Dorohedoro, Vol. 23

By Q Hayashida. Released in Japan by Shogakukan, serialized in the magazines Ikki, Hibana, and Monthly Shonen Sunday. Released in North America by Viz. Translated by AltJapan Co., Ltd. (Hiroko Yoda + Matt Alt).

I knew it had been a while since the last volume of Dorohedoro, but I did not realize that it had been a year and a half. It’s been a long journey – the manga started here in 2010, so almost ten years ago. And in Japan it’s been since 2002. This volume is packed – it’s 350 pages long, so essentially a double volume – trying to get everything resolved before the end of the series. As a climax, I think it’s very fitting. It is not without some last minute deaths (the Cross-Eyes, who have been the designated butt monkeys of this series, continue to fare badly) and is filled with lots of blood, gore and zombies, as you’d expect from Dorohedoro. But for the most part, this is as close to “and they all lived happy ever after” as you’re going to get from this story, and I was quite pleased. (It also stayed firmly on the side of “this is not about romance” – the three “couples” are together, but there’s nothing suggesting they aren’t just friends.)

I really can’t discuss this volume without discussing its major brilliant move. Caiman, for the most part, has been defined by his search for who is the head in his mouth – we now know – but also by his love of gyoza. This love has been far more than just a light coedy personality thing for some time now, but it’s in the final volume where it reaches its zenith. To stop the sorcerer-destroying monster, Caiman is made into a sorcerer, which gives him a magic rod that he can use how he sees fit. This ends up essentially turning him into Magical Gyoza Caiman, complete with a magical familiar gyoza, which we have, of course seen before. Together Caiman essentially functions in this final volume like Sailor Moon, going up against tthe big bad and the big bad’s final monster, and trying to rescue his friend, who has died. It’s Episodes 44-45. Except that Caiman actually survives.

Once this is taken care of and Nikaido is resurrected (she does not get much to do here, but her arc resolved before Caiman’s), it’s time for the epilogue. Well, actually, we do see Shin and Caiman join forces to defeat the monster right at the end, despite still having an understandable antipathy between each other. The epilogue shows Shin and Noi are still partners, Fujita is the only one who seems to think of honoring the dead, and that more than being a devil or being a sorcerer, Nikaido wants to run the Hungry Bug. Oh yes, and there’s Turkey, who offhandedly remarks that they apparently transitioned to a female for the past few years – something that En’s family notably doesn’t care about in the least, instead being more surprised that Turkey’s mask IS a turkey you can eat. I thought this was a terrific offhand character moment that fit right in.

And so we end Dorohedoro. Easily the most popular of the series that Viz debuted under the SigIkki imprint, I believe that its end means the end of that imprint as well, though I could be wrong. It was worth it. This was a badass, dark but hilarious journey from a woman manga creator filled with violence, nudity, friendships, tragedy, magic, and gyoza. I loved it.

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