Dorohedoro 9

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.

Dorohedoro 8

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.

Dorohedoro 7

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.

Dorohedoro 6

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.

Dorohedoro 5

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.

Dorohedoro 4

August 25, 2011

Q Hayashida – Viz – 2011 – 15+ volumes

I’m just speechless. I always am when I read a volume of this. It’s so wonderful. It continues to develop its plot while being about nothing. And every once in awhile, it does something shocking to make sure you’re paying attention.

I’m pretty sure the most shocking scene in this volume was when a monster-ized Noi eviscerated Shin. This is tangentially related to the plot, since it has to do with the nature of Ebisu’s magic. Apparently Ebisu’s skills might get us closer to the mystery of Caiman. We also learn a smidge more about the cross-eye gang, and there’s some knowledge that passes between Caiman and Nikaido. Other than that… there’s lots of meandering.

A big part of the middle of the book is, for no reason, dedicated to a baseball game. Fujita comes to the Hole to get revenge on Caiman for killing his partner, but instead is drafted into a baseball game between the hospital staff that Caiman works for and… a rival medical organization (I think they treat victims of magic abuse?). The rivals are mostly old men. When the boss is introduced, he has several hypodermic needles protruding out of his skull. When Fujita asks, he casually mentions that they are anabolic steroids. Shocking.

On Caiman’s team is a gigantic humanoid cockroach named Johnson. Because the other team is mostly old men, and Caiman’s team has people like Caiman, Nikaido, and Johnson on it, the game is easily won. They never speak of it again.

Eccentric is probably the best way to describe this series. Eccentric and shocking. I love that it is definitely going somewhere, but taking its time about it and stopping to smell the roses along the way. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially since Hayashida is really good at building up her unusual setting and giving all the details you could possibly want on it.

Dorohedoro 3

January 7, 2011

Q Hayashida – Viz – 2011 – 15+ volumes

I don’t know what to say. This is far and away my favorite of all the Ikki series I read. Mainly because it deals with three of my favorite themes: humor, violence, and genuine weird.

How weird? At one point, Caiman and Nikaido go into a restaurant. As soon as they walk in, a waiter greets them and assumes they’re there to use the toilet. Caiman is confused, and tells him they are there to eat. Then the waiter explains that theirs is a fire toilet that connects directly to hell. Caiman and Nikaido then sit down to eat. Nothing more is really said, until later we briefly see the fire toilet during a scene where Caiman is almost recovering his memory. The toilet is never spoken of again.

That’s why I love this series.

That, and the ridiculous violence. At one point, Shin and Noi break up a group of bullying sorcerers when Noi chops one directly in half with her hand and splits him in half from head to crotch. Shin, Noi, Nikaido, and Caiman all do a lot of casual killing. At one point, Caiman complains about having to stuff the bodies in a dumpster. Shin and Noi seem less concerned about disposing of those they murdered. It’s so casual, too. Caiman and Nikaido almost have a reason (sorcerers torture them in the hole, one turned Caiman into a lizardman and stole his memories), but Shin, Noi, and En seem to kill people because they don’t like them. In this volume, they also kill a lot of sorcerers tied to the mysterious performance-enhancing black powder.

And that’s the other great thing about Dorohedoro, is that while all this weirdness is going on, there’s still a plot that’s moving forward quite clearly. En is still trying to discover the meaning behind the mysterious head that Shin and Noi cut off of Caiman, and he does everything from trying to resurrect it to giving it a new robot body. Meanwhile, Caiman and Nikaido go on an adventure together that I won’t spoil too much, but I love seeing Caiman exploring a new place and new things. His reactions are often tinged with violence, which suits the mood of the series oh-so-well. We also get to meet a gang of rogue sorcerers that appear to have the same eye markings as Caiman.

We even almost get a little bit of character development! Does Nikaido like Caiman? How does En feel about those he keeps close? Who is that head, is it Caiman?

And the art’s still wonderful. I just can’t get over how much detail there is. There are many, many lines, but they all illustrate something. For instance, in a small illustration of Caiman, you can just make out his eyes squinting in his mask, with the lines that indicate exasperation underneath them. The sorcerer’s masks, their gloves and clothes, and just everything about the environments and objects in this comic is detailed and incredible. And with all the detail, the style is still grungy and dirty, and it suits the series perfectly. I can’t stop looking at it.

This is really, really great stuff. I can see how it might be an acquired taste and too bizarre for some, but I hope it’s finding a niche of readers that love it as much as I do. You can read it on the SigIkki site for free, but I like to torture myself and wait for the graphic novels so that I don’t spoil myself. They come out so slowly, but it’s always worth the wait.


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