Lost in chaos, well that’s certainly one way to describe this series.
What’s the Story?
Humans live in the Hole, a dismal cityscape warped by magic. The people do their best to eke out a living, but its hard when sorcerers keep popping over from their own dimension and using the humans to practise their magic on. Take Caiman for example, he has no idea who he is or where he comes from, but his biggest problem is probably the fact that some sorcerer turned his head into a lizard’s. Now, along with his best friend Nikaido, he’s made it his mission to hunt down the sorcerer that cast a spell on him and get his real face back! Of course there are a lot of sorcerers out there and plenty of other strange and macabre things both in the Hole and in the sorcerer’s own world. Still, if Caiman has to bite every sorcerer he meets and question them about what the man in his mouth said to them, well, that’s just what he’s going to do.
Sometimes I just have to marvel at anime. I mean there are many, many reasons why I’ve been watching it for the majority of my life now, but one of the main ones is the sheer breadth and creativity of its stories. Where else am I going to come across a show that opens with a man with a lizard head biting down some other dude’s head, only for another head to work its way up the lizard man’s throat and start talking. I’m pretty sure that’s how all this started, either that or someone slipped something really powerful into my drink when I wasn’t looking. All that’s to say is, this show is really weird and I kinda love it for that. I knew nothing about dorohedoro going into it, other than I remembered people talking about it online and it featured a man with a lizard head as one of the main characters. I’m still not entirely sure I understand all of it, but I feel like I’ve taken a walk through a very unusual creator’s brain.
It’s hard to know where to start with this series, not only is the world it presents to us mind-bendingly bizarre at times, but its also structured in a slightly odd way. The majority of the episodes are split up into smaller segments (though this isn’t always indicated, so part of this might just be down to some weird pacing), kind of like a Slice of Life series. What makes this an odd choice though is that this definitely isn’t a Slice of Life series, there’s a clear overarching plot and a drive towards answering a central mystery, all very much NOT like a Slice of Life. There are a few moments where we just follow the characters through their daily lives, but not enough for me to class this show in that genre.
For the most part this is fine. Each segment either further develops the world or gives us another piece towards solving that central mystery of who exactly is Caiman, but there are other moments where it creates some really odd pacing to events. Several episodes reach a point that feels like a natural conclusion and then it just keeps going into another little story. I can’t help but feel that a few more breaks in the story would resolve this issue, one clear example that springs to mind is the scene where Caiman is in the hospital after regrowing his head. The very next scene he’s popping into Nikaido’s shop like nothing happened, now through context clues and dialogue we can work out he just escaped the hospital, but a break between these two scenes would have really helped establish the passage of time (unless of course Caiman just teleported from the hospital to Nikaido’s shop, which I wasn’t aware was one of his powers).
Going back to that mystery element for a second, I do enjoy the way this series lays out the mystery of who Caiman is and slowly builds towards answering it. There may be many detours along the way (many, many detours), but it knows just when to return to that question and offer up another tantalising piece to the puzzle. If you’re hoping for a resolution though, I’ll warn you now, better get down on your knees and start praying for a season 2. Season 1 leaves us with a lot of important clues and I can make a strong educated guess as to who Caiman really is, but how that ties into everything else we know is another question all together. Hopefully there’s some source material for this series I can check out because I don’t think I’m going to be able to sleep until I know the final answer.
I feel like I’ve been nitpicking this series for the past couple of paragraphs, but I have really enjoyed watching this show. The characters are all quirky and likeable in their own ways, except for En who I’d very much like to punch. I do really like the fact that we get to see things from both the humans and the sorcerer’s points of views and that, while everyone may not be the nicest person, most of them have their reasons for what they do. The world is fascinating and beautifully constructed, it may make me tilt my head every other episode, but that just makes me want to find out more about how it works. If you don’t mind a walk on the weird side and aren’t averse to the sight of blood, or 3D character models, then definitely check this out! Wait, why are mushrooms suddenly growing out of me?! En!
In the end, Dorohedoro is a bizarre, and often bloody, walk through a macabre wonderland. Filled with a cast of quirky, yet endearing characters on both sides of its conflict and a world that is endlessly fascinating, it’s a joy to delve into. There are some pacing issues throughout the series and the central mystery is far from resolved, but these feel like minor quibbles when the rest is so good. Here’s hoping for a season 2! I’ll end with a simple question, what did the man in my mouth say to you?
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.