This is a full series review and summary of Dorohedoro Volumes 1-23 by Q. Hayashida. First will be a spoiler free review of the series followed by a bare bones summary broken down into 4 volume chunks.
Spoiler Free Review
Dorohedoro is a long running manga series by author Q. Hayashida. It has been turned into an amazing anime series that has so far gotten one season with audiences anxiously waiting for more.
I was introduced to the world of Dorohedoro through the Netflix anime first. It’s everything I like, fast paced, crazy violent, absurdist humor, great voice acting, wacky character design, and strong friendships. When it started to look like it might take years to get a second season, if ever, I decided to read the manga while I wait.
Update as of Oct 2023 the Dorohedoro anime has yet to be renewed for a second season. I’m very sad.
The series is 23 issues and is complete, with an ending. The issues are available in paperback and digital form but getting the full collection in hardcopy was a wee bit challenging. I was waitlisted for the final issue for months before finally receiving my copy. Just keep that in mind if you want to tackle the series for yourself.
Dorohedoro will not be for everyone. First of all, it is definitely not for kids. In addition to being very violent and over the top with gore, there is a fair amount of nudity. But this book handles big voluptuous breasts in a way that only a female author can. With practicality and, somehow, without exploitation. The main two women, Nikaido and Noi, are full figured gals and are sometimes naked. As most of us are from time to time. Ebisu, a very boyish framed petite girl, is the one to desire fancy lingerie and the male gaze. There is actually zero sex in the entire series and the only romantic relationship is between a divorced couple.
I must also say that Nikaido, Noi, Ebisu, and Haru are all females in this book with completely different body types and personalities. None of them fit into any one box and it’s so awesome to see this in any book. Even Nikaido and Noi who are tasked with being enemies recognize that under different circumstances they would be great friends.
This is so ultimately refreshing, to have a book that focuses on all the other kinds of relationships humans (and sorcerers) can have. Friendships, working relationships, enemies, frenemies, customers, acquaintances, obsessions, food. There is so much more than sex and romantic love!
The basic premise of Dorohedoro is an ongoing war between sorcerers and humans. Non magic folk fighting the magic folk. A tale as old as time. But even war is not black and white, characters transform and change as time goes on. Alliances are made and broken, friendships are built and grieved. Humor is never lost.
If you’re looking for a complex book with world building, deep characters, and everything that life brings to us then look no further. Yes, it is a wild story with regenerating lizard heads, talking man sized cockroaches, bizarre masks, and mushroom magic, but at its heart it is about what ties us all together.
I recommend Dorohedoro strongly. If you’ve never picked up a manga before this would be a fine place to start.
Overal series rating 5/5 masks 👺👺👺👺👺
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What is Dorohedoro about?
In the simplest terms Dorohedoro, both the anime and the manga, is about Caiman and Nikaido attempting to uncover the mystery of Caiman’s new lizard head and his lost memories. Through the power of friendship they are able to survive strange and dangerous worlds full of demons and dark magic while humans and sorcerers participate in the ultimate battle of supremacy.
Dorohedoro Volumes 1-4 Summary
Dorohedoro Volume 1 begins with an introduction of the main players and the two main settings. Caiman is a man with a lizard head and a little man inside his big mouth, identity unknown. Nikaido runs a diner called the Hungry Bug, she makes great gyoza. They live in the Hole, a rundown place where sorcerers go to practice magic on humans.
The sorcerers live in their own world, accessible by magic doors. Shin and Noi are two sorcerer cleaners (ie assassins) working for En, they have been tasked with finding and killing Caiman and Nikaido. Meanwhile, someone is in the Hole turning humans into bugs.
The manga series has a main story line that runs throughout the entire 23 issues but it also contains slice of life stories in between. Many of these are cute, funny, and endearing to counteract the insane violence in the rest of the book.
Volume 2 focuses on an annual holiday where the dead sorcerers who have been left in the Hole become zombies for one night. The humans compete for prizes to see who can double kill the most of them.
We get introduced to Ebisu, a lesser member of En’s family crew, she wants to tag along with Shin and Noi in their hunt. We learn that Noi has healing magic which will come into play many times throughout the series.
Shin finds Caiman and cuts off his head but he just grows a new one. This is as much a surprise to Caiman as everyone else. He has no idea the extent of his powers.
We also learn that Nikaido is actually a sorcerer from birth but has chosen to live as a human and keep that a secret.
Volume 3 of Dorohedoro continues introducing the world, showing us that weaker sorcerers buy bootleg black powder to boost their magic. Sorcerers have a magic tumor in their heads and a special organ system that produces black powder and shoots it from a vein like system to their hands. Weak sorcerers have blocked or small veins or otherwise do not produce enough powder.
