Dorohedoro – Episode 7

Hello all, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today we’re diving back into Dorohedoro, a show which has so far confounded my expectations at every turn; veering into slice of life when I expect narrative progression, accelerating through five key reveals just as soon as I’ve gotten myself comfortable, and then swerving its drama in an entirely new direction.

Instead of the dramatic Nikaido-En confrontation I was expecting, last episode instead offered us Shin’s bloody origin story, and went on to introduce a giant sneakers-clad cockroach named Johnson. The question of resolving Caiman’s curse has only gotten more convoluted over time, with the discovery and revival of the man in his throat introducing a full-on conspiracy involving a gang of cross-eyed ne’er-do-wells.

Meanwhile, the show continues to articulate a fascinating overarching philosophy of ritual and life cycles, frequently presenting death as a celebration, and meals as a kind of worship. All this combined with the gorgeous gutter punk splendor of Dorohedoro’s background art makes for a rich experience whether you’re here for the stories, the ideas, or the dazzling architecture. Let’s not waste any more time, and see where this strange journey leads!

Episode 7

Speaking of death as a celebration, we open on some lovely shots of a graveyard in the sorcerers’ world, clear through the devil statuary. And of course, Ebisu is delighted to be here, excitedly shouting “Graveyard, graveyard!” and windmilling her arms around

Fujita is visiting Matsumura’s grave site, and offering a gift of his favorite hot dogs. Food and death are part of the same cycle – as Fujita offers this nourishment as a sort of prayer to his absent friend, Ebisu wonders if his body is full of maggots, underlining how Matsumura himself has become food for other creatures. Dorohedoro is consistently reflecting on our preoccupation with death, envisioning a world where we no longer fear it, and perhaps even celebrate it, as we understand it’s just one stage in a greater cycle. That which dies can be reborn, and through dying, we enrich the creatures that feast on us, as we once feasted in turn. A bit of Buddhism, paganism, and some other scattered philosophies

Meanwhile, En is posing for more amazing portraits

He brings the team in to discuss the smoke shop that Nikaido ransacked, where he found some of Ebisu’s smoke

Nice flourishes of character acting for both En and Fujita, as they discuss En’s attempts to find him a new partner. En swishing his glass of wine adds just the right tone of magisterial disinterest, while framing the followup shot around the brim of Fujita’s hat, and exaggerating the shading on his face, does an excellent job of emphasizing his despair. Tricks of shading like this are an interesting topic in terms of CG animation; it’s easier to do traditional light-cast shadows with CG, since you can actually set specific light sources, but traditional anime is also full of visual exaggerations like “his despair consumes his face in shadow,” and replicating those tricks requires a careful touch

They’re still trying to recapture Risu, but his body has a tracking device in it, so it shouldn’t be too tough – unless we’re in for more body horror, if Risu decides to get rid of the device himself

Ebisu decides to join Fujita as he hunts Caiman once more. Ebisu’s been pretty hard to read so far, since she’s been basically defined as pure comic relief – she has no conflicts or feelings of her own, beyond her impulsiveness and general revelry in madness. But it seems she’s at least grown attached to Fujita

“As a sorcerer, I plan to sneak close to that lizard-man and then shoot him with this gun!” I love this show

Oh my god, he’s even got an I <3 Hole shirt for Ebisu’s disguise

Episodes featuring scenes at the Hungry Bug Diner should come with a content warning. Now I want all this delicious gyoza

Another customer named Thirteen shows up, and then the doctor. This diner is so cozy! Anime’s relentless focus on nostalgia means “slice of life” generally implies a cast of teenagers, but Dorohedoro is vividly demonstrating how a run-down diner frequented by fatigued adults can feel just as homey and charming

Doc is lamenting about how their team is down a member for their upcoming baseball game, and Thirteen volunteers to fill the spot. Dorohedoro Baseball Episode?!?

