Suzuo Sakurazaki just moved to the big city, but unfortunately the economy's going through a bad phase. He can't find work. However even he isn't so desperate as to accept the offer from a little girl called Tanpopo who wants him to become a superhero for her toy company. Not immediately, anyway. Eventually he agrees. However soon afterwards, he discovers that Tanpopo's suit is fully functioning and that her company's also hired Tokyo-trashing supervillains to fight him as a product demonstration for the Galaxy Federation Police.
Dokkoida is a parody of superheroes, but I've grown hostile to parodies. Even if you're familiar with the original, too many of them rely too much on the parody elements and don't work hard enough on developing their own drama, characterisation or humour that's actually funny. However fortunately this one's good. Marshall Law will always be my favourite superhero pisstake, but Dokkoida comes a respectable second. The key twist is that as a cost-cutting measure, the Galaxy Federation Police hire apartments for all their agents in the same building (Cosmos House). Suzuo and Kosuzu (aka. Dokkoida and Tanpopo) unknowingly live next door to their rival superheroes and supervillains. Thus you have Neruloid Girl storing her beer in Dokkaido's fridge and chatting with Dr Marronflower about the building's superintendant. Eventually even in costume they develop a neighbourly kind of antagonism.
I can't remember seeing another superhero story with this kind of domesticity. It's charming. I particularly like the Suzuo-Kosuzu relationship, which is fortunate since they're the main characters! It's sweet, but not sugary. As Tanpopo, Kosuzu is a hard-nosed, unforgiving boss who bullies Dokkoida and pays him a pittance. However off-duty she's just a normal ten-year-old girl who's doing her best at her job and is genuinely fond of her "big brother". They're oddly convincing as siblings.
Suzuo Sakurazaki himself is the kind of central character who could easily have been a bland nonentity around which the more interesting characters revolved. Anime like this often struggle to establish a personality for their leading males, but I liked Suzuo. It helps that this isn't a harem show. He's not quite the usual "insert your own face here" nice guy, having an extra dimension that makes him more than the sum of his parts. He's a whimsical goofball and absolutely not a natural hero, although his heart's in the right place. Only his courage isn't. Admittedly his emotional turning points are occasionally a bit cheesy, but that's how he plays Dokkoida from beginning to end. When he dons the suit (a cuddly Iron Man in a red cloak and a nappy), he becomes Mr Cheesy Superhero... maybe he's just following the job description or maybe he has corn in his soul, but the show milks it gleefully. He also has a good line in offbeat comedy and some lovely gentle moments.
It doesn't hurt either that his voice actor, Daisuke Namikawa, does great work. He has the knack of making me laugh at lines that on the page wouldn't look funny.
This show worked for me because it's about its characters. We see their off-duty lives, which cast new light on their quirks and personalities. Dr Marronflower may be a cackling mad scientist and space pirate, but he also likes lying around the house all day playing video games. The stuck-up Ruri/Edelweiss is secretly lonely. Sayuri/Hyacinth the scarily buxom leather-clad dominatrix really does spend her nights flagellating Pierre her shapeshifting beastman and love slave.
Much of the show's comedy comes from clashes between superhero formulae (Western or Japanese) and reality, domestic concerns or the characters' inexperience. Some of its parody targets are universal. Comic books the world over show outrageously-breasted women, while I love the slyness of portraying superhero clashes as a purely financial battle of the franchises. Even Dokkoida's theme song becomes a plot point! However much of it is specifically Japanese... Dokkoida's speechmaking and Neruloid Girl's nude transformation sequence are following in Sailor Moon's footsteps, while shouting out the name of your attack harks back to seventies giant robot anime like Mazinger Z.
Those are just the show's more obvious targets. Some are obscure or just plain weird. I'd never seen a Grave of the Fireflies parody before. Episode ten skewers the entire Japanese TV industry... its shameless panderings to paedophiles and perverts, the otaku who lap it up and the self-serving creeps who make it, railroading parents' complaints about unsuitability for children. The show even points and laughs at the gratuitousness of the Hot Springs episode, as seen in seemingly almost every anime ever.
Episode eight made my skin try to crawl off my body and hide quivering in the corner. This was of course deliberate. They're parodying incest anime, hentai computer games and other such unwholesome products of diseased Japanese imaginations. Yes, that's right. Incest anime. Episode eight pushes the genre (yes, genre) until it breaks, which arguably makes it unsuitable for innocent Western minds. My brother thinks I'm a freak because of all the weird shit I watch, but this had me almost screaming. No actual wrongness takes place, but oh my giddy aunt.
They even guest-star characters from real incest-themed anime, complete with the original voice actors. Dokkoida's cast watch them on TV. We see Matagu Shido and Mizuho Kazami from Please Teacher/Twins, which I actually like, and Hinako and Karen from the shudder-inducing Sister Princess. That's a harem show about a boy and his twelve sisters on Promised Island, complete with flirting and sexual innuendo. I'm afraid so.
Dokkoida occasionally teeters on the brink of the harem genre, if only by virtue of its parody of harem shows. The lead character is a kind-hearted lad living alongside lots of women. That's the formula right there, but fortunately the show bends over backwards to avoid it. Kosuzu and Ruri are ten years old. Sayuri and her porn star breasts are scary. Kurika is pretty, but she's Dr Marronflower's faithful robot. I could imagine Suzuo settling down with Neruloid Girl once they've got over her laddishness and binge drinking, but even imagining romance between any other combination of these characters would make you want to sandblast your brain.
There's an odd conclusion which could be read as implying that everything after a certain point is the flash-fantasy of Dokkoida's final moments and in fact everyone died. You'd need to be fairly ingenious or twisted to think of it, though. Our heroes win. It's a happy ending.
I liked this show a lot. Its parodies work, though you'd have to have watched some scary anime to get all of them. Its characters are funny and charming, with a heartwarming central relationship between Suzuo and Kosuzu. It's not a big important industry-shaping show, but it's an enjoyable one.