Dorohedoro is a bit of a quirky story about a lizard-looking man by the name Caiman and his partner Nikaido as they struggle to find the mystery behind Caiman’s mysterious transformation and survive in the slums of “The Hole”. Based on Q Hayashida’s 23 volume manga by the same name, the show is slated to have an initial 12 episode run followed by 6 ova installments from studio MAPPA.
As a disclaimer, I have not personally read the source material and am going into this series absolutely blind. Not previously knowing about it until it’s anime announcement, it has a uniquely promising vibe to it that has made it hard to turn away from. As such, these reviews will come from the perspective of a brand new audience member.
A bit too much to swallow?
Dorohedoro’s debut episode was certainly something. Combining a pulpy premise with a cyberpunk walled city get-up, Dorohedoro is bound to be one of the most unique shows to come out this season. Not afraid to mix in grotesque violence with some run-of-the-mill corny dialogue, the show is a bit of an oddity to say the least.
The show opens in the chasm of Caiman’s open jaws, as one of two apprehended thugs looks like he’s about to get turned into a snack. That is until a mysterious figure emerges from Caiman’s esophagus, only to stare down the thug and exclaim that “he is not the one”.
Attempting to save his endangered friend, the other thug emits a black smoke from his fingertips, which is uncannily deflected off Caiman’s scaley exterior. After Caiman realizes the thug in his mouth is no longer of any use to him, he releases his jaw only to dice up the boy with his combat knife. In a moment of confusion, the other thug conjures a door and slips away into another dimension.
As it turns out, these two thugs were sorcerers who exist separately to the world Caiman and Nikaido inhabit. While our two protagonists live in the ghettos of “The Hole” the aristocratic-like sorcerers are essentially a gang of delinquents who make trips to “The Hole” to practice their sorceries on the locals as if they were lab rats.
Attack of the Magical Thugs
Caiman is presumably the victim of one of these sorcery “practice sessions” of which he has no recollection of. Unbeknown to Caiman who inflicted him with his lizard-like state, nor whether the man inside of him is his original form or another entity entirely, Caiman hopes to get answers from the psychopathic dimension-hopping sorcerer’s one way or another.
Throughout the episode, the two show off their proficiency in fighting the sorcerers, particularly with techniques such as slicing their fingers clean off to prevent magic and making quick work of them in general. We see Nikaido’s inherent reliance on Caiman when she is ambushed by a sorcerer that comes to her Gyoza restaurant, which also serves as an introduction to what I imagine is the hub for our cast of good guys.
We’re briefly introduced to some kind of sorcerer leader, smoking a pipe on top of some giant mushrooms. While his intentions are in no way clear, we know that he has some interest in culling snitches from his ranks and closing the doorway to “The Hole” due to an unprecedented amount of deaths that have taken place recently.
A Few Performance Issues
In terms of the visual execution, the show is mediocre at best. With a reliance on shoddy, cell-shaded CG used in places that I can only imagine were to fill up the production schedule combined with its choppy framerates, a lot of the show’s critical moments didn’t deliver in the way they should have.
On the narrative side of things, the episode is certainly a bit disjointed. While it’s not uncommon for some of these quirky shows to use unconventional storytelling techniques, Dorohedoro has already relied on using a flashback for a minor event from a minor character no less. The flashback felt extra cheap considering it didn’t event flashback to anything we had actually seen. Perhaps this was used to place some semblance of importance on the character in question, but all around it felt like a cheap way to communicate some level of importance tied to the event, without properly conveying what the even was.
Overall, the episode kept me captivated for the full 24 minutes and it was even over before I had realized how long I had been watching. If anything, that is indication enough that I will happily keep watching this show, and recommend it to anyone who has their curiosity piqued by the premise. I’m looking forward to the wild ride MAPPA is about to take us on.