I remember when Doron Dororon first came out that my first reaction was to shake my head at the name. It’s a little too hard to spell or remember and that started the series off on the wrong foot. Still, it somehow manages to keep on surviving over and over again to the point where I was rooting for it on the sidelines. I wanted it to succeed…no, I needed it to succeed! It carried the hopes and dreams of a whole new era of manga readers but alas it was not enough. After finishing the series, I can say that Jump made a mistake in cancelling it. Sure, it hadn’t really come into its own yet, but it was a fun series and I think it could have been pretty good. It’s just not the most memorable title.
The series takes place in a world where Mononoke are monsters that terrorize everyone. They’re beings of pure evil with a lot of fantastical abilities and the only ones that can stop them are the Samurai. “Samurai” are people who have been recruited because of their incredible abilities or synergy with the cursed energy to stop them. Dora wants to be a samurai because these creatures murdered his mother so he lives for revenge. It won’t be easy but he is prepared to do whatever it takes to win. Unfortunately there is one problem.
Dora has no magical energy. Yes, he is completely doomed to be unable to use it at all. It’s not something you can just develop either so that means he is really out of luck and the samurai will not allow him to join. He still tries to help when a girl is attacked by a monster though and that’s when he is saved by Kusanagi. This creature is a Mononoke as well but he wants to spread friendship and harmony to the world. He believes that making the world kinder is his mission and so Dora agrees to help him. Kusanagi can turn into any object including a sword and with Dora’s impressive physical abilities, they may end up being the strongest powerhouses out there!
So there’s a lot of elements that will sound really familiar here. It’s a classic demon hunting manga with a main character who can’t use the energies of the world. Fortunately with his new monster buddy he is already one of the stronger fighters. So it’s rather textbook stuff but this is the kind of story that I always enjoy so I can’t say that it’s really a bad thing. Put it this way, the series is trying to be like Black Clover which is one of the greatest titles of all time so I’m not sad about that. If it could be even half as good as Clover then we’re in for a treat.
I will say right off the bat that the manga’s biggest weakness is how forgettable it is. The art is good, the fights are good, and the story is good. It’s just not even trying to do anything different so you’ll just forget about it fairly quickly. For example, I write down the names of the various characters ahead of time when I’m reading a series that has already ended. This way I don’t have to look through various chapters in case I forget a name so it saves me a lot of time. In this case, even with the names I couldn’t place a few of the characters which is not good.
This is the kind of series that could really benefit from an anime because often times that is what helps make a title more memorable. Of course that’s also a decent reason not to make an anime because the manga should be able to hold its own. This is still a pretty solid manga but I can see why it was cancelled. Ultimately my advice to the series on a way it could have stayed alive would have been to not have expanded the cast as soon as it did. Keep things small for a while and that could have let things get built up naturally. Instead I think it was just a bit of character overload.
Also, this tends to happen a lot lately with the cancelled titles but a bunch of new characters appear at the very end as the series is ending. By then it’s just way too late for any of them to be all that memorable. I suppose the author may not have known that it was ending by then but that’s just unfortunate. Lets talk about some of the characters though.
First up was Dora who is the main character here. He’s a solid main character and he just wants to avenge his parents and stop all of the monsters. Always a good goal and he does well in living up to it. Kusanagi gradually helps Dora stop thinking about revenge all the time. It’s a classic character arc and I like Dora well enough. He’s not quite as ultra heroic as other leads since he finds it all to be a bit cheesy but at the end of the day he makes the right calls. I don’t get why he gets so embarrassed when Kusanagi is just talking about basic hero things though.
Kusanagi is not very good though. One of my main problems with him is that he is way too naïve. At one point we get a villain who shows up and used to be his friend but has obviously turned to the dark side. All it takes is a word or two and Kusanagi is willing to help him out. It’s great to be heroic but it’s never an excuse to be gullible as well. You have to be able to tell what is going on and stay out of trouble. Otherwise you’re just creating a lot more toruble for everyone instead of just resolving it on your own. That’s not a good look for any character. Kusanagi never really grew on me and his dynamic with Dora is definitely one of the weaker ones that I’ve seen.
