Dorohedoro – Episode 8

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So what is it that makes Dorohedoro’s fantastical worldbuilding so special? I was just discussing this with a friend, as in general, I feel like “emphasis on worldbuilding” tends to be one of anime’s greatest narrative weaknesses. Rather than focusing on an emotionally resonant human narrative, many shows focus entirely on scaffolding and set dressing, and yet I never feel genuinely entranced by their worlds. So where does Dorohedoro succeed where all these isekai and trapped-in-a-game shows fail?

Well, first of all, it helps a great deal that Dorohedoro has genuinely unique ideas. Systems of magic and videogame-reminiscent technology only feel fresh and engaging the first couple times; in contrast, Dorohedoro fills its every episode with marvelous incidental concepts like the Hell Toilet, and its worldbuilding never feels strictly derivative of other ideas. I admit that “have a lot of unique ideas” isn’t the most actionable writing advice, but it’s certainly an area where Q Hayashida shines.

But more fundamentally, what Hayashida understands is that great fantasy should stretch our minds and inspire us, not simply flatter our ability to understand mechanical systems. Dorohedoro’s fanciful worldbuilding isn’t designed to make its world understandable – in fact, it’s rather the opposite. Through its inexplicable setpieces and vaguely alluded-to rituals, Dorohedoro constantly pushes back against our ability to categorize and contain it, positing a world that is vaster than our ability to imagine it. Great fantasy offers not just marvelous adventures, but the promise of a world undefined, with dangling, inexplicable threads that capture our imagination, and ideas that remain in view but distant, vast monoliths implying more untold stories. That is what makes great fantasy special, and it’s a quality that Dorohedoro has in endless supply. Let’s delight in its riches once more then, as we bound through one more episode of Dorohedoro!

Episode 8

Apparently Matsumura is too minced for even Kikurage to revive him. He is now Food

En’s gang convenes to discuss what they’ve learned: namely, that Ebisu’s magic turns people into lizard-men, and thus almost certainly instigated Caiman’s condition. How that connects with the cross-eyed gang, we’ll have to find out

And Risu even confirmed it – “you’re the one who got in my way!” As usual for Dorohedoro, every answer implies several further questions. Did Ebisu “getting in Risu’s way” actually protect Caiman in some way? And furthermore, the Risu in Caiman’s mouth seems far more aggressive and motivated than the Risu we know; what exactly was he attempting to do, that he still bears such a grudge against her? The more we tear at the edges of this mystery, the more we learn of aspects that are still beyond our understanding, allusions to conflicts larger than the ones we’re actually pursuing. Dorohedoro’s mystery storytelling is kinda like its worldbuilding in that way – though I assume Hayashida actually does have explanations for all these mysteries, and isn’t simply freestyling Lost-style

Caiman thinks he’ll regain more memories if he returns to the world of the sorcerers, but after Nikaido’s injuries, he can’t get her involved anymore. The two of them share a classic dynamic – Caiman is driven by his desire to regain a lost sense of self, while Nikaido is very happy with their current arrangement, and simply doesn’t want to lose the things she loves. This dynamic can show up in any genre, but it’s almost essential to noir, a genre that’s intrinsically focused on memories of an ideal past, and our struggles to find happiness in the embers of our former glory. And though it contains lizardmen and sorcerers, Dorohedoro is ultimately a pretty noir story, centered on social outsiders in a decaying city, who are determined to solve a mystery that might bring order to a fallen world

Johnson politely pouring tea for Kasukabe sure is an image. I guess Johnson is just one of the gang now

More nice environments in the world of the sorcerers, showing off its plentiful neon-lit upside-down crosses

And then he passes through a festival, advertising some sort of “Blue Night” event, but mostly just dazzling through its rich colors, and the convincingly ramshackle distribution of flags and posters

Apparently Blue Night takes place once every four years, and is a festival where you’re supposed to choose your partner. So this could potentially be a big night for Fujita as well, given En’s had so much trouble finding a partner for him

“Do I have to steal food to survive again?” Dorohedoro also seems to take some influence from the general itinerant, crust-punk lifestyle, both in how its characters linger in fraught conditions on the edge of society, and also how they embrace that through their fashion and forms of community