Meanwhile, Fujita and Ebisu have arrived at the hospital of their baseball rivals, Peace Hospital

Unsurprisingly, Ebisu seems a lot more human and expressive without her skull mask on. I hadn’t realized what an effective job it was doing of dehumanizing her, and making her seem more like a jester than a person

Yesss, they’re going to compete in baseball. I love the absurd visual flourishes for all these characters, how they express their occupation or passion through their visual design – like this doctor, with three syringes poking out of his bald head

Ebisu dancing in a shark mascot suit is apparently all I ever wanted

And Johnson is on Caiman’s team. Sure, why not

I feel like the first six episodes were just a fakeout at this point, intended to lure us into this world with the promise of secrets in order to get us attached, and then veering towards goofy slice of life shenanigans. This is a good trick, I approve completely

Nikaido and Caiman form the battery, unsurprisingly

“There’s no one on third base” is answered by Kasukabe’s ominous “I’ll get it done tomorrow.” What creation will he unleash to shamble along the third base line

Just absurdly intricate mechanical apparatus surrounding En and his enforcers, as we return to their side of the story. The idea that a shot like this is just being used for a one-off scene is preposterous. The shot also creates an excellent sense of depth, using a three-layered composition with mechanical objects positioned on each layer to create a sense of scale

Apparently Ebisu has a pretty serious type of transformation magic. Though they conscripted her due to her lizard power specialties, we haven’t actually seen her use those powers

Another gorgeous shot of the baseball stadium, once again using the overhanging mechanical detritus to create space and dramatically frame the background scenery

Ebisu’s really getting into her role, which makes sense – she’s always the team mascot, now she’s doing what she was born to

Kasukabe made his Frankenstein ninth team member out of some of Matsumura’s spare flesh. This will not end well

“Toying with my friend’s dead body!” All of the key members of this cast have pretty good reasons to hate each other. The humans and sorcerers have each dehumanized the other side to such an extent that they’re not bothered by any degree of inhumanity expressed towards the opposition, while the inhumanity demonstrated towards their own side fills them with vengeful fury

Dead or not, Matsumura can really hit. Doesn’t put much effort into avoiding the bottomless hole between first and second, though

“It’s fine if I go out with Nikaido, right?” I’m glad Thirteen’s entrance is forcing Caiman to consider exactly what Nikaido means to him

Once again, direct battle is smartly avoided, as Fujita adjusts his plans to prioritize regaining Matsumura’s body. I get the feeling Kasukabe would just let him have it as a souvenir if he asked

Ebisu proving herself to be an unexpected ace, as she advises Fujita on his pitching style and poisons the opposing bench

Thirteen is worried about Fujita trying to bean Nikaido, but Caiman knows she can take care of herself. Thirteen isn’t actually a dramatic threat, he’s just fuel the narrative is using to stoke Caiman’s relationship with Nikaido

Ebisu being chased with her little shark arms flapping is just so much. Bless this show

Once again, the show finds a natural point to include one of its ambitious CG pans, as we pan from one hallways to another in En’s mansion

Yesss. They switch back to traditional animation for Shin’s confrontation with the berserk Noi, and it is glorious. There’s a remarkable sense of speed and weight in these exaggerated limbs flying out, and Shin’s body contorting itself around the power of Noi’s strikes. The dramatic effect of the foreshortening is further amplified through the way Shin’s body aligns with the light from the doorway

En takes Shin into a secret elevator, which leads to a mysterious “Him” who can apparently undo Noi’s curse

“In this world, there exist sorcerers with the ability to dispel magic.” So En actually has another solution to Caiman’s quest, held under lock and key in a secret room of his mansion

His name is Chota, and he’s another goofy idiot, of course

Ebisu’s magic may well be responsible for Caiman’s curse. The results certainly match pretty closely, aside from the Risu issue

“We need entrails from Noi’s most precious person.” “Your guts are already out, you do it.” This show has so many strengths, and then it’s just also incidentally one of the funniest anime out there. Too generous

More beautiful traditional animation for these birds of smoke

And Fujita, at least, is convinced that Ebisu truly is the cause of Caiman’s curse

And Done

Well, that was a glorious stew of charming nonsense. In true Dorohedoro fashion, the bulk of this episode was taken up by a goofy baseball game that somehow managed to progress three separate storylines, as Fujita discovered the remains of his partner, Caiman reconsidered his relationship with Nikaido, and Ebisu was revealed as a potential source for Caiman’s curse. Along with its usual buffet of gorgeous background art, this episode also featured some of the series’ best flourishes of traditional animation, with basically the whole Noi-centered last act demonstrating the show at its visual best. Dorohedoro has taken one of anime’s finest traditions and made it its own, in a baseball episode that demonstrated all of the show’s remarkable strengths!

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