Dogs 6

Shirow Miwa – Viz – 2011 – 7+ volumes

I got volume 7 without realizing I hadn’t ever read volume 6! To be fair… Dogs doesn’t exactly leave an impression anymore. But still, sometimes I want my action fix, and it’s got a nice little story going. A shame I only get to read one volume a year, though.

Here, we see the aftermath of the bombings, which is mostly neither here nor there. The characters are in a couple different locations and getting their bearings, though none of them really know what’s going on, so there’s not much to tell. Giovanni makes his move against the president, but… it goes badly. Which leads into Heine’s backstory nicely, the one thing that does happen in this volume.

Heine’s backstory… while cool, is honestly not much either. Heine fights monsters along with other children who have been modified to regenerate, but Heine is the best among them. His friends are Giovanni and a girl named Lily, and all the children are looking for a way out. The overseer pegs Heine as the most powerful in the bunch, and begins a process to merge him with a modified spine that would give him control over all the… “dogs.” It goes badly when she simultaneously kills off all the others, and Heine breaks away to save them. She also misrepresents what Heine is doing, and makes it look like he’s trying to boss them around, when he’s actually trying to use it to help them all escape. I think.

The art is still nice, and I’m fond of the minimal style, but it goes hand and hand with a somewhat sparse method of storytelling. I do like Dogs, but with only one volume a year, it’s hard to remember to pick it up, let alone recall what was happening a year ago. I could re-read it, of course, but I don’t like it enough to do that every year. Maybe I’ll try when a few more volumes are out. I should also try picking up volume 7 right now, since that would help me put more pieces of the story together, too. A good idea!


Dogs 5

Shirow Miwa – Viz – 2011 – 6+ volumes

I think it was partially the influence of Dogs that sent me to Wild Adapter. I do like this type of slick-looking, over-the-top-violent action series, but I prefer the somewhat more character-focused Wild Adapter to Dogs, which, this time around, was all about the action.

Dogs has a very slow schedule, too, at one volume a year (which is not Viz’s fault). I haven’t touched the series since volume four, which I read exactly a year ago. I think I would have benefited from a re-read. I liked the format of the series so far, where Heine and Badou usually cover at least one case a volume, and the action and story goes all the way through and wraps up at the end. The previous volumes hinted at deeper going-ons, and volume five is definitely the beginning of that. A big part of the plot seems to be the unveiling of a secret army at the city’s command. There’s also a lot more behind the villain that Badou was cornering last volume, and he reveals just how deeply he has his hands in the downfall of the city. On top of that, Heine’s enemies boil up from below the city, and there might just be a third faction contributing to all the chaos that is one huge fight that takes place throughout the city.

There’s definitely lots of action, and in addition to excellent fights from both Heine and Badou, we also get to see Naoto and Mihai fight. Unfortunately, both are a little disappointing. Mihai plays a big role in Badou’s fight, except he winds up doing more harm than good. And after so much has been made over her skills with a sword, Naoto winds up shirking from her fight a bit. Both both have roles that carry over into the next volume, so it will be nice to see where they go from here.

But the one volume a year schedule means I have literally no idea what is going on, plot-wise. I like this series a lot, and I recalled all the characters and what they were doing, but what exactly was going on with the characters Heine and Badou were fighting? No recollection whatsoever aside from the details of their individual personal grudges. I have no idea why these two are wrecking the city. With Badou’s fight, it might just be because he’s crazy, but there was a reason for Heine’s fight, I just can’t recall at the moment. A re-read is definitely in order, and Dogs will be a pleasure to tackle again. I read a lot, and sometimes I have a poor memory for details, but still, it never bodes well when stuff like this slips my mind.

But the art and action scenes are just as superb as I remember, which is the main reason I read Dogs. The high-contrast artwork and great composition make for an easy flow and a quick read, and it makes the fights that much more manic and quick as well. It’s a fine series for anyone looking for a quick burst of seinen gunfights, and while there’s not a whole lot of depth, it’s certainly a fun read for the right audience.


Dogs 4

Shirow Miwa – Viz – 2010 – 5+ volumes

This volume gets interesting once again. There are some complicated politics at play in this series, but taking them in a little at a time is the way to go. Badou is the main character here, and we catch glimpses of his past as he tries to dig up information on just exactly what is going on with all the craziness lately.

The cover illustration is pretty great, it’s a wraparound illustration of Badou in the theater that the end-of-volume battle takes place in. The gun, flowers, and popcorn on the back cover is a nice touch too, but I like his expression a lot. I like the art style in this series in general. It’s very high contrast, and while many panels have been stripped of their backgrounds, when the backgrounds are present, they’re fairly detailed, leaving the potential laziness of the other panels looking like a stark mood choice.

I also like the eccentric characters on both sides of the conflict. Badou busts in on a mob boss complaining pathetically about an (admittedly major) injury he sustained in a fight with Badou and Heine. Badou doesn’t find what he’s looking for there, but his sudden entrance means he’s chased all the way to his home base cathedral by that mob, where he yells for Heine and the sword girl, who casually eliminate the entire mob. It’s a pretty funny scene, and I like that about Badou. While the other characters have mostly serious, melodramatic stories and pasts following them, Badou keeps it light and silly while still sticking with the cool action vibes of the series.