En gains a new partner, a weird little devil goat dog, that he dubs Judas’ Ear. This cute little monster has the power to resurrect people from the dead. Every sorcerer has a unique power, En’s is mushroom power, as in he can turn anything or anyone into mushrooms. Some of them get really weird.
Caiman and Nikaido stumble across a young Professor (who I’ll refer to as Prof for the rest of the summary) who has built a door that is able to access the sorcerer’s world.
Meanwhile, Caiman’s old head, the one that was decapitated and is no longer on his body, resurrects itself to a full form and introduces himself as Risu. Keep in mind, Caiman is completely unaware why he has a lizard head, why there’s a man in his mouth, and that he had any sort of regenerative powers.
Volume 4 teaches us that Shin is half sorcerer and has been treated poorly because of it until he found En’s family. This issue also brings around the silly slice of life aspect with a softball game in the Hole. Sorcerers vs Humans, with Ebisu dressed as a shark to be the mascot.
We also learn that Ebisu has lizard magic, as in she can turn into a scary Kaiju lizard like monster. The assumption is now that she must have been the one to curse Caiman.
Throughout the series there are many other smaller characters and events that will be bypassed in this summary. This is just a rundown of the main points. I strongly recommend reading the series to get the full glory that is Dorohedoro.
Volumes 5-9 Summary
Volume 5 sees Caiman entering the Sorcerer’s world, he wants revenge for his attempted murder as well as answers to who the heck he actually his. He gets a job at a pie shop in order to not have to live on the streets. Pretty much all anyone needs to do to blend in in the sorcerers’ world is wear a mask, Caiman always has one on to hide his Lizard head anyway. It doesn’t actually do a great job but no one seems to care.
The sorcerers are getting ready for their partner ceremony. Every 4 years they must find new partners and sign binding contracts that are physically placed in their chests. We get a cute flashback explaining how Shin and Noi became partners. She gave up her training to become a Devil for him and they’ve been close ever since. Friendship and chosen family are strong running themes through this series.
Sorcerers can become the more powerful rank of Devil by attending training and following strict rules. They also must undergo a year of abstaining from magic.
En has been searching for Nikaido because she is rumored to be a powerful sorcerer with rare time powers. He finds her and she realizes she must become a sorcerer again if she wants to save her friends from En’s family.
In Dorohedoro volume 6 on the night of the partner ceremony En forces Nikaido into a contract with him. He’s keeping her and the Prof prisoner. Nikaido is under his control due to the contract but the Prof is able to escape.
Caiman learns that the man in his mouth is named Risu, like the man who grew from the head, and that Nikaido is at En’s. We learn that En has a long standing beef with Caiman and other “cross eyes” because they killed a lot of his family out of spite. These cross eyes are born sorcerers but have no powers, they are treated like shit by the powerful sorcerers. They kill each other indiscriminately.
Volume 7 brings about more revelations as Caiman learns that Nikaido is a sorcerer. He tries to save her but she is brainwashed by her contract with En and insists she wants to stay. During a fight someone stabs her and breaks her contract. She can now find Caiman as long as she stays far away from En. A friendly devil opens a portal for them to escape the sorcerers’ world.
The devil also turns Chota, the most endearingly annoying member of En’s family, into Nikaido’s form in order to delay En from realizing she’s gone. Chota is obsessed with En and has always wanted to be loved by him so he takes advantage of looking like Nikaido to get affection.
This issue also features a cute pie contest. Do not underestimate the cuteness that this bizarre series contains. Above all of the gore and bizarre magic, Dorohedoro is a slice of life story that focuses on the simple pleasures in life, no matter where you live.
Speaking of bizarre and cute, Volume 8 has a bonus story of Gyozaboy, a weird little dumpling man with magic, no one can see him. He plays strange little pranks and is simple comic relief.
The bulk of volume 8 just lets us know that Risu has no magic and some young cross eyes join up with Caiman and Nikaido in the mission against En.
Dorohedoro Volume 9 formally introduces us to Asu, the friendly devil from before. He is violently stripped of his devil status and returned to a lowly sorcerer as punishment. This breaks the spell on Chota and he is returned to his normal form. With the contract between him (as Nikaido) broken, En collapses.
Caiman continues to remember bits and pieces of his past and who he is. Maybe he is a sorcerer? Either way he removes the crosses from his eyes no longer wanting to feel associated with yet another group he doesn’t belong to.
Volumes 10-14 Summary
Volume 10 ups the action with Ebisu going home to visit her parents. There she finds a doppelgänger Ebisu has been living with them. We see the full extent of her powers as she goes full dinosaur mode to destroy her. This backfires and she ends up being torn to shreds. Good thing death isn’t always permanent here.
