2010. Story & Art: Q. Hayashida. $12.99. Distributor: Viz Media.
The Hole. No, it’s not a muddy orifice in the Earth. In Hayashida’s alternate world the Hole is the industrial epitome of urban squalor, where users and non-users of magic loiter. The problem is, magic users tend to playfully experiment on the untrained, transforming their flesh into various mutated concoctions. Caiman is one such victim. His head has been mutated into that of a large reptile, and the process has left him with amnesia. Together with Nikaido, his female companion, they’re on the hunt for Caiman’s identity and the magic user that transformed him.
Visionary is not an adjective I predicate often. But Q. Hayashida’s vision disturbingly invigorates our optical senses. For a moment, just set the story aside and look at the artwork. The two worlds of magic and non-magic may encapsulate human life, but the landscape is a post-apocalyptic, industrial hell. Human clothes suggest a delicate balance between urban cool and protection from a crippling environment. And magic users themselves tend to don masks of evil, Leatherface-esque proportions; the kind Rob Zombie could appreciate! Dorohedoro’s aesthetic is like a mangled war-zone. Every detail is evidence of some resonating disaster. You just can’t look away.
As for the story, we’ve got a classic detective/mystery type of thriller. Lizard headed Caiman is on the beat, shaking down magic users left and right till he finds the one he’s looking for. I especially love his method of extracting information by sticking their heads into his mouth, so they can talk with the enigmatic "second man" inside him; a mystery to be revealed later, I'm sure. And around this central story arc, his relationship with Nikaido and enemies like En, who resembles the devilish clown or your worst nightmare, provide narrative depth and subplots that will undoubtedly keep this show running on high ratings.
This is why I love Hayashida. The standard elements of a genre we know and love are inserted into a new and quite stimulating environment. Innovation is written on every page.
Dorohedoro is definitely worth your time. Check it out.