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Dorohedoro, Volume 1
by Q Hayashida
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It was surprisingly difficult for my brain to adjust to the Right->Left reading order, and on top of that, this world is complicated and a little confusing. Intriguing, though. A lizardman with a creepy guy in his mouth in a nightmare world. Manga's pretty crazy sometimes. I think I might need to check out the anime and see if that explains anything further.
Wow what a great start! I mean, the characters look like sausages with all that combat gear on, and the combat does feel stilted, but what it lacks in those aspect (which I'm sure they'll improve on) it builds off of just being shear fun.
The story is about a crocodile man and a woman who go out to fight sorcerers, they're really good at it, and sometimes, the story cuts to other sorcerer characters where they talk about how much they hate crocodile man and woman; that's about it. Now, I'm not trying to be mean-spirited and say the concept is short-sighted -- no no, far from it -- I'm saying that with this little amount of premise, the story can literally do whatever it wants and that's perfect.
I loved it when crocodile man and woman (no, I don't remember their names... fuck it, it's Kaiman and Nikaido. I looked it up.) bond and travel around "The Hole:" seeing Kamain's workplace, Nikaido making lunch for him even when she's sick, them renting a tent and going to a dive bar to hunt a sorceror, it's one of the most heavy metal, slice-of-life manga volumes out there. How could you take it seriously?
I'll admit that the artwork does look shoddy, with everything teetering to being unshaded, geometric scribbles or ink blotches, but the general premise is still there and has got me hooked to read more. All in all, if you like dumb stuff and feeling happy (in a gritty, teenage-angst sort of way), you couldn't go wrong with this.
Well, this is just plain weird. Caiman was (maybe) experimented on by a sorcerer from another dimension, leaving him with a lizard head. So he goes around with his female butt-kicking sidekick Nikaido looking for sorcerers so he can chomp his giant mouth around their heads so a mysterious man in his throat can look them in the eye and judge if they are the one. If they are not the one -- and Caiman can only find out by asking the sorcerer what the man inside said since he cannot hear the man himself -- Caiman kills them and goes looking for the next. That's only the first half dozen pages, but it gets repeated a lot. And for some reason, I find it pretty funny.
When he's not doing that, Caiman is an idiot loser bopping around a crappy town called The Hole.
Meanwhile, in their home dimension, a group of sorcerers bands together to 1) avenge the death of a friend at Caiman's hands and 2) figure out which sorcerer made this dummy so powerful so they can rip the off and use the magic themselves.
The majority of the pages are filled with gonzo violence, gore, and nudity. This could go south quickly, but right now I'm enjoying the crazy, anything-can-happen ride.
Half of Dorohedoro was awful.
It started out strong and had a good concept. Good characters that I liked and cared about. They were all morally ambiguous, but they were interesting. The art was meh, but it made sense.
Then the middle of the story happened. The artwork descended into ridiculous amounts fan service gore that made no sense. It looked like a bored fifteen-year-old drew it while listening to horrorcore. Ridiculous new characters were introduced and alliances between older characters changed. It became increasingly difficult to track which characters were dead. Nearly all of the characters became flat and uninteresting. Battles were boring and repetitious.
Around 3/4 of the way through, I finally opened up the last volume to see where it was going. I felt as if I hadn't missed anything.
With that, I gave up. Dorohedoro is the perfect example of a manga that should be put out of its misery long before the paychecks stop coming.
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.
Experiments in Manga
A blood-spattered battle between diabolical sorcerers and the monsters they created. R to L (Japanese Style). Caiman was not lucky. A sorcerer cursed him with a reptile head and left him with no memory of his life before the transformation. Adding to the mystery, there's a specter of a man living inside him. But Caiman has one key advantage: he's now completely immune to magic. Along with his best friend, Nikaido, Caiman is hunting down sorcerers in the Hole, searching for the one who can undo his curse and killing the rest. But when En, the head Sorcerer, of the sorcerers, gets word of a lizard-man slaughtering sorcerers, he sends a crew of "cleaners" into the Hole, igniting a war between two worlds.
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