Dorohedoro, Vol. 13

By Q Hayashida. Released in Japan by Shogakukan, serialization ongoing in a Shogakukan magazine to be named later. Released in North America by Viz.

Most of the recent volumes of Dorohedoro have consisted of a lot of what readers are looking for with the series (gore, comedy, the odd gyoza mention) along with small dabs of plot and one big thing that everyone will remember after they finish the book. Last time it was Nikaido’s flashback, which was showing us how traumatized she was as a child and the circumstances that led to her use (and misuse) of her time magic. And I’m pretty sure that after Volume 13, everyone will be discussing what happens in the final moments with Kai and Natsuki. But let’s try to mention a few other things first.

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Given the traumatic nature of what happens at the end of this volume, I knew we would have some humor in here somewhere, and a lot of it comes from seeing genderbent Nikaido, who has to disguise herself using magic to enter En’s mansion, now taken over by the Cross-Eyes. In her male body, she’s still her regular self, and is I believe what anime fans describe as a “keet”. This leads to more fun when she runs into Kai/Caiman, who is still having memory issues and has difficulty dealing with Nikaido being so informal. Particularly when the spell wears off and she transforms back into her buff, stacked, naked body in front of him. (This is a strong volume for fans of Dorohedoro’s fanservice – Nikaido fights as a man bare-chested for a while, and we also see Noi naked after her recovery.

Yes, Noi and Shin have been rescued from being mushroom’d at the end of the last volume. The fact that there’s yet another mysterious En family member with tremendous powers is played for laughs here – this man is able to become invisible, but does too good a job, so people forget he’s there after a while. She’s able to use smoke to heal Shin (via a full-on kiss, which I think startles Shin more than anything else) and they’re back in action. Actually, a great deal of this volume is the En family regrouping, and trying to resurrect their leader. Hasn’t happened yet, though.

And now let’s talk Natsuki. She’s been one of the most optimistic, hopeful and fun characters in the last few volumes, more of a mascot than a real threat. That changes here when a crisis shows off her repressed magic, which has almost godlike defensive capabilities. She’s delighted, but the rest of the cross-eyes are terrified – they know what Kai does to people with strong magic, and immediately plot to get her away from him. But in the end this is *not* particularly an optimistic, hopeful manga, and Natsuki is not one of the main characters. And thus, right before she leaves she runs into Kai, and gets brutally torn apart, in one of the goriest bits of the entire volume. And unlike En, I’m pretty sure she won’t be coming back. Kai is scary. I miss Caiman.

I expect the fallout from this will take up a chunk of Vol. 14, along with Nikaido’s continued practice of her magic and the search for En’s devil-shaped tumor. In the meantime, another fun yet brutal volume of Dorohedoro, which even in its most confusing moments still manages to be exhilarating through sheer verve.

An updated look at Crunchyroll Manga

When I first looked at Crunchyroll’s new manga lineup back in October, it consisted of about 10 Kodansha titles, and its main purpose was essentially to be the Kodansha equivalent of Viz’s Jump – get the most popular titles out weekly to discourage scanlators. (Which has worked, to a degree – not necessarily for speed but for accuracy. I know a few Attack on Titan readers who wait for CR as it will be coherent.) Now, 10 months later, we have almost fifty different titles on the site. What’s been going on?

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Kodansha still has the largest presence on the site, and are still adding new titles that may interest the North American reader, such as the new Onizuka spinoff/continuation. It’s still predominately Shonen Magazine and its subsidiaries, but there has been an effort to add some seinen as well, notably the Morning title Investor Z. (By the way, not all of the licensing is through Kodansha – a large number of the titles on the site seem to be licensed via ‘Cork’, including the Anno ones. Investor Z is one of those.) Most of their titles are ongoing concerns – updated weekly or monthly as their Japanese fellows are. I do note A Town Where You Live has finished, but Vols. 1-11 still seem to be absent from the site – going backwards is not Kodansha’s priority.

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Moyoco Anno has agreed to let several of her more obscure titles be translated on Crunchyroll, from a variety of genres. Most originally ran in the josei magazine Feel Young in Japan, which her her primary outlet these days, though The Diary of Ochibi is a short one-pages that runs in a newspaper.

Then there’s the former heavy movers and shakers at JManga, all of whom are now involved with Crunchyroll to some degree. LEED Publishing, which is Takao Saito’s company, has put out four of its already finished volumes from JManga onto Crunchyroll, I suspect with the same translation. They’re good series, though. I particularly liked Doll. Shonen Gahosha has both old and new titles – Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru and Sun-Ken Rock are basically “license rescues” from JManga that are now on Crunchyroll – not a surprise given they’re both two of the companies more popular unlicensed in print titles – Sun-Ken Rock for its violent content, most likely, and Soredemo for its oddness. They also have Arpeggio of Blue Steel, which Seven Seas is releasing in print here, and Spirit Circle, which gives the appearance of being a fluffy comedy, but… isn’t.

