Inubaka 16

June 15, 2010

Yukiya Sakuragi – Viz – 2010 – 22+ volumes

Oh, Inubaka.  Now that I’m used to the disturbing number of cheesecake shots for such an innocent series, I can kick back and enjoy the cuteness otherwise.

The stalker story from the last volume continues as Suguri does all she can to save Amuro after she was struck by a car.  But her heroics give Fujita yet another reason to admire her, follow her around like a crazy person, and give her expensive jewelery.  Inexplicably, Suguri tells neither her employer nor the police about Fujita, so I guess she’s not as creeped out as I was by him.  But who am I to judge?  She was the one who was kidnapped by him as a child, so if she wants him around, that’s fine by me.

Later, Suguri helps a friend of a friend pick out and train a new puppy.  I was trying to figure out if the story was using irony or not when Suguri and the other two girls got together, because there was some seriously dumb conversations between them, and all three came off as stereotypical empty-headed teen (in this case, slightly older) girls.  I don’t think there was any irony, which is sad.  But it did do a good job of portraying the worries of the friend, who got a puppy as training for the baby she wants to have.  The story also does a good job of showing all the ways getting a new puppy can go wrong, and how training doesn’t go well if you do certain things badly.  The girl, optimistic at first and very excited, is not doing so well by the end of the volume.

Admittedly, I want to find out what she does with her puppy.

You win, Inubaka.  I like you now.  This series is a serious guilty pleasure.  It’s definitely not all that great since the characters are so shallow and the stories are admittedly a little stupid because of that, but it is fun to read, and I’m not even a dog person.  Actually, that’s probably its biggest strength, most of the past several volumes have had more character-centric stories than dog-centric, and I find that to be more interesting.  That’s how it gets you.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Inubaka 15

February 16, 2010

Yukiya Sakuragi – Viz – 2010 – 21+ volumes

I will be the first to admit that this series is little more than shallow fun.  It took me a long time to get into it, but I can say as of now that I’m enjoying each volume quite a bit, which goes against a lot of my better judgement.  Suguri is a positive main character that has her hands in a lot of interesting things (from dog dancing to finding homes for mutts to discovering dog lineage), but she can also be annoyingly ditzy, and the episodes, while enjoyable, stop just short of turning the series into something more.  As I’ve said before, the series does its best to appeal to dog lovers, but doesn’t really try to reach outside that circle.  There’s nothing wrong with that, and it’s a fine dog manga.  One of the best I’ve read.  But just keep in mind that that’s all there is to it while you read it.

It’s also pretty calculated at certain parts to blatantly appeal to the reader’s sympathies.  When the dog that finally finds a home is ejected for reasons that are obviously not his fault, we feel bad for Suguri.  When he finally does get a permanent home in a wealthy home with a couple kids and a yard, and the ten commandments of owning a dog are panning through with cheesy shots of the family playing with the dog, I mean… it’s kind of a bittersweet moment, since it goes to the trouble of chronicling the dog’s life.  But most readers are going to be aware that it’s really trying hard to be sad.  If you’ve ever owned a dog (I haven’t), it probably stirs some sad memories too.  Whatever.

Older plotlines do come up towards the end of the book when Suguri’s visit to home lead her back to the man that kidnapped her as a girl.  I wasn’t aware that this had happened, but I wasn’t missing out on anything at all since the whole story is explained in this volume (more points for Inubaka – it really is a series you can pick up and enjoy at any volume, a rare thing for manga).  It’s serious, but again, I feel like it’s going through the motions of being a pretty serious stalker story rather than going for actual plot and character development.  Within the context of the series, however, it works just fine.

