Doreiku The Animation Series Review: Another Cool Premise Gone To Waste

Doreiku presents viewers with a very cool set-up. What if there was a device that would allow you to play a game with someone and the loser was made to become the winner’s slave? There’s so many places such a concept could be taken and yet what we find in this anime is that we’re just going to tread over the usual vices we’ve seen before with nothing really new on the table.

Review:

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There’s nothing wrong with stories that want to explore the darker side of human nature or even human misery. I’d argue that stories are a good place to explore such things and to make audiences think about situations they might not otherwise understand or to ‘safely’ experience emotions that might otherwise be pretty traumatising. With the initial set-up of Doreiku I was kind of hoping once it got over its shock factor in the first episode (and believe me, it is trying to be shocking with its rape and idea of total enslavement being paraded around front and centre) that it would actually look at the motives and desires of those involved or maybe explore the notion of freedom overall.

And while you argue that the anime does explore these things, it ultimately ends up being a very shallow dive. Meanwhile the viewer is subjected to a meandering plot, an unnecessarily large cast, and more than a few illogical plot points that kind of exist just because someone somewhere must have thought they were cool.

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It all just kind of ends up being an empty viewing experience. Every character (with the possible exception of Eia), seems to think they are amazingly smart and that somehow there’s no chance of them losing. And every character ultimately cheats at the games or resorts to violence and intimidation to set the game up in such a way that they can’t lose. And as the number of masters gets fewer and fewer and the number of slaves gets larger, what we realise is that no one writing this show really thought about what these characters would do with slaves.

Yes, there are the usual sexual antics in places and a lot of the male characters are used as muscle. But scene after scene will show a master talking, and boy do these characters like to talk and yet say nothing, while a handful of slaves stand pitifully in the background. Is that really the best they could do? You enslaved multiple other humans and now you just have them kind of standing around.

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Though Eia and her original partner Oota aren’t all that much better really. Oota’s just thrill seeking and uses Eia for insurance. And once he gets a taste of power he gets nasty yet we’re still somehow supposed to hope Eia saves him. Eia gets swept up in Oota’s scheme because… well I think it is meant to be because she’s bored or wants a challenge but it never really becomes clear. Midway through the series, Eia suddenly decides she wants to free all of the slaves by, naturally, enslaving them. I just wonder if after all is said and done if their brains are going to permanently fried but the series also isn’t interested in answering that sort of question about the devices in question so don’t ask.

So the characters are pretty dull, there’s no real theme or message to wait for, and the plot is a meandering and cluttered mess held together only through who currently owns who, what does that leave us with? Visuals that are okay but not great. Music that works with the show but isn’t memorable. A cute puppy, but it is also wearing a device and is a slave.

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If you’re just kind of curious, it isn’t the worst thing ever, but there’s not a lot to recommend this one. That and if you are easily upset by difficult subject matter, then definitely give this one a skip. It is deliberately confronting at times but doesn’t really address any of these issues.

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Angels of Death Episode 4: This Is The End

That minor nagging voice from last week telling me this might get better has now been dragged out and beaten to death by common sense. Angels of Death is boring which is the most irredeemable thing something made for entertainment can ever be.

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I love psychological horror. I love bad horror. Cheesy dialogue. Cliche set ups. Standard horror settings. Angels of Death has all the ingredients to engage me as a viewer regardless of whether it did it well or in a terrible King’s Game kind of way. And yet since about midway through the first episode I’ve been kind of bored and just waiting and hoping that somehow this would improve.

Episode 4 is no exception and I’m pretty sure I knew four minutes in that I wasn’t continuing beyond this episode. Yet another floor boss is introduced and we get the usual tongue licking the lips to show she’s unbalanced (though later we’ll also get the mismatched eye thing too) and then maniacal ear-grating laughter. This by itself isn’t the end of a show but lets look at every character other than Rachel so far.

