After months of lockdown, and a near complete apathy towards pretty much everything I’ve watched, finding (or rediscovering) some anime series has totally revitalised me.
The sheer energy and enthusiasm of the characters and the wildness and unpredictability of the stories that they tell have enthralled me and transported me to a different world (we could all do with a bit of that right about now!). Sinking into the sofa after a hard day working/teaching/everything else and staring at the same walls/rooms began to feel a little bit repetitive, but to have such vivid and bright animation on my screen and being able to immerse myself in the strange and wonderful worlds that anime brings has been a boost to my brain and my enthusiasm.
So, after that update, onto my review: Dorohedoro
Kaiman, a lizard-headed menial worker at a local hospital (for the magically injured), and his good friend Nikaido, a restaurant owner and chef, spend their days hunting sorcerers. Hoping to track down the one who changed Kaiman’s head into the lizard style he now has to live with and removed his memories about who he was and what he looked like. The place they live in, aptly name The Hole, is being used by sorcerers to practice their own brands of magic on the humans inhabitants who are unfortunate enough to live in this less than salubrious setting. Oh, did I mention that Kaiman treats every sorcerer he fights to the pleasure of having their heads put into his mouth, to talk to the man who lives in there? I didn’t? Well, that’s just another string to the mystery of Kaiman’s new existence.
The Hole is at once a dreary place and also so full of life and the more you learn and find out about the characters and the locations, the more you get drawn in. Kaiman is apparently shallow and unrelentingly positive and his energetic and almost bouncy outlook is infectious on those around him. He seems to continue through his life unaware of more serious goings on apart from his all-consuming desire to solve his lizard-head mystery. And eat Nikaido’s delicious gyoza of course! The other half of this sorcerer-kicking duo is Nikaido, a much more reserved person but extremely competent and completely committed to Kaiman’s cause. And she knows how to rustle up grub and provide for her ever eager “customer” (Kaiman never pays!).
On the other side of this are the sorcerers, who inhabit their own world and transport themselves through to the Hole via magical doors via their “smoke” – the source of their magic power. The opening sequence puts Kaiman onto their radar, and the sorcerers attempt in their own way to find out who the “Lizard Headed” man is and more about his existence. The further you get along this ride, the more the paths intertwine and the more central a role the sorcerers play in telling this story.
The beauty of including the magical is that just about anything comes into the scope of the series, and they certainly try to spread that net wide! Each sorcerer has their own unique mask that they must wear and their own magical ability: En has his mushroom transformation thing, his “cleaners” Shin and Noi are blessed with the ability to slice up anything and heal respectively. Whilst these three are competent and dangerous, there are two more in this party who provide a bit more slapstick to the proceedings: Fujita (not sure what his power is as it is overall pretty weak) and Ebisu, another memory-tainted individual who is not in complete control of what is going on.
The acid-trip into these worlds is a visual treat but the characters bring things down to a much more human level, even if their outlook on life is distinctly not. Friendship and camaraderie are at play here amongst all the situations, no matter how bleak, and it is this warm heart to it that kept me coming back for more (I binged the 12 episodes in a few evenings).
The anime series has been created by Yuuichirou Hayashi (Attack on Titan, Kakegurui) and by MAPPA Studios and is based on Q Hayashida’s 23-volume manga (which I am working my way through at the moment – also fantastic!!). The style of the animation is wonderful and brought to mind the similarly vivid and eye-catching world of Tekkonkinkreet, which isn’t surprising really as art director Kimura Shinji worked on both titles.
Dorohedoro is an incredible stylish anime series which is loads of fun, fast paced and it doesn’t skimp on the violence either. Or the magic. It’s basically a melting pot of anything they can envisage but it works so very well in creating a connection to the characters despite the otherworldly feel to it.