Dorohedoro, Vol. 15

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

Readers of this manga will know already that it can be very, very violent and blood-filled. It’s not all buff babes and gyoza, there’s a good deal of death and dismemberment – the main reason it’s rated M, in fact. But even for Dorohedoro, Vol. 15 really pushes the envelope of what its readers can take, offering up some truly disturbing and grotesque imagery. And it’s actually rather fitting, as the main character sees his various personas fractured beyond belief… oh yes, and we find out that the main character has been a lot more characters than we may have previously believed.

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This is not really news for anyone who has been following the plot of the last few volumes closely (and if you are one of those people, I commend you – I love this series, but half the time I can’t remember what’s going on), but this volume spells it out: Caiman = Aikawa = Kai = Ai. Of course, we as the reader know this, but the cast are still somewhat in the dark. The cross-eyes wonder why their boss doesn’t have the distinctive markings. Risu needs to know more about the details of his curse. And En’s group don’t really care about Ai, as they’re still trying to find a way to resurrect En, who is busy attempting to incite rebellion in Hell (and failing), thus showing us that he really is dead. But as we’ve seen in Dorohedoro, death rarely means much. (Unless you’re Natsuki. Sorry, Natsuki.)

Dorohedoro is so addictive in part due to its imagery, and there are some excellent examples here. It rains in the Hole, which is pretty much unheard of – and bad news for most sorcerers, who find it nearly crippling to them. Nikaido may now be able to use her magic to change time and other deus ex machina things, but it comes at a cost – her magic is now literally rendered as a giant gun with only 5 shots, and she’s already used one of them – four left and then she has no more magic ever. Oh yes, and she’s still dealing with the whole ‘devil horns’ thing. And as for Ai, fusing with a giant mutated monster covered with severed heads seems all too appropriate given what’s been happening with him.

This far into the series, I’m not sure there’s much to offer the new reader, but there’s also not much to make old readers drop it, either. What we’ve gotten before is what we get now. There’s some amusing humor scattered throughout. There’s some nudity and fanservice once in a while (for a certain definition of fanservice). Sometimes we get both together, as when a recovered Ebisu realizes she’s naked among a group of her close friends and completely freaks out. But most of all, Dorohedoro has finally started to answer most of the mysteries it’s been posing, and we’re eager to see what’s going to happen next. Will En be resurrected? Will Nikaido manage to save Caiman? Is there even a Caiman to be saved? Provided you can accept the fact that this volume is twice as disgusting as a normal Dorohedoro volume (is there such a thing?), you’ll enjoy pondering these questions as well.

Dorohedoro, Vol. 14

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

I pretty much had my jaw on the floor through this entire volume, though halfway through it changed from boggling at Nikaido to boggling at Kai and company. As always with Dorohedoro, there’s a lot going on and it’s pretty unforgiving to those who don’t remember previous volumes, but that doesn’t stop it from being a stunning read every time. In addition, we get another reminder that behind all these masks, many of the main characters are female. Gender reveals of Nikaido and Noi occupied Volume 1, but Hayashida still enjoys doing it, so we get two more here (though I think we already knew them and I had forgotten).

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A couple of vlumes ago I had discussed Nikaido dealing wht her past and childhood, and how the misuse of her magic led to her best friend being erased from existence. This in turn led to her suppressing her own powers. So now that her power is needed, we have to have some shock therapy to speed things along. I could have done without the attempted rape dream sequence, to be honest, but it is a dream sequence, and ends up being more about Nikaido confronting her own fears and demons. Once that happens, not only is she gaining the abilities (and looks!) of a devil, but her power is now kind of scary. We see this as she returns to her own past, and this time manages to save her childhood friend and set time right (sort of). Nikaido’s abuse of time powers was a powerful message in the earlier books, but it’s now come full circle, and I was stunned.

Meanwhile, most of the second half of the volume deals with Kai’s rampage against sorcerers, who he and his gang have been slowly killing off. Dokuga and company are feeling a bit uncomfortable with this, but “the boss” is still “the boss”. Natsumi has disappeared, though, and just isn’t answering her calls. There’s an air of something about to snap here, and it all comes to a head in Tanba’s restaurant (also providing a good excuse to put him on the cover), with a huge fight that ends with Kai getting his face literally cut off by Kirion… not that this stops him, as several more heads (apparently devil tumors?) arise from the wreckage, and now Kai seems to be Aikawa. The whole Kai/Ai/Caiman/Aikawa thing the series has been playing with is about as close to getting confirmed as possible here.

The remains of En’s merry band don’t get as much to do here, though they do send Fujita off on a reconnaissance mission to find En’s devil tumor. No one is more surprised at this than Fujita himself, but Sho informs him that he is “the one who loves En’s family the most’, which is really sweet. Oh, and in case you were wondering about Ebisu, she provides the best moments of humor, with her puppet conversations, and also a brief moment of heartwarming, as she wishes Fujita good luck after he’s left (because God forbid he should hear her or something).

When Dorohedoro finishes, it’s going to be one of those series that’s amazing to marathon in one whole sitting. Till then, we are grateful for getting these volumes at four-month intervals, and the next one can’t come fast enough.

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.