2020 has been an interesting year in terms of anime. Not just because of slowed production due to covid, which is good praxis in finding a safe way to produce more work during a lockdown, but from a lot of the creative works that came out. There were a lot of interesting passion projects in 2020 that I think are worth checking out. Dorohedoro, in my eyes, is another one of them. Yes, it may be an adaption of Q Hayashida’s manga, but creating the realistic feel of the world and allowing it to come to life for viewers watching it requires a lot of talent and artistry. That is what is happening here. Seeing that happen and all the creative turns it takes are what made it work for me. Dorohedoro is one of, if not, my favorite anime from the past year.
The world of Dorohedoro is a very dark and depressing in some ways, but also very intriguing and exciting. Especially since it takes place in a very post-apocalyptic future. A future where there are two worlds separate in different dimensions while there are also two kinds of people that fit each setting. Humans live in an area called The Hole and it’s a dark and grimy city that would like a back alley for every other city in the world. On the end are sorcerers, people that have power flowing through them in the form of pipes and live in a much nicer area called the Sorcerer’s world. Very obvious naming, but I think that there is a lot of power in simple names for people like me who suck at remembering them. They also describe their world easily too which works well.
This portion of Dorohedoro is twelve episodes, so I am hoping there will be more of it in the future. Yet, it also covers so much stuff. The plot line itself is very simple before all the craziness happens. The first story is focused on Caiman, a guy whose head was transformed into a crocodile due to magic. With some help from his skate boarding buddy Nikaidou, the two investigate sorcerers that appear time to time in The Hole, brutally, to see if they can help him transform back. Caiman and his memory loss are what set the story in motion while Nikaidou is his best friend and love her skate board tricks and cooking Gyoza at their restaurant when not searching from place to place. She is full of mystery too.
The second part features the doings of the sorcerer’s world. We follow the mob boss leader En who gives jobs to his people Shin and Noi plus others, loves mushrooms because that’s his ability, Noi, Ebisu, and Fujita to find the person who has been killing sorcerers in the hole. Plus, they are looking for a Time sorcerer as well. Shin and Noi are the more normal pair with Shin’s ever-present professionalism and strength while Noi is the big muscular and bubbly girl of the group who has healing powers and wants to be friends with everyone. Fujita is the normal man of the group who keeps the group more grounded in reality, while Ebisu is a complete mystery girl who is both wonderful and strange. Obviously, the two parties meet and things happen between then. Things meaning violence.
An intriguing thing for me is how no characters develops over time because they have all been developed before hand mainly because they are all adults. Usually, a major story focuses on how a character changes over time, but that isn’t always how they are constructed. Not even Caiman who has the biggest reason to change due memory loss, does either. Instead, everyone lives out their lives with their relationships to each other already in place and I think that works fantastically. Nikaidou and Caiman’s relationship is tested, but never changed. Instead, we are presented with backstory elements to see how each relationship was formed. Some are a lot of fun and wholesome despite the nature of their work environment. Others are more dramatic and are revealed at the right time for the story. I really like how it all just works together.
I also really enjoy how Dorohedoro is written because the world is so strange and wonderful. It really feels like a moving and breathing world because there are always many other active participants in it. Now, the show doesn’t ever forget about the main story elements like Caiman’s sorcerer or En’s revenge initiative ever. These different situations are thrown into the events of each location in motion. A serious dramatic moment could happen in the middle of a meat pie cooking competition, so the plot progresses from the result of the competition and it’s really, really funny. Or there is the baseball game that replaced an actual street fight, despite having the emotional core of one. Not to mention the whole partnering event that takes place in the last two episodes which is a year tradition for the sorcerer’s world and has everything to do with the plot. I love how Dorohedoro can just do things in hilarious ways despite the nature of the world. It’s almost genre defying. .
I also greatly enjoy how weird and unexplained the magic is in Dorohedoro. I usually wouldn’t say that for a shonen battle series where magic and special abilities are how the characters fight to die and live, but that’s not the case here. The fights in Dorohedoro are full on dirty street brawls with tons of violence and only affect how a character looks or heals before and afterwards. That’s why magic is the reason the plot is happening, not the daily battles. This is a show that believes in my own philosophy that magic is strange and shouldn’t be explained because it’s magic and it’s something that is beyond us. The result is some really strange things happening and you can believe these strange things happening from how everything has been explained so far. This is why yet another reason why the atmosphere of the show is so strange despite its dark nature. I appreciate all of that.
The visuals of Dorohedoro are something worthy of discussion. Great grimmy and nasty looking backgrounds for all the locations around The Hole, very wonderful and clean surroundings for the Sorceror’s World, and things like that. The anime looks almost like Akira but different in nothing but backgrounds alone. The character designs are great too. Every single person comes in different shapes in sizes. There are very buff and vaboom men and women, while also having very skinny and short men and women as well. There was a lot of cg in Dorohedoro as well when it comes to action scenes, but I actually think all of that works very well. Even if it’s noticeable, it’s merged in a way that feels natural. I honestly have no visual complaints at all as you can tell.
If I had any complaint, it’s that I want more Dorohedoro in the future. The anime left off in a very cliff hanger for more to the future and nothing is resolved. I think wanting more is a good thing and I don’t think anyone can argue with me in this instance. Dorohedoro is just a very solid show. One of the strangest, yet unique things to pop out of 2020 and one of my favorite anime series from that year. Even in dark times, there was a ray of hope like Dorohedoro to makes feel something in multiple ways. I think that’s all I need to say for now.