One thing that still bothers me is that it is still immediately obvious that this ran in a men’s magazine.  Suguri wears silly costumes, short skirts, and she’s the perfect cute, naieve, and ditzy girl.  The story is pretty vanilla and very close to being family friendly at most points, but then something disturbing will happen, like a teenage boy admitting he wants to keep a 4-year-old girl as a pet, or a weirdo who slaughters pets in the park, and then it’s not so okay for all ages.  A real shame, since it’s otherwise a very sweet, shallow, and enjoyable series.  And it still is, just not for anyone under, say, thirteen or fourteen or so.  And it’s rated Older Teens, appropriately, so that’s fine.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Inubaka 14

September 19, 2009

Yukiya Sakuragi – Viz – 2009 – 19+ volumes

Well, I learned about Karelian Bear Dogs in this volume, which is something.  Apparently men went around on patrol with bear dogs in order to scare gigantic bears away from camp sites.  If true, that’s pretty amazing, because I have a hard time imagining a bear backing down from a dog.

Other than that… I guess it’s more of the characters playing with dogs in an adorable way.  The first half of the volume has the characters on a… Dog Retreat or something (I felt like I had skipped a volume, because the last volume ended on a cliffhanger and this starts in the middle of something, but that might have just been an opportunity for transition that the author took since the cliffhanger was depressing and mostly resolved).  There was an older man there with Suguri and her friends who kept four gigantic dogs, which he referred to as his daughters.  More emphasis was placed on his Newfoundland than any of the other dogs, which is unfortunate since I associate a particular… odor with that type of dog (I’ve known three people with them, and they seemed to be impossible to keep clean for any length of time).  The story goes into detail about the water rescue capabilities of the Newfoundland.  There’s also an amusing detail when it is shown that the four gigantic dogs’ snoring drowns out that of their owner.

The second half of the volume takes a look at Noa finally being able to have puppies.  Teppei is a very proud parent, but this spurs Suguri on to find a proper girlfriend for her dog Lupin.  Teppei discourages her since Lupin is a mixed breed and he says nobody will want the puppies, but Suguri and the friend she finds with a female dog seem very admant to make it happen.  Teppei’s condition is that Suguri find a home for a dog similar to Lupin from an animal shelter.

The first half of the book seems like the usual light fare from this series, just people hanging out with their dogs and teaching each other about them.  The second half is a more serious look at dog breeding and the problems of finding homes for dogs, what happens to unwanted dogs, and the problems with breeding large dogs in the city.  It’s interesting, though still full of awkward and sometimes downright creepy moments where Suguri breaks out down in tears because she wants to find a “girlfriend” for Lupin and see his puppies… and, er, other things.

Again, a series strictly for dog people, though I am slowly becoming rather fond of its light tone myself, and I’ve never had a dog.  It’s somehow the right balance of cute and completely inoffensive that makes it a good light read.  I wasn’t nearly as amused by this volume as the others I’ve read (Wan Kaw is almost absent this time), but… you know, I may just like the story and characters and cute dogs at this point.

Also, there’s a photo of a dog named BuBu-kun in the back that made reading the entire volume worthwhile.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Inubaka 12

June 9, 2009

I continue to be amused by Inubaka’s focus on the competition between Wan Kaw and Woofles.  It’s downplayed in this volume, but the rivalry is still in full force during the dog dance competition.

I was mostly fascinated here by the more fanatical aspects of dog ownership.  As I said, I’m not a dog person and have never owned one myself, so I guess I don’t often think about the fact that what’s depicted in the series actually exists.  I find Inubaka amusing, but some people might enjoy it because it delves fairly deeply into dog subculture.

The dog dance competition was pretty cute and way over-the-top.  There were a lot of dogs and owners wearing elaborate costumes, and the competition came down to a three-way tie between Suguri, a blind girl, and Jasmin, the dancer hired by Wan Kaw.  I actually liked Jasmin quite a bit since she was such a happy character that genuinely liked dancing.  She’s the only person shown that liked dancing more than dogs, and I think she found it just as amusing as I did the amount of tension and rivalry that was going on at the competition when it really should be a fun thing.  Apparently she was from an older series by the author of Inubaka, which would explain the odd focus on what is essentially a one-shot character.

