Dorohedoro – Episode 3

Folks, it is absolutely time for more Dorohedoro. Not only am I just generally down for more of this production’s charming shenanigans and gorgeous architecture, but we also happened to leave off on an absolutely intolerable cliffhanger, with Shin and Noi at last on their way to hunt down Caiman and Nikaido. The two major factions within this show’s cast have both proven themselves to be violent yet oddly adorable families, and considering this manga has gone on for eighteen years, I don’t expect them to murder each other quite yet. Then again, this is Dorohedoro, where life is cheap and death hilarious, so there’s really no telling who’s a truly plot-essential character.

Most importantly, Ebisu still needs her dang face back. So let’s not waste any more time, and set off once more on a journey through the magnificent decay of Hole!

Episode 3

We open on a gorgeous shot panning down over a graveyard in full festival mode, with the misty blue aura of the gravestones contrasting against the warm red lights of the lanterns above. Like the bodhisattva at the rave our leads visited, this area of town seems committed to fusing their revelry with imagery tied to death and reincarnation. When life is cheap, you can’t let its end halt the festivities

“Once a year, Hole has a night of horrors. On that night, people are forced to fight something terrifying.” AW SHIT, IT’S THE NIGHT OF THE HUNT

More seriously, this story is so good at maintaining a steady inflow of intriguing narrative variables. Its abundance of catchy ideas makes it really hard to put down; you always need to know the implications of some new compounding variable, and by the time you’re accustomed to that variable, they’re introducing a Day of the Living Dead festival

Caiman, Nikaido, and Doc are all licensed exterminators. Doc is bummed out that he’ll be dismembering a bunch of his former patients

Goddamn these cityscapes are incredible. Shinji Kimura is just an unparalleled talent – and if you enjoy Dorohedoro’s fading cities, I strongly recommend you check out Angel’s Egg, which is one of the greatest works of background design in anime history

I like the show’s willingness to shift between title drop styles – instead of a diegetic title, we instead get a campy hot-pink title overlay, which better suits this episode’s B-horror conceit

Noi and Shin are enjoying a good meal. Love of food is also embedded deeply within this property’s DNA; life is short, so live courageously, and enjoy the good things while you can

Shin once lived as a normal human in Hole, until he discovered he had “sorcerer blood”

Noi apparently possesses the power to rebuild human flesh, a talent she exhibits on Ebisu through some truly absurd cuts of animation, courtesy of the legendary Kou Yoshinari. The elder of the Yoshinari brothers, Kou is famous for creating morphing cuts of animation that don’t really obey any clear line-to-line logic; he frequently paints and assembles his own cuts himself, because no one else can really understand what he’s doing. His talent is clear here, as we see globules of flesh gestate and grow in rapid time, flowing into their final shapes with uncanny fluidity

And Ebisu is back!

We cut back to Hole on a closeup of Q Hayashida’s tombstone. Very cute, Dorohedoro

Even the monks here wear sneakers. Wearing sneakers in spite of whatever the rest of your formal dress is seems to also be a Dorohedoro Thing

Nikaido wants a meat grinder from the prize wall. I am extremely amused that zombie murder night has a prize wall, and even more amused that that prize wall happens to feature an industrial meat grinder

So, due to the increased distortion of the sorcerers’ smoke, those that they cast spells on return to life. The lesson here is that worldbuilding can be malleable if the narrative demands it – Hayashida clearly wanted to do a “Night of the Living Dead” pastiche, and the sorcerers’ magic is a flexible enough conceit to justify it. Another advantage of embracing this loosely defined old-school type of magic

These muted, repeating piano arpeggios certainly do an effective job of creating a menacing yet somewhat campy atmosphere

They’ve cast all of Hole in an ominous blue mist, placing us somewhere between Romero and Italian horror

Fujita’s shriek as Shin smashes this zombie against the wall is great. The sorcerer side of this cast is just as endearing as Caiman and Nikaido

CG models actually work pretty well for zombies, since it’s not too tough to evoke a sense of weight when their bodies drop after dismemberment

Excellent sound design for Doc’s lonely trip down this hallway. Strong foley work with this creaking door, and then the shrieking, atonal noise for the zombie’s strike

AW SHIT, THE GANGS HAVE MET

Oh no, Ebisu’s being eaten by a zombie

Oh no, now Ebisu’s a zombie

Nikaido actually recognizes that Shin and Noi are cleaners sent to deal with them specifically, but Caiman doesn’t really give a shit

Fight choreography is unfortunately one of the areas where this production’s CG character models hurt the most. Fights in Dorohedoro are impactful and deliberate; they embrace the pose-to-pose style of action choreography, and while CG is good at conveying rapid, fluid motion, it struggles to look good in single poses (unless you reduce your character designs to the simple, beautiful geometry of something like Land of the Lustrous)

Nikaido’s first kick fucks up Noi’s internal organs, and she loves it. “I like you! Be my friend!” This show rules

Noi is almost a foot taller than Nikaido, jeez

Jesus christ this is brutal. Nikaido gets the shit kicked out of her, Shin takes a dagger to the chest, Caiman has now twice been stabbed through the head with Shin’s hammer. I suppose I shouldn’t have expected Dorohedoro to pull any punches when its two main groups finally met, but this

And our heroes only get away through the dropping of a major reveal: Nikaido herself is a sorcerer. This battle clearly demonstrated that Caiman and Nikaido are out of their league, while also offering an escape route that itself pushed the overall plot forward. Good – it’d be disappointing if this were just a fight scene for its own sake, and didn’t change the overall dynamic of the narrative

Caiman GREW BACK HIS OWN HEAD. He’s a sturdy one, huh

Caiman bringing over the meat grinder as a gesture of friendship is adorable. Also, now he has a spare copy of his own head!

Now Fujita is just walking Zombie Ebisu around on a leash. Poor Ebisu

Noi in a suit with her hair up in a bun is such a powerful look

Seeing his head in a jar on his bedside seems to have clarified the seriousness of Caiman’s situation to him. It’s clear that he wasn’t just mutated in the way that other unfortunate practice projects were – there is something very special and strange about him

Nikaido first came across Caiman’s headless body, while working as a cleaner for the sorcerers

“Running into the cleaners ends up leaving Caiman with a spare copy of his own head, which he then dissects to discover his true nature” is one of those perfectly Dorohedoro turns that I never could have possibly expected

A neat horror segment here, when the lights go out after they attempt to learn too much from the head. The CG character designs allow for some disorienting camerawork here, though frankly the characters feel too safe for the scene to be genuinely scary. Good use of limited lighting, though

En’s apparently spent the episode testing out a new flying motorcycle-slash-vacuum cleaner

Ah, it’s a broom, of course

And Done

The plot thickens! We at last received our long-awaited clash between this narrative’s two main factions, wherein Caimin and Nikaido got the shit kicked out of them, and only survived through the unveiling of two major secrets: that Nikaido herself is a sorcerer, and that Caimin’s body doesn’t need its own head to regenerate. That presumably means that Caimin is tethered to his current body in more of a magical than physical fashion, but attempting to apply strict rules to this world’s magic is clearly a fool’s errand, and that’s how I like it. Meanwhile, the rest of this episode offered a fine blend of horror pastiche, comedy, and mystery, with poor Ebisu continuing to be relegated to comic relief even after getting her face back. I’m sure you’ll possess both a face and a brain one of these days, Ebisu!

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