by Yukiya Sakuragi; adaptation by Ian Reid
published by Viz; $9.99 US
I don’t make any claims for superior artistry or quality, but this manga series has quickly become one of the top five I look forward to. It’s consistently entertaining, and I know what I’m going to get from it: cute dogs and soap opera among the people who love them. It feels good to read it, and it rewards me exactly as I expect it to.
I do wish, though, that some of the fan service chapter-opening pinups weren’t so blatant. I know dog whisperer Suguri is attractive, but shots of her in bikinis on all fours or topless are really unnecessary… and contradictory to the book’s inspirational message of trying your best regardless of your heritage or what you look like.
As Book 5 opens, Suguri’s co-worker’s younger sister Mika has been visiting the pet store to play with the puppies. She’s stressed from the scholastic expectations placed on her, so much so that she’s become self-destructive.
This chapter gives Suguri’s dog Lupin a chance to shine. We were told in earlier volumes that his ancestor was responsible for rescuing Suguri during a traumatic time in her life, and now we see his heroism as he protects Mika.
That’s just an introduction, though. For most of the book, Suguri is given a different rescue mission. A German Shepherd was being trained for agility competitions, but his owner had an accident and is in the hospital. Due to the dog’s age, the upcoming trials are likely to be his last chance to become a champion, so Suguri takes over. This means working to gain his trust and understanding how to communicate with him. She’s got to work hard, too, practicing her English and training to keep up with the dog. Together, they build a partnership.
Suguri’s got to get back to normal in book six, rebuilding her relationship with the neglected Lupin after celebrating her achievements with her friends. Shop owner Teppei rescues an abandoned kitten, just for a chance of pace. When his Labrador Noa adopts the baby cat as her own child, problems ensue. The artist draws kitties just as cute as she draws puppies, by the way.
There’s also the story of a conflicted father and daughter and the dog that brings them together, and one about a geek taking Suguri and another girl and their pets to a dog café. Lupin’s misbehavior when the other dogs are suitable for company embarrasses his owner. The setting provides reason for more breeds and owners to make appearances, though.
These stories all have at their core the deep, loving relationship between people and dogs, but the author comes up with unexpected and creative plot variations to demonstrate the basic theme. The problems posed are interesting and informative about animal behavior in their solutions.