Choosing a series on a whim worked out nicely for once, unlike Risky Safety, Saiyuki, Gundam Seed, Nadia, Sakura Wars, Golgo 13, Gate…..damn I’m bad at picking shows.
Story - 8/10
The universe as we know it has changed. The world is now inhabited by sorcerers, human-esc creatures that have the ability to emit a black smoke that affects the world around them in different ways, such as the ability to heal, to alter time, or to change their surroundings into different things; such as lizards, mushrooms or a giant roach named Johnson. The humans we know still exist, but now live in another dimension known as “The Hole,” where they toil away every day in this new hellscape, always having to be mindful that any moment a group of sorcerers may appear to practice on them, or worse kill them.
One such human was a man who woke up with a lizard’s head and a lack of memories, and the only way to rectify his problem is to find the sorcerer who changed him, and kill them.
Helping our Lizardman out is a young woman named Nikaido, the person who found him and who later dubbed him Caiman, after a species of lizard that he resembles. Together they catch, interrogate and, almost always, kill sorcerers who enter The Hole, and so far they’re batting zero.
While catching and killing these sorcerers to restore Caiman is the main story of our show, they find a way to weave that plot line into a dozen episodes that make sure that repetitive task isn’t boring for the viewer. Running concurrent to Caiman searching for this sorcerer, is a story of a family of sorcerers also trying to track down Caiman, hoping to stop him before he takes out even more of their kind. Like the human storyline, this one also makes sure that the episodes don’t just devolve into a boring monster of the week type show.
The combination of both stories ended up being one of the best balances of story, action, horror, and humor I can think of in anime. The only real disappointing part of the story is it’s abrupt ending, not even giving a small amount of closure until the OVAs are released. Other than that I’d put this up there with some of legendary shows of the late nineties/ early aughts, especially when it comes to pure enjoyment in watching.
Animation - 6/10
How long have we had CG Animation Anime at this point? Twenty Years? In all that time they still haven’t found a way to make it look even close to the level of traditional animation.
With this series I’m glad we at least have some very interesting characters, though a few of the human faces resemble those of another CG trainwreck, Freedom. It’s actually a bit funny how almost exact the faces are, as if they pulled up the wireframe from that show and just imported it here. The main culprit is Nikaido, whose head looks more like that of a chubby baby than an adult of any sort. The Monster and Masked characters might not be totally original, but they look good and are actually crafted very well.
The show also has lots of amazing scenery. The detail and the coloring of the backgrounds and other stationary items was surprisingly excellent, I’d almost say it’s some of the best I’ve seen at really conveying the story of what’s going on.
Even though those two portions were great, the major issue with most CG based animation is the actual movement. Everything is still so clunky and jerky, with movements never looking natural, and at the worst of times, say when you get a closeup of Kaiman’s mouth, it resembles awful stop motion animation.
So despite my complaining, I do think we have taken steps forward in this style of animation, but it’s still so far behind where it should be, especially when they again try to integrate vehicles that all just look like they’re floating along.
Sound - 4/10
I wasn’t too impressed by the music, all of which are performed by the same group (K)NoW Name. The opening was okay, a sort of Japanese Pop-Thrash song, it matches the style and pace of the show pretty well. The show does go all out in their closing songs, having a new one almost every other episode. The first closing “Who Am I” is an odd Trance dance song that just didn’t fit, though for that type of music it was kind of catchy and sadly the best of the bunch. The next ending is “Night Surfing” which went even further in the pop direction, and ends up being a strange pick for this series. Song three is “D.D.D.D.” went back to sounding like the first song, but much worse. “Strange Meat Pie” is their fourth track and while not great, it reminds me if someone took one of Yuki Kajiura’s songs from .Hack//Sign but made it a more upbeat pop song. “Seconds Fly” is the next to last song, which follows the trend of being a dance house type song. The final episode ends with “404,” easily the worst song of all, as it sounds like garbage from the Black Eyed Peas.
The voice over work on the English dub was great and the actors did an excellent job of actually acting out their roles. It’s hard to pick a real standout in the show, because all the main and secondary characters were able to hit every mark they were supposed to. Heck when you’ve relegated Bryce Papenbrook to a somewhat secondary character you just know that you’ve got a strong lineup.
Along with he character voices, most of the background music was very good and the atmospheric sounds all hit their marks.
Characters - 9/10
While there weren’t huge and in-depth backstories for our characters, which partially plays into the storyline of our hero Caiman, they still managed to make each character unique, interesting and extremely likable.