The second half of the book was about Kanako and her dog Czerny.  Suguri doesn’t like Kanako very much since she makes a point of spoiling her dog in front of other people and talking about how the little dog is better than all other dogs.  Kanako’s love for Czerny is fairly touching though, and she sees Czerny as a daughter rather than a pet.  Kanako gets quite a shock, then, when Czerny needs to be rushed to the pet hospital when her kidneys fail.  The message is a mixed one, but I was still pretty sad when I finished the book.

Again, there isn’t anything substantial to Inubaka, and it doesn’t try to be anything other than a series where the characters talk about dogs all the time.  It succeeds at what it sets out to do.  I also like how easy it is to pick up and read, since the stories are episodic and don’t rely on past plotlines (though a lot of things are mentioned in passing, for those who are dedicated readers).  Reading the character descriptions and plot summary at the front of the volume is all that’s required to enjoy the story in all its guilty pleasure glory.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Now, there are any number of reasons I decided not to pick this series up.  Chief among them is that I’m not the type of person that would read Marley & Me, or other heartwarming stories about dogs.  I’m just not a dog person.  So clearly, a manga called “Crazy for Dogs” is not going to be something that will appeal to to me on its premise alone, and it just didn’t strike me as the sort of series that worked extra-hard to reach outside its target audience.  So just keep that in mind.

Now, reading through the summary at the beginning, and then the volume itself, I was alternately extremely amused and deeply disturbed by what seem to be the usual goings-on of the series.  The store where the main character Suguri works is called “Woofles.”  This alone had me laughing, and it was only the first sentence in the introduction.  Also amusing was the bonus bit of information that tells us when dogs see Suguri, they get so excited they pee.  The premise seems to be that Suguri’s branch of Woofles is battling some sort of corporate pet store called Wan Kaw.  There is some serious espionage afoot on Wan Kaw’s part.  They’re trying desperately to recruit Suguri since she’s so good at training dogs, and are employing a spy to feed them information on her.  The rivalry between these two stores is straight-faced, which is why it struck me as funny… because everyone is so serious about what a good pet store Woofles is.  Most of the chapters involve Wan Kaw trying to muscle in on Woofles’ territory, or Woofles doing something and Wan Kaw upstaging them.

Also, a dog learns a trick at the very end of the volume that simulates a DJ record scratch.  I actually had to call someone to talk about that, because it struck me as so funny and, again, the series was very serious about it.  The aforementioned person got a bigger kick out of the fact that Woofles appears to be written as “Waffles” on the baseball jerseys the girls and dogs are wearing on the splash pages and bonus illustrations, which, admittedly, is just as cute a name as Woofles.

Now, the disturbing part comes with the target audience for this book.  With a premise like this, it strikes me as something that would be for a young teen audience.  But I’m reading it, and there’s some weird fanservice, like the fact the girls are always dressed in short skirts (which are sometimes commented on) and have slightly larger breasts than they need, though that part of it isn’t really overdone.  At one point, Suguri has a dream about the aforementioned spy committing suicide by jumping off the top of the building, a scene which goes on slightly longer than it should.  Like, it cuts off just before he hits the pavement to tell you it’s not real.  One of the stories is about an elementary school teacher planting a hidden camera in his classroom.  Now, the purpose of this camera is never stated, and where he puts it doesn’t make much sense to me, but we can assume he was using it to look up the skirts of his elementary school students.  The way this camera is found is that the school puppy eats it, and the scared kids bring it to Suguri, who fishes the little camera out of its poop.  See, this is all kinds of disturbing to me.

The suicide scene actually prompted me to flip to the back cover to check the rating, and I was surprised to see it rated T+.  But after reading the rest of it, it does seem like an appropriate rating.

I remember reading that several people consider this a guilty pleasure, which sounds about right.  It doesn’t go very deep with either its plot or its characters, but sometimes if the premise is something you enjoy, these things aren’t necessary.  God knows I enjoy any number of series that aren’t really all that great.  And to Inubaka’s credit, this was one of the most surprisingly entertaining manga I’ve read in a long time, though again, I was probably entertained for all the wrong reasons.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.