Why to Watch Doronjo (2022)

I wavered a lot on if I was going to ‘review’ Doronjo on my blog. In retrospect I probably should have known I wouldn’t be able to shy away from at least talking about it – after the first episode aired I wrote a page and a half of my feelings on it in my journal. At the same time, I did want to keep it my little ‘secret’ as much as a mass produced and distributed piece of media could be. But how I didn’t even hesitate putting it on my year end list before it technically finished (it was on there in drafts and I kept it in), was another big indicator.

Regardless of my back and forth wavering, I should tell you a bit about Doronjo. The story follows Dorokawa Nao (Ikeda Eliza), and Hijirikawa Aika (Yamazaki Hirona) two female boxers facing off for the world championship selection for Japanese representative. Nao has trained at a bankrupted gym for years in grit, grim, and sub-par facilities. Meanwhile, Aika is training in a pristine facility and active as a influencer. The duo, long standing rivals from opposite side of the boxing world clash. The their fated meeting in the ring isn’t reflective of the tragedy and bouts that await them after the winner is declared.

Oh, and I should mention that this is meant to be the origin story/prequel for Doronjo in the Yatterman series. It’s also not for the faint of heart, so please do double check tags and trigger warnings. Also, before continuing any further I do want to mention that this post will contain light spoilers for Doronjo as a stand alone drama. Please procede with caution before reading further.

Ikeda Eliza’s performance.

Like many in the fandom space, I have my preferences in performance and performer. I won’t say I’m a super fan of Ms. Ikeda, I think that’d be a bit too far. I will admit I don’t think I’ve ever seen her in a bad role, and that overall I really do think she’s an amazing actress. So when I saw she was in fact cast as the title character, Doronjo – I went “oh that’s kinda neat”. Upon reading that this production was going to have boxing be the main premise, and that she had practical experiance in fighting (she did/does MMA for fitness) – I figured it should at least work well with her at the helm.

Her performance here, I have to say is her best of 2022. She has a knack for the roles that fall into the dark/mysterious woman but without coming off as type-casted in any sense of the word. Nao is the kind of character that you don’t relate to in the slightest, but can’t help but root for. Not in the cheesy ‘she’s the underdog’ way, but in the ‘she was wronged, now how will she right it?’ way. It’s hard to describe, and I’d imagine even harder to perform but Ikeda Eliza does it with an air of ease that’s so unsettlingly good.

The fights are brutal but awesome, and even over shadowed by falling action.

I anticipated that the fight scenes would be epic. If you’re going to make a story with two female boxers and not have it look like an upgraded cat fight – there better a time investment. The time to have pro’s come in and make a believable fight choreography. The actors should make the time to learn some solid basics and memorize as much of the choreography as they can. At last, the directors and camera crew should take the time to make sure the hits connect and have resounding impact afterwards. All of which Doronjo does. These fight scenes make the story what it is, because not all of them happen in the ring, so to speak.

What I did not anticipate was the cold sweat of ‘something is wrong’ of the events that unfolded after the original match. The fight or flight instinct was so strong in that first episode it left me breathless. It’s one thing to get sucker punched by devastatingly good fight choreography. But when the falling action afterwards steals the scene and makes the show? It makes the drama all the better.

How Disabilities are represented.

A lot of media tends to be very careful about how various disabilities are represented. There’s a lot of nuance to representing disabilities via media that thankfully, collectively we’re getting better at. You can see this especially in Japan with the rise of disabled protagonists that were shown on screen leading to, and post Japan’s hosting of the Para-Olympics. It’s a nice trend that I hope becomes a standard instead.

What you’ll also notice is that most disabled characters are presented always as ‘good’ in the simplest sense. At times they are somewhat infantilized due to their disability. Overall there is the sense that you, the viewer and the able-bodied cast members, are more likely to cause them harm then they ever would to you.

Being point blank, Doronjo takes that concept, disabled characters being inherently ‘good’ people and – intentionally or not – and does a bit of a remix on it. In episode two, Doronjo has her left leg amputated from the knee down, making her an amputee specifically, and more broadly disabled. While she is the protagonist of this story, she is not ‘good’. Similarly, there is a support child character called Chako who uses hearing aids. Chako is not inherently ‘good’ either. I’ll talk more about that in my final point.

The point for this section is that Doronjo makes the bold choice of having two disabled characters that aren’t non-threatening, ‘good’, or tokens. They have their good and bad points, make good and bad choices that make them regular people just like everyone else. While I understand that many viewers won’t agree with this take, I think it adds a lot more nuance to how disabilities are represented in Japan then we’ve seen previously.

Victory and Justice are not black and white.

“I want to create a world without evil doers”, is a translated line from Aika in the series. She often repeats a variation of it at least once per episode. It’s that thought process that leds her to work with her partner Gan (Kaneko Daichi), in creating the Yatterman/Yatterchat an online website where users could submit tips/info on crime. Basically, it’s a vigilante justice website.

Which, at surface level doesn’t sound awful. In fact, given Aika’s status as beloved boxer and influencer takes off! But what happens when the crime isn’t cut and dry? For instance, what happens when the criminal has no choice to make ends meet other then crime? What if that criminal is at a disadvantage due to sociality ills or a physical ill? What happens when it’s your former opponent on the screen, and the crowd is jeering for justice? The Yatterman is only tips, and opinions – there is no nuance allowed.

As Aika’s justice of white, mixes with Nao’s injustice of black, the Yatterman chat reveals the crime is rarely ever black or white. That the causes and circumstances do re-frame how we perceive something, and it’s rare to be given those nuances. Especially in an incresingly online world where the initial video is all we see.

Final Thoughts

Doronjo isn’t going to be for everyone. It’s a series that packs a punch both in a very literal, and very metaphorical sense. For those that are willing to take the chance, you’ll be rewarded for your time. I can’t recommend this series enough. So I’d love for any other watchers to comment down below your thoughts, and anything else you might have in regards to this series!



Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s