Anime Review: Dorohedoro (2020)

TL;DR – ultra violent mayhem between sorcerers and the denizens of the hole.

Review (warning: spoilers)

Caiman is hunting down the sorcerer responsible for casting a spell that transformed his head into a lizard’s. To make matters worse, he has no memory of his true identity and who he was before acquiring a reptilian head.

The above is the short plot description for what is actually a complex and possibly one of the most original animes I have seen in some time.

To add layers, Dorohedoro throws in the following craziness:

  • Within Caiman’s reptilian mouth (or more precisely his throat) is a human head, which later we find out belongs to a guy named Risu. Whenever Caiman hunts down a sorcerer, he chomps down on the sorcerer’s head and Risu emerges to tell the sorcerer trapped in Caiman’s mouth whether he is the one who transformed Caiman into a reptilian-headed human. Caiman then releases the sorcerer from his bite, asks the sorcerer what the guy in his mouth said, and when the sorcerer tells him that he’s not the one who cast the spell on Caiman, Caiman ends up killing the sorcerer anyway.
  • Caiman’s close friend is an ass-kicking girl named Nikaido who owns a gyoza restaurant. She helps Caiman hunt down sorcerers so he can get his memories and human face back. Caiman and Nikaido have a strong affection for each other especially since she is more than happy to feed him gyoza, which he demolishes by the dozen. Little does Caiman know, however, that Nikaido is also a sorcerer who sought to escape the sorcerer world. And not just any old sorcerer, she has the rare magical ability to manipulate time.
  • En is a powerful sorcerer and crime boss. His magic causes anyone who inhales his magical smoke to turn into a mushroom. For a long time, he has been searching for a sorcerer to make his partner, and he has one requirement of the sorcerer he is after. He or she must be able to manipulate time.
  • Shin and Noi are two of the most deadly enforcers / sorcerers that work under En. An incident in their past, tied the pair together resulting in Noi developing an attraction to Shin.
  • A large cast of supporting characters that includes a giant cockroach named Jonson, a sorcerer named Turkey that can create ‘living dolls’ of people out of food, and Kawajiri, a devil who has close ties to Nikaido.

This crazy collection of characters is set against the backdrop of three worlds:

  • The Hole, a sprawling district of slums where non-sorcerers reside including Caiman. The Hole is where Nikaido escaped to and set up her gyoza shop.
  • The Sorcerer’s world, a rich and vibrant land where En rules as crime boss.
  • Hell, an underworld where dead sorcerers go to and where devils reside.

The anime successfully mixes crude humour and brutal violence with a plot driven around the mystery of Caiman.

The animation is striking with a level a detail that makes you feel like you are constantly fighting against corruption. All three worlds are cut throat. The weak rarely survive, and the filth pervades through every episode. Blood is spilt in litres in every action scene and somehow the animators are able to animate blood that has spattered on clothing and skin with alarming accuracy. To emphasise the uncleanliness of it all, many characters wear jumpsuits and masks as if expecting bloodshed, guts and grime around every corner.

Based on the manga of the same name by Q Hayashida, how she imagined such a story and its worlds is both impressive and alarming (I wonder what she eats before going to bed).

I was captivated throughout the first season as we follow the motivations and drivers and the slow unveiling of backstories behind our main cast. Probably the only unsatisfactory thing about the first season is that it ends without you getting any closer to solving Caiman’s mystery. While it appears you do find out who was responsible for Caiman’s transformation, the more incessant question of why is left unanswered.

They better make a season two.

9 out of 10