The setting of Dorohedoro is every bit as decrepit as the moniker of “The Hole” would lead one to believe. Picture slums that stretch as far as the eye can see and you’ve got a pretty good idea of the kind of picture mangaka Q Hayashida has painted. It makes the worst areas in Taiyo Matsumoto’s Tekkon Kinkreet look downright serene, and it’s here that the young Nikaido and her amnesiac lizard-man pal, Caiman, embark on a very special mission.
Nikaido found Caiman in a dark alley, his presumably human visage warped into that of a reptile thanks to some damned sorcerer. Oh, that’s right, sorcerers are definitely an issue here. They’re not the kind of robe-clad doers of wick’d chicanery we’re used to, though; they’re more like masked punks gone wild, using The Hole as their own experimental playground of transmutations and other devilish spells. Well, Nikaido and Caiman aren’t down with this, and thus they set out to find the sorcerer whodunnit, and kill them so Caiman can resume a (relatively) normal life.
There’s also a small, mysterious man inside Caiman’s mouth, so as you may have guessed, Dorohedoro isn’t your average seinen series, even by sci-fi/horror standards. This is apparent not only narratively, but visually. Hayashida draws in a kind of controlled chaos—lots of sketchy lines and stylishly unpolished backgrounds that work well in the context of the comic’s world.
Hayashida’s character designs are hit or miss, and at times her depictions of key cast members differ oddly from page to page. Nikaido will look perfectly normal on one, for instance, and appear somewhat pea-headed on the next. The same goes for Caiman, and in general what I take away from this is that Hayashida is best at close range; within visual striking distance of her subjects. When gritty detail meets slapdash sketching, Dorohedoro shines.
As well as it works in black and white, the opening pages of chapter four had me longing for a few more splashes of color. It has a similarly rough quality, smeared almost like oil work in a way.
Since there are two worlds on the verge of brutally clashing here, we follow the inhabitants of each to some degree. One of the better aspects of the series so far is how it strays from simply tailing Nikaido and Caiman, instead volleying back and forth between the two and the twisted sorcerers on the other side. They have their own bizarre hierarchy, complete with rituals like the assignment of unique masks to each, making their side of the tracks even more of a creepshow than the one with the freaking lizard-man.
Dorohedoro ends up providing a solid argument for picking up future volumes. It’s not until late in volume one that we even get to see Nikaido pulling off any kind of action—an event that holds promise in and of itself—and the story is strangely alluring enough to have me wanting to see where Hayashida takes it next. Anyone still needing a personal glimpse of what to expect can preview the first chapter of the series at www.sigikki.com.
Publisher: Viz Media
Story & Art: Q Hayashida
© 2002 Q HAYASHIDA/Shogakukan