Dorohedoro, Volume 1

Creator: Q Hayashida
U.S. publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9781421533636
Released: March 2010
Original release: 2002

When Dorohedoro, Volume 1 by Q Hayashida was first published under Viz Media’s Signature imprint in 2010, I never quite got around to reading it. Lately, however, I keep seeing the series mentioned and so my interest in Dorohedoro has steadily grown. Since April 2012’s Manga Moveable Feast focused on Viz Signature manga, it seemed an opportune time to finally give Dorohedoro a try. The first volume of Dorohedoro was originally released in Japan in 2002. The series, running in the magazine Ikki, is still ongoing but has so far been collected into sixteen volumes. Viz Media published the sixth volume of Dorohedoro in April 2012. The series has a small but devoted following in English, but otherwise it doesn’t seem to be very well known. In fact, if it wasn’t for word of mouth from fans, I probably would have never gotten around to reading Dorohedoro, which would have been a shame.

A battle has broken out between sorcerers and non-magic users. The sorcerers travel from their world to the Hole to practice their magic on the people there, leaving the Hole polluted and their victims deformed and often near death. Caiman is one such victim, although luckier than most. His head might look like a lizard’s, but it is perfectly functional (which is unfortunate for the sorcerers he meets) and he only suffers from a bit of amnesia. But the fact that Caiman can’t remember exactly who he is or who transformed him doesn’t stop him from trying to kill any sorcerer who crosses his path as he searches for the answers to those questions. The deaths haven’t gone unnoticed. A cleanup crew is sent after Caiman in an effort to put an end to him and the damage he is causing. The sorcerers are now in a hurry to find whoever transformed Caiman, too.

Dorohedoro is well deserving of its mature rating—the manga is extremely violent, elaborate, and graphic. Whether it’s crushed eyeballs and brain spatter during a fight or the grotesque aftermath of a sorcerer’s experimentation and magic, Hayashida’s detailed artwork doesn’t miss a moment of it. There is blood, guts, and gore galore and the manga is both literally and figuratively “in your face” about it. I mean, the very first panel shows Caiman with a sorcerer’s head shoved down his throat. Hayashida’s character designs are very imaginative although the variety is a little dizzying since no cohesive theme is readily apparent. The only obvious similarity (and it’s not much of a similarity since they are all different) is that each of the sorcerers wear a mask of some sort. Caiman’s design is probably my favorite though and his facial expressions are great.

I did not expect the first volume of Dorohedoro to be as funny as it was. I certainly wouldn’t call Dorohedoro a comedy, but there is a black sense of humor that underlies the entire manga. If I had to call Dorohedoro anything, it would probably be “bizarre,” and not at all in a bad way. The characters, too, are all a little quirky and odd. Caiman, as incredibly vicious as he can be, is also somehow charmingly endearing and goofy. (Maybe it’s just seeing how delightfully happy he is eating gyoza that makes him so likeable.) The other characters are fascinating as well and all have very distinct looks and personalities; there is absolutely no chance of confusing one for another. Although there are still plenty of mysteries left to unravel, Hayashida’s world seems to be fully developed in all its grungy glory. Once again the artwork captures all of the dirt and grime and unpleasantness perfectly. Ultimately, Dorohedoro, Volume 1 is a rather strange manga, but it is also highly entertaining and visually engaging.

My Week in Manga: April 16-April 22, 2012

My News and Reviews

Another week, another couple of reviews. I had the opportunity to review an advanced copy of Patrick W. Galbraith and Androniki Christodoulou’s Otaku Spaces from Chin Music Press. It’s a great volume that lets otaku speak for themselves. The book is easy to recommend. I also reviewed Blade of the Immortal, Volume 8: The Gathering by Hiroaki Samura. This is part of my project to review the entire series, so expect to see another Blade of the Immortal post sometime next month. I’m still loving the Blade of the Immortal.

