Monday, July 29, 2013


As with cats, there isn't necessarily a lot of dog-centric manga out there.  Unlike cats, you don't see a lot focused on dog-girls (unless you count things like wolf-girls and fox-girls).  Instead you get series more like today review.

INUBAKA: CRAZY FOR DOGS (Dog Idiot), by Yukiya Sakuragi.  First published in 2004, and first published in North America in 2007.

Suguri is a simple, cheerful girl who loves nothing more than dogs.  In fact, she's so simple that her parents want to keep her under their control by arranging a job for her near home.  Being an 18 year old girl, though, Suguri wants to be on her own and thus runs away with only her dog Lupin as company.  She eventually meets up with Teppei, a grumpy Tokyo pet shop owner.  Their dogs meet up as well, and end up getting VERY friendly.  This is bad for Teppei, who was planning on breeding his purebred lab for profit.  To make up for his lost profit, Suguri offers to work for him at his pet shop. Soon it's revealed that she had an innate understanding of dogs.  So, even as she creates chaos in and around the shop, she leaves her charges happier and healthier than before.

You know, there are characters that are simple and innocent and are perfect little Pollyannas, and then there are those that are so simple and naïve that you begin to wonder if they're mentally challenged.  That's how I feel about Suguri.

She may be of legal age, but mentally I don't feel that Suguri is quite there yet.  This fact makes it kind of awkward that Suguri is usually the butt of the story's jokes, as she's nearly kidnapped once and a coworker constantly scams money from her for gambling.  She's also ridiculously happy about dogs having bowel movements, and her presence makes dogs so happy that they can involuntarily pee themselves.  Oh, by the way, get used to a lot of jokes centering around doggy pee and poop.

At its core, Inubaka is just a dog-themed screwball comedy.   It's about a Manic Pixie Dream Girl who enters a straightlaced guy's life and improves it as she turns it upside-down, with each chapter consisting of one-shot stories about the dogs inside and outside of the shop.  Ultimately, it's an unsophisticated little comedy about dogs and the people that love them, even if the lead is a little too naïve to be believed.

The artwork is fairly polished for such a middle-of-the-road work.  Sure, the faces sometimes seem a bit too small for their heads, but the character designs are otherwise well proportioned and detailed.  Of course, the mangaka's real interest is in the dogs.  They're by and large the best drawn thing within its pages, and each breed is easily recognized and drawn as to be almost photorealistic.  They even behave like real dogs, save for one overly clever Corgi puppy.  Backgrounds are frequent if mundane, and the page composition is equally mundane.

Now, remember all that stuff I said about Suguri earlier?  Well, the awkwardness around her is only intensified by the fact that she's the main source of fanservice.  Someone who can barely live by herself should not be the source of panty shots, if you ask me.  There also may be some fetish fuel in the fact that Suguri wears a dog collar, although it has a purpose in the story (it's a reminder of the dog that rescued Suguri from a childhood kidnapping). 

Overall, the art is more focused on the dogs than the people, but is solidly rendered.

Nothing to see here.

I could see dog lovers enjoyed this series a bit, but otherwise Inubaka just feels like a trifle, albeit a trifle with some weird undertones.

This series was licensed by Viz.  This series is complete at 22 volumes.  17 volumes were released, and the series is currently out of print.

You can purchase this volume and many more like it through!

Thursday, July 25, 2013


I apologize for the extended absence, as I became distracted by a different sort of animal, the sort that lives in a Pokeball inside my Nintendo DS.  (Translation: my boyfriend got me Pokémon SoulSilver, and I got lost in it for a while.)

Thankfully, I'm back to cover yet another feline-focused bit of fiction.  Mind you, most of them aren't as literally about cats as Chi's Sweet Home - most are about that favorite of otaku fetishes, the catgirl.  Too bad that where catgirls tread, quality rarely follows.

OMAMORI HIMARI (Protective Charm Himari), by Milan Matra.  First published in 2006, and first published in North America in 2010.

Yuuto Amakawa is your typical harem lead teenage boy.  He's an orphan who lives alone, who is woke up every morning by his nagging neighbor girl/childhood friend Rinko.  Sure, today may be his 16th birthday, but Yuuto isn't expecting anything special.  Unfortunately, something special comes to him in the form of a possessed schoolmate.  He is saved by the voluptuous Himari, who immediately moves into Yuuto's house.  Himari turns out to be a cat spirit who has protected Yuuto's family for generations from evil spirits.  This doesn't sit too well with Yuuto, who is extremely allergic to cats.  Now Yuuto must help Himari adapt to the modern world without revealing her true identity and Himari must protect Yuuto from anyone who dare to claim him for themselves, be they tsundere schoolgirls or vengeful loli water spirits.

Once again, I find myself looking at a harem series, and once again I find a manga that can't even manage to reach my rock-bottom expectations for quality in this genre.

