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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The Pure, Delightful Madness of “Dorohedoro” [Anime Horrors]

I am used to weird stuff. Art that challenges convention tends to attract me; I want art that confronts me in an abrasive way, that pushes my buttons and encourages unique angles to observe and learn from. 

Yet, for the longest time, I could not get into Dorohedoro

I started the first episode three times. The best way I can describe my initial reaction to those first two viewings is “confused.” With all its wild visuals, its equally grim and fascinating world, and all its narrative detail – Dorohedoro tosses one into the midst of chaos. This is an anime that delivers some of the most absurd characters and events I’ve seen in a long time. 

That said, when I finally sat down for that third viewing, embracing all the madness being thrown at me, I eventually found myself hooked.

The Dorohedoro manga, written by Q Hayashida, made its release in 2000 – but for the sake of this article, I’ll be speaking to the 2020 Netflix anime. Please note, some spoilers ahead.

The story follows Caiman and his friend Nikaido; the former is a dude who happens to have a lizard-like head. With no memory of how he ended up with the lizard head, Caiman tracks down sorcerers, questioning them to see if they know who changed him. He does this by placing their head into his mouth, where the sorcerer then sees another man coming up from Caiman’s throat to question them.

The show takes place in one large post-apocalyptic world made up of two different dimensions: The Hole (where humans live) and the sorcerer’s world. Whereas other anime may take their time to explain world lore, Dorohedoro does so in a matter of a few seconds. Whereas other anime may take time to introduce the drive of the main protagonist, the viewer is almost immediately thrown into the jaws of Caiman. 

The audience learns that Caiman wants to regain his memories and his original head. From there, the anime moves from one absurd violent event to the next. Though there are brief details provided about The Hole and the sorcerer’s world, there isn’t much to understand the overall logic of the story universe. This is where the anime initially threw me off. Within episode one, I’m watching this big lizard man shove a person in his mouth, to then see another adult inside that lizard man’s mouth, to then see another dude shoot black smoke out of his hands, to then see another dude do the same thing and turn a person into a bug. 

Dorohedoro offers its exposition briefly and without any lingering. If one follows and keeps track, they’ll pick up on the fact that the black smoke is meant to represent the release of magic. Sorcerers throughout the show display different magical abilities; there’s the guy who can turn people into bugs, while there’s another who can spring mushrooms to life (and even turn people into mushrooms). 

All of this is a lot to take in for a viewer going in blind. Dorohedoro counts on its audience to trust the experience; that no matter how odd things may get, how little is shared in context, or how fast the narrative may move, they will continue to follow through with the story. 

At first I found myself confused about how magic worked in this universe and why there was a separation of humans and sorcerers. However, what got me scratching my head the most was the use of masks. Many of these points become clearer in time, whether there are specific story details to provide clarity or one connects the dots themselves – but there really isn’t anything that clarifies the uses of masks in Dorohedoro. Some folks have a partial mask over their mouth; other folks have full head coverings that look like animals or other objects (like a skull). My favorite character Shin has a mask that looks like a heart.

For the audience, the masks make for some wacky and badass visuals – which speaks to one of Dorohedoro’s greatest strengths. This show is wonderful to look at. Not the sort of wonderful that is soothing, but the kind that is an Alice in Wonderland-esque trip laced with extra drugs. From a plethora of color to all the bizarre masks and intriguing locales, the world of Dorehedoro is a fantastic rush. 

Along with the fun visuals, the story ends up further developing, offering depth to its central premise. Caiman’s hunt to find the sorcerer that changed him ends up branching off into a greater conspiracy; while he as a character is fun to tag besides, it is the cast that surrounds him that really shines. There’s particular focus on one group involving Shin, his partner Noi, and En that is really intriguing to follow. To accompany the ever-escalating suspense is a good dose of violence. Dorohedoro’s violence ranges from, “That’s brutal” to “OH %$#@ that’s nasty!” Shin uses a hammer in combat and also has a unique magic ability to separate limbs and well… the gruesome level is a pretty brutal. 

When making the decision to stop questioning world logic, allowing myself to be present in the narrative, I began to embrace the show’s chaotic nature. I stopped asking what purpose the masks served and just learned to accept them as part of the world and people’s identities. Rather than ponder why the human world was the way it was, I found myself discovering the answer a few episodes later. And though that “ah ha!” moment was nice when it arrived, I found myself already on board for the next round of craziness to come. 

There is a freeing sense giving one’s self over to Dorohedoro. Though it may provoke some confusion from its audience, it is a show meant to be rolled with. There’s plenty to wonder and observe regarding characters and plot, but Dorohedoro is best experienced when the viewer accepts all the oddities at face value.

Dorohedoro’s first episode is a fun tease – it lures one in with interesting visuals and immediate action, while also displaying a small taste of the weirdness to come. If one allows themselves to go with the flow – to accept the general premise, to not question the world and bizarreness too much – they will discover one hell of a gem. From the escalating mystery and surrealness, to the fun characters and unique settings, this is an anime for those in need of something a little stranger. This is a show that thrives on madness.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/editorials/3642609/pure-delightful-madness-dorohedoro-anime-horrors/

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