Hello folks, and welcome the heck back to Wrong Every Time. Are you ready to storm En’s goddamn mansion!? After a season’s worth of Caiman and Nikaido hunting Risu, while En and his enforcers hunted them, Nikaido has at last been captured, and even forced to sign a partnership contract with En. It’s hard to imagine we’ll be veering back into baseball episodes and zombie festivals anytime soon; Nikaido’s capture has made for a major paradigm shift, and until this situation is resolved, all eyes are on En’s compound.
It’s hard for me to imagine how Dorohedoro might return back to its “neutral state” after this arc, but this show has demonstrated an unusual capacity to normalize seemingly impossible narrative shifts. I thought Caiman having his head chopped off would probably shift things up; his head had regrown by the next morning. I thought going into the world of the sorcerers might finally push Caiman and Nikaido’s journey forward; that ended in failure and a hard reset, too. This situation is certainly different, in that we’re now resolving one of the conflicts that has driven Dorohedoro from its beginning, but I could easily believe that after all of this, both En and Caiman’s associates end up happily sharing a meal together. Of course, that would resolve one of the major sources of tension that’s been driving Dorohedoro from the start, so the question then becomes – what replaces that conflict?
To answer that, I think we need to know why En has been so desperate to get his hands on time magic. That’s the puzzle piece I’m hoping for from this episode, but Dorohedoro clearly delights in subverting expectations, so I’m happy to play it by ear. Let’s uncover some new secrets in the world of Dorohedoro!
Shin fortunately recognizes the doctor just before murdering him. So that throws a bit of a wrench in the operations – Shin works for En, but doesn’t actually like him, whereas this doctor saved his life with no prospect of compensation. Shin doesn’t seem to have a particularly robust sense of morality, but he might have a decent sense of personal debt or obligation
“I can’t do that. I owe this guy my life.” Whew!
“So today’s just gonna be like this, huh.” Poor Fujita. All of his nemeses are here, and he doesn’t get to wreak violent revenge on any of them
Nice to see the doctor’s connection with Shin paying off so smoothly. I figured that’d serve as a handy narrative shield eventually, and the doctor’s companions could certainly use some help at the moment
Chota is now bullying Nikaido, unsurprisingly, given she’s “stolen” what he believes is rightfully his role as En’s partner
En’s vanity projects are a terrific running joke, and as characteristically inventive as anything else in Dorohedoro. Rather than just returning to the same punchline, each new expression of En’s vanity builds on the ones before, such that we’ve ascended from statues and models to theme songs to a whole goddamn yakuza movie about his own life
This is also a very fun way to get En’s backstory, for however much we can trust this film’s narrative. En’s not really a sympathetic character, but he’s a wildly self-important one, and his self-regard is one of the funniest, most genuinely charming things about him. Rather than the potential intimacy and vulnerability of a genuine flashback to his younger years, we instead get his older self romanticizing his younger years, which gives us the information we need while maintaining En’s status as an emotionally distant threat, and also offering the visual appeal of a goofy film narrative, rather than a monologue straight from En’s lips. Even when executing a narrative task as routine as “convey En’s backstory,” Dorohedoro manages to do it with both uncommon intelligence and plentiful creativity
Tossed down into Hell, En survived anyway, and came to the attention of the demon Chidaruma. Again, not sure how much we can trust this film, but it’s easy to see how an En who underwent these ordeals would consider himself a loner and survivor, with little trust for others and little regards for their strength
En went back to the factory where his smoke was harvested, and freed the other slaves. He frames his mission as “I’m going to rid this world of people like them”
En amassed a great army, but then was brought low by the cross-eyed gang, who kept killing his men. We already know that the cross-eyed gang are explicitly a group of low-power sorcerers, who band together to overcome strong opponents – the same as En’s initial jailors, who bound high level sorcerers in order to harness their smoke. It seems like both sides of our initial conflict share an enemy in the cross-eyed gang, but also that their conflict reflects much larger class divides within the world of the sorcerers. After all, it’s not exactly an equitable state of affairs that En can basically do whatever he wants and kill whoever he pleases – the low-power sorcerers kinda have a point