A quick Aniblog Tourney update: Shameful Otaku Secret! won its first round match which means that it and Experiments in Manga will be facing off in the second round next week. The poll will open on May 1st. If you enjoy participating and voting in these sorts of things, make sure to check out Shameful Otaku Secret!—there’s some great stuff going on over there. I’ve been getting a kick out of discovering new writers to follow from the tournament. I do get the impression that the anime blogging community is larger than the manga blogging community though, so I’m wondering how the manga blogs will fair considering that. There are certainly fewer manga-centric blogs in the tournament.

This week is April’s Manga Moveable Feast! This month we’re focusing on the Viz Signature imprint. The Manga Critic is kind enough to host. My quick takes this week feature manga from the SigIKKI line (basically, titles from Ikki magazine published under the Signature imprint). Wednesday is the start of Experiments in Manga’s monthly giveaway; you’ll have a chance to win the first volume of I’ll Give It My All…Tomorrow (also from Viz Signature). Finally, I’ll be posting an in-depth review of the Dorohedoro, Volume 1 on Friday. Happy Feasting, everyone!

Quick Takes

Children of the Sea, Volumes 1-4 by Daisuke Igarashi. I once gave Children of the Sea a cursory glance in a bookstore and then put it back on the shelf when it didn’t immediately grab my attention. That was a mistake. I’m glad I gave the series another chance because I’ve fallen in love with it. While Igarashi’s artwork is excellent from the very beginning, the story of Children of the Sea develops very slowly and deliberately (with the occasional infodump). I love how Igarashi mixes mythology and legend with reality to create an intriguing and almost mystical tale. The series is still ongoing in Japan. I’m not sure if or when we’ll see more volumes in English, but I really hope that we do.

Dorohedoro, Volumes 1-3 by Q Hayashida. I’m not sure why it took me this long to finally give Dorohedoro a try. I’ll definitely be picking up the rest of this series. Hayashida is a phenomenal artist. Her work is highly detailed and very graphic, perfect for the story’s violence. Dorohedoro is a rather strange manga. It’s goofy in a lot of ways, too, without really being a comedy. The series has a dark sense of humor with great dialogue and memorable characters. Caiman’s head has been transformed by a sorcerer into a lizard’s. With the help of his companion Nikaido, he’s searching for whoever cast the spell on him, killing plenty of other sorcerers along the way. Understandably, the sorcerers aren’t happy about this and so a pair of assassins are sent to take care of him.

House of Five Leaves, Volumes 5-6 by Natsume Ono. My introduction to House of Five Leaves was through the anime adaptation, but my love for the anime easily carries over to the manga. The series is actually my favorite manga created by Ono. I am enjoying seeing a slightly different perspective on the story. Most notable is the addition and development of characters outside of the core members of the Five Leaves. The characters and their relationships with one another are still the most important elements in House of Five Leaves. The plot is almost non-existent but becomes more apparent as characters’ motivations are slowly revealed. I’m really looking forward to the release of final two volumes.

Kingyo Used Books, Volumes 1-4 Seimu Yoshizaki. As a book lover, and a manga lover, I can’t help but be fond of Yoshizaki’s Kingyo Used Books. While one of my life’s dreams is to own a bookstore; reading Kingyo Used Books makes me want to own a manga shop or cafe. The chapters are fairly episodic (although they do frequently feature recurring characters) but they all celebrate the love and importance of reading and manga in people’s lives. Yes, these tales can be a little over dramatic from time to time, but I generally found them to be delightful. The volumes also include extensive notes on the specific titles that are featured in the stories. The only real “problem” is that many of the manga highlighted aren’t available in English and now I want to read them.

Norwegian Wood directed by Tran Anh Hung. I haven’t actually read Haruki Murakami’s breakthrough novel Norwegian Wood (shocking, I know), so I can’t really compare it with the film’s interpretation of the story. Kenichi Matsuyama, who I happen to enjoy watching, is cast well as the lead in a tale of love, loss, and sexuality set in 1960s Japan. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the soundtrack is quite good. The narrative is somewhat fragmented but the cinematography is lovely and has a slight art house feel to it. Large portions of the film have little dialogue or story development but simply sit with the characters. Overall, it’s a beautiful film although some of the more emotionally climactic scenes are overwrought.