Hole—a dark, decrepit, and disorderly district where the strong prey on the weak and death is an ordinary occurrence—is all but befitting of the name given to it. A realm separated from law and ethics, it is a testing ground to the magic users who dominate it. As a race occupying the highest rungs of their society, the magic users think of the denizens of Hole as no more than insects. Murdered, mutilated, and made experiments without a second thought, the powerless Hole dwellers litter the halls of Hole's hospital on a daily basis.
Possessing free access to and from the cesspool, and with little challenge to their authority, the magic users appear indomitable to most—aside for a few. Kaiman, more reptile than man, is one such individual. He hunts them on a heedless quest for answers with only a trusted pair of bayonets and his immunity to magic. Cursed by his appearance and tormented by nightmares, magic users are his only clue to restore his life to normal. With his biggest obstacle being his stomach, his female companion Nikaidou, who runs the restaurant Hungry Bug, is his greatest ally.
Set in a gritty world of hellish design, Dorohedoro manages a healthy blend of comedy and lightheartedness with death and carnage. Taking plenty of twists and turns while following the lives of Hole's residents, it weaves a unique world of unearthly origin and dreary appearance not for the squeamish or easily disturbed.
1. Comedy and Gore can become a good combo
2. An awesome protagonist doesn't have to be handsome
3. Heroine too can kick ass in an action manga
4. Nakama power isn't limited to "Heroes" only
5. Every character can be given proper air time without any difficulty
6. Magic isn't limited to Harry Porter only
6. Weird art does not mean Bad Art
7. Even in a weird series you can show emotions
9. If you are original, you may not get popular but you will always be awesome
8. Female mangaka can handle a fast action packed Seinen
All of this and more ....
In the most chaotic
This is perhaps the most original, trippiest, creepiest, and imaginative thing I've ever read.
The world is very well thought-out. It is primarily divided into the Hole, a place populated by humans, and the Magic Users' world, populated by human-looking beings with extraordinar[ily weird] abilities. These abilities range from your standard healers, to devastating mushroom attacks, and everything in between. The humans and the magic users don't like each other.
The plot is a lot harder to describe. I mean, saying "well it's about an amnesiac guy with a lizard head named Kaiman who wants his real face back so he's biting people faces so that the
guy inside his mouth can identify the person who may have did this to him" doesn't really cut it. There's A LOT more to it than that, but you have no idea what's going on until volume 7+, when it gets much darker and the real story of Kaiman's memories and identity starts coming together.
That's okay, though, because the series is very entertaining throughout with its hyperviolence and dark humor, and you really do need such a long introduction to get used to this world and its, err, "colorful" cast of characters. That's not to say that the first few volumes are irrelevant for plot progression. Pieces of the plot are sprinkled everywhere but you might not realize it at first. To fully appreciate this it's best to go back once you know all that you will later on, which makes for a lot of re-read value!
/Where else can you find the phrase "The Boss is no longer a pie!!"? XD
Dorohedoro, as a series all about the plot twists, is kind of hard to describe easily. It takes place in a gritty magic-punk dual world: The high-class world of the magic users, and the slum-like Hole, the world of the non-magic users. The story centers around Kaiman, a man with a lizard head and no memories. He hunts down magic users, eats their head, and then the person inside his mouth evaluates them, looking for someone. And that description does absolutely no justice to the series.
Q Hyashida loves 'er plot twists. Yes, this series is filled with twist after crazy
twist, but, and this is a big but, it feels coherent. In some series you get the impression an author came up with a cool premise and then basically made things up as they went along, but Dorohedoro, in all its twisty madness, feels like it's going along a very purposeful route.
It helps that the characters are great, and really hold the whole thing together. Despite Kaiman and his friend Nikaido ostensibly being the protagonists, the series spends about equal time with all of the important characters on the various different sides of the central conflicts. They're all well-developed and lovable, and you'll likely find yourself not quite knowing who to root for during the battles.
Now, the word people often use to describe Dorohedoro is "gritty" and, well, it is, yeah. Especially in the art, which is thick and dark, with lots of cluttered environments and greys everywhere. It might take a bit of getting used to, it's a somewhat unusual style, and some of the anatomy is a little weird early on, but once you do get used to it you'll grow to love it.
