Q. Hayashida published the first issue of Dorohedoro in 2001, presenting a large amount of characters and a peculiar narrative world. In this manga series, the author shows an original style and lots of storylines entangled in a horror and dark fantasy setting with comedy nuances.

A grotesque and funny world

Dorohedoro takes place in two different worlds. There is Hole, a bleak, rainy city, where human beings merely survive. Connected to it, there is the Magic User World, a shiny place where sorcerers live. Sorcerers look like humans, but they are a different species: thanks to extra organs, they are able to produce black smoke which allows them to cast magic. They can also create doors to visit Hole, where they use humans as test subjects for their spells. But they do not really care about humanity, what drives them is to be successful in their own world.

Dorohedoro characters mix dark fantasy and comedy - Series Debut
Image courtesy of VIZ Media DOROHEDORO © 2002 Q HAYASHIDA/SHOGAKUKAN

The plot follows the amnesiac and lizard-headed protagonist, Caiman, one of the sorcerers’ victims. He brutally assaults every single sorcerer he meets to find out who is responsible for his condition. And then he goes to his friend Nikaido’s restaurant to pack his stomach with loads of gyozas.

The swift transition from scenes of extreme violence to ones of cheerful calm is common to all of Dorohedoro‘s characters. Other iconic examples are Shin and Noi, two killers from the Magic Users World, who destroy their target gruesomely and with no mercy. Next scene, they sip tea and chat like there is not a worry in the world. Switching different moods, Hayashida manages to permeate the story with a simultaneous sense of the grotesque and the amusing.

This is a feeling that is intensified by the way all characters experience violence firsthand. Hayashida mutilates her characters’ bodies with no exceptions. It is a feature that Dorohedoro shares with a few other mangas such as Gantz or Attack on Titan and which relates to body horror classics like The Thing, Alien, or Cronenberg’s works.

A peculiar style

At first, the suburban areas and characters like Shin or Fujita could remind the reader of Katsushiro Otomo’s Akira. But Hayashida soon shows an original drawing style. The comic panels are rich, full of details, even though confusing from time to time. But what really stands out in Dorohedoro are the big and muscular characters, whether male or female. These thick figures move dynamically on the page and the author gives her best during the action scenes.

The sceneries reflect the hybrid nature of the narrative. Gothic clichés, like dark castles or misty cemeteries, mingles with suburban contexts and pop-culture references. The main tropes of satanism, sorcery, esoterism are made to look like elements of everyday life.

Dorohedoro gives center stage to all its characters

Even though the story focuses on Caiman’s quest, the reader will soon meet lots of other characters. There is the En’s family, a mafia-like group that gathers the most powerful sorcerers and rules over the Magic User World. Another group is the Cross-Eyes gang, consisting of low-rank sorcerers who rely on drugs to boost their abilities. Also devils, the keepers, and rulers of Hell, play a relevant role. They are sorcerers transcended to an invincible condition after a dedicated exam. Caiman’s path turns out to be the core of a complex puzzle that crosses the goals of all these groups.

The strength of Dorohedoro’s storytelling lies in its multi-strand narrative, which gives equal relevance to the better part of characters. Humans, sorcerers, cross-eyes: the reader will easily develop affection for every group and their needs.

Each storyline blends different genres and the manga often enacts scenes so awkward they become amusing. Thus Dorohedoro proves that horror, gore and comedy can work together giving unexpected results.

Dorohedoro characters mix dark fantasy and comedy - Volume no. 20
Image courtesy of VIZ Media DOROHEDORO © 2002 Q HAYASHIDA/SHOGAKUKAN

In 2020, Netflix launched the first season of the anime version, faithful to the manga and enriched by an inspired soundtrack, which recalls the story’s underground and psychedelic atmospheres.

On May 17, 2021, with this record Hypercritic opens the Comics section.