Dorohedoro by Q Hayashida is one of those once-in-a-lifetime manga series that is unlike anything I've ever read before. With some of the best manga characters and a world that's dark and gruesome yet never feels it, it's a fun and adventurous read that's full of over-the-top violence and gore. Despite its blood-soaked pages, it's got so much heart and is full of so much substance as well. On top of being one of my favorite horror manga of all time, Dorohedoro is one of my favorite comedy manga as well thanks to its dark and off the wall sense of humor.
That all being said, here are some of the reasons as to why I love Dorohedoro so much! First off, though, for those of you who may be new to the series, I want to talk about what Dorohedoro is about.
What is Dorohedoro about?
Dorohedoro is about Caiman, a lizard-headed man that has no memory of his past. He teams up with his friend Nikaido, owner of a small restaurant called the Hungry Bug, to track down the sorcerer responsible for his transformation. The story follows their lives in a strange world called the Hole, but a new set of adventures await them in a place known as the Sorcerer's World.
The Story of Dorohedoro
Dorohedoro is ultimately about understanding and finding oneself as well as uncovering one's past or how their past may still be affecting them to this day, which we experience through Caiman, but also other characters in the story as well, including Ebisu and Nikaido.
The discrimination and struggles that those without magic as well as magic users who possess weak magic face in this world creates an interesting narrative too that make it profound as well as complex. There's also a strong sense of community and family in Dorohedoro that make it a lighthearted read despite its bleak and violent world. You see characters from all walks of life come together to help one another in their journeys, so on top of being an action-packed, gory, and horror-filled series, it's also a joyful, fun and adventurous experience.
So not only is it about the characters in this story, who are very much searching for their place in this world, but it's also about the struggles they face as well. I also find it interesting that while some characters are running to uncover the truth about their past, others are running away from it. Even though it's set in a fantasy, out of this world type of place, Dorohedoro mirrors the human experience.
All of us are at different places in our lives and we come to terms with things in our ways and on our own time; Same with the characters in Dorohedoro. Ultimately, Dorohedoro is an amazing story about self-discovery, so while it seems like it's just a crazy wild ride on first impression, there's so much more to it once you delve into it.
From start to finish, Dorohedoro is a wacky, lovable, and chaotic ride, but it's also a well-developed, cohesive series that ends in an extremely satisfying way. Q Hayashida's stories are character-centric, so you'll connect with them on a deeper level. While I love any story she creates, Dorohedoro is my favorite of hers to release so far, because the story unfolds in a truly impactful way, and it gets better and better with each chapter.
The World of Dorohedoro
Dorohedoro has some of the best world-building in all of manga. Unlike most manga, which are set in one place, Dorohedoro is set in two. You have the Hole, which feels very much like a dystopian city and is the place where those who can't use magic live, and then you have the Magic User World, which is this quirky, gothic fantasy world where sorcerers reside.
Everything in Dorohedoro is tinged in darkness, and the world it's set in is gritty and grimy, but also very surreal. Connecting these two worlds together are magical doors, which are set by sorcerers. Most sorcerers use said doors to travel to the Hole in order to practice their magic on unsuspecting victims, leaving them disfigured and mangled.
Magic is everything in this world and this is very evident from the get go. Those without it are preyed upon by the "strong," which are those who can use magic. Those who have very little of it are also looked down upon in the Magic User World as well. Because Q Hayashida separated these two worlds, she creates a divide between those who have and those who don't. It explores these more complex, deep issues all the while following Caiman in his search for answers.
In the beginning, the story is split between the Hole and the Magic User World, but they eventually collide. You even have characters that have roots in both realms, which further ties them together. It's when the characters of the Hole and the Magic User World begin to interact with one another that Dorehedoro really gets interesting.
Mystery is a big element of this story and a lot of the characters are in search of answers in some way or another. En wants to ensure the Cross-Eyes' boss is actually dead. Caiman wants to find the person that transformed his head. Ebisu loses her memories and wants to recover them as well. These seemingly separate mysteries all come together, like pieces of a puzzle. The reveals in this series are exciting and unexpected, so it keeps you on the edge of your seat as well.
Art of Dorohedoro
In addition to having an incredible story, Dorohedoro has some of my favorite manga panels and art. There's a lot of emotion in the panels, and her gritty, sketchy art style really speaks to me. It's somewhat similar to Tsutomu Nihei's art style, who you may know as the creator of one of my all time favorite manga, Blame!. Both have distinctive art styles, but I love and respect their art for similar reasons. Not only is their artwork raw, but it is chock-full of so much detail. There's a freedom to what they do, but there's also a great deal of control as well, and this makes them unique.
