June 11, 2014
Shirow Miwa – Viz – 2012 – 9+ volumes
Ugh… it’s been awhile since I’ve read this one. It was a bit rougher than I remember.
First, there’s the art. I’ve said before I like Shirow Miwa’s style, and I still do. It’s slick and fluid, and the design on the main characters is nice. But… that’s about it. There are almost no backgrounds. Not even pretend backgrounds. Just white space. It read as a stylistic choice in early volumes, but at this point, the contrasting spot blacks have also mostly disappeared. We’re left with some ink outlined characters standing around talking to each other (there is little fighting in this volume). Character designs are becoming harder to differentiate now that there are a lot of regular characters.
Also, way too many characters in a needlessly complicated story. The train blew up, so the main action is split between the over and under city, which are now isolated from one another (don’t worry, there are no backgrounds to tell you where stuff is happening). Most of what happens here is that Naoto’s “brother” shows up. He tries to (finally) explain her past, but then pinstripe lady shows up and we find out… well, at least a couple different scenarios. They are left vague, and may or may not tie back into the experiments done on Heine.
Which is my problem right now. Granted, I took a break, but this series is terrible at hinting vaguely, then explaining with more vague hints. There isn’t enough of a story to really get into, and I don’t care enough about the characters anymore to be enticed by the vague hints.
Elsewhere, Heine and company are recruited under mysterious and dubious circumstances. Naoto’s brother wants to fight Heine… because he autoregens? Badou is out of info and needs more? The twin girls are like Heine, but not, and maybe like Naoto too? Pinstripes has at least two names?
Nothing that happened this volume felt purposeful, and my opinion of this series fell precipitously. But I do have one more volume backlogged, so I’m going to try it back-to-back with this one to see if the story makes sense in larger chunks.
February 28, 2013
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!
January 17, 2012
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.
December 29, 2010
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.
September 20, 2010
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.
November 10, 2009
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.
July 7, 2009
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?
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.