Dorohedoro, Vol. 18

By Q Hayashida. Released in Japan by Shogakukan, serialization ongoing in the magazine Hibana. Released in North America by Viz.

Well, I said last time that I thought Dorohedoro might get a little more gory in the next volume, and I was not wrong. Dorohedoro is something of a horror-fantasy-comedy, and frequently the horror elements take precedence, as they do in this volume big time. It mostly plays out with the fates of Shin and Noi. Noi’s love for Shin has seemed a bit one-sided at times, but we no know that he does want to protect her, even if it means slicing her brain open and inserting Sho’s ‘thingy’ into her head. (I’m sure the sexual implications are intentional.) Of course, he should maybe think about protecting himself, as somehow (as always, it can be difficult to follow chains of events without a reread) Shim ends up in a corpse factory, and seemingly killed and turned into a murderous zombie. Whoops.

dorohedoro18

Not that things are any better with the other groups. Fujita’s invisibility has worn off, and he’s forced to make an uneasy peace with the cross-eyed guy, though we hear both of them ;planning to double cross each other later. (Fujita is good at being idealistic and self-sacrificing, less good at scheming.) Of course, given they run into zombie Shin, neither plan is really going to come off. Noi, once she recovers from Shin’s lobotomy, ends up finding a trail of body parts, Hansel-and-Gretel style. And Nikaido’s group is torn up as well, as the department store is going to hell – possibly literally – and Risu and Asu both end up getting taken out over the course of the volume. This may not, admittedly, matter much to Nikaido, who is getting more like a Devil than ever, and spends most of the volume with a giant :D expression on her face.

In between all this gore, there is still something of a plot, most of it taking place with Kasukabe, who through a wacky set of circumstances ends up inside his wife Haru’s devil body, as the devils attempt to figure out what the hell is going on with Ai. Your guess is as good as mine, but we do see that Ai and company apparently have a revolving set of heads, although some are already dead. Whatever it is, it leads to a cliffhanger that I wasn’t expecting, as Nikaido discovers Caiman – with his lizard head, and seemingly with his regular old gyoza-lovin’ memories. The reunion will have to wait for next time, though. Oh yes, as an added bonus, we see what’s happening with En in hell, and it’s not pretty, though it is pretty funny.

I’ve often said Dorohedoro is not for the squeamish, and this volume proves that more than ever. But if you don’t mind blood, gore and dismemberment in graphic detail, it’s hard to think of a title out there with more style than this one. Which, as anyone will tell you, is far more important than pesky things like a coherent plot.

Dorohedoro, Vol. 17

By Q Hayashida. Released in Japan by Shogakukan, serialization ongoing in the magazine Hibana. Released in North America by Viz.

Despite all its violence and loving depictions of chopped-up corpses, Dorohedoro has always had a loose relationship with actually killing characters off, given that there are several deus ex machinas in this universe able to resurrect someone from the dead given enough time and materials. No one really doubts En is eventually going to be back, for example, and even though Fujita lay at death’s door and lost an arm in the last volume, he’s fully healed early on here. This is why when we do see genuine death it has an impact, even if there’s something in the back of our heads saying “are they reeeeeaaallly dead?”.

doro17

Natsuki’s death in Vol. 13 was such a death, and it gets confirmed here in the worst way, as Ton, the one most dedicated to finding her true fate, ends up sharing it. This is actually sort of sweet and touching in a horrible way, as Ton comes across her body, now strangely mute, but can’t escape where he thinks they are. There’s even a ‘going into the light’ cliche to show off that yes, they are indeed dead. The same can’t be said for the rest of the cross-eyes, though, as even though the majority of them are horrible butchered by their boss, who they’ve finally decided is not worthy of following, we could still see them come back, as we were able to save the corpses’ heads. It’s that kind of series.

Meanwhile, En’s party is also discussing death. Sure, they have Noi, and Judas’ Ear, but there’s still some kinds of lethal blows that you just can’t fix. Luckily, there’s an operation that makes a person virtually unkillable, even if they get their brains blown out. Admittedly, the operation is almost always lethal, but that’s why you do it on someone like Noi, who already has amazing resurrection powers. I love that Noi hates this, and regards it as a safety measure because she’s too weak – something Ebisu is quick to point out is basically correct. When you have the ability to heal anyone from certain death, you get coddled a bit, whereas Noi just wants to keep punching people till their bodies are piles of goo.

And then there’s Nikaido, whose motives are becoming more and more questionable as she gains more and more of her devil powers – her usually expressive eyes get narrowed to pinpricks, and the gyoza she made in a devil-induced flurry last time seem to be dangerously addictive. It’s a bit difficult to talk about morality in a series like Dorohedoro, where even the nice and sweet people happily go around butchering passersby. But you get the sense that something here is off, that Nikaido is heading down a dangerous road. This is not helped by the absence of Caiman – Risu just does not have the same ability to restrain her weirder impulses. In the meantime, we’ve now gathered the entire cast at the department store setting, and Fujita has managed to find En’s tumor, so I suspect the next volume may contain even more gore than this one, if that is strictly possible. Assuming you can get past the gore, highly recommended as always.

Dorohedoro, Vol. 16

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

One thing that Dorohedoro is lacking in is traditional romantic love. Very few of the characters do anything in this title because they’re in love with someone else. As a result, you get to think more about their motivations and why they’re going to such lengths, be it Noi’s kohai adoration of Shin, Fujita and Ebisu’s awkward teasing, or everyone’s respect and allegiance to En, even now that he’s dead. And then there’s Nikaido, who certainly seems to be going above and beyond for Caiman, using her “you can only use this a few times” magic in order to go back in time to try to figure out what’s going on with him. Why is Nikaido going to such lengths? As we see here, those lengths may be having side-effects as well – will Nikaido become a full-fledged devil?

dorohedoro16

This does lead to the funniest part of the book, though, where Nikaido uses her newfound devil powers to become MASTER GYOZA CHEF. Dorohedoro’s sense of humor has always been a bit skewed and violent, but it’s also been based heavily around gyoza, and it’s the same here. Sadly, it doesn’t last long, as Nikaido wakes from her massive food preparation unable to even remember what she was doing. (We also get a lot of fanservice from her this volume, as turning devil means a lot of exposed skin). But again, Nikaido’s motivation for Caiman seems to be based on their true friendship, rather than any romantic feelings.

The same goes for Fujita, who gets the bulk of the drama in the second half of this book. His non-presence has been a joke throughout the series, and now he’s using it in order to find out how to revive En. But he’s also young and impetuous – it’s just he’s been with people like Shin and Noi, so comparatively he’s looked meek. When he discovers the one behind En’s death, he cannot resist trying to get revenge. He’s pretty awesome about it as well, even if it does mean losing an arm and possibly dying – that’s the danger of cliffhangers. You can tell that it’s serious business as we see him without his mask – unlike Shin, Noi or Ebisu, he’s had his mask on almost the entire series. Oddly, he looks a lot like many other male characters. (Drawing different faces is not Hayashida’s strong suit.)

Meanwhile, of course, there’s the main plot, which as always is the most diffuse part of the book. What’s going on with the various factions fighting for power? Will we get to see En resurrected? Will Risu be able to control his desire to kill caiman? Is Caiman even good or evil anymore? I want to find out the answers to these things, but don’t really mind that it’s taking a while. In a series that’s all about the mood, the fact that the plot meanders is by no means an impediment. Dorohedoro remains a fascinating manga.