October 4, 2015
Q Hayashida – Viz – 2013 – 20+ volumes
Every volume of this series is sublime. The story is getting more complicated without explaining much, but at the same time, the weirdness of this series has always attracted me, so I can’t complain.
This volume starts off with some pure nightmare fuel when a “shadow” descends into Ritsu, and Ritsu begins to sprout fingers through his palms, another mouth inside his, a second pair of eyes, et cetera. The resulting mess calls itself “Curse” and messes up the remainder of the Cross Eyes gang.
Elsewhere, Aso wakes up in the forest with what he believes is the human body of Caiman (sans lizard head). The “shadow” is implied to be linked to Caiman, though the shadow is clearly a destructive force and doesn’t seem to possess his will or personality. Neither does his new human-headed form, who would like to be called Aikawa. Except he has dreams about being Caiman, and killing Nikaido, et cetera. His face is partially obscured in the dream, but is clearly the same at the end. But he might just be faking that Aikawa is his name, and that he doesn’t remember anything?
There’s a showdown with En. It’s not clear if the “shadow”/Ritsu has merged with Caiman/Aikawa’s body, or if En’s opponent is actually Caiman/Aikawa. But the character fighting En is pretty badass and ruthless, and seems a lot like Caiman. En is worried because it was only an accident that he won in their last duel. En should worry. This fight doesn’t last long.
Another plot thread is that Fujita is trying to bring Ebisu back to life with Judas’s Ear. En reveals that Judas’s Ear can’t be compelled to use his magic, so there’s several comical scenes of Fujita dragging around Ebisu’s dead, mangled body and trying to get Judas’s Ear to revive her. Which is how this series rolls.
And there’s a Cross-Eyes subplot where Dokuja breaks in and kills everyone in a gang that deals in healing smoke so he can bring the smoke back to the injured Cross-Eyes.
The extra evil is more about devils playing pranks. This will never get old.
I don’t have a whole lot else to say, other than that this is still one of the most unusual, unique manga series out there. The art is fantastic, and the story is so far-out and strange that it’s hard to put it down. In fact, it’s better to read volumes back to back precisely because the stories are so weird, and have so much going on. Volume 16 comes out on Monday, and I think I’m going to be caught up by then. (edit: I am comically far behind on posting reviews).
August 23, 2015
Q Hayashida – Viz – 2013 – 19+ volumes
One of my favorites! I lost this volume, which is how I got so far behind. I was happy it turned up during a re-sort recently. However, it’s been so long since I read it that I can’t recall what is merely mysterious and what has already been explained. A re-read is in order, and it will be a pleasure. Hayashida’s art is so detailed, I’m sure there’s a thousand things I missed the first time through. Actually, she tells a pretty detailed story as well, so that doesn’t hurt either.
For instance, I’m almost positive full-grown Kasukabe is a novelty. What I can’t remember is whether or not we know why he reversed-aged (maybe it had something to do with his wife?). In Dorohedoro, this may not have been explained. It also may never be explained. It’s not important, and mysteries like that make it very charming.
I’m a bit confused about the main thread of the story, which is why I want to re-read it. I know there have been some subtle hints dropped about Caiman and his connection to the Cross-Eyes gang, which are all completely lost on me now. The end of the volume drops a huge bombshell, so maybe I can just pick it up from there, but something tells me I need to go back and re-read. I think he’s heavily implied to be someone else, but I need to make sure it is who I think it is.
Elsewhere, En is still being a bad guy. He comes to pick up Nikaido, and he and Caiman fight. It was somehow less satisfying than I imagined, but it led to said bombshell above, so I can’t be too mad.
Ebisu!!! I was a little sad at the beginning of the volume to see she’d gotten her memories back, and was abusing Fujita with her full faculties. But then. I’m not sure if that’s for real or not, but man. It’s pretty cold-blooded if it is.
I still LOVE the artwork. There are a thousand small things you’ll miss, if you don’t look hard enough at each panel. My favorite here was the En heart tattoo on the bird-mask man’s bicep. I’d just never seen it before. And the sorcerer masks still get me every time. I love looking at them. Then there’s the heartbreaking detail in Ebisu’s scene towards the end of the volume. There’s just so much here.
