Dorohedoro 1Caiman is a decent guy. He may be huge and handy with a knife, but he’d just as soon stuff his face with tasty gyoza from his friend’s shop as he would pick a fight—unless, of course, that fight is with a sorcerer. Life in the Hole is hard enough without masked magic users dropping in from their own world to hone their skills on the helpless residents of the mundane realm. As a magic-practice survivor, Caiman has good reason to hold a grudge. After all, anybody would be bitter that his head has been turned into that of a lizard, causing him to lose all memory of his pre-reptilian life. Adrift, without a history or his rightful face, Caiman devotes himself to finding the sorcerer responsible for his condition so he can reverse the spell and get his revenge. Unraveling the truth proves difficult, however, as every clue seems to lead to more questions—and Caiman isn’t the only one looking for answers.

Dorohedoro revels in defying expectations; nothing is as it appears on the surface. From the first shocking panel of a towering lizard-headed man chomping on another character’s head, you will be lured into thinking you know what’s going on, what the tone will be, and which characters are good and evil. With every page, however, the mystery grows much more complicated and far-reaching than expected, and the line between protagonist and antagonist becomes increasingly blurry as masks come off and true faces are revealed. Before you know it, you’ll be invested in a multitude of stories beyond the overarching mystery of Caiman’s past. The series’ humor far outweighs its gruesome factor and nearly every ordinary human, sorcerer, and outright devil will become bizarrely endearing. Anyone who can convince me that a giant, baseball-playing, anthropomorphized cockroach is adorable must be magic herself.

Genuine sweetness and effective slapstick are powerful tools in the right hands, and creator Hayashida clearly knows how to wield them. Her brilliant sense of humor and eye for sympathetic humanity blend with the series’ darker dramatic elements and unencumbered graphic violence. This combination is so effective that even without the utterly goofy side-vignettes at the end of each volume—cleverly titled “Extra Evil”—one comes away remembering the warmth and giggles more than the blood splatter and dismemberment. Considering the sheer volume of the latter, that’s quite an accomplishment.

The complexity of the story and its characters find a perfect match in Hayashida’s scratchy, detail-rich art. Her preference for inking and hand-drawn texture supplemented with minimal screentone gives her the freedom to embellish without muddying her visuals. As a result, active backgrounds anchor almost every panel and invite the reader to scan the grimy nooks and crannies for extra information while taking in the gloomy streets of the Hole or the cheezy opulence of the sorcerer boss’ mansion. The wide variety of character designs showcases Hayashida’s love of minutia and upended assumptions, pairing physiques and masks with contrasting faces and dispositions.

Brimming with bloodshed and peppered with strong language and equal-opportunity nudity (included as non-sexual story advancement and fanservice), Dorohedoro is an unexpectedly hysterical, absurdly charming, and intriguingly twisted fantasy series whose fast-approaching conclusion will surely be as unpredictable as the journey itself.

Dorohedoro, vols. 1-13
by Q Hayashida
Vol. 1 ISBN: 9781421533636
Vol. 2 ISBN: 9781421533766
Vol. 3 ISBN: 9781421533773
Vol. 4 ISBN: 9781421533780
Vol. 5 ISBN: 9781421533797
Vol. 6 ISBN: 9781421533803
Vol. 7 ISBN: 9781421533810
Vol. 8 ISBN: 9781421533827
Vol. 9 ISBN: 9781421533834
Vol. 10 ISBN: 9781421533841
Vol. 11 ISBN: 9781421533858
Vol. 12 ISBN: 9781421533865
Vol. 13 ISBN: 9781421565354
Viz, 2010-2014
Publisher Age Rating: M (18+)

  • Jenny Ertel

    Past Reviewer

    This reviewer is not longer actively working on our site, but we would not be here if not for our many dedicated contributors over the years. We thank all of them for their reviews, features, and support!

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