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We meet Zack in episode one and he kills bird and laughs maniacally. Great, he’s crazy, better run. We meet the Doctor who pins Rachel down and throws his head back and laughs crazily before getting skewered on Zack’s scythe. We then meet Eddie. Now in Eddie’s defence, he was more of a giggler than a laugher but the point remains that other than giggling and ranting about his love for Rachel from the shadows, we once again have an extremely shallow characterisation that somehow is supposed to be thrilling.

Maybe I’m just missing something but all I feel while watching Rachel stare blankly at walls before commenting that there is something there or nothing is bored. All I feel when I see Zack getting electrocuted in a chair he idiotically sat on is exasperated. And all I feel when the show ends on a cliffhanger with Rachel potentially about to be done in by poison gas is weary.

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For me, watching anime is fun and engaging. In that sense, I think I’d rather go back and watch Record of Grancrest War than even one more episode of this (not that I intend to do that).

However, next week I’ve decided to finally start a formal rewatch of Yuri on Ice, as opposed to just binge watching it whenever I’m feeling a bit down, and I’m going to review the episodes again, hopefully a little more objectively than I did the first time (though honestly, given Yuri and Victor are smiling at me from the wall next to my computer, I somehow doubt it). Anyway, if you want to join me, I’ll be covering episodes 1 and 2 next week instead of watching anymore of Angels of Death.

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Angels of Death Episode 3: Surrender to Game Style Dialogue and Repetition

Episode 3 continues with the mediocrity and makes it clear that no one really thought through how this would play out as an anime. I’d like to say I was done with this, but there’s this minor nagging voice in my head telling me it might get better.

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There’s not much positive to say about episode 3 of this. The creepy atmosphere kind of developed in episode 1 is completely gone at this point. While we’re still wandering around dark levels of a hospital, the environment is so different at this point it is impossible to really think that and instead we’re just in kind of a generic creepy place. However other than a lack of decent lighting, there’s little to actually give you a sense of creepiness. Oh look there’s running water and grave stones. But that’s not enough and it doesn’t evoke anything as we watch the characters stumble around in this episode.

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If we add to that the ongoing lack of chemistry between the two main characters and that the giggling floor owner this week was a pumpkin headed kid with some romance delusion that was insufficiently explained to have any impact, there’s just not much to hold onto as the show forces us through one game mechanic filled set piece to the next. Whether it is Rachel drawing the audience’s attention to the torch, the notes, or even the final fight sequence which reminded me of playing King’s Quest where if you didn’t have ‘this’ item you were doomed to failure, this show doesn’t sit well as an anime but really does look like someone playing a game and it isn’t doing the show any favours.

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Also, lack of anything else to pay attention to has me wondering how Zack’s mouth even works given he has a bandage clean over it and yet he manages to speak just fine and it opens and closes.  I guess he could have cut a slit but then wouldn’t we occasionally see lips instead of bandage that somehow seems to move perfectly with his mouth. This is the kind of thing that only distracts me when I’m slightly bored while watching, and I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the emotion the show was going for.

Honestly, I should drop this and if I have any sense this will be the last episode I watch. However, I somehow suspect next week curiosity as to whether it can improve will get the better of me. We’ll see.

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Angels of Death Episode 2: When It Feels Like You Are Watching A Play Through Rather Than An Anime

While the first episode of Angels of Death was intriguing in its atmosphere, episode 2 kind of just walks us through a level with mediocre results.

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Continuing on directly from the end of episode 1, episode 2 ends with Zack refusing to kill Rachel because of the bored look on her face but promises to kill her if she can show him a better look. Then changes his mind and promises to do so if she helps him leave the building (though apparently he entered it voluntarily because he was told he could kill people). It is all a bit convoluted and unexplained and the mysterious announcements have kind of disappeared and in exchange we have Rachel finding notes from an unnamed giggler who won’t show up until the end of the episode.