Our aforementioned protagonist is Caiman, a human who had his head turned into that of a lizard, so he now searches for the sorcerer who cast the spell, so he can kill them and regain his normal form and his memories. Inside his mouth lives a manifestation of a former friend, who determines if the person he bites down on is or isn’t the one who he needs to kill, though finding the wrong sorcerer never stops him from killing them anyway. Despite being a large monstrous creature, he’s actually quite kind and childlike in his everyday life, often prancing around town (even when killing) eating gyoza or helping out at the local hospital.
Caiman’s partner and best friend is Nikaido, the owner of a restaurant he frequents, as well as a sorcerer in hiding. Despite having the rarest and most sought after power, Time Manipulation, she has decided to not use her powers and to live as much as a human as possible. She was the person who found Caiman when he was transformed and left for dead, and now wants to be the first person to see his real face when he turns back to a human.
The leader of one of the strongest groups of sorcerers is En, a man who rose to power by killing all the sorcerers who would use and abuse their fellow magic casters. He was originally taken to hell, after being found close to death, but his unique power, the ability to turn everything into Mushrooms, allowed him to survive and escape hell to seek vengeance. After exacting his revenge, and building a family of sorcerers that he saved, he turned his attention to other matters, such as a chain of Ramen shops and movie producing. Like everyone in the show, despite being seen as somewhat evil, he’s still rather likable and funny.
En’s two most trusted cleaners are Shin and Noi, sorcerers who are both powerful with their magic and their fists. They take care of any human or sorcerer that En needs dealt with, along with their own day to day slaughtering of people for fun. The two act almost like a couple, and they do care very much for each other, to the point Noi have up her chance at becoming a Devil all to save Shin from death. Despite these two having no issue killing many many people, they both still seem to be able to show some empathy, such as when they spared Caiman’s friends, as they had helped Shin in the past.
Rounding out our most notable characters are Ebisu and Fujita, two children who happen to be part of En’s family. Fujita is a rather lame young man, with weak powers and a bleak future, though that doesn’t stop him from trying to catch Caiman and exact revenge for his dead friend, even if he knows he’ll certainly fail at it. Partnered with him for most of the show is Ebisu, a girl whom he saved from Caiman’s mouth. In the process of ripping her from that pair of jaws, he kind of caused her face to be ripped off, and because of that trauma she now spends most of her time frolicking around like an imbecile. Of all the characters in the series Ebisu, with her moron personality, has to be the funniest. They use her to make odd little comments or to have her get into funny predicaments that will really bring a smile to your face.
Down in the hole there are a number of humans who interact with Caiman, and who work to build a really entertaining show. The first is Bauks, a doctor at the local hospital who works with Caiman on trying to help humans who have been mutated by sorcerers. Another staff member is Kasukabe, who prefers to use his medical skills to experiment on humans, sorcerers and any creature that may come his way. The third of our trio of friends is Johnson, a giant cockroach who not only helps our characters in many tough spots, but also adds some hilarious moments.
Pretty much every character in the series, from the ten or so main and secondary characters, to the group of smaller roles, is someone you’ll really enjoy. Some more development on each would have been nice, but really they had a winner with almost everyone we saw on screen.
Overall - 9/10
I honestly didn’t expect much from this series, as I just started watching it to break up another show I was in the middle of, and it popped up on my streaming queue. That random choice turned into one of the biggest surprises I’ve had in a very long time when it comes to anime.
The show managed to put together a very good story and surrounded it with characters, both those we’re supposed to believe are good and those evil, who were very entertaining and likable. Things could be a bit confusing at times, and the incomplete story was a bummer, but still they never seemed to disrespect the viewer with wasted episodes or pointless “gotcha” tricks to coverup bad writing.
What DoroHeDoro did best was being able to pull off what so many set out to do and fail at, effortless comedy. Not since FLCL has a show been able to have such a constant stream of hilarious moments, without either telegraphing them from a mile away, or just being unfunny jokes meant to target the lowest forms of humor. They were always able to either integrate them into the story or have them as a small hidden background moment that would surprise you with a laugh. Which isn’t to say they didn’t have a large number of somewhat random and zanny moments, but even then it was done in a way that never overshadowed the story or action currently occurring.
I would have given this show a perfect score here, despite the lackluster animation and slightly out there music, but unfortunatly it ends with a very incomplete story, which they expect you to wait for the OVAs to finish.