The Extra Evil in the back cracked me up, but then again it always does. This one was about Chidaruma being a big ol’ eccentric asshole. I loved it.
July 14, 2013
Q Hayashida – Viz – 2012 – 18+ volumes
It’s been awhile! No better way to get back into the groove than with one of my favorites. And there are few series I love as much as Dorohedoro.
The plot advances, in its own meandering way. Caiman and Nikaido dig deeper into a wizard school, where Caiman regains some of his memories, much to his horror. Elsewhere, Shin and Noi are teamed up with Dr. Kasukabe to find out about the leader of the Cross Eyes and do a little grave robbing. Also, members of the Cross Eyes try to get out of paying their rent, and try to get out of a murder rap in the most bizarre way possible. They do battle with a diet bug.
There’s not a whole lot of action, or answers, here. We learn things in the indirect way this series has of getting around to the main point. For instance, Chota picks up Nikaido’s diary and reads aloud, and we learn a little bit about her childhood, her magic, and her relationship to one of the devils. Elsewhere, we learn a lot about the devils when… ah, we see some punishment doled out. By an enormous, armless, inarticulate birdman with knives on his back. There’s a lot of gruesome stuff in this series, but that birdman was true nightmare fuel.
The story also feels like it’s on the brink of changing direction. As I said, there’s a lot of exposition here that has to lead to something big, but the other interesting thing that happens is that Caiman is slowly growing less stable the more he gets his memories back. At one point, Nikaido and Caiman have what the narration refers to as their “last conversation.” With at least nine volumes ahead of us, I find that hard to believe, but it’ll be a lot of fun to see the implications.
I’ve already said quite a bit about this series. The art’s still really great, with a lot of detail, all the usual weirdness is present and accounted for, and its strange storytelling style still hasn’t gotten old. I wish it came out more frequently, and I do hope it’s been doing well.
This was a review copy provided by Viz.
February 14, 2013
Q Hayashida – Viz – 2012 – 17+ volumes
You may think I’m going against the Valentine’s Day theme of my posts today, but it just wouldn’t be right if I didn’t feature heartbreaking in the literal sense of the word. Or maybe it’s because Shin’s mask is a heart, and he loves to break bones and organs. The important thing is that I will use any excuse whatsoever to talk about Dorohedoro.
This was another fine volume, though a lot of time was spent fighting rather than advancing the story. There are a few different threads here. In one, Kasukabe fights with Shin and Noi at the Cross Eye hideout. Shin and Noi are both given a pretty hard time by the Cross Eyes, and one even mutates in order to stop them. We also find out a little bit about Kasukabe’s wife, who is inherently awesome in the present.
Elsewhere, En serves a dinner of mushrooms that taste like steak, but cause the person consuming them to enter a dream world that includes anyone dining with them on the mushrooms. There’s a narrative purpose to this, but like anything else in Dorohedoro, it keeps going in bizarre directions that serve to entertain and… maybe reinforce some character traits? All I know is that Fujita is awesome at taking advantage of the dream world to get what he wants. Eventually all the characters go their separate ways and have their own dreams, all of which end in bizarre personal nightmares.
We’re also following Caiman and Nikaido, who find a Cross Eyes base and try to infiltrate the organization. They gain an ally while doing this, and Caiman is on the cusp of remembering something important at the end of the volume, but other than moving around some, not much happens with these two. Well, I guess Caiman changes out of his tutu, which I don’t even remember him wearing, so there’s that.
Finally, there’s the other faction of Cross Eyes. Risu has been held by them, and while they reorganize after the loss of the shack that Shin and Noi destroyed, we also find out that Risu is no friend of theirs, and Risu begins a flashback that contains a character called Aikawa, who… may be a Cross Eyes, but more importantly, he wears the same mask as Caiman and seems to have the same personality. So that’s a lot of fun, and a definite push forward for the plot. Maybe. If those are actually the same person, and don’t just kind of look like the same person, like Caiman and Risu.
