by Udou Shinohara
published by Digital Manga; $7.95 US
Shiki is working on making robot dog Lag as realistic as possible, but his efforts are hampered by his own uncertainties. Each chapter features a new learning opportunity for Lag and his master.
The first features a hospital visit by Lag during which a girl patient demands a lot of him and Shiki gets a lesson about Lag’s capability to learn and love. The next chapter introduces Rena and her annoying robot dog Nikita. (Which put the Elton John song in my head.) She’s the boss’ younger sister, and she looks like an adorable j-idol, but she’s really a brat. Both she and dog are superficial playmates, but the importance of substance is revealed when an elderly women is trapped in an elevator with both dogs.
The chapter endings are abrupt, with the main emotional high point followed by a quick page of wrapup. These short stories about the heartwarming behavior of a loving dog were a nice bit of escapism, all the “awwws” of owning a pet without having to clean up after it.
Another story involves a former soccer player now in a wheelchair, who teaches Lag how to know when someone really means “go away” and when they need attention in spite of their pain. Shiki wants to improve Lag’s reactions but doesn’t know enough about the “rules” in such a situation to program him appropriately. Due to the short length, the solution just magically happens, which is a shame, because it could have been a longer, more substantial tale.
Other chapters feature Lag’s brain in a more frightening dog body and an amnesiac patient. That one’s very over-the-top in aiming for emotional impact. The final two chapters are one longer story about Lag risking his “life” to save the hospital from a deadly virus.
Lag is the reason I read all the way through this. He’s adorable, drawn as what looked to me like a collie/terrier mix. He doesn’t look like a robot at all, which might be why the text feels the need to remind the reader so often. Everyone keeps calling him “dumb”, which didn’t make any sense to me. For a robot, he’s really smart, and most of the stories are about Lag doing more than expected of him. We’re told that Shiki sees himself in Lag, so I suppose it might be audience identification for a male reader, reassured that because Lag/Shiki/the guy cares really hard, it all works out in the end in spite of the interim actions.
The other characters are all over the map. Shiki is a typical shaggy-haired, big-mouthed manga guy, but his boss is bizarre. When we first see her, she’s wearing what appears to be a see-through capelet over a low-cut evening dress top, a miniskirt, and tights. She’s also sporting a piled-high beehive and a foot-long cigarette holder. How this matches either a “pet rental” company or a robotics lab is beyond me. Her look was so ridiculous that it made me wonder if this was another 80s manga, but I couldn’t find an original copyright date on the indicia page. Otherwise, the art isn’t particularly dated. It is odd that everyone but the patients and Shiki seems to be related, though.
This was my first test of the new Digital Manga download system, and it was easy as pie, particularly since I already had a preferred comic reader app installed. I simply picked my favorite format and downloaded, then read it without needing to be connected. Flipping pages back and forth happened quickly, without having to wait for reloads (as happened with the online reader), which made it much preferable for me trying to write about the book (and check my memory of events). Note, though, that I didn’t have to pay for anything, since the publisher provided me an online review copy.
This was also one of my first Digital Manga Guild reads. It was translated by Kaedama Subs/Cynical Pink, and I thought they did a fine job, which I define as not having any spots where my reading stumbled over a word choice or I was confused by what was meant. I liked that they translated all the little notes about the dog’s behavior, too.