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Dorohedoro Episode 1 Review

Kaiman and Nikaido eating gyoza in 3D

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I am a big fan of the original manga, so coming into Dorohedoro episode 1, there was an energy for me. Its great to turn back time and be back with Kaiman, Nikaido, and the rest of the poor lot in Hole. Despite some of its visual flaws, the series looks poised to meet and maybe exceed my expectations.

Kaiman’s big lizardy toothy grin is still the character to love. He is cursed by someone using magic to transform his head into that of a reptile, but that doesn’t ever get the man down. Episode one really nails all the wackiness of Kaiman, and his love for Nikaido’s gyoza. Nikaido feels well represented too. She has that cheery whimsical nature to counteract the more high energy of Kaiman.

On the other side of the magical doors is Fujita and the rest of the En family. I took particular note of how the magic they use is really well done. En’s mushrooms are a treat to see in action. Even the smoke they use comes alive well, even if other aspects of the animation feel lackluster.

The 3D Animation

Its not a secret that exclusive use of 3D animation in anime garners some ire from otaku. There is definitely a need for 3D animation in the industry. Some recent anime have used it well. That includes some of the more recent popular action anime like Kimetsu no Yaiba and Shingeki no Kyojin. Neither of the two shounen shows use it exclusively though. Thats where Dorohedoro deserves some critique.

This first episode does utilize the 3D animation to its advantage. The handful of action scenes are cool and probably wouldn’t be as visceral using more traditional 2D methods. Kaiman unmasking Ebisu is as gruesome as it is because of the 3D effects. I argue that overall the use of 3D animation in Dorohedoro is a boon to the action. For the rest of the show, not so much.

Being the first episode, there is a lot of setup and character establishment. The 3D animation does poorly with the human characters like Nikaido. The mouth movement seems like an exaggeration of every world. Its well hidden in Kaiman who doesn’t have a human mouth, and for En who has covered his mouth with a mask. The rest of the time it really is a distraction throughout the whole first episode.

Hole and the Magic User’s World

Of the two broader settings in Dorohedoro episode 1, Hole stood out the most to me. Overall it is holds an important place in the story, and I think the anime adaption does it more than justice. I believe episode one makes it better than it ever is in the original manga.

The cityscape feels fleshed out and lived in. The denizens of Hole have lives and we can see other tortured characters in the background of the show. It is no longer just the Hungry Bug, the hospital, and some ancillary alleyways. There is a lived-in atmosphere that is arguably missing from the manga.

I am glad to see that the anime does stay true to some of the more focused sections of Hole. The alleyway where Kaiman is discovered still has that distinct hauntedness to it. Nikaido’s shop still looks dirty, but despite that I would still drop in for plate of gyoza.

The magic user’s world, and more specifically En’s mansion is really shown too much this episode. A lot of ground is covered outside of the second world, making it partially an afterthought this episode. Episode one does show brief parts of it, including En’s inner sanctum of mushrooms. A place that is delightfully brilliant in color and takes the design of the magic user’s world to another level.

Final Thoughts

There is a speedy pace to Dorohedoro episode one. I feel like the studio blasted right through a lot of story beats to get most of the main characters in front of viewers immediately. Shin and Noi don’t fit into the story that early on, so their appearance in an end bumper is fine. Ending right at Ebisu’s meeting with Kaiman is definitely fitting for a climactic ending. It could have been pushed to a second episode though.

[Image via Official Site]