And the art is still fantastic, but I’ve raved about that before. Basically, it’s still very violent (wherever Shin and Noi appear, messy deaths follow), still very funny, and still the most absolutely eccentric series I’ve ever read. I cannot get enough of this, and still wish it came out faster.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
September 9, 2012
Q Hayashida – Viz – 2012 – 18 volumes
This is literally one of my top favorites right now. Of all of them. I know I say that a lot, but it’s absolutely true for Dorohedoro. Q Hayashida builds a magnificent world, and the story is so silly and absurd, mixed with over-the-top violence that I can’t help but like it. But it’s still a massive story with a lot going on, and it’s unfolding slowly and is really pacing itself well. Plus, I’m growing fond of the characters, and she’s got amazing art as well. It’s what I’m looking for every time I pick up a comic.
This volume starts on a strange note, when Caiman infiltrates En’s mansion with his meat bun-selling sorcerer friends. His intention is to rescue Nikaido, but the story is sidetracked for a minute when the mean bun chef is engaged in a meat bun sell-off with an old rival for the privilege of selling meat buns to En. Strange magic is involved. It has absolutely nothing to do with the story, but is one of those wonderful kind of tangents I could read forever that Q Hayashida is so good at. It only helps to give the sorcerers character.
But Caiman does find Nikaido, and ultimately the two are helped by a devil, something else that could use an adequate explanation, but likely won’t get one anytime soon. They re-affirm their friendship, something that needs to be done after Caiman finds out Nikaido is a sorcerer. There are flashbacks to when they first met, and the whole thing is sweet and rather touching, something I didn’t realize Dorohedoro was capable of.
Meanwhile, Professor Kasukabe and company are being treated like guests of honor by Shin and Noi, something completely out of character for those two. That this is happening is still blowing my mind, even after the explanation. Everyone seems to take it at face value though. Professor Kasukabe escapes briefly to find his wife (something else that’s tossed off and not explained, Kasukabe looks like a small boy, but apparently isn’t), and is hoping she can find Caiman and Nikaido. This ends with Kasukabe and his terrifying cockroach monster Johnson stuck in a cabin in the middle of a woods with some deranged cross-eye gang members, Shin and Noi laying dead outside. It was messy. It may or may not have involved brain spigots.
I read it, and I still don’t know what’s going on. I don’t think Shin and Noi are really dead, though. It’s not really a cliffhanger, because I’m sure nobody reading this thought Shin and Noi were really dead. All the same, I desperately want to know what’s going on. Again, this is only one small chunk of a much larger story, and I’m going to have to wait for December for more. Tragedy.
One other absurd detail I liked: Professor Kasukabe keeps the cross-eye gang members back by siccing Johnson on them. They counter eventually with… wait for it… bug spray. Johnson runs away screaming “Shocking! Shocking!” over and over again.
I love that Johnson can exist, and be himself, with no explanation given. That is one of the absolute best things about Dorohedoro.
April 3, 2012
Q Hayashida – Viz – 2012 – 16+ volumes
This comes out way to slowly for my taste. I think I could read all sixteen volumes in one sitting. It’s just so strange and wonderful, and absolutely vague about everything. It’s clearly going somewhere, and what’s coming is going to be wonderful, but it’s taking its time to develop the world while it gets there. Also, the art is amazingly dark and detailed and the violence is over-the-top and absurd.
The Blue Night festivities draw to a close, with contracts being signed, including a new partner for En. This process is detailed extensively, and involves going to a Devil house, some sort of bathing ritual, opening the chest cavity of all concerned with a special handle, and signing all the contracts and whatnot.
After this, the primary thrust of the story is helping the group from the Hole recover from En’s magic (most of them were partially or completely mushroom-ized) and helping Nikaido escape. We learn about the situations around En’s manor not directly, but indirectly through a strange murder mystery that lets us get to know one of the side characters (En’s old partner Chota). He also manages to squeeze in the life story of En in video form, which may or may not be a factual telling. I love that it’s so ambiguous (the video is presented in a way that makes En legendary), and I love that it doesn’t really matter whether it is or not.
Elsewhere, Caiman is still trying to chase down the cross-eyes. His searches take him to a prison, where we get to witness a Devil execution and learn that selling pastries in the shapes of devils is an offense punishable with death. All of this is fascinating, and makes up for the fact that the convict offers very little new information. The Devil execution in particular is fabulous.