We also see the full power of En as he faces off with Caiman and Nikaido. He uses his mushroom powers to tear Caiman open from the inside. He causes mushrooms to grow very large from the inside of his organs and blood, causing his entire body to rupture. This reveals Caiman’s true, non lizard, face. This new identity is known as Aikawa.
Volume 11 continues the fast pace with Noi discovering she cannot heal Nikaido. She is unable to heal devils, is Nikaido a devil? They hook her up to an IV of smoke to keep her from dying.
Ebisu’s best friend, an underpowered sorcerer named Fujita, needs help bringing Ebisu back from the dead. This gets into sitcom territory as Chota gives her an eternal happiness charm which Noi accidentally fuses into her skull before Judas’ Ear brings her back to life. For the foreseeable future Ebisu will be mindlessly happy regardless of what is happening around her.
Asu finds Caiman with his true face, behind a mask, kicking and screaming to see Nikaido. He flees when she sees his true identity.
The final cross eye left in the immediate proximity finds and kills En. This will not end here. En is far too powerful to be taken out by death and a cross eye.
In volume 12 of Dorohedoro we are introduced to a type of magic in which a certain sorcerer is able to make a doll of a sorcerer that will lead anyone back to the original person. This doll is a life size replica of the original but without much personality. He makes one of En to find the head that the cross eye took with him.
En’s death has officially nullified the contract with Nikaido, she’s ready to finally use her magic.
The leader of the cross eyes, Kai, steals En’s magic tumor right out of his head and implants it in himself in order to gain magic.
The action doesn’t stop as we move to volume 13 with cross eyes trying to steal Judas’ Ear now that En is incapacitated. Eibisu goes full lizard mode, successfully this time, to stop them.
Nikaido turns into a man to infiltrate En’s mansion, now overrun with cross eyes. She runs into Aikawa who is there searching for Risu. (Note: Aikawa is lizard free Caiman, Risu used to live in his mouth, yes it is a bit confusing).
Aikawa does not remember ever being a lizard man named Caiman or knowing Nikaido. He also doesn’t know why his head keeps exploding and growing back.
Volume 14 introduces us to Mr. Sho, an invisible sorcerer who occasionally helps En’s family. He is easily forgotten and many of the members don’t remember him. At least he’s easily forgotten to them for some reason, I think he’s terrifying.
Nikaido is training to use her very powerful magic. Her training makes her stronger but also starts to bring out devil traits. She is slowly turning into a full devil. As she realizes her full potential she finds that her time power can only be used 5 times, ever. She uses one of those times to go back and rescue a childhood friend.
We then see a gruesome battle with the cross eyes’ boss. He may be more of a threat than anyone thought.
Dorohedoro Volumes 15-19 Summary
The latter half of the series amps up the horror aspects. Body horror becomes a main theme in the images starting with volume 15. This is apparent with Aikawa, whose head just won’t stay on his body. It keeps coming back but no one has a clue what is happening with all that. It doesn’t seem to hurt him too much so the issue goes ignored.
We learn that sorcerers and devils are hurt by rain. En’s family flees to the Hole to escape it.
Risu discovers that Aikawa is the one who originally cursed him to have a dark alter ego and is also the reason that he ended up in Caiman’s mouth. Yes, that is a bit confusing, the images help a lot trust me.
The complicated confusions continue into volume 16 when we finally learn Caiman’s origin. Nikaido and Risu use one of her remaining magic allotments to travel back in time to witness Caiman’s birth. Risu had been attacked by Aikawa while in his curse form. He also had a vial of Ebisu’s smoke which he purchased on the black market prior to gaining the curse powers, back when he was just a lowly cross eye. All of the magics got mixed so that Ebisu’s smoke made the lizard head and Risu got stuck in the mouth. Ah yes, it’s all coming together.
Nikaido has nearly completed her full transformation into a devil. She is now fully powerful even outside of her time magic, as well as deliriously cheery.
Fujita, remember Ebisu’s friend, has been turned invisible by Mr. Sho in order to find En’s head. He dies a martyr’s death protecting the magic tumor. Don’t worry, he comes back, death doesn’t mean all that much in Dorohedoro.
En’s family has been waiting for Fujita’s return but he has been gone a long time. In volume 17 they decide to go searching for him. Unfortunately, it will be hard to find someone who is invisible. They all end up relocating to a mysterious location known as central department store.
The cross eye’s boss is consuming his own people in order to become more powerful. Rude.
Nikaido and her crew also relocate to central department store, just on a separate side than En’s family. Neither knows the other is there yet.
