Thursday, November 21, 2013

Manga Review: Star-Gazing Dog

Hey guys, so life got a little hectic for me last week and I actually haven't had a chance to look at any other Emanga titles but I actually have been reading a fair bit of manga from the local public library so here is something I grabbed only because I had heard such good things about it. If I hadn't and had just looked at the back cover I doubt I would have picked it up since it's not really my thing and, well, while I'm not unhappy I picked it up it didn't affect me so profoundly that I'm especially glad that I did. 

Star-Gazing Dog by Takashi Murakami

Summary: Happie was adopted as a puppy into a family and even though Mommy and Miku don't pay attention to him anymore Daddy still feeds him and walks him which is all he wants. Happie doesn't understand how humans live but he's more than content to stick with Daddy through the thick and thin, through his life falling apart and deciding to go on one final trip.

The Good: The basic premise of the story, that it was about the life of a man and his dog from the point of view of the dog, wasn't something that interested me at first since I thought it would be too sappy and sentimental for my taste. I can happily say now that it wasn't, while it was written in such a way as to tug on your heartstrings it never felt overly forced or conniving in that way, it just fits with how we have a non-human (which in this case means, a rather innocent) narrator. 

The Bad: I'm in two minds about the ending, well, three actually. From one point of view I think the ending was handled perfectly fine and fit in well with the themes already established by the story. On the other hands, these involve small spoilers so I'm putting them in a footnote*, basically however I almost wish that the story had ended a tiny bit differently but I certainly don't dislike what happened or think it was badly done.

The Art: While the art has plenty of details it doesn't use a lot of tones or shading which gives it a bit of a simple look which I think fits the story perfectly. The mature tone of the story means I can't really call it a simple story, even if it is perfectly straightforward, but the art certainly fits the understated tone well. Plus, while straightforward this story is told from the point of view of the dog which gives it not precisely a whimsical or fantasy feel but nevertheless distances itself from reality just a tad which I think makes the art fit even better.

In the end I give this manga a 3.5 out of 5 for being well done and emotional without being cloying but in the end it still just wasn't my thing.It appears that you can read a few pages of the story here however so if this sounds like it might be your thing go ahead and give it a shot!

*So Daddy dies alone except for  Happie and his family never finds out about it. While I do think that fits with the themes already established with the story I do think it would have been interesting to see their reactions to the news, to see characters figure out how to mourn someone they once cared for who was one of the most important things in their lives and how they, well, weren't anymore. I thought that would be a really interesting direction that could only work in a more mature work like this one. And on the other other hand, I didn't really see the point of the framing aspect in the end of the story when the man whose land Daddy died on goes out searching to find out who he was. Since he ultimately fails, both to find out anything and in my opinion to add anything to the story or theme, I did wonder a bit if  Murakami was just padding for time there, although I'm sure some people will find that the inclusion of that part of the story made it more poignant.