Q Hayashida's art is very visceral, so it hits you emotionally, but she is also one of the best at drawing gore as well. The character and world designs are what impress me the most though. They really hone in just how dark this world is. The attention-to-detail in the characters outfits, how they are wearing more utilitarian, grungy style clothing, but are also wearing Nikes, their masks, some of which are inspired by the band Slipknot by the way, are top-notch. Their overall aesthetic and her sense of style is just awesome.
Whether she is drawing in black or white or in color, Q Hayashida is one of my favorite manga artists and her art in Dorohedoro is some of the best I've ever seen. If you are a fan of her work, I highly recommend picking up her art book Dorohedoro Mud and Sludge as well! It's one of the most beautiful and well-made art books I've ever owned.
Characters in Dorohedoro
One of Dorohedoro's best attributes is its characters. It actually has my favorite cast of characters in all of manga, because there's not a single character in this story that feels unnecessary. I connected with every single one of them in some way or another, and Q Hayashida gave each character their moment to shine, even the side characters that seemingly held no weight in this story.
She is great at creating characters that might seem weak or inconsequential, but end up becoming a true hero by the end. Just when you count a character out, they prove you wrong, and I really appreciate this about her characters. Everyone from the main characters, including Caiman and Nikaido, to the supporting characters are developed well, even when they are in the story for a short amount of time. You can tell she really cares about her characters, and in turn, you can't help but care about them as well.
Another thing about her stories that I really enjoy is that the characters pop up over the course of the story. You'll go for a bit without seeing a character and then they'll make an appearance again. In a way, it's almost like running into an old friend.
Everyone in Dorohedoro is a personality. There is no shortage of unique individuals in this cast. You have Caiman, who's a loyal friend and loves nothing more than eating Nikaido's dumplings, but there's a mystery to him as well. Nikaido, the owner of the Hungry Bug that found Caiman in the alleyway and became his friend. She is fierce and strong, but kind and gentle as well. One minute she's knocking some skulls, the next she's making a warm and delicious meal for her friends. There's a duality to her that I really connected with.
I have to say also that Dorohedoro has some of my favorite female characters in manga. From Ebisu, who's funny, slightly diabolical, but impossible not to love to Noi, who always stands up for those she loves and is a powerful fighter, and Natsuki, who's kind-hearted and will do anything for her friends. There's a core thing about all of them: They are warm and loving, but powerful and fierce as well.
I really appreciate the fact that they are all tomboys, but they also flaunt and celebrate their femininity as well. This is something I really resonate with as a female, and for the first time, I, as well as my interests, felt represented in a manga. I also can't forget Shin and Fujita or En and Judas's Ear aka Kikurage. There's so many other good characters in Dorohedoro I haven't mentioned too. I could gush forever about the characters in this series.
Many of the characters in Dorohedoro don't have a family, so they created one of their own. You have The En Family, Caiman and Nikaido's group, The Cross-Eyes, the crew at Restaurant Tanba; Even the Devils feel like a family albeit an extremely dysfunctional one. The individual characters, and how they develop, is a big reason as to why Dorohedoro is so amazing, but it's how they interact and their dynamics with one another that make it such a joy to read. Each time you meet one of these new groups, you'll feel like you are at home with them.
The characters all have interesting backstories too, so you get a look into what made them who they are and what motivates them. While you get to know some characters pretty early on, you learn more about others over the course of the series. Obviously with Caiman knowing nothing about his life before the Hole, you come to know him more and more over the course of the chapters. He's that happy-go-lucky guy that everyone loves, and even though you know not all that much about him, you still connect with him from the get go.
Dorohedoro is my happy place. Whenever I'm feeling down or want to escape, I pick it up and dive back into its world. It's one of my top manga of all time and it will forever hold a special place in my heart.
If you are looking to get into more of Q Hayashida's works, I highly recommend her new manga Dai Dark. It's set in outer space, so it's a sci-fi story, but much like Dorohedoro, it's also dark and surreal. The characters and world-building are great as well as expected from Q Hayashida!
Looking to get into Dorohedoro? You can pick up all 23 Dorohedoro volumes at one of the following trusted manga retailers!