If its premise is any indication, Dendrobates is incredibly simplistic. It's hard to call it woefully underwhelming when it does not setup much expectation from the onset. That said, it does have some merit for what it is—a largely episodic tale with a rinse-and-repeat layout that occasionally has smaller story arcs strewn out in-between. The overarching plot does leave the palate a bit unsatiated, because it is not developed or explored in enough depth at least to this author's taste, and it's a bit predictable if you've read much seinen or watched much anime in general. That said, the episodic parts are at least diverse
and bring a unique story each and every time.
As the premise states, the plot is pretty straightforward. Sengawa is our anti-hero that is by day a clumsy, unsuspecting police accountant, and by night he is an assassin for hire that takes on jobs to deliver his own form of vigilante justice. This actually kind of interesting—and it is, for the first fifteen or so chapters. But the overarching plot itself is not actually addressed until much later in the course of the manga. At the very least, this does not distract from the enjoyment of watching our douchebag villains get knocked off in the most elaborate and gruesome of ways. Yet while there is satisfaction to be had through that, the plot is simply cut and dry. If I'm sounding repetitive by saying that, then I'm doing a good job of echoing the form of Dendrobates' plot.
That said, in the realm of characters—it does have some likeable characters. Most of them don't live very long, outside Sengawa and a few other policemen. Development, given the plot, is incredibly minimal. Arguably, it does not exist at all. From the onset, Sengawa is a murderer with something of a conscience. He seeks to right wrongs, to dispense justice where the justice system itself cannot or would not do so adequately enough. By the end, he's largely in the same position he started off in. And none of our other characters get much exploration themselves.
The art is perhaps the strongest point. It is clean, clear, and detailed. It's part of what makes this manga so easy to pick up and read. The frames are actually structured pretty flawlessly to help you follow along with all of the action scenes.
Ultimately, Dendrobates' biggest problem is development and character exploration. It's shallow, it's dry. It's like eating a snack rather than a meal—for a brief moment it is enjoyable, but it won't sit with you in the long run.
Not saying this is the best manga ever or trying desperately to get people to read it, however, I think if you enjoy Seinen, action, and movies like John Wick, then this manga could be right up your alley.
Story=7 Yes, the story is predictable, but don't you just want to see bad guys being bad and then getting their asses totally handed to them without too much complication sometimes? What this manga lacks in ingenuity it makes up for in just plain satisfying action like shooting, explosions, stabbing, oh, and did I mention shooting?
Character=10 While the story is pretty basic, the character is actually
quite a wonderful creation. His origins, the symbolic relationship with the frog (just look up Dendrobates), his superhero duality, and his psycho-killer demeanor make for a fun combination. Yes, Sengawa is a hero, but he's more an anti hero in the line of Dexter, probably a sociopath and certainly murderous, but somehow ends up in the right.
Art=7 The artwork is, however, sadly up and down. Some panels are superb, 10 out of 10, which was what attracted me to the manga in the first place. The thick use of black color blocks and interesting angles make for tantalizing stand alone pieces in many of the chapters of this manga. But the art doesn't always keep up throughout. With some weird proportions and messiness that sometimes can even lead to confusion as to what is actually happening in the scene, I had to give it a 7.
Overall, though, at only 58 brief chapters, this wasn't too long of a commitment, so why not give it a try? Enjoyable, fun, and satisfying (did I mention the shooting?), I would recommend this to anyone looking for some action-packed distraction.
So far this manga has surprised in me wonderful way. Even though it seems like it will have no depth at first as you progress through the initial chapters you'll find yourself pulled. There is plenty of action and just enough mystery and intrigue to keep you reading. Some may think this a Deathnote copycat but it does have it's own flavor and the main character while slightly cliched is interesting. You really don't know what to think about him as he is kind of erratic. The other supporting characters are well done and add to story and aren't just used to take up
pages. Overall I am looking forward to continue reading this series and I hope if you haven't, you take the time to read this series.