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And then there’s Futabasha, which now has the 2nd most titles on the site thanks to a big push these past few months. Futabasha was the biggest player in JManga as well, but we’re not seeing any of the content that was on there in the past. These are mostly new, ongoing series that run in their main magazine, Manga Action, which it’s pushing for similar reasons to Kodansha. It’s a very different genre, though – Manga Action is seinen and it shows. Even the one title they have by a shoujo author is that author’s debut in a seinen market. As you can see by the cover image of Inside Mari, which is by the author of Flowers of Evil, there’s a lot more ‘sex and violence’ in Futabasha’s titles – a number of what I’d call ‘sex comedies’ and several violent murder mysteries. Futabasha doesn’t really have much shonen, which may be why they’ve always found it hard to grab a foothold in North America, but it’s good to see them making these titles available for curious readers.

The odd title out on this list is The Tenth Prism, licensed via Cork, which is actually a seinen Shogakukan title, running in Big Comic Spirits. It’s by the author of Firefighter Daigo of Company M, so the author isn’t unknown here. Sometimes with licensing subsidiaries you can see titles in places you’d never expect, which is certainly what I’m seeing here.

What can we see from this list, now that it’s so heavily expanded? Crunchyroll Manga is very much catering to male readers. Almost exclusively, I’d say. There’s only one or two titles on there that might be classed as shoujo, and Kodansha, for all that they’re adding Magazine titles, hasn’t put up any ongoing series from Nakayoshi or Betsufure. Futabasha has a shoujo magazine as well, but we’ve seen nothing from it. And the josei we’re seeing, via Moyoco Anno, is for the adult female reader. I’d like to see a few titles for younger female readers on here. Other than that, the main emphasis for most of these series is simulpub – get them out fast to beat the scanlators. It usually doesn’t beat them, as scanlators work from illegal raws released early, but it’s a better product, so the incentive is to wait.

Will Crunchyroll have expanded even more in 10 months time? And which of their newer titles is your favorite?

Oh My Goddess!, Vol. 46

By Kosuke Fujishima. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Afternoon. Released in North America by Dark Horse.

Since my last review of Oh My Goddess back in December, the manga has finally ended in Japan after 26 years, and will be 48 volumes total. For those who were reading this entire arc and noting it felt like a grand finale, congratulations, you are correct. There’s still some stuff to do before we get to what will no doubt be a final chapter with a wedding, not least of which is that Keiichi and Belldandy have to be reminded of something really obvious: she is a goddess and he is mortal. In fact, this is something that has happened to lovers in the past, as we see in the first have of this volume.

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The flashback is painful, as you’d expect, but is also suffused with the selfless love we’ve come to expect from Keiichi and Belldandy, to the point where once the bard dies, the goddess is determined to see what he sang about even if it means her life. Unfortunately, due to the nature of contractual promises, she can’t even get peace in death. They’re being shown this to remind them that love is not worth all this pain that you’ll see in the end, but Oh My Goddess has spent 46 volumes so far showing us that yes, it absolutely is, so this argument doesn’t really hold up.

After last volume’s rewrite of its continuity, where we see that Keiichi was being repressed by heavenly forces to stop him getting it on with Belldandy, we get even more discussion of the original wish that began everything back in Volume 1. The wish: “I want a goddess like you to be with me always” – was said without being serious, but here we see a devastated Keiichi realizing what the burden of such a wish was on Belldandy, and cursing his past self for not being serious enough. Meanwhile, Belldandy confesses to Keiichi that, far from being surprised to see him when she descended to grant his wish, she’d actually been watching him from heaven for some time, and had fallen in love with him before they’d even met.

Fans of the anime won’t be surprised at this, as it also did a ‘we were destined to be together long before that wish’ plotline. It is nice, though, that Fujishima actually goes back to draw Belldandy somewhat like he did at the beginning – a larger marking on her head and her hair darker – to show us how she’s changed since then. (Keiichi, notably, does NOT get seen as his Vol. 1 self, which is fine, as that was more ‘the artist still needs work’.) And so finally Keiichi and Belldandy have pretty much taken every test of their love that can be thrown at them. We’ve even met her mother. And, as it turns out, her father – Gate turns out to be Tyr, Belldandy’s father and the ruler of Heaven.

Needless to say, he decides on one more test for Keiichi to be worthy of his daughter’s love, and even cheerfully frames it as ‘because a dad has to be a jerk to his daughter’s boyfriend’. Any reader of Oh My Goddess will be unsurprised at what happens next – the final battle involves a motorcycle race over an incredibly dangerous path, with K1 even driving a recreation of his regular bike. He also has to do it by himself, without Belldandy in the sidecar. Can he manage it? We’ll find out in March.