido, who loves to fight, kicks ass, and makes a mean plate of gyoza.
And then it ends by introducing Noi, who's even bigger
, built like a freight train, and able to crush dudes' heads with just the palm of her hand.
In fact, across all genders, Dorohedoro
is a smorgasbord of beef.
Though of course the BIGGEST doesn't show up until the last 3 episodes:
I suspect foul play in that particular instance, but the show certainly does keep upping its beefy ante.
Thirst aside it's pretty cool that the series is actually willing to draw its physically powerful women with the same physicality and musculature it affords the dudes. It certainly never pulls any of this nonsense:
Zero cowardice here.
And I think that's the spark that keeps this series engaging, even as it treads water on side roads and false rabbit trails. Dorohedoro commits to anything it steers itself towards, whether that's insane gore, pitch black humor, or anything else it decides to try.
To ensuring that literally every character wears kicks.Dorohedoro
contains multitudes, and I love them all.
For all my issues with it, I can confidently say I've never seen anything quite like it.