Dorohedoro, Vol. 5

By Q Hayashida. Released in Japan by Shogakukan, serialization ongoing in the magazine Ikki. Released in North America by Viz.

For a volume with as much plot going on as this Dorohedoro has, it’s interesting how much I found myself drawn to the little things going on in the background. Not just the art itself, which continues to be absolutely amazing, but the things you don’t always notice first time around. Hayashida tends to have any long, detailed exposition in her work contrasted with someone else doing something stupid in the background while it’s going on. Ebisu’s search for her fake breasts (and subsequent use of Judas’ Ear as a replacement) in the midst of En telling the story of how Shin and Noi became partners is priceless, and shows a real love of craft – the conversation is static, so *something* else has to be going on.

Speaking of Noi, she gets the cover this time around, and we get a glimpse into some of her backstory with Shin. The fact that Noi was in training to become a demon is not nearly as surprising to me as seeing that Noi was originally a fairly normal-sized high school girl. Now yes, En said she was training with 150-kilo armor, but the fact of the matter is that she failed her training, and at the end of the flashback still seems to be fairly lithe. How on earth did she bulk up to the huge, muscular Noi we know and love? That being said, the story with her and Shin is short and sweet, and shows Noi’s protective instincts and healing powers off. Noi is probably my favorite character in the manga, so I loved seeing this.

Then there’s Caiman, who’s down in the sorcerer’s world trying to get more info on his head, this time without Nikaido there to back him up. Naturally he gets into trouble, but he manages to get rescued. Much of Dorohedoro seems to revel in showing us hideous creatures in terrifying masks, and then later revealing that they’re just typical people trying to earn a living and stay alive. Even if they *do* have magic powers and/or mutations. Fukuyama is the author’s second “surprise! really a female!” character, and her “magic ability” is both disgusting and hilarious, but Tanba’s the really impressive one here, and I hope we see more of him.

There is a plot here, believe it or not, mostly centering around the “Blue Night” festival, where partnerships are formed and current partnerships are kept and/or broken up. Frequently by force. It becomes apparent that a good way to form partnerships is apparently by knocking your intended unconscious. Hopefully Shin and Noi will be able to reunite and work things out in Vol. 6. (Noi’s outfit, by the way, is yet another example of the odd sense of fanservice that Hayashida has.) En, meanwhile, is still obsessed with finding the sorcerer who can control time… and has finally narrowed it down to our heroine. Indeed, the volume ends with Nikaido literally “dropping in” on En and company. Much to her displeasure.

Things seem to be picking up speed in this volume, and there’s less emphasis on world building and more on the plot. That’s good, because the plot is compelling. You find yourselves rooting for both “sides” to work things out, even if you know it’s unlikely. Heck, even En is fairly sympathetic, even as he tries to bring Nikaido under his control. This continues for me to be one of the most addictive series around, and I cannot wait for Vol. 6. Apparently Viz can’t either, as it’s out in April. Slightly sped up schedule? Win!

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