Story: Q Hayashida
Art: Q Hayashida
Translation/Adaptation: AltJapan, Inc.
What They Say
Once a year, hordes of the dead rise and roam the streets of the Hole, hungry for live flesh. And every year, Caiman and Nikaido sign up for the local zombie-killing contest! Whoever sends the most zombies back into the ground will win some fantastic prizes. But the fun ends quickly when En’s cleaners finally track down Caiman and Nikaido. Somebody’s going to lose their head. Literally.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Dorohedoro’s first volume introduced an exciting world, but its simple premise of revenge could have easily let Q Hayashida and her characters fall into a comfortable formula. Fortunately, she seems well aware of this in the full-color prologue at the start of this volume. Caiman and Nikaido’s routine is laid out in all its predictability: Hunting down a sorcerer, Caiman nibbling on his target’s head, Caiman finding out the sorcerer is “not the one”, stabbing the sorcerer in the gutter, and wrapping it up by feasting on gyoza. Just as the reader is soon tired of this state of affairs, so is Caiman. Without finding the specific target for his revenge, it’s just a gory waste of life. It’s time to press on, and the biggest question I had was how Hayashida was going to put off the inevitable fight between Shin and Caiman, a fight that somebody wouldn’t walk away from. Of course, she has no plans to put it off at all.
The seventh chapter takes place on the Hole’s Night of the Living Dead. While most zombie invasions are apocalyptic in scope, in the Hole, a plague of zombies is just another annoyance, as burdensome and predictable as tax day. The magical pollution the sorcerers have unleashed has twisted the world into a charnel house, where violence is predictable and commercial. Priests have placed tokens in the throats of the newly dead, and those who dispatch the reanimated corpses can claim these tokens to win fabulous prizes. Caiman and Nikaido set their sights on a meat grinder with the cost of a mere 180 tokens, but the festivities are interrupted by the arrival of Shin and Noi, head sorcerer En’s cleaners.
Caiman is cocky and spoiling for a fight. Assuming Shin is like other sorcerers who have become overly reliant on their magical powers, he’s taken by surprise by the assassin’s skillful use of hammers as weapons. Caiman is able to bite Shin’s head, allowing him to find out that Shin is not the sorcerer he seeks, but he does so at the cost of his own head, which is knocked clean off.
To everyone’s surprise, this is but a minor inconvenience to Caiman. Though he loses consciousness, the mysterious face at the back of Caiman’s throat can be seen in the crimson spray from his neck stump. Noi and Shin are further surprised to discover that Nikaido is also a sorcerer, who summons a doorway to take Caiman’s body to safety. Shin is badly wounded in the altercation, so the Cleaners retreat as well, giving Caiman some time to recuperate and re-grow his lizard head. The doctor finds Caiman’s escape suspiciously convenient, and warns the seemingly immortal man that Nikaido is probably a sorcerer. Caiman refuses to believe such a thing, but we’re left wondering why Nikaido is so reluctant to use magic, and willing to join Caiman in the systematic murder of her own kind.
Hayashida’s delightfully morbid humor is still present in this volume, as Caiman decides the best course of action is to preserve his old, decapitated head in formaldehyde and display it in a jar. He’s eventually convinced by Nikaido to have the doctor perform an autopsy on the head, but a freak blackout occurs and the head is stolen. This prompts Nikaido to tell Caiman the unusual circumstances of their meeting: She came across his decapitated body in an alley, and he apparently regrew a lizard head once before. No longer a simple case of human to animal transmutation, the mystery of what exactly happened to Caiman deepens.
Meanwhile, Shin and Doi concede to En that they may have met their match in this seemingly-immortal lizard man. En suggests enlisting the help of an oddball sorcerer named Turkey to try and track down the mysterious man in Caiman’s throat. Turkey constructs a gourmet clone of the cross-eyed sorcerer, and Shin and company follow the homunculus back to an apartment where a suspicious safe is found. In the safe, Shin and Noi discover the decomposing head of the cross-eyed sorcerer. It appears the man in Caiman’s throat is already dead.
This volume goes in so many unexpected directions and brings to light so many oddball facts that it’s hard not to be disappointed by the volume’s final chapter, in which Nikaido faces off against a boxer who’s using magic to cheat. It seems to be just the kind of “rival of the week” story that Hayashida had so far avoided, and it doesn’t really develop Caiman or Nikaido in any significant way. It is the first time we catch a glimpse of Nikaido’s sinister Jason Voorhees-style mask, but this only raises more questions we must wait for the next volume to answer.
Part of what makes Dorohedoro so enjoyable is that all of the characters, human and sorcerer, are sympathetic, with their own unique quirks and idiosyncrasies. The “Extra Evil” bonus at the end of the volume allows us to spend more time with Shin and Doi, those most lovable of assassins, as Shin finds himself cursed. Their fundamentally evil nature is again alluded to as the pair once again seek the help of a demon to solve the predicament. The way the demon renders aid is drawn starkly and hauntingly, and proves that Q Hayashida’s ability to horrify is equal to her sense of perverse humor.
While stylish action and violence might seem to be the main selling point of Dorohedoro, I’m enthralled by the world Q Hayashida has constructed. It’s topsy turvy, but there’s a perverse logic to it all, and I’m enjoying trying to figure out how her whole cosmology is structured. Her characters are also an appealing mix of lovable and ghastly, allowing you to share in Caiman’s quest for knowledge while also being surprised and shocked at what he finds. An utter delight and very recommended.
Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A-
Text/Translation Grade: A
Readers Rating: [ratings]
Age Rating: 17+
Released By: Viz SigIkki
Release Date: August 17th, 2010
MSRP: $12.99 USA