Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dogs Volume 2

By Shirow Miwa. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Ultra Jump. Released in North America by Viz.

I was going to start off with the first week of January's new releases, but I had this volume in my backlog and I thought I'd type something up.

This is one of those 'action and violence' manga that you see quite a bit of both here and in Japan. Examples include Black Lagoon, Hellsing, Trigun... anything with a lot of corpses and a lot of people leaping into the air wielding guns. Of course, I'd actually argue that Black Lagoon is better in many respects, but I still feel that Dogs is a series worthy of attention.

First, it actually feels like a Western-style action movie. There's a lot of smart-ass remarks throughout, and not just from Badou, the designated 'smart-ass remark' character. The action is complex and exciting. It can sometimes get difficult to tell what's going on, but that's true of many, many action manga. On a scale of 1 to Trigun Maximum (that being my gold standard of 'I cannot tell what the hell is going on here!'), I'd say it's about a 5 or 6.

I'm also genuinely interested in the collection of oddballs who are our main characters. There's some differentiation between those who are fully immersed in the insanity and resigned to it, those fully immersed but trying simply to live through it and come out ahead, and those driven by inner demons to jump headfirst into the world. I'm particularly interested to see where Naoto's arc goes from here.

Are there weak points? Sure. We're dealing with a hidden underground conspiracy, with information being dripped out to us in little bitlets. One can argue that in a series like this the information is irrelevant, but I can't even imagine reading this week to week. It definitely works better in larger chunks. And as always when there's a swordsperson in the middle of a battle with machine guns and pistols, check your logic at the door in terms of how she even manages to function. I didn't buy it in Noir either.

And then there's those twins. No, I don't think that Shirow stole the idea from Black Lagoon. Let's face it, psychotic identical twin lolis is something that's going to occur to anyone in Japan who's male and writes manga at some point. But if they're going to be ongoing characters in the manga (note that Black Lagoon's twin killers were written out relatively quickly), they ideally need to do more than just be moppet assassins. I don't get a sense of their arc the way I do with Naoto, Badou or Heine. You get the sense they're there because hey, adorable loli assassins! WIN! Hopefully future volumes will fix this.

I'm generally not one to notice art unless it's really good or really bad. I think I'd describe this art as 'stark'. There's a lot more use of whitespace than I'm used to in manga, and it's a great stylistic choice. You may not like the art itself, but the artist manages to sell the tone regardless, which is very impressive.

Overall, though, I think this is a decent read. Compared to some of its contemporaries, there is perhaps a bit more action and a bit less plot, but hey, the action is a lot of fun. I think if you like guns and swords, you'll get a kick out of Dogs. (If you like loli assassins, you might look for out of print copies of Gunslinger Girl as an alternative...)

You can get the manga from the publisher by going here.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Greetings, all

Welcome to my blog. My name is Sean Gaffney. You may have seen me for my occasional reviews on Okazu, or on my LiveJournal, or on Twitter as Toukochan.

Here I plan to review things. Mostly manga, but I reserve the right to talk about other things as well (for one thing, I'm a huge Warner Brothers cartoon fan). I may also post news, tidbits, or just random sentences strung together. The title, which I have used for my LiveJournal and other sundry sites, is the subtitle of a movie called Morgan that I enjoy.

My blog is not very formal, and my views can sometimes contradict each other, mostly because I read Walt Whitman. Or is that Walt Kelly? In any case, my outlook on life tends to veer between:

"Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes."

and

"Don't take life so serious, son. It ain't nohow permanent."

You'll find that I am fairly easy to please. I may not utterly rave about a ton of titles, but I do generally enjoy a ton. For example, The Magic Touch, that massage manga that a lot of people seem to despise? I think it's perfectly serviceable. Cute lead, interesting side characters, and lots of silly massage humor.

I've just started a blog, so the amount of review copies I have is zero. I expect that will continue for some time. If I ever get some, likely I'll have to come up with a disclaimer of some sort, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. In any case, this means that when I review something, I'm likely gonna like it as I bought it knowing I'd like it. Sometimes I'm disappointed, though, so fear not, there will be the occasional clunker featured here.

I will likely start posting in earnest the weekend of January 4th, when the Viz Blitz hits my local comic shop (including 5 One Piece volumes!). You may see a post or two before that, though.

In any case: hi! Welcome to my blog!