Yuuto might as well not be there.  True, he's not a total perv nor a spineless mensch, but he's simply just...there.  He's just the anchor for any and all girls in his growing harem to latch onto.  Mind you, those girls aren't towering forces of personality either.  Himari is a strange mix of formality and saucy flirtaciousness.  One could say her sudden personality shifts are meant to parallel the mood shifts of cats (being a catgirl herself), but I think it's more indicative of bad writing than any calculated effort on Matra's part.  Rinko is your run-of-the-mill tsundere, the kind who has to nag the lead just to get him up in the mornings and yet inexplicably loves him.  The third member of the harem is a deadpan little loli water demon, and has nothing going for her than her stoic nature.  The only thing these three have in common is that they are all dull as dishwater. 

Is the story any better than its cast?  After all, it involves demon slaying and possession, so it should involves some sweet fights, right?

Sadly, you would be wrong, so very very wrong.  The action scenes are mere afterthoughts, because why on earth would we want to see Himari fight demons when we can just watch her flaunt her boobs, try on clothes, or go to the beach?  Why would anyone want anything remotely original or exciting when we can just go over the same goddamn harem clichés over and over until I want to stab my brain with a chopstick?!

Omamori Himari tries to dress itself up with the demon-slaying catgirl angle, but it can't conceal the fact that this is just like every other harem series out there, old and new.  Its plot and characters are both as flat and one-dimensional as the paper they are printed on. 

I guess I can say that the artwork shows more effort than the writing, but that's not saying much.  Matra certainly put more effort towards the fanservice, as Himari rarely misses an opportunity to flaunt her massive boobs or pop out her conveniently cute cat ears or tail.  Yuuto himself rarely misses an opportunity to grope every girl in his harem at least once (including the loli), or to be straddled by one of the girls, or for somebody to flash their panties.  At one point Himari wears a yukata so tight that it practically wedges itself up her butt, which seems to miss the point of a yukata.  It's bad when the fanservice on the cover is about as subtle as the artwork gets.

Too bad that the character designs suffered for Matra's focus on fanservice, because they all look as generic as possible.  The backgrounds are mundane and often obscured with screentone.  Panels tend to be small and crowded until they break out the fanservice, but the page layouts are not overly crowded. 

There are a few color pages in the front, including the first two pages of the manga proper, but most of them are there to display Himari in all, I guess.  Aside from a brief author's note, that's it for extras.

Omamori Himari isn't the trashiest harem series out there, but rarely have I come across one so generic and paint-by-numbers.  No effort was put into it beyond "catgirl with sword", "BOOBS," and "PANTIES."  As such, no effort should be made towards reading or purchasing it.

This series is published by Yen Press.  This series is ongoing in Japan, with 11 volumes currently available.  10 of the 11 volumes have been published, and all are currently in print.

You can purchase this volume and many more like it through!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Well, after look at a cat-centric series, we get to move on to PUPPEHS! dogs.  The only thing is that we don't get a lot of dog-centric series in the state, the canine equivalent of Chi's Sweet Home.  When we do get dog-centric series, they tend to be a little....different.

GURU-GURU PON-CHAN, by Satomi Ikezawa.  First published in 1998, and first published in North America in 2005.

Ponta is a cute little Labrador puppy. She's also a very mischievous, ditzy, and destructive little Labrador puppy and it drives her owners, the Koizumis, to the point of madness.  Grandpa Koizumi is more fond of her, but that's because she's the perfect test subject for his new invention: the Guru-Guru Bone!  With one lick, it can grant any animal the power of speech, but Ponta ends up devouring the whole thing.  It turns out that the Guru-Guru Bone is more effective than Grandpa anticipated, as it not only gives Ponta the ability to speak, but turns her into a human toddler!  She wanders into the street, only to be saved by the handsome neighbor boy Mirai.  Ponta is transformed back into a dog, but the encounter ends up leaving her with a case of puppy love.

Months pass, and while Ponta has grown a little bigger, she hasn't outgrown her crush on Mirai.  She rediscovers the Guru-Guru Bone, and now she can transform into an attractive, nude teenage, albeit one with the mind of a dog.  Now, with Grandpa Koizumi's cooperation, she can transform at will from dog to girl, and her determination to be with Mirai may turn the lives of those around her upside-down.

Man, only in Japan could you get a comic published where the main romance involves a dog and a teenage boy.  Sure, you see a lot of paranormal romances on the shelves these days where woman fall in love (and enjoy husbandry) with various werecritters, but those are men who only look like animals.  They still possess (to varying degrees) the minds of men.  This is not the case with Guru-Guru Pon-Chan.  Even in human form, Ponta is still mentally a dog.  She's hyperactive, loyal to a fault, possesses a massive appetite, has to learn to read, write, and speak, and likes to chase cats; she just happens to look like a cute blonde teenager as she does so.