Shin and Noi encounter a cross-eye who gives them a “really strange feeling,” and dispatches them without much effort. So this is the threat behind the threat – presumably also the man Risu is seeking
We switch off Shin and Noi’s CG forms for this sequence, unsurprisingly. Traditional animation allows for much more delicate shading, detailed hair, and convincingly slumped body posture
“My smoke had swallowed the town of Mastema and turned everything into mushrooms.” So even En can’t necessarily pull off a trick like that – it was En’s power, but manipulated by this mysterious cross-eyed figure. Given the similarities in the way they’re shaded, it seems fair to assume that this man is also the man at the end of Caiman’s alley
I’d wondered how we’d eventually align our various factions, but revealing that the cross-eyed gang is also En’s enemy, and that Caiman and En are chasing the same man, certainly helps
“Then I saw it. A headless man disappearing through a doorway.” Perhaps his face is always in shadow because he doesn’t always have the same face
“The reason I want a sorcerer with time powers is to go back to that day.” And he just tells us the answer! Like it’s not a big deal! Goddamnit Dorohedoro, we worked hard to connect these dots!
Caiman disguises himself as Tanba’s wife for their grand plan, but fortunately the door guard just doesn’t give a shit
Tanba runs into a former employee-turned-business-rival, Asuka. No time like the assault on En’s fortress to introduce a goofy pie shop rivalry
Tanba’s a good dude, I’m glad he has a bat-masked rival crushing on him
Alright, so Shin basically gives Kasukabe and his friends as much leeway as possible: he returns the gang to human form, and urges them to return home, but he can’t give them Nikaido, and as long as they’re friends with Caiman, they’re going to remain enemies
Kasukabe’s proving he’s a lot tougher than he looks. In spite of the imminent threat of death, he laughs as he pushes back against Shin’s recommendations
Whoa, dear lord this time-lapse sequence! We cut through to the morning on a shot aiming upwards at Tanba’s van, and the spires of En’s estate behind them. Time lapse sequences are obviously absurdly difficult in anime, mainly because you can’t actually do them – you can’t just sit a camera down somewhere, you have to painstakingly hand-draw every shift in the lighting and sky as time passes by. This is why you normally just see a trick like that in something like a Makoto Shinkai film; you’re essentially redrawing the same background several times over, quadrupling up on the most labor-intensive part of the frame. That Dorohedoro uses it for this quick scene transition, and even ornaments it with one of its signature perspective shifts at the end, is just unbelievable
Having to at last acknowledge that Nikaido is a sorcerer shakes Caiman’s resolve
Of course, the way Caiman would get close to the family is because they’re judging his company’s pie-making contest. The lunacy of this world makes a little more sense now that I understand En lives in his own En-centered theme park
Asuka just uses some smoke magic to allure men to her, thus gaining credit for her mediocre pies. A flagrant abuse of pie merchant ethics
At this point, Caiman actually has to be convinced to go see Nikaido. He wants to see her, but is frightened to learn if she’s truly happy here, and truly doesn’t need him
“I heard that you only eat mushrooms, so I prepared this chanterelle pie just for you.” “Oh, chanterelle!” En might be a mass murderer, but he’s still just as adorable as everyone else in this show
“If you’re not coming, I’ll take you with me by force!” “You think you can?” Oh boy
Fuck you, Dorohedoro! The moment I finally submit, and give up on ever presuming this show will reveal its secrets, it hosts a grand fucking secret-revealing party. Not only did we learn a massive amount about En’s history, we even learned that he and Caiman share a common enemy – and why he’s so determined to find a time sorcerer! And of course, in typical Dorohedoro fashion, all those revelations shared equal time and attention with a local pie-eating contest, which improbably served as the episode’s dramatic climax. I’m not angry Dorohedoro, I just… can you please sit still within my predictive capacity for like, five or six minutes? That’s all I’m asking here.
Goddamn this show is good.