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What this means is we spend most of this episode listening to Rachel make some sort of observation about the world, Zack react, usually over the top angrily with a snarl in his voice, Rachel calmly explain something, and then they go to look at the next thing. It’s all very much like watching someone play a really dull point and click adventure and all of the tension and atmosphere that was kind of promised in episode one has evaporated entirely. Which of course isn’t helped along by Zack who rotates between dumb, loud and violent, or suspicious depending on which roll of the dive the writers decided to go with for his next reaction.

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We even get a ‘cut scene’ style sequence when he goes on a rampage destroying the grave stones. I’m sure someone thought that music and laughter gave it some kind of edgy tone but mostly it was just a cringe worthy sequence in amongst what was a pretty boring episode.

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Angels of Death Episode 1: Here’s This Season’s Edgy Show

Rachel has woken up in a strange building without much in the way of memories. After talking to a type-writer she gets into the elevator just as she hears an announcement that calls the girl in the basement a sacrifice. After that, things get weird.

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There’s something inherently creepy about hospitals, basements, and isolation and Angels of Death capitalises on all of these elements to set up what could be quite an interesting story. The problem being that so far the two encounters Rachel has had with other characters has them being comically over the top in their psychotic natures to the point where any tension that may have been constructed by the setting and some of the interesting visual choices is more or less instantly shattered.

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That isn’t to say that there might not be some fun to be had with this series. But for something labelled as psychological horror I’d kind of want a little bit more than the cackling scythe wielding guy seems to offer or the duplicitous doctor that doesn’t do such a great job of keeping his crazy in check.

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Still, with a setting this interesting, I’m willing to give the show a little more time to set up its story and to see where this intends to go. There was a lot of chatter about this one prior to the season and while I have attempted to avoid spoilers I must admit I’m a little curious. However, judging this episode on its own, it is fairly average. Great setting and establishment of atmosphere, fairly ordinary to poor characterisation so far.

What do you think of this first episode of Angels of Death?


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Doreiku The Animation Episode 12: All Those Slaves And No Ambition

Having finally enslaved almost everyone in the game, we realise that neither the writers, nor the characters, have really considered the implications of having total control of another human being. Instead, we have hormonal moron who just wants to satisfy whatever impulse comes his way. Not much of a grand scheme really.

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So apparently getting involved in a game where a device is used that can enslave you is a bad idea that can lead to bad things. That is apparently the sum total of the story that this anime wants to tell given any of the other considerations have just been completely ignored at this point. However Eia has a plan… Wait, no she’s just going to listen to Ryuou and then they are going to burn a building down. And the yellow haired guy is involved because… I’m not actually sure. Was Eia a closet pyromaniac because she also set ten million yen on fire earlier in this season.

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Basically though after all the foreshadowing of horror to come, we get the single worst character as the final bad guy to overcome. Mostly because it isn’t the scientist guy with a masterplan for enslaving humans, it isn’t the kid who seemed to gather massive numbers of slaves early in the game, it isn’t even the split personality Zero, but rather it is the whiny idiot who really just thinks about what he wants right now. I want to shoot someone. I want to hit them. I want to have sex. Really, he has no plan here. None at all. Was he just going to hide out in his school house for the rest of his life sleeping with his enslaved harem and hunting them down when he got bored?

But hey, we’re done and I’ll get to do a final review soon.

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Doreiku The Animation Episode 11: This Anime Just Needed More Psycho

The higher they rise the harder the fall I guess is the message here. Though I am kind of stretching to assume this has any underlying significance other than people still being horrible.

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After another round of “Look how smart I am” we get yet another shift in the power balance of who owns the most slaves. The fact that Eia still hasn’t actually lost is kind of surprising and to be honest I’m not sure whether I’m supposed to see her as an actual player in this game or an observer. The bad guy revealed his plot, gloated about how clever he was, and then got taken down a peg by someone even less emotionally stable, meanwhile Eia is nowhere to be seen.

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Speaking of, the new guy actually was present way back at the start and I guess that’s kind of foreshadowing, but the fact that they have to do a whole flashback to remind us that the scene in question even existed kind of makes me feel like it might have missed its mark. Whichever way, I’m not overly concerned with how this plays out as long as it ends at this point.