There’s nothing light or silly about the snatches of flashback we get while Badou wanders around looking for information. His brother is the one that taught him the ropes in information brokering, and some mystery event killed his brother and took Badou’s eye. Badou doesn’t really dwell on it, but he remembers as he’s gathering information anyway, since he’s currently engaged in the type of dangerous mission he swore he’d never do again. By the end of the volume, we’ve met Badou’s demon from the past, though we have to wait until next volume for an explanation and resolution to the fight.

This volume is mostly exposition, and it does a good job of beginning to sort out some of the more complex information we’ve been getting while taking things slow and employing the light humor and slick style that I’ve come to expect. I’m fond of this as a senin-ish action series, and while it’s not at the top of the list, it’s still worth reading for anyone looking for this type of story.


Dogs 3

Shirow Miwa – Viz – 2010 – 5+ volumes

Okay. While Black Lagoon is a whole lot more over-the-top and ludicrous (nothing will beat that scene in volume one where Revy was hopping from boat to boat with handguns, blowing things up while singing a Rob Zombie song), I do think I prefer Dogs. Black Lagoon has a more interesting story, with its setting and the fact the group are smugglers that interact with a whole lot of other people, but the strange crime-ridden dystopia in Dogs is a little more to my taste. I also really like the high contrast art, which is surprisingly easy to read during action scenes.

Badou makes Heine sit down and talk about his past, so we get a flashback to what little Heine remembers of it. We also get a brief look into Badou’s past, though not much of one since he’s apparently already told Heine about this. The major action of the volume takes place away from the main three characters, and focuses on the fourth, in the underground subway tunnels and an unprovoked train ambush. We are led to believe the goons used during the ambush are “a pack of dogs,” or genetically engineered humans similar to Heine, and interesting information comes out of the ambush.

There’s a few great characters here that really carry the day. The light touch of Badou and the Bishop are desperately needed in a series with so many sullen, serious people, and they are genuinely funny, which breaks up a lot of the dark action. Heine’s flashback was intense, but a little underwhelming and a slight cop-out due to his “memory issues.” The subway scene was also a little underwhelming, since it was just a bunch of cloaked goons fighting Mihai in the dark, but got significantly more interesting at the very end when another character showed up to diffuse the situation. Said character also ends the volume with an interesting cliffhanger that promises more information about the “dogs” program, so I am looking forward to seeing how they all connect.

It lacks a little punchiness, and isn’t the greatest action series out there, but a few great characters really carry the day, and I think the art makes it a little more interesting in my eyes. The fact it’s a little bland probably means I shouldn’t read volume four right away, since it will probably lower my opinion of the series a little (I’m already starting to second guess what I said about liking it better than Black Lagoon earlier), but I do want to see how it holds up when I’m not reading volumes months apart.


Dogs 2

Shirow Miwa – Viz – 2009 – 4+ volumes (+1 for volume 0)

You know, I couldn’t believe it, but the entire time I was reading this, I was wishing it was Black Lagoon. Usually it’s the other way around.  I think that proves that I like Black Lagoon a lot more than I say I do.

I like Dogs quite a bit, but this volume wasn’t a terribly good one.  I love watching Badou and Heine act goofy and then tear through impossibly huge groups of enemies, and I liked the plot that was starting to develop around Heine’s alterations and other people like him, and I also liked the idea of having all the main characters going up against an army of genetically manipulated soldiers, four-against-an-army style.

This volume focused on developing Naoto, my least favorite character.  She follows Badou and Heine into an assignment, and most of the rest of the volume is the three of them in a big melee, mostly with Heine and the other characters probing Naoto for information about who she is, which of course she can’t provide since she has no memory.  Introducing Naoto to the other characters was a necessary evil since I assume that Naoto is going to join up with Badou and Heine, but it was still hard to sit through.

As much as I like the high-contrast, dynamic art in this series, sometimes it makes it hard to follow the action scenes, especially when they are as long and confusing as they were in this volume.  Most of the problems I had with reading the art were with Luki and Noki, who are wearing frilly, ostentatious costumes and fighting with gigantic, unlikely weapons like guns and swords as big as their arms.  It’s hard to tell what is dress and weapon when they fight.  Another big problem was the gigantic, retouched sound effects.  That’s something I normally don’t notice, but in this case, they might have been covering too much of the art.  I suspect the fights may have been a bit easier to read with streamlined effects, but then again, I haven’t seen the originals.

I have to admit, I’m not the biggest fan of Luki and Noki, either.  The series didn’t really need a pair of cutesy, goth-loli-type twins that can beat everyone to the ground, but then again, it’s the kind of silly thing that makes Dogs fun to read.