Then we have the main heroine Yagyu but she falls into the Rukia trap a bit where she is technically a strong fighter but loses almost immediately to a random minion. From there she works on slowly becoming more of a hype character and regaining her honor. I do like her confidence even if it isn’t always properly placed. I think the series could have handled her character better but I still did like the character type they were going for. Down the road I’m sure she would have kept getting a lot of good fights.
Then you had Heisuke who was another one of the hype characters. He reminds me a lot of Levi as he’s on the shorter side and is one of those prodigy types. He tends to speak his mind and doesn’t get along with most of the characters but his skills speak for themselves. He’s a fun character and I appreciate that he could fight really well. This is one of those series where the heroes seem to have quite a lot of powerful fighters at their disposal which is definitely important.
Yet another hype character here was Naotora. She’s one of the strongest in the business, a prodigy, etc. Her main gimmick though is that she’s super shy and acts like a stalker as a result. She tends to try and follow Dora around all the time from a distance. She can fight so at least that explains why everyone tolerates her acting so weird all the time but it’s not a very endearing character trait. I can’t say that I ever became a big fan of hers.
Of course we can’t forget the first big villain in Hidehisa. He’s a fun fighter and once he got into his super form then he could really hold his own without any problem. I thought his fight with Heisuke was really good and was the first big definitive fight of the series. It was when the manga started to really live up to the hype with its action scenes and showed me the promise of what it could have ultimately turned out to be if it didn’t end so quickly.
The most annoying villain in the series has to be Dosan. Again, this guy isn’t as tactical or smart as he thinks he is so when the guy is tricking Kusanagi you can’t help but cringe a little. I haven’t seen a fighter look that obviously evil in a long time and yet the trick still worked. That’s just a bad look for the main monster and Dosan isn’t a super good fighter by the end of it all. Take away the tricks and that’s it for him so the quicker he was out the better.
There’s a scientist named Asahi but there doesn’t seem to be much of a point to her character. She’s someone who probably would have benefited from the series being a whole lot longer. She can help examine monsters and provide equipment but that’s about it. She’s always pestering Yagyu and is like Kuroko from Index, but without abilities to fight with, you know that she is doomed from the start. If you can’t fight in an action manga then you’re going to be in for a tough time.
As for the story, the first 11 chapters is basically the pre arc which leads to Dora having to confront the monster that murdered his mother. So you get all of the character introductions and Dora beats up his first monsters. I will say that I thought the series moved with good pacing here. He fights off quite a few monsters and this helps readers get a chance to be acquainted with the series before moving on to the big plots. So I wouldn’t say the series made any mistakes by this point. The approach actually made a whole lot of sense. Then the big fight at the end as we got our first humanoid villain was a blast. It was fairly high scale for the series and was a good preview of what we could expect down the road.
As Dora trains to get stronger we meet up with Toda who used to get beaten up by Dora all the time. He’s a nice enough character and this way we finally got another good ally who wasn’t already one of the big shots in the organization. He seems to be meant as Dora’s rival. I’d say it doesn’t work perfectly since it feels like Dora has already surpassed him by the time they meet up but Toda’s still cool enough. I can’t say that I had any real major issues with the guy.
The next arc was the first real serious one for the heroes I’d say. We get to meet the villain group led by Kanbei and they decide to lure the samurai into a trap. Fortunately the squad consists of Dora, Toda, some scrubs, and Heisuke. They’re ready to take on these villains and it’s a good way for Dora to start improving his technique and for all of the fighters to get a little stronger. It’s a very classic kind of arc with the heroes splitting up to fight their opponents. One thing that was a bit different was Heisuke fighting 3 on 1. It reminded me of Gojo in Shibuya.
