Dorohedoro kicks off with a lizard man chomping down a masked man, revealing that inside his mouth there’s another man who’s looking for the sorcerer who turned him into that anthropomorphic reptile. That’s the overarching plot point – Caiman (the lizard man) is searching for the one who cursed him, and finding out about himself since he has no memories. My synopsis makes the narrative seem as straight and linear as an arrow but nothing in the world of Dorohedoro is without chaos.

A lot of the chaos stems from the sheer number of moving parts in its plot so far. Perspectives oscillate between the sorcerers and Caiman and his friends at the Hole. Not only do these different character-centric narratives intertwine with Caiman’s journey to find out about his history, but surprisingly their stories contribute to thickening the shroud of the mystery of Caiman’s past, and also tangentially adds to the world-building in Dorohedoro. As soon as some specific question of the mystery is about to be resolved, another question hazes the answer. Although I’m describing this in a frustrating way, the presentation in the show itself is far from that. I have to say, my attention on the big mystery questions regarding the characters’ past lives often got diluted by the pure adrenaline of the in-the-moment action that’s on-screen.

And that’s great because Dorohedoro leaves no room to complain about its visual presentation. The attention to detail the background artists had when depicting the industrial, smogged up, trashed, and rusty aesthetics is so compelling that I could almost smell the nauseating must of the rust and smog in the Hole from the screen.

Then there are the punk and distinct character designs, I love Shin’s backward worn mask – that mask alone is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a 2020 anime so far. The blocky 3D character models with matte color shadings feel like they actually belong in the 2D backgrounds, which is something of a rarity in 3D anime. The character movements have weight to them and the animations are rendered as good as the 3D animation we are seeing in the current season of Attack on Titan (same studio and director).

If you are asking me whether I can go on praising the technical aspects of the show even more – yes, I can! The use of industrial soundtracks is riveting, to say the least. (K)NoW_NAME killed it with their music. The opening effectively encapsulates the manic absurdity and ultra-violent themes in Dorohedoro’s story. The gyoza men were a nice touch.

Something I ended up enjoying slightly more than the all-gas-no-brakes gore-fest moments in the anime is the dark humor. More specifically, Ebisu’s jabs after we are shown something horrible happen on screen. I couldn’t stop chuckling when she tried to eat Shin during that zombie episode; it’s hard to explain why that scene was particularly funny – it’s probably the timing. Comedic timing in Dorohedoro feels just right. Tomita Miyu, the seiyuu for Ebisu, did a great job of portraying Ebisu’s care-free, absurdist, juvenile mannerisms. There are other comedic interactions between the rest of the cast, but Ebisu takes the cake for the most memorable ones. En’s weird narcissistic restaurant side-story was pretty funny too – I love how the show started with him being this force to be reckoned with and giving us a comedic X-ray into his life.

And I can’t forget about this scene:

Character writing in Dorohedoro doesn’t take a back seat, either. The chemistry between Nikaidou and Caiman is warm and wholesome, despite the show often foreboding the audience that things are probably not going to stay the same. The camaraderie between Shin and Noi is depicted so tastefully without being too sappy. It’s not often that an action or mystery-heavy story has such a fully fleshed-out cast of characters behind it.

I’m just gushing at this point, my biggest gripe with the anime would be that the mini-stories with the side characters sometimes felt distracting but the show always found a way to link a part of it to the main plot. There are still big questions in the anime that I’m waiting to see those end up panning out. You could say there’s noticeable plot armor on our main four but I think they are justified to the point where they don’t bother me as much.

So here are my conclusive thoughts on the show:

  1. I don’t have a lot to criticize about the show – it kicks ass.
  2. I still have a few shows to catch up for 2020 anime, but this is definitely going to be in my Top 10 list.
  3. The comedy caught me off-guard, Ebisu is best girl.

But is the anime going to hold up this quality in the next season? Will there even be a second season? There are still unanswered questions  – It’s all a muddy mystery… it’s all DOROHEDORO.