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.

Dorohedoro, Vol. 20

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).

The first thing a reader will notice when they pick up this volume of Dorohedoro is how much bigger it is than previous ones. I’m not sure if it’s due to the move from Ikki to Hibana, or if it’s because they’re trying to pack more chapters in per volume so that it doesn’t get above a certain volume count (Hayashida was supposed to have the series end at 20, which clearly isn’t happening), but extra content is always welcome, especially when it brings us a lot of shocking and surprising plot twists. And yes, some incredibly confusing ones as well, to be fair. Add the return of some fan favorites, and a great big heaping of fanservice, and the average Dorohedoro fan should be quite content.

The shocking plot twists (OK, maybe not shocking for some, but I honestly have trouble keeping up with everything in this series, so I was shocked) involves the true nature of The Hole, as revealed by Chidaruma as he waits for his delicious gyoza (and I can’t tell you how happy I was to see gyoza coming back into play in this series, even if it wasn’t Nikaido making it). The Hole’s creation is tragic and sickening, and it helps to show why the battle between sorcerers and everyone else is such a big deal. We also get a lot more about the true nature of Caiman/Kai/Aikawa/Ai, and the slashes there aren’t just for show, as he seems to be cycling through several of those people (and several of those heads) throughout the book, trying to figure out what exactly happened to him when he fell into the Hole so many years ago.

Then there’s the return of En and company, though honestly it’s mostly En – Shin, Noi and the others play only minor roles here (it is nice to see Shin is no longer controlled by evil, though). I was initially rather startled at how uncaring En was to Ebisu, given how much she’s worked towards resurrecting him, but then again, this is En, and he has no idea what happened while he was gone. Plus, to be fair, Ebisu *is* really annoying, partly as a function of the brain damage she’s suffered but also partly as the author just finds it amusing. Speaking of finding things amusing, most of the fanservice in this series has tended to involve Nikaido and her large breasts, and this volume milks that for all it’s worth, as she gets taken out fairly early in a fight and spends the entire rest of the volume topless and helpless. That too also seems to be the author having fun, especially given that the cliffhanger ending is “OMG, what happened to Nikaido’s boobs?”. I’m not making this up.

In any case, there’s a ton of stuff going on in this volume, and I was mostly able to follow along. Of course, we’re mostly caught up with Japan, so don’t expect the next volume till June. But in the meantime, a strong example of why this series continues to be the SigIkki flagship, even if Ikki is no more.