18 Jun, 2010

Dorohedoro, Vol. 1

By: Ken Haley

By Q Hayashida
VIZ, 176 pp.
Rating: Mature

The dirty, run-down city known as “The Hole” is a playpen for a group of other-dimensional masked sorcerers. Using their magic, they hop in and conduct experiments upon the non-magic-using population, mutating them into various inhuman forms, altering the environment and more. Caiman is the result of one of these experiments. For reasons unknown he was abandoned in an alley where he was discovered by Nikaido, a restaurateur and all around tough chica. The experiment left him with four things: a massive reptilian head, an immunity to magic and a desire to find out who did this to him so they can return him to normal. Oh, and a man living inside of his mouth. Welcome to the world of Q Hayashida’s Dorohedoro.

The first volume of the series focuses on Nikaido and Caiman’s various attempts to track down the sorcerer behind Caiman’s mutation and the resulting fallout of their search. Apparently the sorcerers don’t take kindly to having their cohorts disappearing into The Hole without a trace, and so the wheels are set in motion for the forseeable future. This is possibly one of the most interesting things about the series: while Caiman and Nikaido are ostensibly the main characters, Q Hayashida often pulls the story away from them and instead focuses on the sorcerers and their efforts to unravel the mystery surrounding Caiman. Not only does this allow us to get a glimpse at both sides of the world—the sorcerers and everyone else—but it also helps build suspense, making us wonder just when the two worlds with their separate-but-linked plots will collide.

It also furthers the mystery around Caiman, because if the people he’s hunting down are apparently clueless, then you really have to wonder who and what are behind him and what purpose does he serve? Lest you think it’s all grim and gritty, though, there is a nice dash of dark, cynical humor throughout as well. The bizarre clothing, an odd “nomnom” here and there and more. The story doesn’t take itself too seriously, just seriously enough to be dramatic and intriguing.

Q Hayashida’s artwork is incredibly detailed and, in my opinion, really quite lovely. She does a fantastic job at evoking the built-up and run-down urban sprawl of The Hole. Her character designs are great and the setting gives her the ability to run wild with them. Weird tribal facial tattoos or scarification, people in fashionable suits and ties, folks decked out in leather looking like they’d be at home in a fetish club, are all right alongside folks whose clothes look like they were thrown together from scavenged bits, heavy ski parkas, winter hats with ear flaps, striped tights and more. It’s a lovely mishmash of clothing ranging from the stylish to whatever works. To make things even more interesting, the sorcerers aren’t your stereotypical cloak and robe set; instead, they’re just as much of a visual mishmash as everything else within the story, identifiable through their masks. These masks themselves are far from uniform in appearance, though, and they run the gamut from modified bondage masks to anatomically correct representations of the human heart.

With some wonderfully rough and gritty artwork, an interesting premise and setting, a myriad of mysteries surrounding the main characters and more, Dorohedoro is an absolutely fantastic read. After having finished this volume I found myself wanting more immediately, so it’s probably a good thing that the SigIKKI site has several chapters up that continue directly on from this volume, because having to wait until August for the second volume seems like it would be killer otherwise.

Volume one of Dorohedoro is available now.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

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