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.

Dorohedoro, Vol. 12

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

This volume of Dorohedoro is particularly good at showing off all the myriad reasons why it’s become one of the more addicting seinen manga out there. There are some amazingly violent fight scenes, some hysterical humor, a dose of complete insane weirdness, and some truly visceral horror – and not body horror this time around. I had wondered at first how long the series could keep its premise up, now I worry that with the series ending in Japan soon it won’t have time to tell me everything that I need to know.

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Let’s start with the violence, which spirals out after En’s death. And En definitely appears to be dead this time, though there’s a suggestion they can reverse it if they find Judas’ Ear, who is missing. En’s people are somewhat gutted by this – even Noi, who notes that she hated En for forcing her into all of this, but still feels at a loss. As for Fujita, he’s absolutely devastated, having flashbacks and trauma from finding the body. Luckily, Shin knows that everything will be solved by finding the parties responsible and killing them. Finding the cross-eyes is the next step, and killing them mostly goes well, at least until the climax. Hayashida knows just how to choreograph fights, and also that her audience does not mind seeing splattered limbs.

Her audience also wants a healthy does of humor and weirdness, both of which dovetail nicely with the creation of a living En doll to try to lead them to the location of the real En, assuming he is alive. This involves baking a giant pizza, out of which the doll En them rises. If you can’t quite understand what I’m talking about, that’s because it makes no sense unless you see it. Any time Turkey appears things are odd, but this one takes the biscuit. We then get a very amusing chase scene, as the Doll En has a mind of its own and is not interested in letting Shin and Noi keep up with it. If you combine this with the ongoing humiliation of Natsuki (involving nudity this time, natch), we’ve got a lot of laughs in here.

But what I suspect folks will take away from this volume is the flashback that explains Nikaido’s past, who she’s so reluctant to do magic, and the horrors of time travel. Some lessons, particularly when you’re a child, need to be learned firsthand, and this is a particularly horrifying and bitter one for Nikaido, whose friend is lost forever thanks to her own folly about time magic. It contrasts with the cover art with Asu and a child Nikaido, with a blue sky and blooming flowers belie the serious contents within.

And so, in the end, we have something for everyone, a little bit of plot advancement, a lot of weird humor, and some terrifying existential terror. In other words, all the reasons to read Dorohedoro, encapsulated in one book. At least until the next volume, when I assume we’ll find more. We even see the gyoza fairy again!

Dorohedoro, Vol. 11

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

I’ll be honest, it can be pretty easy when you’re reading Dorohedoro to simply forget about the plot and characters and just let yourself be led along. Not that the plot and characters aren’t terrific – they are, even if 3 volumes a year means that ti can be hard to recall who is what much of the time. No, it’s just that Dorohedoro is possibly the most sensory manga being released over here now that Children of the Sea (also an Ikki title, you’ll note) has finished. Chapter 63 in particular would be hilarious or terrifying if it weren’t just so fascinating, watching these partial corpses go about their day inside the fractal dreams of Caiman and Nikaido – well, perhaps Caiman. We’re *really* not sure about him anymore.

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See, that’s Caiman on the cover – only it isn’t. He has a regular head, and is calling himself Aikawa. In fact, the similarities to Ai from flashbacks are unmistakable. And he seems to have some memories from before – he certainly wants to avoid Nikaido, and after she forcibly makes him show his face, promptly runs off again. As for whether he’s a good guy or a bad guy, let’s remember that this is Dorohedoro. There are no good guys here. I assume he will continue to be a major plot point.

As for other heroes, they’re not having the best volume either. Nikaido is back in En’s clutches, but seems determined to not help even if it means her death – her memory of her childhood past is still holding her back. It looks as if En is going to force the issue… but then comes the end of the volume. Remember last time when I said it showed off how overpowered En was? Well, he’s just run into Curse, and may be firmly dead now. Yikes. Fujita fares slightly better, managing to restore Ebisu to something resembling life… sadly, she has a lucky hairpin stuck in her brain, and so her mind is somewhat broken. Of course, that’s not really a big change from before.

In a series where no one is quite what they seem, and identities change from day to day (oh look, there’s Risu – whoops), that may be why I keep getting drawn back to the art. It seems more sinister and horror-movie than usual this time around, and even the gratuitous fanservice comes in the middle of a big action sequence. The artist recently revealed that she’s trying to end the series with Volume 20 (one volume more than planned by her publisher), so we’ve just passed the halfway mark. As such, if everything is accelerating downward, it should be no surprise.

There’s not even a lot of humor here, beyond the dark as pitch kind. As I said, the images of all the head and torsoless bodies wandering around the city, doing their daily business is sort of creepy-amusing in a Shintaro Kago sort of way. And there’s the thought process of Judas’ Ear, one of the few characters, along with Natsuki of the Cross-Eyed gang, who can still be described as innocent. (You could throw Fujita in there as well, but I find it hard to do so in a volume he spends trying to resurrect his dead crush.)

In short, reading Dorohedoro remains a head trip, and you have little choice but to let it drag you along. Even if it’s headed to hell, as is becoming increasingly apparent.