Now that Dorohedoro’s anime has finally been released on Netflix internationally, one of the biggest questions that long-time fans will be asking is: how does the adaptation stack up to its long-running source material? And, for newcomers, which is now the better entry point?
Written and illustrated by Q Hayashida, the gritty but sincere fantasy series began in 2000 and ended it’s monthly run in 2018. The series went through three different magazine publications during its 18-year run, and, remarkably, it never managed to lose its fun energy wrapped in a world of darkness.
Just like the anime, Dorohedoro’s manga throws us right into its world, making the audience put the pieces together themselves. While it works very well in the anime, it’s a bit harder to grasp in the early chapters of the manga. Sometimes you may need to stare at a page for a few minutes to understand just what your looking at, especially when the location changes. Though in the beginning, Hayashida was just trying to find her footing with the series, so it makes sense that the early chapters would be a bit rougher then what follows them.
Across the board, the anime characters are honest portrayals of their manga counterparts. Shin and Noi’s merciless disregard for human life but absolute trust and care for each other never gets old. En’s cold exterior to everyone around him — except his adorable pet Kikurage — is also done very well. Fujita’s voice performance in the Japanese version is unintentionally hilarious, as the voice actor knew how to sound so nasally you can’t help but pity one of the weakest characters in the series. However, although the writing is excellent the dub voice work is a bit on the weaker side. Caiman, in the dub, just doesn’t have the loud yet cheerful energy he has that Wataru Takagi (also the voice of Okuyasu in Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable) brings to him in the Japanese dub. Ebisu is also a victim in this regard as she’s far more chaotic-sounding in the Japanese dub, making her more endearing in her actions and mannerisms — such as her shark mascot dance during the baseball episode.
The biggest draw to the manga over the anime would have to be Hayashida’s outstanding artwork. Everything Hayashida draws feels like something you’d find painted on the back of a designer skateboard. Often, she’ll draw characters like Nikaido a bit roughed up — making her hair erratic and messy. Given how dilapidated Hole is, it makes sense that characters wouldn’t always have access to decent toiletries or beauty products. It’s a small detail, but it shows the level of consideration she puts into her world and characters.
For the anime though, praise should be given to the creativity and experimental edge of Dorohedoro‘s OPs and multiple EDs. The OP takes a different path than most anime; instead of using it as an opportunity to show off its colorful cast, it’s instead more of a tone piece for Nikaido with Easter eggs sprinkled in. As Nikaido begins her day making her trademark gyoza, we see the joy and pleasure she takes from her cooking while hints about events to come later in the series are sprinkled in the background. The multiple EDs, on the other hand, are effectively used to foreshadow various characters and events such as NIGHT SURFING and the eventual confrontation of Caiman and Nikaido with Shin and Noi, or D.D.D.D., and En’s intense hatred for the cross-eyes.
For the manga, Hayashida’s use of color is also worth mentioning. Dorohedoro’s world is a bleak and unfair one. While people try to make the best of their crummy lives (in both Hole and the sorcerer’s world), there isn’t a whole lot going for them. So when Hayashida uses the occasional color page, it adds to that level of misery. She uses a lot of muddy colors like greys and browns to make environments feel dirty and discarded, and when you see her characters interact and breathe in these environments it strangely makes it feel more at home. While the anime does well to bring that crummy but homey feeling in its environments, the color pages just hit it so much harder.
However, the anime does surpass the manga in one regard, and that in its extremely tight pacing. Dorohedoro‘s first season covers about 40 chapters in just 12 episodes. To put that into perspective, My Hero Academia‘s first season condenses only the first 21 chapters into 13 episodes, and unlike MHA‘s first season, Dorohedoro is constantly breaking off from the protagonist to explore the lives of the many other characters that inhabit its world. Stories you’d think would need at least an episode or two manage to get fully realized in half the episodes’ run-time without feeling rushed, sloppy or flat. Both Shin and En’s backstories are done this way and it works extremely well, leaving for more room to move the story forward in the present.
The fact that each of these side stories are given titles within the episodes also makes each character feel just as important as Caiman or Nikkaido. Sure, En, Shin and Noi may serve as antagonists from time to time, but they’re still people with interests and lives outside of that. Seeing Fujita ask for Shin and Noi to train him only him them to outright refuse and get annoyed that they can’t enjoy their ice cream is silly, but not what you’d expect from such an action-heavy series. Sure, these might be characters with magic powers, but they’re still people who enjoy ice cream and free dinners.
Overall, the best way to get into Dorohedoro is to start with the anime. The anime is a tighter package and it’s consistent in its animation and writing. And it knows how to ramp up its fight scenes. From there, moving onto the mang — if for no other reason than to check out Hayashida’s art — is recommended. The anime ends at around Chapter 40 of the manga so picking it up from there is a great place to jump in and continue your journey into Dorohedoro‘s world.
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Dorohedoro's anime adaptation creates a familiar but different entry point to Q Hayashida's dark, urban fantasy series.