With more and more movie streaming services popping up, it can feel impossible to keep track of what’s showing where. So to help, this October I’ll be recommending a different film every day from one such service that embodies the spooky spirit of the season. From classic Halloween movies to indie horror to campy dark comedies, this is 31 Days of a Very Chingy Halloween.
Today I’m looking at Dorohedoro, Q Hayashida’s psychedelic and sadistic buddy comedy, available to stream on Netflix.
There are two worlds in Dorohedoro, each inhabited by a different kind of people. The realm of Magic is the vibrant home of sorcerers who ply unique spells via smoke they expel from their fingers. The dystopian ghetto of Hole is where humans live. It’s a sprawling city, polluted and distorted by sorcerers who travel there to sadistically test out their abilities on unsuspecting people.
Kaiman is a Hole resident with the head of a ferocious reptile, and though he wasn’t always, he lacks any memory predating his beastly transfiguration. The only way for him to find out the truth of his past is to hunt down sorcerers with his best friend, a dumpling chef named Nikaido, and chomp down on their heads so they can talk to the mysterious man who lives in his throat. Meanwhile, En, the head of the most powerful magic mafia, has hired his two best hitmen, Shin and Noi, to exterminate the lizardman who’s making so much trouble for him.
Based on Q Hayashida’s manga by the same name, Dorohedoro is a visually overwhelming gorefest right out the gate, with a scene of Kaiman slicing a sorcerer into dozens of pieces in the opening moments being on the lighter side of its violence. And with only a baker’s dozen of 20- to 25-minute episodes, this psychedelic, supernatural saga is perfect to binge during the spooky season.
The animation (done by studio MAPPA) is vibrant and disturbing, bringing to life a cast of rogues, wizards and weirdos including our reptilian protagonist (who’s addicted to eating gyoza), a giant cockroach who can only screech the word “shocking,” a pint-sized bimbo sorceress prone to getting mangled in increasingly elaborate ways and a magic mafia boss who turns everything he touches into mushrooms. One of the most charming aspects about Q Hayashida’s art is the way she isn’t afraid to make her female characters just as monstrously buff and violent as the dudes, with carefree killer Noi a beautiful beefcake behemoth who towers over her mentor Shin (Nikaido is an equally brutal bruiser).
While you might come to Dorohedoro for the psychedelic violence, you’ll want to stay for the characters. It is, at its heart, a sitcom set in a nightmare realm where everybody happens to be a vicious murderer. While En and his team of sorcerers are technically antagonists, there’s no real villain here, just a bunch of charming anti-heroes on opposite sides. We spend just as much time getting to know them for all their foibles and idiosyncrasies, and while Kaiman’s quest drives the story, many episodes are just as content to let you hang out with each band of silly psychopaths as they work odd jobs, play baseball or compete in pie-selling competitions.
Impressively, despite Dorohedoro’s constant onslaught of high-octane hyperviolence, it manages to avoid painting its cast of killers as strictly amoral, maintaining a beating emotional heart. No central character’s express goal is cruelty, but each is driven to their gory means by personal and societal circumstances — they’re mostly just trying to protect the few people they care about at any cost, and everybody is just doing the most logical thing they can in their highly illogical world. Sometimes that means chomping down on sorcerer skulls or turning a room full of people into mincemeat. Sometimes that just means vibing with the homies. Either way, Dorohedoro is one to watch.
To see a list of each of the previous entries, check out the A Very Chingy Halloween list on Letterboxd.