Dorohedoro - Strangest Anime I've Seen This Year
Dorohedoro is a show that took me a while to start to understand how I feel about it. Following around Kaiman, a person whose face was turned into a lizard, and a physically dominant woman named Nikaido, they hunt down sorcerers who enter the city of Hole in an attempt to recover Kaiman's memory. This is where there needs to be a few things explained about the genre and expactations.
See, a lot of people online, as well as the tags used for this anime, refer to it as 'horror' or 'bodily horror' because of the potentially disturbing imagery used. An example being En, one of the antagonists, possessing magic that allows him to turn other people into mushrooms. The 'horror' aspect of it involves him eating exclusively mushrooms, and feeding said mushrooms to his guests. While there is a definate horror that can come with cannibalism, no one in the show reacts like it's horrifying. The reaction when two people suddenly realize they are eating other people is that of someone playing a mean spirited prank on them, and that's kind of how how everyone reacts to the horrific imagery. Paired with the fact the show often plays these things for laughs, if you are looking at this show for horror, you will be deeply disappointed.
That said, a big part about the show is the distinction between humans and sorcerers. While they look identical, sorcerers have a special organ that produces black powder in their bodies, and that black powder is the source of their magic. Every sorcerer is not born equal, and each persons magic is seemingly unique to them. The only real consistent seems to be is the ability to create a door to Hole. Humans all live in Hole, and live with the threat of sorcerers appearing in their homes to experiment on them.
Something to note about Kaiman is that whatever it was that turned his head into that of a lizard is that not only does he seem to be able to regenerate to a degree, but he is unaffected by magic. This makes the pair of him and Nikaido particularly dangerous for the Sorcerers who come to Hole. I'll avoid any spoilers concerning Nikaido, but the knowledge she possesses makes the two of them together especially frightening.
Now, to try to explain the story here is a bit odd. The motivation and drive of the characters are all pretty self explanitory, but the way the story is told feels bizarre for some reason. Plot points just seem to keep piling up one after at a very rapid pace. Characters you would never expect to see again suddenly turn up and become part of the plot, and at times the villains don't feel like that much of a threat based on how goofy they are. The villainous team of En, Shin, and Noi is a great example of this. Shin and Noi are physical powerhouses with incredibly useful magic, including Noi's ability to heal others and herself, but you constantly see En doting on a puppy that later joins the group, they argue like children over lunch, and these are probably the least odd things about them. So much of the time they appear as a comedy trio, almost more than they are presented as a serious threat.
Normally these things are something I would hold against a show, but somehow Dorohedoro makes it all work. I think it's because there is a consistency throughout the entire world in how things are presented. Pretty much everything about the show is treated as though it were a joke, but at the same time every character treats the world seriously.
Even the breakneck pace of plot points and character introductions kind of works in the shows favor. It manages to keep things happening at a constant pace, and can at times feel a bit unfocused and constantly shifting in tone, but it's never hard to follow. In twelve episodes we have the Ein Family, consisting of nine characters, the characters from Hole, consisting of six characters (Including an unexplained giant cockroach named Johnson), and at least two demons, all of whom have well established personalities, and many of them we have had great details about their motivations. And this is just the main cast of characters who are important to the story, not the side cast. And I have a really good understanding of all of them, and the fact they did so well with this in only twelve episodes is incredible.
That said, there are times character reactions can feel a bit unrealistic or forced. I'll avoid details to avoid the spoiler, but we see Kaimen put his live on the line fighting fiercely for someone, only to distrust them and be angry with them moments later. It sort of makes sense in the narrative, but its such a rapid change in such a short time it feels more awkward than anything else. How quickly certain characters become friends willing to risk everything for each other can also seem rushed at times.
Something else to note, and this will vary from person to person if this is an issue, I don't know if there really are any good guys in this show. Kaimen is a bit trigger happy at the times with his knifes, and it's not just an exageration, he's quick to be willing to kill a person. That said, all the characters have aspects about them that are also just or understandable. Kaimen may be quick to violence, but he does care about those close to him. En, while basically being a mob boss, became one to fight certain injustices in the Sorcerer world. This is effectively the entire cast, people who aren't exactly 'good' but have good aspects about them. (Except Johnson, he's just great).
This show kind of has that Jojo quality that no matter how silly or ridiculous what's going on is, the show is so commited to it that you're still able to take it seriously. It doesn't try to separate it's silly and serious moments at all, and at no point does the tension of the story suffer for it. It took me a while to get into the show. While it had me intrigued for the first half, it wasn't until about the eighth or ninth episode it had me behind it, just because it was a bit hard to figure out what the show was going for at first. The show is definitely worth a watch. In fact if you watch it, you may find it quite.....