The volume didn’t lower my opinion of the series at all, I think it was just a slow spot in the story (or slow as far as Dogs goes, which still includes a gigantic, hilarious melee).  We did get to meet one of the other villains in what was admittedly the coolest reveal in the world, and said villain did power away in a gigantic train, so it wasn’t a total wash.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


Dogs 1

One thing that fascinated me through the entire volume was the art.  The artist only draws in black and white.  Screentones are only used every few pages in spots, and then usually only as a solid shape in the background.  Characters rarely have any value on their clothing, and usually it is the sparse female characters that have one or two items toned in (and Badou, because he has red hair).  There is no hatching to make up for it, either, like One Piece uses hatching for value instead of screentone. The art is literally almost entirely black on white, and the effect is pretty impressive.  There are problems with the fight scenes because of it (usually I had problems figuring out what was going on when Heine strangled people with the chain attached to his gun), but still, it lends something extra-pulpy to the plot and was what I noticed most while reading the book.

I liked the format of the prologue stories a bit better, but I still liked what I saw going on in this volume.  The action starts immediately with Badou failing a mission and Heine stepping in to save him.  From there, we are taken more and more by a character from Heine’s past that seems to be stalking him and… either hired or is somehow related to the gang he took out while saving Badou.

Also, Frank Miller can eat his heart out, because one action sequence after Heine was captured featured a panel from inside Heine’s mouth, with his teeth in the foreground, the instant before he bites and tears half of a mob boss’s face off when he unexpectedly lashes out after capture.  Holy crap.

In case that wasn’t enough for you, immediately afterwards he engages in a fight with another immortal, and the two of them fill each other with bullets and kind of hack each other apart in general.  It was a good fight, and I approved.

Part of me liked the fact that Heine kept what appeared to be a wallet chain attached to his gun for the purposes of strangling dudes while he shot other dudes at the same time.  I mean… wallet chain?  Really?  For strangling while you shoot?  Is that a step too far over the top?

Probably not.

There’s some plot developments, mostly surrounding Heine and his past.  Not a lot of details are revealed, but it’s clear that this is the general direction the action will take the story.  There’s also a brief look at Naoto’s quest involving the twin of the sword she wields, but she’s only in the story long enough to hack some guys apart and meet up with Heine and Badou.  There’s also a kind of antagonist for Heine introduced named Giovanni.  I can’t tell if Giovanni really likes Heine or really hates him, but the two do engage in some epic battles, and he’ll be back for more later.

It’s… well, you aren’t going to be reading it for the plot at this point, but the action’s pretty awesome.  Good enough to keep me entertained for a few more volumes, at least.  The characters and the quirks of the world they live in are also pretty fantastic, so it’s possible the plot will be quite good when it gets going, too.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


Dogs 0

Wow.  After reading the bland summary on the back and flipping through and looking at the somewhat plain art, I was not expecting to like this series at all.  So I was pretty surprised when this wound up being really enjoyable.

While the art is plain, it can get away with it because it has a good sense of composition and panel layout, which is fairly important in an action series like this.  And sometimes simplistic art helps out fight scenes a lot too.  Anyone who has read Trigun Maximum can tell you detail is sometimes a problem.

The book itself is composed of four short stories about four different characters who intersect in different ways.  The characters are all somehow involved in crime and/or the underworld.  Of the three, the girl named Naoto, who uses swords, is the only one who hasn’t encountered the other three characters yet.  Apparently she was pulled out from under the corpses of her parents and trained in the use of the sword by the man who killed them.  She remembers nothing except her hatred of this man.  Her story is probably the least interesting, though she does get what is probably the best action scene in the book.

Mihai seems like a retired assassin with the only actual mob connections.  His story’s mostly about how the boy he raised killed his lover, both of them are now after each other, et cetera.  He runs into Badou during the next story, which is about the strange life Badou leads as an informant who doesn’t really pick sides.  Badou then appears in Heine’s story.  Heine doesn’t really have a job, other than an apparent bodyguard and/or partner for Badou, but his story is about how he was… genetically manipulated, and trying to save a girl who has the same problems.

Of the four, Badou’s story is the only one not riddled with cliches, and he’s also the comic relief of the series.  While the stories are about the girl out for revenge for the death of her parents, the boy who wants to kill the people that changed him into something inhuman, and the man who’s past haunts him, the style and pacing make up for what it lacks in plot.  Plus, each story is a quarter of the book, so they don’t really go on long enough to get boring, and are just long enough so that they explain each character.  I liked the format a lot.

I’m also quite curious to see how this will be developed into a series.  I actually do want to see how all these characters get together and what they wind up collaborating on, because it seems like the groundwork has been laid for what could be a pretty epic story.  I also tend to be fairly impressed with Ultra Jump series (Steel Ball Run and Tenjho Tenge, but Battle Angel Alita also runs there… as does Bastard), so I am kind of looking forward to the first volume now.  Plus, Viz’s presentation with this series is really awesome.  the volume is oversized, with some metallic foil used in the title, there’s a double-sided color pull-out in the front, and the inside covers have some cute cartoony versions (I would say “chibi”, but I hate that term) of Heine and Badou.  The presentation is worth the couple extra bucks you’re paying for it.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


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