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.

Dorohedoro, Vol. 19

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 missed Caiman. Yes, there’s a question as to who the real Caiman actually is, but I don’t care, I’ve missed THIS Caiman, the big goofy guy with the lizard head. Nikaido clearly has as well, even though she’s a lot more wary about his appearance than I am, even losing her perpetual happy face for a bit as she tries to work out what happened. Admittedly, what happened it not exactly clear to the reader either: it’s very fitting that when she explains to Caiman everything that’s happened to him for the past year, and asks if he understood, his response is an immediate “No”. I feel you, Caiman. We’ve all been there.


After the last volume, I was hoping for a bit less blood and guts, and to a certain extent that’s true, as we exchange it for a lot of scenes of people walking around trying to figure things out or avoid figuring other things out. In addition to Nikaido and Caiman, we have Dr. Kasukabe and Haru, who are trying to outthink our main devil leader and failing rather badly; the decapitated remains of En’s gang, who are having trouble doing much of anything at all, though ironically they may achieve more than the rest of the cast here; and Ebisu and her amnesiac slave, who are just trying to get En’s body back to the rest but are unfortunate enough to be the latest ones to run into Zombie Shin. Hope that goes better for them than it did the last group.

The big fight here is between Haru and Nikaido/Caiman, and it goes very badly very fast. So badly that Dr. Kasukabe is actually killed, and when I saw that I knew what was coming next. Sure enough, after Haru went berserk and annihilated Caiman (who must be getting tired of having his head killed in so many ways… melted this time), Nikaido breaks out her sorcerer’s magic and reverses time so she can stop the fight. This is always a dangerous narrative thing to do. Fans seem to have no issues with resurrecting people from a head in a jar, or a literal hell with devils, or all sorts of other kinds of magic, but time travel to rewrite the past still seems somewhat taboo. Still, we’ve seen Nikaido use it before, and I’m sure we will again, as she has two chances let.

This definitely now has the feel of a storyline that’s building to an ending, though it’s not quite over yet in Japan. I am hoping that the En half of Dorohedoro’s cast herd stops being a pile of body parts and gets to do something soon, and it would be nice to see Shin snap out of whatever zombie funk he’s in. And I’m not sure I want Nikaido being a devil either. With most stories you yearn for the characters to grow and change as the story comes to an end, but I have to admit, I just want my goofy gyoza lovers and violence-happy sorcerers back, please.

By the way, best joke of the volume has to be Caiman getting disgusted by a severed hand on the Store Knife, not realizing that it’s his OWN hand from the aborted future. A joke you can only pull off with Nikaido around.

Dorohedoro, Vol. 18

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

Well, I said last time that I thought Dorohedoro might get a little more gory in the next volume, and I was not wrong. Dorohedoro is something of a horror-fantasy-comedy, and frequently the horror elements take precedence, as they do in this volume big time. It mostly plays out with the fates of Shin and Noi. Noi’s love for Shin has seemed a bit one-sided at times, but we no know that he does want to protect her, even if it means slicing her brain open and inserting Sho’s ‘thingy’ into her head. (I’m sure the sexual implications are intentional.) Of course, he should maybe think about protecting himself, as somehow (as always, it can be difficult to follow chains of events without a reread) Shim ends up in a corpse factory, and seemingly killed and turned into a murderous zombie. Whoops.


Not that things are any better with the other groups. Fujita’s invisibility has worn off, and he’s forced to make an uneasy peace with the cross-eyed guy, though we hear both of them ;planning to double cross each other later. (Fujita is good at being idealistic and self-sacrificing, less good at scheming.) Of course, given they run into zombie Shin, neither plan is really going to come off. Noi, once she recovers from Shin’s lobotomy, ends up finding a trail of body parts, Hansel-and-Gretel style. And Nikaido’s group is torn up as well, as the department store is going to hell – possibly literally – and Risu and Asu both end up getting taken out over the course of the volume. This may not, admittedly, matter much to Nikaido, who is getting more like a Devil than ever, and spends most of the volume with a giant :D expression on her face.

In between all this gore, there is still something of a plot, most of it taking place with Kasukabe, who through a wacky set of circumstances ends up inside his wife Haru’s devil body, as the devils attempt to figure out what the hell is going on with Ai. Your guess is as good as mine, but we do see that Ai and company apparently have a revolving set of heads, although some are already dead. Whatever it is, it leads to a cliffhanger that I wasn’t expecting, as Nikaido discovers Caiman – with his lizard head, and seemingly with his regular old gyoza-lovin’ memories. The reunion will have to wait for next time, though. Oh yes, as an added bonus, we see what’s happening with En in hell, and it’s not pretty, though it is pretty funny.

I’ve often said Dorohedoro is not for the squeamish, and this volume proves that more than ever. But if you don’t mind blood, gore and dismemberment in graphic detail, it’s hard to think of a title out there with more style than this one. Which, as anyone will tell you, is far more important than pesky things like a coherent plot.