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?”.


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?


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.

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.


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.