Dorohedoro Vol. 1

Posted by on April 7th, 2010 at 12:01 AM

Q Hayashida; Viz; 176 pp., $12.99; B&W, Softcover;
ISBN: 978-1421533636

Just now, starting to write this, I realized that I don’t have any idea why this manga is called Dorohedoro. I could go back and try to figure it out, I guess, but why bother? The point here isn’t plot, or even sense, but gore, blood, gore and occasional black humor. You buy this manga to watch people have their fingers cut off or their faces bitten off , or to see them being transformed into giant bugs. Ostensibly, a group of magicians are the bad guys and a fellow with a lizard head named Caiman is the good guy, but really Caiman and his partner Nikaido are just about as ruthless as the magicians, and good or bad is obviously secondary to the ever-escalating parade of grotesquerie. In that sense, the real hero here is the character who is transformed by magic into nothing but a head and spinal column and then thrown into a trash bag which rips, dropping the bloody but still-living head-and-spinal-column onto the pavement.

As a fan of slasher films, I have to give Dorohedoro credit for its imaginative vileness. And the manga has other pleasures as well; I particularly liked the low-key camaraderie between Caiman and Nikaido. In addition, while Q Hayadisha isn’t an especially distinctive artist in terms of style or layout, she has a fertile imagination, and many of her off-hand visual gags (the preposterous masks the magician’s wear; a mushroom-computer) are genuinely funny and clever.

But though Dorohedoro is certainly competent genre work, I don’t see myself buying future volumes. Because, while individual bits here are entertaining or eye-catching, the story as a whole adds up to a big nothing, both thematically and emotionally. Hayashida appears to be trying to blend the visceral blood and guts of horror with fantasy world-building — the magicians’ powers and hierarchy are complicated and hemmed round with various rituals, and it looks like there’ll be more explanation and back story on how magic works and why and in what circumstances as the series goes on. Despite all that effort, though, the tropes of horror and fantasy in the series detract rather than add to each other. The complicated, arbitrary rules around magic muck up the simple bloody-mindedness which makes horror suspenseful and exciting, while the ingratiatingly gratuitous viciousness of the splatter undercuts the sense of grandeur, or at least of care, which makes put-all-the-pieces-into-place fantasy/sf (like Tolkein, or Asimov) geekily satisfying.

In the end, then, it’s hard to care much about either the world or the characters in it. Both seem to have been assembled less for their own sake than to provide the reader with a handful of shocking moments. And while I do appreciate those, if the payoff is going to be simply transcendent gross-out, I’ll save my pennies and wait for Johnny Ryan to do it better in the next volume of Prison Pit.

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2 Responses to “Dorohedoro Vol. 1”

  1. […] Manga) Julie Opipari on vol. 6 of Dance in the Vampire Bund (Manga Maniac Cafe) Noah Berlatsky on vol. 1 of Dorohedoro (The Comics Journal) Connie on vol. 1 of Dorohedoro (Slightly Biased Manga) Sean Gaffney on vol. 10 […]

  2. […] Manga) Julie Opipari on vol. 6 of Dance in the Vampire Bund (Manga Maniac Cafe) Noah Berlatsky on vol. 1 of Dorohedoro (The Comics Journal) Connie on vol. 1 of Dorohedoro (Slightly Biased Manga) Sean Gaffney on vol. 10 […]