This was probably the series at its peak with a lot of big fights and all so it was hard to recapture that hype in the same way later on. Still, by this point you had to assume that people were really on board with the series. The first of the villains was Yoshihime and she is one of those villains who is rarely serious. She’s super sinister but does her murdering with a smile. In a way that makes her one of the cruelest fighters right? I thought Yoshihime was okay and a fairly decent villain.
Then you have Tameemon who was one of the stronger ones but he’s not very smart. We’ve all seen the type before. It works well for when the hero is still inexperienced as he has to try and dodge while getting stronger and landing a good attack. It was a good team up fight without a doubt and one of the better fights in the series. Finally there was Kanbei as the tactical leader. He is good with plans and has a solid amount of ability but I can’t say he was super solid for me. This kind of strategic villain who can’t usually fight as well as the others is always up for a tough time. He’s not bad or anything by any means but he wasn’t going to win a championship anytime soon. He does appear a lot though so there is plenty of time for you to become a fan as you read through. Being the leader by itself is a pretty good role if you think about it.
After that we get to the weakest arc with Naotora. Her gimmick just isn’t super entertaining so a whole arc of fighting with her just couldn’t match up to the others. There is still a lot of action so it’s not like it’s a bad arc or anything but it certainly wasn’t going to make any waves for the series. Of course we also had the worst villain for this arc so you could say the series hit a bit of a speedbump. It’s relative of course since it’s not like it was a big drop but if fans started to weaken on the series then I would have guessed this would be the reason why.
Now we enter the final arc where the heroes get ready to fight Hanzo. So Hanzo is the most powerful villain out there and he’s so good that if you defeat him the Momonoke will vanish. It’s clear by this point that the author was speeding things along so it’s safe to say that the series had already been cancelled. That didn’t stop him from introducing a bunch of new characters as the senior fighters among the samurai. They are fun with some hype characters like Rui and Namishiro. They just didn’t get to do enough to really make a name for themselves yet. For example, Rui is the sassy kind of character who is always a lot of fun but she barely gets a full fight before the series is over. Likewise Namishiro is a very determined character who gets the job done and has a hype fight but the series is over by then.
It’s a shame that the more interesting characters were the final ones rather than the early ones. If we had these guys from the start then that would have been a whole lot of fun. Still, the final arc gives us a lot of fight scenes and Hanzo makes for a good villain. In fact I would say he was the best villain easily. He just wants to get super strong as his gimmick. It’s not the most impressive motivation to be sure but it’s a start and I still like that as a goal. It’s very direct and to the point.
So that basically wraps up the series. If you’re looking for a classic action story then this should still be a good title for you to check out. It’s not doing much different or unique all the way through but it’s still a really fun watch. I had a good time with it at least. It could have been better and I think it deserved the chance to do so. With another arc or two perhaps it would have finally been able to break out into its own. It would have solved the issue of the series being a little on the forgettable side. Even my advice to the series on how to not be cancelled wasn’t very extensive because I didn’t think it made a lot of mistakes.
I guess cutting out the stalker plot would have been a good idea but that’s about it. It had a lot of nonstop action and the training arc was brief at only 2-3 chapters so it’s not like it slowed down the pacing much. I also thought that the art was pretty good. Not great or anything but it was easy to follow the action at all times without getting confused. The fundamentals of the manga were sound. It just needed better characters and it could have been great off the bat. Perhaps the main dynamic doomed it since Kusanagi was a very weak character and you usually want your main duo to be great.
Overall, Doron Dororon is a pretty good series and I would recommend checking it out. It may be very generic and nothing that you haven’t seen before but it still does justice to the classic tropes. I’m always up for more combat manga after all and the series tried hard. That’s why it was able to last over 30 chapters. It’s still a decent run for a cancelled title and not everything can be the next success. I doubt we’ll see this series get a revival so this will have to be the end of it. It does have a real ending though so even if it was rushed, you’ll feel like you got the whole conclusion here. We’ll see if the next cancelled title can keep up with this one.