By Q Hayashida. Released in Japan by Shogakukan, serialization ongoing in the magazine Ikki. Released in North America by Viz.
Once again I am struck by how much this manga develops close bonds of friendship and respect between people who, were they in the real world, would be horrible monsters. En and his gang, Caiman’s ongoing search for Nikaido, even Kasukabe’s strangely distant yet loving relationship with his (as yet unseen) wife. The reason I bang on about how much I like Dorohedoro is that its world building makes it FEEL like a world. This is a place where life goes on even when the protagonists are not on screen, and has people whose priorities are more than simply helping the hero carry out his master plan. Let’s face it, finding your lost friend is all well and good, but there are pies to be sold!
And Dorohedoro also has a glorious sense of humor, not afraid to let everyone embarrass themselves in the name of broad comedy. Thus we have Pieman, Caiman’s alter ego while in En’s mansion, who looks like a refugee from Burger Time with fake breasts. Even better, not only does Caiman pretend to be Tanba’s new wife, but he finds himself getting too into the role, needing to actually remember what he’s here for. As for the pie battle itself (between Tanba and a rival merchant/ex-girlfriend), it ends the way you’d think, even with the use of supernatural aid on the enemies’ side.
There is also Risu and his attempts to connect with a gang of cross-eyed. I will admit that I still tend to find the parts of the manga with Risu a weak point of the book, mostly as he’s simply not as boisterous as our 4 protagonists and not as downtroddenly pathetic as Fujita. I know he has a story that will pay off down the road, however, so it’s worth paying attention. Likewise, I find Chota’s obsession with En to be a bit much, but then that’s how it’s supposed to be. And his imitation of Nikaido is quite funny (you just know this will end badly for him).
There’s darkness afoot, though – this is still a dark and gory manga. First we have Nikaido, still possessed for about half of this book, getting her back sliced open by… well, as she says it’s not caiman, but it’s certainly connected to him in some way, just as Risu is. Unpleasant stuff, especially given how happy-go-lucky Caiman is in general (there’s a nice heartwarming flashback to how he and Nikaido first meet, and he gets his name). Secondly, when chasing after Kasukabe and company, who have gone to visit his wife and found some nasty goons instead, Shin and Noi get the crap beaten out of them – indeed, Shin gets left for dead. Which no doubt will prove to be a mistake, as the cliffhanger shows a not-dead Shin preparing to wreak his revenge.
The beauty of Dorohedoro, in addition to his morally grey but fun characters and its amazing crapsack world, is that after finishing a volume you can’t wait to see what’s next. That’s absolutely the case here. Bring on Vol. 8, I have to know how Shin wins!