In Dorohedoro volume 18 Fujita’s invisibility wears off and Risu has made his complete transformation into his dark alter ego Curse. Try to keep track, Caiman, Risu, Aikawa, and Curse are all of the same being.
Shin has decided that Noi is the most important member of their crew, because of her healing powers but also because they’re best friends even though they refuse to acknowledge it. Because of this he forcibly places an implant in her that will make her invincible. This was a dangerous and risky procedure that she did not want.
Shin and the humans in central department store are captured and connected to a tube circuit. They don’t die but are physically controlled. This is another fine example of the body horror and fantastic images in this book.
Shin spots Fujita with En’s tumor but is not able to return with it to his crew.
The humans controlled by the tube capture Risu and Asu, Nikaido gets away. She stumbles directly into Caiman. She’s known him as Aikawa for some time now so she is suspicious of him. This Caiman, however, doesn’t remember any of that.
Outside of his control, Shin attacks his best friend Noi. She dis-arms him, literally, in order to remove his capacity to use smoke.
Volume 19 begins the epic climax that will cross a few volumes. Nikaido needs to face off against Haru, an extremely powerful devil who happens to also be the Prof’s ex wife, in order to get the store knife. The store knife is known to be an all powerful and indestructible weapon. Nikaido’s new devil powers allow her to attempt this task. She may be the only one powerful enough to wield it.
Caiman attempts to help Nikaido in battle but he is no match for Haru. Nikaido is forced to use a time power to save him. She is successful but only to have Caiman caught by the tube right after.
Risu is able to break his curse. He then finds En’s family, completely dismembered by Shin. Each of their individual body parts are still alive and in pain. In order to finally find En they need to make a doll. In order to make a doll they need food. They decide to use their own body parts in this last resort.
Volumes 20-23 Summary
The final volumes of Dorohedoro bring En back from his deceased and decapitated state in volume 20. He is just as powerful as ever and far more motivated. His family, however is still a bunch of heads on the ground waiting for him to come back. On his way to them, En mushroom powers the possessed Shin all over the place.
Caiman, Aikawa and Curse are ready to finally fight it out. Curse, aka powerful dark Risu, joins up with Caiman to finally defeat Aikawa once and for all.
En finally makes it back to his family in volume 21. He arrives just in time for a goo to start escaping the tubes and melt the city.
While everything is going down in central department store the devils in hell are all betting on who will win. They also decide to kill Asu, violently. He falls to earth right into Nikaido’s arms and is healed.
Aikawa, now referring to himself as Ai, tells the story of nearly dying and convincing the Prof to recreate his body using dead sorcerers. This still didn’t make him a sorcerer like he desired. Ai reveals that he is actually a slave of the goo. The tube goo is the conglomeration of all the humans ever slaughtered by sorcerers in the Hole. Caiman is a body outside of this.
Risu uses the store knife to cut off the final head of the tube goo body network. His curse is broken and he thinks the conflict is over until a final boss emerges.
Volume 22 kicks off with the final boss going around slicing and eating sorcerers. Nikaido faces him with the store knife. The monster takes control of her time power and uses her last one to go back and take the store knife first. He cuts Nikaido into pieces. The Nikaido from the previous time catches up to the timeline. She is human again, not devil and not sorcerer.
On the opposite side, Caiman is tricked by the devils into becoming a sorcerer so he can save the day.
The final volume, 23, shows us Caiman’s sorcerer power, a gyoza wand that grants every wish through gyoza and puns. He uses the store knife to decapitate the goo monster but the monster’s head takes Nikaido’s head and flees.
The monster, which Ebisu has dubbed Holey, wont go down easily. He destroys Caiman’s new magic tumor, goodbye gyoza power.
Mr. Sho comes back into the picture to help En and family. His power is actually far more than just turning invisible. He can dematerialize. He helps the En crew to escape the central department store and rematerialize at the battle with Holey.
The combined powers of En’s family and Caiman, even without magic, destroy Holey’s tumor once and for all.
The devils lose their bet against our heroes which restores Nikaido and Asu to their normal selves while also cursing the lead devil, Chidaruma, to live as a human for 5,000 years. Ugh, what an awful fate.
The end of Dorohedoro reaches a simple and happy conclusion. En and his family return home and Caiman and Nikaido reopen The Hungry Bug to serve gyoza to the Hole. Everyone is pretty much back to where they started but with stronger friendships, stronger powers, and crazy stories to tell.
Overal series rating 5/5 masks 👺👺👺👺👺
Yes. The manga is finished. The anime has yet to be completed.
The main way to find this manga series is to purchase the books. All volumes are currently available on Amazon and other online retailers.
It is also available through several uploader websites that are of questionable repute. In order to support authors and artists it’s best to buy directly from them.