~by Q Hayashida
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.