Q Hayashida’s manga Dorohedoro was serialized in a number of publications1 from 2000 to 2018. Volume One collects the first seven chapters, which for reasons that will become clear are called “curses.”
Tourists are often troublesome. The Hole is troubled by some nasty ones: sorcerers from the universe next door. They pop over to the Hole to practice their magic on humans, leaving dead and deformed victims in their wake.
Kaiman (spelled Caiman in the Viz translation) is one such victim.
Kaiman has been cursed: his memory is gone and he has the head of a giant, toothy lizard.
When he clamps his fearsome jaws on a victim’s head, the victim sees a mysterious man living inside the lizard man.
There’s a silver lining: Kaiman is immune to sorcery.
Determined to discover who he really is (and who that mysterious guy inside him might be) Kaiman and his friend Nikaido accost sorcerer after sorcerer, killing them when it is clear that they have no useful information. This program of tourist-sorcerer-destruction is as successful as it is because Kaiman is a skilled hand-to-hand fighter, as is his sidekick, the Valkyrie-esque Nikaido.
Kaiman and Nikaido do have lives aside from killing sorcerers. When he’s not stalking magic users, Kaiman enjoys the food Nikaido cooks at her restaurant The Lucky Bug. He works as a low-level employee at a local hospital.
As the series begins, Kaiman and Nikaido accost a pair of sorcerers. Matsumura dies horribly. His friend, Fujita, escapes to the sorcerers’ world. Determined to get revenge, Fujita appeals to his boss, Enn. Enn suspects that the direct approach won’t work on Kaiman and Nikaido; he sends Fujita on a quest that parallels Kaiman’s: find the sorcerer who transformed Kaiman, in order to better understand the relentless hunter.
Unsurprisingly, given that this is a series than ran for close to a fifth of a century, volume one serves mostly as an introduction. Mysteries are revealed but not solved. We get to meet the characters who will (I presume) populate the next two dozen or so tankōbons. That said, there is one complete arc in this volume, depicting the spectacular end of an ambitious sorcerer after he decides to target Nikaido.
The cast is considerably larger than my comments above may suggest. Oddly enough, the sorcerers don’t come off as preening villains despite their incessant persecution of the defenseless unfortunates in the Hole. They appear to be more like murder hobos leveling up rather than psychopaths driven by malice. For that matter, Kaiman and Nikaido shift gears from horrific bloodshed to enthusing over food within the blink of an eye. For all that they’re the sort of people who leave a trail of dismembered body parts behind them, the characters are an affable lot.
To quote Pratchett:
And it all meant this: that there are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be duplicated by a normal, kindly family man who just comes in to work every day and has a job to do.
The art seems a bit sketchy but it suits the dismal setting and epic violence well enough. I had the sense that the author has a very clear idea of where she is going with the story, but I’m not sure that I want to wade through the grimth and gore to reach her destination.
1: To quote Wikipedia:
The series was formerly serialized in Shogakukan’s seinen magazine Monthly Ikki since 2000, but after its cessation in 2014 the series was moved to Hibana in 2015. However, after the cessation of Hibana in August 2017, the series was transferred to Monthly Shōnen Sunday magazine in November 2017 and finished in September 2018.