Maybe the message should be, don’t stick random devices in your mouth that could lead to mind control.

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Doreiku The Animation Episode 10: Ten Minutes Retell, Ten Minutes Of Confusing Story

I genuinely don’t get what the point of the first ten minutes of this episode is supposed to be given we’ve already seen this story from Julia’s view and the Ryuuou’s view adds nothing. But that’s this show in a nutshell, really.

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Dumb characters continue to make dumb choices once the story finally gets over retelling the story of how Julia became a slave and that Ryuuou is trying to free his mum (given we already knew all of that). Essentially, all of Ryuuou’s slaves decide to face down the guy they know nothing about with the weird star icon on the map and dutifully get stolen as his slaves. It is too stupid for words and it is a plot development that makes little sense at this stage of the game.

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Meanwhile, the new characters we met last week are apparently important and get a section here, though why on earth we care at this point about their story I can’t begin to figure out. And unless something tragic is happening to Eia in the next two episodes, I don’t understand her opening monologue where she said that she was going to regret things. Because so far Eia has walked through most of this series more or less unscathed.

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Doreiku The Animation Episode 9: Introducing A New Cast of Characters

I always thought episode 9 seemed like an excellent time to introduce two entirely new characters plus a split personality in an existing character. Makes perfect sense in terms of narrative pacing.

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So this week we get a flashback to see how Crazy Girl lost her dual to the sleazy scientist guy and it turns out she didn’t. His custom SCM just lets him enslave people who are wearing an SCM. Great. That’s just what this story needed, a god-mode style cheat to the game.

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And were you still wondering what the deal with Zero was way back when he first got enslaved and there was that whole five minutes where it was a big deal that he resisted an order before no-one ever mentioned it again? Turns out, even though this anime hasn’t addressed the point in any episode since, Zero now has a split personality with his dead mother taking over at times and she has her very own SCM (how) and is now making her very own slaves (why). Does this noticeably improve the story? Not really, but it does create yet another faction in this mess of a plot and eats up screen time so we don’t get to notice how shallow Eia’s characterisation has been despite her technically being the narrator during early episodes. Incidentally, she doesn’t show up at all this episode.

Onward to more fun with human slaves and poor plots next week.

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Doreiku The Animation Episode 8: Protagonist Resorts To Singing Own Theme Song

If the goal is to make Eia look smart, her challenge this week certainly did not work. Doreiku continues to push some fairly poorly thought out character interactions even as it tries to escalate the tension.

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This episode really had two parts. The first has Ryuuou and his group of slaves looking into an unusual symbol on the SCM map and their actions land Julia in pretty hot water. But again, what else could be expected. And why on earth would they even take their SCM’s with them. If they didn’t have them, they couldn’t be challenged to duels and they couldn’t be stolen as slaves. It all just makes little sense. I guess the drama of Julia’s predicament is supposed to be the payoff as we wait to see how she’s either rescued, gives in or goes crazy, but I’m really indifferent to her plight.

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Meanwhile, Eia and her newly formed band are trying to gain more slaves. All for freedom of course. And yet there was a lot left to chance here. Eia had to rely on one of her slaves collecting enough in donations that she would be beat what the guy could take from his stores. And there was no way to know what the store take would be. While the whole trick with the 10 million yen kind of seems superficially clever, it really serves zero purpose. If they’d never offered it, the guy might have worked a bit harder to gather money, but if he’s had a brain he’s have collected everything he could regardless. So basically, Eia just burned 10 million yen for nothing. The outcome of the game wouldn’t have changed either way. Unless she really just wanted to have Outa beaten up. And I guess maybe that is motive enough.

I think what really annoyed me was how smug she looked while holding up her bank book and showing that it really was 10 million. Seriously? That’s even stupider. At the least, only put the money on top if you are going to burn it.

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This show really frustrates me because it’s like the writers keep trying to be clever but it all ends up really dumb or pointless.

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