Takashi Murakami – NBM – 2011 – 1 volume
This is a short book, and a simple story. A family adopts a puppy, and the most reluctant member of the family, the father, is the one that winds up bonding with the puppy the most. The dog grows up with the family, and as the mother and daughter become estranged and leave the father, the dog is always there for the father to talk to. When the family finally falls apart and the father loses his job, the father and dog begin travelling together, taking a road trip down the coast and enjoying one another’s company.
Really. That’s it. And yet, it’s one of the sweetest, saddest stories you could pick up. The narration is told from the dog’s point of view, and while the dog makes it clear the tragedies that are happening in the man’s life, the dog is simply happy to be with the man. And honestly, the man is happy to be with the dog. More than anything else. Their homeless, rootless lifestyle can’t go on forever, and the reader knows that their end will be coming soon. But it’s hard to be sad, when the two are so clearly enjoying each other’s company. In that sense, it’s also one of the most bittersweet stories I’ve ever read. It really, really is a sweet, pleasant, happy story, with an ending that… well, it simply happens. It comes sooner for them than it ought to, but both of them seem to know when it comes. In the context of the story, it’s fine. But still sad. I teared up a little at the end.
Strangely, the second half of the book is a different story. It seems unrelated at first, but it soon becomes apparent that the character in this story is on a mission to find out who the man with the dog really was. Along the way, he realizes that he should have cherished his dog, and his life, a lot more than he does. Unfortunately, this story brought the book down for me a little, because this one was a bit more preachy and self-reflective. Where the man and the dog in the first story merely lived their lives without thinking too much about it, this man seems to only look back with regret. Carpe diem, sir.
The art lends itself astonishingly to the story, too. Murakami has a strange way of drawing people, but he’s great at scenery, which makes the road trip and its ultimate end come alive that much more. Flowers figure prominently in the second story, too, and seeing the panels filled with sunflowers did brighten up the rather dreary tale in that case. He also draws very adorable dogs. Both dogs and nature come together on the cover, and it makes for one of the most pleasant and inviting covers I’ve seen on a manga since Tekkon Kinkreet.
It’s a short book (only about 130 pages), and very introspective. I think the reader has to know what it is before reading it, and be in the mood for this sort of story. But for the right audience, it’s absolutely wonderful. There are few manga short stories I can think of that are as touching as the first half of this book. If you think it sounds like your kind of book, I encourage you to pick this up. You likely won’t be disappointed.