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Dorohedoro Season 1 Review

June 15, 2020 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
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Dorohedoro Season 1 Review  

In a post-COVID-19 pandemic world, one of the few things you can still actually do is binge anime. Thankfully, Netflix picked up a great series to binge for the streaming service’s anime lineup, and it’s definitely one worth checking out. Based on the unique, memorable manga series of the same name by creator Q Hayashida, Dorohedoro is a trip into the weird, strange and chaotic. If you’re put off by shows or anime that embrace general weirdness, Dorohedoro might not be the show for you. But if you have the patience to stick with it, Dorohedoro is a trip that only gets more bizarre as it goes along and would likely make David Lynch jealous.

The new anime series comes courtesy of Studio MAPPA and director Yuichiro Hayashi (Garo, Batman: Gotham Knight). The setting largely is divided into two worlds: the dilapidated, post-apocalyptic human city of Hole; and the Sorcerer’s world resided by the Sorcerers or Magic Users. The humans of Hole resent and hunt down Sorcerers because Sorcerers torture and exploit humans for their experiments. Sorcerers tend to look down on humans or those who are not capable of using “Smoke”-induced magic. Most Sorcerers are capable of emitting a type of Smoke that can cause random phenomena. Some Smoke might turn you into a meat pie. Some smoke might be able to cut you up and decapitate you, and some might just curse you with being stuck with a head like a reptilian lizard.

Two denizens of Hole are one Caiman and Nikaido. Caiman is an amnesiac who was cursed by Sorcerer’s magic causing his head to to look like a lizard. He happened to make friends with a restaurant owner, Nikaido, who also happens to be a highly skilled and competent martial artist. Together they form an unlikely friendship and band together in order to find the Sorcerer who cursed Caiman with his lizard head and erased his memories. Caiman’s one clue is that there’s a mysterious figure inside of his mouth. So, after engulfing a Magic User’s head to have them talk to the mysterious person in his mouth, he wants to know if that person is the one. If they aren’t the one, it’s curtains for the Magic User.

Eventually, Caiman and Nikaido run into some Sorcerers who happen to be in the employ of a top Sorcerer by the name of En, who is basically the kingpin mafioso of the Sorcerer’s world. En is quite possibly the strongest Sorcerer in both realms. His power? He can turn anything into mushrooms. Confused yet? This is only the tip of the iceberg.

In one word, the best way to describe Dorohedoro is that it’s weird. However, creator Q Hayashida did a fantastic job in committing and fleshing out this bizarre world where the story and characters unfold. This isn’t a typical good guys vs. bad guys story. The protagonists, Caiman and Nikaido, commit violent acts in Caiman’s quest to break his curse. Meanwhile, the antagonists in the En family, are oddly charming, especially Ebisu. Studio Mappa did an excellent job in presenting Hayashida’s world and characters that are way more complex than they appear on the surface.

Normally, I have not been very enthusiastic with anime show’s utilization of CG. That’s definitely present throughout Dorohedoro. However, the style is not quite as jarring an experience as say watching Netflix’s Ultraman anime or the new Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 series. Where Studio Mappa really excels here though is bringing the unique realms of Hole and the Sorcerer’s world to visual life. Hole is this strange, dystopic, dilapidated and sprawling metropolis, yet there are exaggerated architectural structures that look dreamlike in some areas and nightmarish in others.

Hayashida’s manga also created such a unique cast of characters, where not a single character looks like the other. In the world of Dorohedoro, characters tend to wear elaborate masks or costumes as a reflection of their status. Also, it appears some masks have magical properties, or they can enhance certain abilities. Those design elements remain in the anime version.

Additionally, the show seems to have a lot of fun with its depiction of characters imbibing alcohol, food and hors d’oeuvres, especially gyoza of course. Strangely enough, the fact that Hole appears to be quite plentiful with edible and sometimes rather delicious looking food is rather anachronistic. Hole looks like such a slime pit, it raises the question of where the ingredients come from. Hayashida doesn’t really dwell on issues like this, but she really seems to enjoy depicting having a nice cocktail, a gourmet venison meat pie or a piece of gyoza.

At the heart of Dorohedoro, despite all the rather graphic depictions of violence and gore, there is a story of friendship. Friendship is at the heart of Dorohedoro‘s themes and storytelling, whether it’s the bond shared by Caiman and Nikaido, Shin and Noi, or even the growing partnership between Ebisu and Fujita. Even the story’s central antagonist, En, appears to genuinely care for his subordinates in his gang, despite his rather amoral tendencies. Later on, he adopts the dog-like chimera, Kikurage, and he fawns over her like a small child. It’s basically the anime version of Mando and Baby Yoda.

More than anything, Dorohedoro‘s heart is the exploration of friendship and what it means to discover true friendship, despite some rather bizarre and odd settings. While Dorohedoro gets stranger and weirder as it progresses, it’s those strong relationships and characters that really keep me eagerly waiting to see what’s next. Also, Ebisu rocks.

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
Dorohedoro is not an average "gateway" anime. This is probably not the type of anime to watch if you are watching anime for the first time. It's a much deeper, weirder cut. It's a bizarre head trip and only proceeds to get more bizarre as it progresses. However, if you have an open mind and you enjoy stories about the purity of friendship, and you don't mind the type of weirdness that would make David Lynch jealous, Dorohedoro is an increasingly rewarding story. Hopefully, the show does well, and Studio Mappa will be able to continue adapting Q Hayashida's unfolding narrative from the manga. Also, Ebisu is the best.