At the very least, the romance seen here is completely innocent, and the romantic subplot is rather minor compared to the set-up for the plot and the comedic mayhem Ponta wreaks in both canine and human form.  To put it more simply, this is not a story about a dog that wants to hump a guy, but instead about a dog that has to learn to live and act as people do (and mostly fails at it).  The whole volume is sweet, simple, and even childlike in tone, which would certainly explain the multitude of poop jokes.  Most of the humor comes from Ponta's exaggerated but still recognizable behavior, and dog owners and lovers will recognize and laugh at her behavior in much the same way cat lovers would giggle at Chi's Sweet Home.  As long as you're willing to accept the weirdness of this concept at face value, you'll find here a silly little story that plays things for yuks, not for fetish material.

The art here is sketch-like and fine-lined.  I really loved Ponta's big, dark, happy eyes and her equally big, silly expressions.  Her dog form tends to vary wildly from fairly realistic to making very exaggerated and distinctly un-doglike expressions and poses.  Her human form tends to be a whirlwind of flailing limbs, long curly hair, and goofy faces.  The rest of cast tends to be divided along two lines.  The more comedic members, like Grandpa Koizumi, tend to look very simple and cartoonish.  The more serious ones, like Mirai, look more like they got lost on their way to a Fuyumi Soryo manga (Mirai in particular looks eerily like Mars's Rei).  They look fine on their own, but when all together the effect is rather strange.  Backgrounds are simple and effective when present, which is not all that often.

As typical for a Del Ray work, there is a honorifics guide in the front and translation notes in the back.  There's also an omake where Ikezawa covers the process of making Pon-Chan from intial sketch to finished product.  There is also an untranslated preview of Volume 2.

This manga might have a weird concept, but it's a fun read, just the sort of thing to serve a silly little pick-me-up.

This series was published by Del Ray.  All 9 volumes were released, and all are currently out of print.

You can purchase manga like this and much more through!

Monday, July 1, 2013


Well, we're finally done with the maids, so let's move on to something more positive, something everyone can enjoy - cute animals!  This month's reviews will all be about cat- or dog-centric manga, and I'm starting things off with one of my personal favorites.

CHI'S SWEET HOME (Chizu Suito Homu), by Kanata Konami.  First published in 2004, and first published in North America in 2010.

Chi is an adorable little grey tabby kitten who becomes separated from her mother and littermates.  She is eventually taken in by Yohei and his parents, the Yamadas.  As Chi becomes more familiar with her new home, her new family tries their best to care for her while keeping her hidden, as their apartment complex doesn't allow pets.

Chi's Sweet Home is a sophisticated, complex work, a deep metaphor for the struggle of nature to overcome and adapt to man in the 21st cent - oh, who the hell am I kidding?  It's about a little kitty doing cute things and I absolutely love it!

I'll admit to being biased - I've always been a cat person, and nothing gets me happier or more giggly than cats doing cute things.  As such, Chi's Sweet Home hits that target spot-on.  Its cuteness is undeniable.  It's one of the simplest, most pure examples of slice-of-life on the market.  There's no huge overarcing plot, just Chi learning to live with people, exploring a houseful of places to play, and dealing with the dreaded litterbox.  Even the dialogue is simple and short, and Chi's inner monologue gives her an adorable little lisp to go with her babytalk.  As such, this is one of the rare manga on the North American market that can be read and understood by small children (which is weird, considering this runs in a seinen magazine).  Those who own or are familiar with cats will find a lot of familiar situations in this story, but anyone can enjoy the sweet simplicity of this story.

The art for Chi's Sweet Home is also sweet and simple.  It's also in full color, with lots of soft watercolors for the backgrounds.  The character designs are simple, almost child-like, but they can be shockingly effective.  For example, Chi's face is little more than two enormous eyes and a triangle for a mouth, but Konami gets so much emotional range and so much comedy out them with just the widening of Chi's pupils or the drop of her wee kitty jaw.  Panels are small (although that may be more of a reflection of the small physical size of the volumes), but are spaciously composed.

In a rare move, Vertical chose to publish this volume flipped, most likely to make all the more accessible to small children not used to unflipped manga.  There's also a diagram of the Yamada's apartment in the back.  As noted, the volume is smaller and thinner than your average tankoban, but the paper is of notably higher quality, which I would consider a fair trade off.

Chi's Sweet Home is a series that I can recommend to anyone of any age who can enjoy manga, or just wants a concentrated dose of adorability.

This series is published by Vertical.  This series is ongoing in Japan, with 10 volumes currently available.  9 volumes have been published so far, with the 10th coming in August 2013.  All volumes are currently in print.

You can purchase this volume and many more like it through!