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.

Dorohedoro, Vol. 22

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).

In general, one does not really read Dorohedoro for the romantic pairings. That isn’t to say there aren’t any in the fandom, or even in the manga itself. Noi pretty clearly has a giant crush on Shin, though it’s uncertain if it will be requited. There’s something going on between Ebisu and Fujita, though given the way the author uses Ebisu as sort of a walking disaster, I’m not certain if that will go anywhere either. And then there’s Caiman and Nikaido, which honestly has gotten the least attention. Yes, Caiman has a lizard head, and they’ve spent a great deal of the story separated from each other for one reason or another, but the writing of the series also seemed to indicate that these two were more “best buds” than anything else. But romantic or no, the two have one of the strongest bonds in the series, and the events of this volume try their damnedest to strengthen it and tear it to bits.

Actually, Nikaido gets more to do here than in any of the volumes since we found out about her backstory. She’s finally fully evolved into a devil, and is ready to take on the massive sorcerer-killing THING that’s walking all around the Hole and its environs ramping up the body count massively. (Yes, despite the fact that I say this literally every review, a word of warning: this volume of Dorohedoro is astonishingly violent and gory.) But even the Store Knife that cuts everything may not get them out of this one. The creature (which Chidaruma, who spends the entire volume essentially being Deadpool, nicknames “Holey”) has a one-track mind, immense powers, and the ability to defend itself to a ridiculous degree, which includes making miniature rainstorms to wipe out a group of sorcerers who took shelter in the hospital. It’s really not a good volume to be a sorcerer, and lots of the future corpses mention that they’re connected to En’s group. That said, the characters we actually know from said group seem to be OK for now.

As for Nikaido, she does an awesome job, but let’s face it, by the end of the volume she’s been killed, used up her time travel abilities, is no longer a devil, and then is killed AGAIN. It’s just not her day. The most interesting part of the volume may be her discussion with Asu and Caiman about the way she views time-travel, which doesn’t quite mesh with most time-travel narratives a reader may have come across before. It’s always nice when Dorohedoro slows down long enough to have these conversations. Of course, the question now is whether they’ll be much of a cast left to deal with things after this. I’m taking a wild guess that Caiman will be able to do something about Nikaido, but that likely doesn’t fix the overall disasters that are befalling this entire world, and En and company aren’t in good shape either. Can Dorohedoro ever get back to some sort of equilibrium by its finale? Dunno, but I’m in this for the long haul.

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.