Hello everyone, and welcome on back to Wrong Every Time. Today I’m eager to dive back into Dorohedoro, even though at this point, I’m well aware that any predictions about our trajectory are destined to be mocked, subverted, and turned into a meat pie. Dorohedoro winds where it wills, and it’s actually part of the story’s strength that it so resolutely avoids any pat, convenient narrative arcs. Just as the world of Hole is a sprawling and unknowable place, where strange rituals and unfamiliar faces lurk around every corner, so is Dorohedoro’s narrative a twisting, undefinable construction. How else could slice of life and horror coexist so casually, without either undercutting the other? Perhaps today you find the villain you’ve long been seeking, or perhaps you simply make a new friend, and enjoy some muffins together. Or perhaps this is the day you die.
Within this labyrinthian sprawl of treasure hunts and mysteries, a few truths are starting to emerge. The person in Caiman’s mouth is Risu, and the sorcerer he seeks most likely Ebisu – though how those two are connected, we’re not quite sure. On the other side, the time-manipulating sorcerer that En seeks is undoubtedly Nikaido, and he’s already making his move. Whether we follow up on any of that, join Fujita and Ebisu for a trip to the park, or check in on Caiman’s part-time labor, I’m sure Dorohedoro will somehow make it a thrilling experience. Let’s get to it!
Speaking of maybe dying today, we open on En’s shroom-man emerging from Nikaido’s back, and immediately melting the doctor by puking on him, eventually turning him into a mushroom. It’s been fun, Doc
I really do think this story’s unpredictability is a key element of why its genres gel so well. Horror demands an element of threat; you need to know that the characters are genuinely in danger, and not protected by narrative convention. By swerving so rapidly between moments of idle happiness and moments of terrible violence, Dorohedoro asks us to meet it somewhere in the middle: violence is a gruesome fact of life, but also not that big of a deal. In a world like this, we must be ready to transition from teatime to butchery and right back again, if we ever want to get any tea drinking done
When Nikaido was young, it seems she treated the demon Asu as a parent. It’s looking like she was raised within the upper echelons of sorcerer society
“You’re in danger, so I made this mask for you. It has the ability to enhance your magical power.” Oh my god, is Nikaido receiving a shonen power up? Dorohedoro generally steers as far as it can from conventional ideas of “power levels,” which is for the good – such devices add an immediate sense of artificiality to a world, and what’s more, Dorohedoro is the kind of story where unpredictability reigns, and no one is ever “destined” to win a fight. Shin and Noi were beaten by their rivals, but then those rivals were beaten in turn by a couple of local chefs; no one’s strength makes them impervious to a sudden, unexpected end
As usual, this fight scene attempts to mimic a pose-to-pose animation style, in order to draw less attention to the disruptive CG character models. It’s a band-aid over a more fundamental aesthetic problem, but it does help
Welp, now they’re all in En’s mansion
And of course, immediately after the OP, we cut to a segment titled “Lonely Caiman,” which will likely just involve him moping around in the wee hours of Blue Night. Dorohedoro laughs at your expectations of narrative momentum and dramatic significance! Caiman feels sad, we’re following him now!
“The devils are coming out of the house, let’s wave at them!” Something just deeply hilarious about this deadpan moment, as we cut to a devil waving down at them. Great comedic delivery relies on such precise, mercurial details of timing and execution, and this team really know their stuff
Chidaruma, an esteemed devil, shows up at En’s confrontation
All the devils want to give Nikaido their business cards. I love this show
Nikaido is forced to sign a contract with En, in typically gruesome Dorohedoro fashion. The devils possess a handle that they fit onto people’s chests, thus allowing them to open up and reveal their ribcage. Magic in this world is always messy and gory, but it possesses a certain internal logic; any significantly powerful magic requires a sacrifice or bond of the flesh
And of course, Ebisu misses the contract ceremony entirely, because she ate something off the ground and got sick. Goddamnit, Ebisu
Gorgeous shot of an intricate red wall as we enter one of Caiman’s nightmares
I always appreciate this show’s stabs at genuine, surrealist horror, in spite of the double limitations of horror being generally difficult in animation, and almost impossible with these CG character models. The imagery is great, but it’s just hard to feel genuinely unsafe within this aesthetic
“Even if I get my memories, will I be able to keep on living in Hole with everybody?” It does seem like Nikaido’s capture has prompted a meaningful paradigm shift. I can’t imagine we’ll be resetting back to the conventional dynamic after this
President Tanba demands that Caiman unload his worries. He’s a good dude
“Moron. When someone’s in trouble, isn’t it only natural to lend them a hand? Besides, you helped Fukuyama when there was nothing in it for you.” There are people with great decency and dignity on both sides of the divide. Sorcerers have power, and some people will always misuse power, but they’re ultimately just people
“This prison is the closest place to hell in this world.” So the hell of the world of sorcerers is a genuine place you can walk to, situated beneath the surface of the city. It seems like a mechanical hell, festooned with pipes and blowing steam, much like the refinery hell of the Nightmare on Elm Street films
As usual, effective use of foreground debris creates a sense of depth and surveillance within this place, adding both layers of distance to the frame, and the sensation that our heroes are being watched from some dark corner
“You guys barely made it. Shimizu’s execution is today.” God this story is dark
Shimizu is on death row for selling bad mail-order sweets. Seems fair
Shimizu knows Risu! Unfortunately, his sentence is carried out before we can get any information out of him. Once again, we get some beautiful traditionally animated cuts for this key sequence. Terrific use of processing effects to announce this devil’s arrival via the sparks of his pitchfork, and I love how the “shading” of his body is actually conveyed as hatched linework, as if this were still a manga. Evoking manga-style shading would be an impossible, thankless task for a full length production, but it’s nice to see for Dorohedoro’s setpiece cuts
It seems like the devils can only interfere in certain ways. In spite of Nikaido’s devil friend possessing the power to teleport into this prison cell, it must be Caiman who rescues her
En just mushroomed an entire goddamn city six years back. So selling bad sweets is punishable by death, but massacring a city is okay. It seems the law here only really applies to sorcerers too weak to ignore it
Jonson can communicate with other roaches! I’m sorry I doubted you buddy, I guess you’re a credit to the team after all
Nikaido has now been brainwashed, while Fujita is ordered to forget his grudge against her. En may actually be stretching the limits of his team’s loyalty
A nice solitary moment with Fujita, where he laments his own weakness, and gets a delicate cut of traditional animation as he sobs to himself. Fujita is certainly one of this story’s most sympathetic, recognizably “human” characters – he never really kills anyone, he just wants to do right by his friend
Well, shit. Kasukabe and Jonson have been recaptured by Shin, the doctor is still a mushroom somewhere, Nikaido has been brainwashed into servitude, and Caiman is prepping for a suicide mission that may well get his new friends killed too. Basically everyone’s position is precipitously worse than where we started this episode, except for En, whose good times pretty much demand other people’s extremely bad times. After all that exposition about letting Dorohedoro wind where it will, the show immediately decided to get right down to business, and now all my favorite characters are on the verge of death. God damn you, you beautiful, bizarre creation.