First Look: Doreiku – The Animation

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Alternative title(s): Dorei-ku: Boku to 23-nin no Dorei, Tokyo Slaves
Web novel/Manga Adaptation by TNK and Zero-G
Streaming on HIDIVE

Premise

The SCM is a device that lets its wearer enslave anyone also wearing an SCM, lest you defeat them in a competition first. While Eiya Arakawa enters a bizarre contract with a Yuuga, a thrill-seeking weirdo keen to try out the device, a girl named Lucie uses hers to serve the man who raped her his just desserts. Yup, this is that kind of show.

Aqua’s verdict: Crappiness in Slavery

Guys, you do know that if you want to make a show for people who’re into BDSM, you can just make a show about consensual BDSM, right? I’m pretty sure they’ll like that a lot more. Unless they’re masochists, I guess, in that case they’d probably… You know what, never mind. That Doreiku uses its salacious premise to pander to every questionable fetish under the sun in stead of using it to explore the darkest reaches of the human soul, doesn’t come as a surprise at all. That it’s so utterly incompetent at even being a perishable trash fire, however, is a whole new kind of surprise. Doreiku is entirely bereft of any kind of emotional impact, positive or negative — it’s not shocking, ironic or darkly funny, nor is it nauseating or morally repugnant. It’s just there, exactly as predictable and presumptuous as its premise would imply.

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In fact, the only emotion Doreiku evokes is confusion. Eiya and Yuuga have less chemistry than a pair of kitchen utensils, and the mutually destructive pact they enter is both underwritten and utterly rushed. Eiya’s skills in particular are established so poorly you might as well get the impression he’s mistaking her for someone else, while her whole desperately-looking-for-a-purpose-in-life ennui isn’t even made explicit until she’s already found her purpose. Did this writer only realize their main character could do with a personality after they’d already written the rest of the episode? Actually, did this writer not realize that a show needs characters at all?

No one in Doreiku seems to be even remotely familiar with the very concept of normal human behaviour. Lucie takes revenge on her rapist by blatantly seducing him, a move so unlikely it’s downright offensive, while Yuuga is a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a boatload of bad writing. What exactly was the entire point of the subplot with him dumping Eiya’s friend for another guy, for example? The guy’s a veritable embodiment of how little thought Doreiku puts into its characters, and the same ineptitude applies to the mechanics. Stories about life-or-death games and high-stakes gambles — and anime has a more of those that you could possibly think of — stand or fall with their rules and the ways in which the characters bend them to steal a last-minute victory. Even the schlockiest, sleaziest specimens of the genre at least get this right. With Doreiku, on the other hand, the only thing lamer than the challenges are their payoffs.

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In the end, I still can’t really wrap my head around how spectacularly Doreiku fails to trigger even the slightest of emotional reactions. Compared to its most immediate point of comparison — last year’s delightfully campy KakeguruiDoreiku is a gormless parade of talking heads and tactless metaphor. The lifeless animation and endless panning shots suggest an effort on writer-director Ryouichi Kuraya’s part to understate the inherent trashiness of it all, perhaps into something people will see for something it is not, but it doesn’t work. There are a lot of things Doreiku is not. It’s not interesting, it’s not sexy in any meaning of the word, and it sure as heck is not provocative. And for a show that set out to ever be only that one thing, that’s kind of pathetic.

Iro’s verdict: Shitty

This feels like a setup to a cheap porn or something, which wouldn’t necessarily be bad if the show didn’t take itself so goddamn seriously. It’s one of those weird fetish-y shows that purports itself to be “mature” and “thought-provoking” and “psychological” but is in fact none of those things. Any potentially interesting consequences or possibilities of having some kind of supernatural compulsion ability are immediately tossed aside in favor of what is – no bones about it – just rape. Beyond that, the characters are as boring as untoasted white bread, and the show isn’t even particularly interesting from a visual standpoint either. In fact, one might say Doreiku has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Skip it.

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Artemis’ verdict: Kakegurui Minus the Fun

Doreiku feels like a classic example of a potentially great idea that’s completely wasted on sex. Sure, this makes up a good portion of the human condition and all, but there are so many more, far cleverer or original ways to play a story about a piece of technology which essentially creates master/slave contracts than to have everything be about that. From the first scene to the last though, sex is almost literally all we get: a woman gets raped and then gets revenge by seducing the guy into playing pachinko (instead of calling the cops); two people meet up and for some idiotic and poorly-explained reason, strike a deal to become ‘comrades’ (only one of them – I’ll give you one guess which, the guy or the girl – will apparently sorely regret it); and some other woman is I guess into hardcore bondage, because Reasons (which I’m sure we’ll find out about next episode, oh joy). I have the distinct feeling that every woman in this show will, at some point down the line, be turned into a sexual object by the series creators, who seem to be trying way too hard to be dark and ‘edgy’ in terms of both plot and nitty-gritty visuals. This essentially means the show looks and feels very similar to Kakegurui, only instead of being camp takes itself extremely seriously at all times – and suffice to say that’s neither sexy nor fun. A hard pass for me.

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