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.

Dorohedoro, Vol. 10

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

It’s worth noting, in case people have somehow forgotten it amongst all the gyoza and goofiness, that this series is incredibly terrifying at times. Everyone’s pasts are brutal and horrific, and it’s made almost all of them into morally ambiguous killers. The corpses that litter Dorohedoro are almost uncountable. And one of our good guys has a flashback in this volume showing that he collected these corpses and experimented on them. Meanwhile, Ebisu is learning the hard way that you can’t go home again.

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Actually, the Ebisu plotline was probably my favorite part of this volume, if only for the 80 shades of wrong it contained. For one, the entire plotline with her parents is just nightmarish. Their daughter disappears, they are distraught, broken… so they pay a sorcerer to bring her back. And he… is a man with a paint tube mask, something that sounds much funnier than it is given that’s also how he recreates Ebisu. Only it isn’t Ebisu, to the point where her own parents fled their home. And now Ebisu returns to find herself under attack by her own doppelganger. Of all the disturbing art and violence that we get in this volume (yes, even the final scene), Ebisu having her head slashed open is the one that will stick with me. Just… urgh.

Meanwhile, we continue to get flashbacks to the guy that I think is Caiman’s past. His name is Ai, and he’s a sullen teen, all right. He also goes and gets himself killed fairly fast, or so we think. As it turns out, when Shin and Noi dig up the grave, there is a distinct lack of Ai there. It has to be said that Dorohedoro is a very dense manga, and its hints, when they arrive, are not necessarily very revealing. Caiman’s past in particular is difficult as we’re given the fakeout of his being connected to Risu, which turned out to be not quite true (but also yes, it is totally true).

And finally, En wakes up again, and boy is he pissed off. It’s worth noting just how overpowered En is in comparison to everyone else in this manga. He arrives and just completely owns everyone, even Caiman, who is immune to magic… which really doesn’t help when mushrooms are erupting from all of your internal organs. Now En has Nikaido again, and Caiman appears to be dead. He’s appeared to be dead before, but this time he has his own head (maybe) back, and the lizard head is a thing of the past. Maybe.

Leaving aside the batter-fried shrimp sorcerer at the end of the book, this was a fun, if a bit confusing, volume of Dorohedoro. Yes, explanations are thin on the ground, but the story never suffers from the lack of them. I suspect that the story is going to switch back to the cross-eyed gang for a bit given that cliffhanger (and we also get a really sweet/disturbing scene of the cross-eyes reminiscing about their completely insane leader, who I think is also Ai? Caiman? Whatever…). Wherever the story goes, though, I’m right there with it.