By Q Hayashida. Released in Japan by Shogakukan, serialization ongoing in the magazine Ikki. Released in North America by Viz.
I’ll be honest, it can be pretty easy when you’re reading Dorohedoro to simply forget about the plot and characters and just let yourself be led along. Not that the plot and characters aren’t terrific – they are, even if 3 volumes a year means that ti can be hard to recall who is what much of the time. No, it’s just that Dorohedoro is possibly the most sensory manga being released over here now that Children of the Sea (also an Ikki title, you’ll note) has finished. Chapter 63 in particular would be hilarious or terrifying if it weren’t just so fascinating, watching these partial corpses go about their day inside the fractal dreams of Caiman and Nikaido – well, perhaps Caiman. We’re *really* not sure about him anymore.
See, that’s Caiman on the cover – only it isn’t. He has a regular head, and is calling himself Aikawa. In fact, the similarities to Ai from flashbacks are unmistakable. And he seems to have some memories from before – he certainly wants to avoid Nikaido, and after she forcibly makes him show his face, promptly runs off again. As for whether he’s a good guy or a bad guy, let’s remember that this is Dorohedoro. There are no good guys here. I assume he will continue to be a major plot point.
As for other heroes, they’re not having the best volume either. Nikaido is back in En’s clutches, but seems determined to not help even if it means her death – her memory of her childhood past is still holding her back. It looks as if En is going to force the issue… but then comes the end of the volume. Remember last time when I said it showed off how overpowered En was? Well, he’s just run into Curse, and may be firmly dead now. Yikes. Fujita fares slightly better, managing to restore Ebisu to something resembling life… sadly, she has a lucky hairpin stuck in her brain, and so her mind is somewhat broken. Of course, that’s not really a big change from before.
In a series where no one is quite what they seem, and identities change from day to day (oh look, there’s Risu – whoops), that may be why I keep getting drawn back to the art. It seems more sinister and horror-movie than usual this time around, and even the gratuitous fanservice comes in the middle of a big action sequence. The artist recently revealed that she’s trying to end the series with Volume 20 (one volume more than planned by her publisher), so we’ve just passed the halfway mark. As such, if everything is accelerating downward, it should be no surprise.
There’s not even a lot of humor here, beyond the dark as pitch kind. As I said, the images of all the head and torsoless bodies wandering around the city, doing their daily business is sort of creepy-amusing in a Shintaro Kago sort of way. And there’s the thought process of Judas’ Ear, one of the few characters, along with Natsuki of the Cross-Eyed gang, who can still be described as innocent. (You could throw Fujita in there as well, but I find it hard to do so in a volume he spends trying to resurrect his dead crush.)
In short, reading Dorohedoro remains a head trip, and you have little choice but to let it drag you along. Even if it’s headed to hell, as is becoming increasingly apparent.