The main hint of story that appears to have real purpose, however, is the end of En’s movie, which reveals that his magic completely wiped out a town while he was trying to fight a cross-eyes sorcerer who was completely immune to magic. He thinks he may not have killed this person, and it is his life’s mission to try and determine if this person is still alive. Was this Caiman? Hard to say.
We are no closer to learning about Nikaido’s special magic, nor what’s up with the cross-eyes, but somehow this volume is still incredibly satisfying. Again, it’s the details that really get me in this series. Everyone really does have their own eccentric story to tell, and all the design and story decisions are unique and extremely purposeful. Even the pin-up illustrations sometimes include details that you wouldn’t otherwise notice in the story itself. One particularly nice chapter illustration of Chota shows him with a hole through his hand, which I noticed later is part of his character design, he wears a strange pipe through and around his hand.
In fact, I suspect that what’s actually going on might be less interesting than the Devil execution and the hell toilets and the strange En self-promotion movie that we’ve seen so far. But that’s fine, because the long, strange, and amazingly illustrated ride I’m taking to the destination is enough for me. It is unlike almost any other manga I’ve read, and I absolutely cannot get enough.
This was a review copy provided by Viz.
December 12, 2011
Q Hayashida – Viz – 2011 – 16+ volumes
I LOVE THIS SERIES. It kills me that we’re only getting two volumes a year. The story is so enigmatic and compelling that I could probably sit and read all 16 volumes in one sitting if given the chance. I’m sure the bizarre twists and turns the story takes would be very rewarding.
Once again, the story takes a variety of strange and completely unexpected turns here that only serve to flesh out the setting even more. The focus this volume is a kind of sorcerer’s ball that takes place every four years, where sorcerers choose partners to enter into contracts with. Everyone, from Shin and Noi to En’s pet dog Judas’s Ear, is eligible for partnership, and apparently a valid method of recruitment is knocking your intended out and forcing them. As part of En’s inner circle, and very powerful sorcerers as well, Shin and Noi are highly sought after partners, and both are fending off attacks by the end of the volume.
The better insight is, once again, into the strange social structures and customs in the sorcerer world. It’s just… completely bizarre. The whole Blue Night event is completely unlooked-for, and Hayashida goes all out with the details, creating many different types of events, styles of dress, and all sorts of other little things for the characters to do and get sidetracked with. They are never simply sitting and having a conversation. They are always doing something, usually an inconsequential and unrelated activity, while the exposition is happening. And these things are always wonderful, stuff that you wouldn’t mind seeing or getting a full explanation of (including the boring speeches and plays that seem to make up the formal aspects of Blue Night). I very much appreciate this level of detail.
Meanwhile, Caiman is still running around, doing what he can to keep a low profile, while trying to find Risu and discover who he used to me. En is also closing in on Nikaido, who may possess a type of powerful magic he would very much like to have control of. Neither En nor Caiman makes very much process, but the Nikaido situation may be front and center next time.
My absolute favorite part of this volume, however, was the story of how Shin and Noi met and became partners, which is told for absolutely no reason in the middle of Blue Night. I won’t spoil it, but it’s a wonderful story, and again, Hayashida’s level of detail is incredible. I’ve read a few comments that suggest her art is “sloppy,” but I strenuously disagree. She puts a lot of thought into the design of everything, and watching her reveal the reason behind something is always a little astonishing. This story, for instance, reveals why Noi wears tape on her mask. Except it doesn’t state this explicitly, nor can it really be called the “reason” behind the tape. The mask was simply designed with Noi’s past in mind, and we are only now finding that out. I only realized the reason for the design after I finished the volume and was looking at the cover. Hayashida doesn’t even bother to comment on it. It’s just not important. Yet one more reason to love Dorohedoro to pieces.
It’s probably worth mentioning that the messy, nonsensical, over-the-top violence is still present, if that’s your thing. It’s simply a part of the series, and I love that we can’t go one volume without someone being messily disemboweled at least twice. Johnson is also still around, for some reason, if you’re a fan of man-sized cockroaches that utter the phrase “shocking!” Which I am.