By Q Hayashida. Released in Japan by Shogakukan, serialization ongoing in the magazine Hibana. Released in North America by Viz. Translated by AltJapan Co., Ltd. (Hiroko Yoda + Matt Alt).
The first thing a reader will notice when they pick up this volume of Dorohedoro is how much bigger it is than previous ones. I’m not sure if it’s due to the move from Ikki to Hibana, or if it’s because they’re trying to pack more chapters in per volume so that it doesn’t get above a certain volume count (Hayashida was supposed to have the series end at 20, which clearly isn’t happening), but extra content is always welcome, especially when it brings us a lot of shocking and surprising plot twists. And yes, some incredibly confusing ones as well, to be fair. Add the return of some fan favorites, and a great big heaping of fanservice, and the average Dorohedoro fan should be quite content.
The shocking plot twists (OK, maybe not shocking for some, but I honestly have trouble keeping up with everything in this series, so I was shocked) involves the true nature of The Hole, as revealed by Chidaruma as he waits for his delicious gyoza (and I can’t tell you how happy I was to see gyoza coming back into play in this series, even if it wasn’t Nikaido making it). The Hole’s creation is tragic and sickening, and it helps to show why the battle between sorcerers and everyone else is such a big deal. We also get a lot more about the true nature of Caiman/Kai/Aikawa/Ai, and the slashes there aren’t just for show, as he seems to be cycling through several of those people (and several of those heads) throughout the book, trying to figure out what exactly happened to him when he fell into the Hole so many years ago.
Then there’s the return of En and company, though honestly it’s mostly En – Shin, Noi and the others play only minor roles here (it is nice to see Shin is no longer controlled by evil, though). I was initially rather startled at how uncaring En was to Ebisu, given how much she’s worked towards resurrecting him, but then again, this is En, and he has no idea what happened while he was gone. Plus, to be fair, Ebisu *is* really annoying, partly as a function of the brain damage she’s suffered but also partly as the author just finds it amusing. Speaking of finding things amusing, most of the fanservice in this series has tended to involve Nikaido and her large breasts, and this volume milks that for all it’s worth, as she gets taken out fairly early in a fight and spends the entire rest of the volume topless and helpless. That too also seems to be the author having fun, especially given that the cliffhanger ending is “OMG, what happened to Nikaido’s boobs?”. I’m not making this up.
In any case, there’s a ton of stuff going on in this volume, and I was mostly able to follow along. Of course, we’re mostly caught up with Japan, so don’t expect the next volume till June. But in the meantime, a strong example of why this series continues to be the SigIkki flagship, even if Ikki is no more.