In Dorohedoro, manga creator Q Hayashida takes a matter-of-fact approach to dismemberment, human experimentation and beheading by reptile jaws, resulting in a wickedly funny gross-out comic.
Before I read the book, I had heard Dorohedoro described as a comic told from the point of view of the “monster.” This is accurate to a large degree since the main character — Caiman — is a literal monster, having been turned into a half-reptile half-human mashed up being by a “sorcerer,” which in this universe appear to be human beings with magical powers and absolutely no sense of morality. In an absurd and hilarious extra at the end of the book it is hinted that “The Devil” himself may be their ultimate office manager.
In Caiman’s town, which is known as “the Hole,” sorcerers descend upon the town and pluck humans off the street in order to experiment on them. Powerful sorcerers can turn humans into something like Caiman, while lowly sorcerers often mangle the poor victim’s body and force a slow agonizing death upon the person. Fun times, right? Actually, everyone is so blasé about this existence as kind of normal, that a lot of humor comes from their almost flat reactions to the most hellish of experiences.
Caiman doesn’t remember who experimented upon him or his original human identity, so he’s on a mission to find the bastard responsible for his current state. His strategy to locate that person is to place suspected sorcerers in his mouth in order to be seen by “man” inside his reptile mouth (possibly his original self) and have the two communicate since Caiman is unable to question this mysterious phantom self directly. Once the sorcerer is extracted from his jaws and tells him what his little man said (usually “You aren’t the one”), Caiman cheerfully beheads them. If they’re lucky he uses a knife, if not…well. He’s got some awesome reptile jaws and he knows how to use them.
“Good” and “evil” seem like trite, almost quaint notions that just don’t apply to this world or its inhabitants. Caiman kills people who enjoy making human beings their quasi-“scientific” playthings, and Caiman enjoys killing them. While I found myself squeamish about some of the more “body parts are flying” violence sequences, this was an incredibly compelling and often very funny read. The art is rough as hell, somehow scratchy and structural all at once, and is an absolutely perfect vehicle to tell this story.
Dorohedoro‘s unusual treatment of its disturbing subject makes this comic a must read for fans of either horror tales or of sly, smart humor.