Fortunately, even the sorcerers’ city has need for enforcers, and so Caiman swiftly earns a meal by beating the snot out of three hooligans

Violence, feasting, repeat. The cycle of life

The man he assists is named Tanba, and he offers Caiman a part-time job. Once again, the moment we enter the world of the sorcerers, we learn they’re the same mixed-up muddle of kindness, selfishness, and general humanity that defines Hole’s citizens. One of Dorohedoro’s quieter lessons seems to be that even genuinely kind people can still be blinded by their cultural assumptions, and that dehumanization is such an effortless process that even the best of us can, in certain circumstances, cease to consider certain classes of people as human

Interesting use of wipe transitions as we watch Risu trudge through the city, heading towards his apartment. I like how the wipes match his own marching to the right, creating a sense of being carried along with him

“My omurice is all moldy!” One reason that theme I just mentioned comes through so clearly is that Dorohedoro is incredibly good at humanizing its characters through effortless, incidental details. Just a small thing like Risu being disappointed to see his cacti are dead and omurice is moldy helps give him a sense of individualism and vulnerability, a human touch that makes us care about him just a little, even if he’s not really sympathetic in any other way

The cross-eyes “division leader Tanabe” has an excellent mafia capo look

They’re really hammering on the mafia feel of the cross-eye gang, with Risu even meeting his capo in an italian restaurant

We’re introduced to Risu’s partner Aikawa, who warns him the cross-eyes cannot be trusted. This universe seems to really value the idea of a “partner,” and not necessarily in a romantic sense

Risu was stabbed in the back in the Salmansa plains, an act that could either be one of petty thievery, or of some kind of ritual significance

Once again, everything returns to the magic of cooking, as Caiman finds himself employed by another local restaurant

Clever use of this blue beetle to thread all of our main actors together, as we approach the onset of Blue Night

Dorohedoro is really, really good at using these festivals and events to add a sense of spice and anticipation to its narrative. In spite of us getting fairly consistent tidbits of info regarding the show’s central mysteries, its main characters haven’t really shifted that much from their initial positions (in keeping with its oddly slice of life structure). The events are a neat way to counterbalance that, by giving the audience a clear sense of something to look forward to

The show also embraces fun genre flourishes for each of its vignettes, adding to its restless energy – like how this day is all sequenced by the beeping of a digital clock

En wants a partner who can control time. We still have no idea what his ultimate goals are, which I greatly appreciate – I get the feeling his ambitions might actually guide Dorohedoro’s ultimate narrative trajectory

“At the smoke shop you purchased – there were some traces of a sorcerer who can control time.” Ah, there it is. So Nikaido is the sorcerer that En is seeking, and that’s why she’s so careful to avoid using her magic. It all comes full circle

Apparently the group we know are all the “registered members of En’s family.” Dorohedoro really puts the family in crime family

How is Fujita getting away with just wearing his cargo shorts and backpack to all these formal events. Even if this is just the rehearsal, c’mon man

Ahaha, of course Kikurabe has a stuffed mushroom dog bed. En is so great

Noi being terrible in heels is expected, but still fun to see

Ebisu gets massive boobs in her outfit to counter Noi, but Noi’s just thrilled to see Ebisu’s new boobs. I love how happy they both are; what a weirdly positive interpretation of a boob envy gag

Unfortunately, she doesn’t get any partnership requests, most likely because she’s Like That. But hey, Fujita got two! Good going, my man

Apparently the attendants here will attempt to make En’s family their partners by force. Next episode should be a lot of fun

And Done

Well, we’re really in it now! After an episode that fully embraced Dorohedoro’s slice of life goofiness, episode eight kicked the engine into high gear, sending Caiman back into the world of sorcerers just in time for a massive, undoubtedly murderous festival. Noi’s been attacked by a mysterious partner-seeking stranger, Nikaido’s presence at the smoke shop is about to be recovered, and Caiman… well, Caiman’s plunging the toilets. Even in magical mystery world, the toilets still have to be plunged!

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