Dorohedoro, Vol. 21

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).

I’ve often talked about the fact that I find Dorohedoro very satisfying to read while at the same time immensely confusing. It’s a series with a lot going on, and there’s a lot of characters and locations (and many of the characters also wear masks!). But we’re getting near to the end of the series now, and the author is finally starting to dish out some answers. And it works: this volume felt very strong plot-wise, and I was able to follow Ai’s explanations of what happened to him for the most part. It’s quite a tragic fate, like many of the other fates in Dorohedoro, but looking back on everything with Caiman, Ai, Kai and Aikawa you can nod your head and say “yeah, that makes sense”. Well, except maybe for Caiman, which is openly lampshaded when Nikaido admits she has no idea who he is now.

Speaki9ng of Nikaido, there’s an explanation of that “cliffhanger” ending from last time – she’s turning into a devil more and more, and is now much taller and getting cloven feet. Unfortunately for her, En is back in business, and he’s still obsessed with having her as his partner, but we’ll see how that goes. In fact, most of the band is back together, as Shin is sane again and reunited with Noi, and the rest of the decapitated heads are getting bodies again (though almost immediately they’re mushroomed by En, who’s trying to save them). And yes, poor Ebisu is still roundly humiliated, though as always it’s in the most hilarious ways – En remotely creates a mushroom body from one that’s on Ebisu’s head, which causes her head to end up as the remote body’s crotch – something she finds hilarious, as you’d expect. What follows is a long, protracted mushroom war, as En shows off how powerful and clever he really is – though even he may be no match for the devil Chidaruma, who is gloating triumphantly on the cover for a reason.

I know I’ve said this in seemingly every Dorohedoro review to date, but my God there is a lot of truly graphic violence in this book. Decapitations, eviscerations, blood and gore on almost every page. There’s casual deaths, casual eye gouging torture, and Ai’s entire flashback, which is filled with flesh-melting horror. This all culminates in Chidaruma slaughtering everyone in Haru’s flying house, so that the house itself begins to bleed. Never let it be said that Hayashida doesn’t know how to do grotesque imagery. The art is a plus as always, and even though I still sometimes get a few of the characters confused (particular when they have masks on), it doesn’t matter because there’s always something on the page to marvel at. Dorohedoro is speeding towards a climax (I think – it’s still running in Japan), and now that the books are a good 80-90 pages longer each time, there’s even more reason to run out and buy it.

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