The series is gritty and violent, but it's not as bleak as you might expect. It's cut through with a REALLY goofy sense of humor to give things balance. I've always liked series that balance dark and light, and Dorohedoro pulls it off really well. Another slight break from traditional grittiness is that the characters are pretty much all lovable. They're pretty much all anti-heroes, but almost everyone has a good/adorable side to them. There's no real mopey angsty types or bad-ass murderers whose only thought is murderification. The creator describes it as "a song with really dark lyrics, but a melody that's so happy that you want to dance to it," and I can't really put it better.
Over all Dorohedoro is definitely one of my favorite manga series. If you like unusual worlds with cool art and an interesting story, definitely check it out. Apparently it's ending fairly soon as well, so that's something to keep in mind.
In this series, magic users are beings born with a certain organ in their bodies that allow them to use magic in the form of puffing out smoke, be it from their fingers or mouth. On the other hand, you have the regular humans who live in a place called the Hole, which is shown to be a ghetto-ish area. The story thus follows two main perspectives, the first being that of Kaiman and Nikaido having their little adventures in the Hole. The second focuses on Shin and Noi, two magic users who are tasked with tracking down Kaiman. This is later expanded to include
En’s family and the inclusion of several other factions and groups. As the series continues, the viewpoints begin to converge as the different characters meet and interact and yes, this is a manga with a relatively huge cast of characters.
According to Wikipedia, Dorohedoro is serialized in Ikki, a magazine that “specializes in underground or alternative manga”. And it indeed is alternative for it is hard to find a manga as quirky and stylish as this. Trying to write a review to explain why this manga is just so addictive is rather difficult as much of its charm lies in its visual styles.
Really, trying to categorise this title under a genre is not easy. Manga Updates tagged it with a Biopunk, but it too has the elements of Gothic in its ambience. The only way I can succinctly describe Dorohedoro in one sentence would probably be that it is akin to what it would be like if Tim Burton and Quentin Tarantino collaborated to produce a manga. It’s not the best description I’ve got, but I think the analogy fits pretty well. In the Magic Users’ world each Magic User are obliged to wear a personalized mask to mark their identity. Throw in the fact that you have manifestations of curses, devils and death god flying around and the place is like a much more macabre mash of Halloween Town and Beetlejuice. And then you have En’s family and his estate. En’s family being clad in suits make it a like the mafia in a Halloween party. In fact, when Shin and Noi first turned up, I was strongly reminded of Jules and Vincent from Pulp Fiction. The whole imagery is bizarre, but it is also freakishly cool.
In general, I am not a fan of gore. Titles such as Berserk and Gantz are far from my preferred types of manga and I tend to be averse to manga that displays excessive amount of gruesome disembowelment like Shigurui for example. What I do have however, is a rather dark sense of humour, and Dorohedoro pretty much struck a chord with me despite the display of characters getting brutally murdered – hell, there’s even a character whose magic is all about disemboweling bodies. Yet within the bleak setting there is sufficient amount of well executed comedy. The gratuitous amount of stylised violence as well as the general nonchalance in attitude towards its delivery by the cast of eccentric characters means that although the tone is grim, it is at the same time funny. The humor style is more towards the dry sort though.
Now, simply having great visuals is of course not enough for me to consider this as one of my favourite. The characters too need to actually be interesting. Since this is after all a rather Gothic story with some rather grim setting, it should come to no surprise that trying to categorize them into “villains” and “heroes” is rather pointless. Heck, considering that the different groups get their own share of characterization and screen time, it is also not easy to distinguish between some of them as “protagonists” or “antagonists”. In other words, despite the large cast, the core characters remain interesting while the other supporting characters too get their fair share of spotlight. The result is that even though the characters are supposed to be opposing against each other, I can’t help but root for some of them all the same. Lastly, not to forget the trippy elements that goes in several parts of the manga. For the most part, the story is pretty straightforward, but as the plot progress, or rather in the recent volumes, there are certainly quite a fair bit of mind screw going on – the macabre art style definitely helped in enhancing the effects.
In a way, one of the things I like about Dorohedoro is also what made me took a liking to Narita Ryougo’s works in the first place: the inclusion of multiple viewpoints and what is at first glance seems like a very chaotic story, as nicely summed up one of the characters in Baccano!, “Depending on who you place in the same situation, the characteristics of said incident change kaleidoscopically. In other words, there is one incident. However, there are as many stories explaining it as there are people involved in it.” — Gustav St. Germain (aka that guy voiced by Norio Wakamoto).
On the whole, Dorohedoro may take a while to get into and feel comfortable with its surreal style, but once you do, what you have here is one wickedly engaging manga. Definitely worth the read.