Home > Manga Reviews, Reviews > Manga Dogs, Vol. 1 – 3

Manga Dogs, Vol. 1 – 3

And we’re back! After a small break for Anime Boston we’ll now be returning the regular two review a week schedule. Sorry about the small delay! Today I’ll be taking a look at Manga Dogs, Vol. 1 – 3 from Kodansha, but first, some news!

With that out of the way, it’s onto the featured review of Manga Dogs, Vols. 1 – 3!

Manga Dogs, Vol. 1Manga Dogs, Vols. 1 – 3
by Ema Toyama
Kodansha Comics
Rating: Older Teen (16 +)

At just 15, Kanna Tezuka has taken her first steps on the path to manga stardom! With her series, “Teach Me Buddha” being published she’s eager to work on her manga and jumps at the chance to join her school’s new manga program. Unfortunately her hopes for a decent learning environment and the chance to get some work done are dashed as Kanna soon finds herself stuck with three wannabe manga artists with their heads firmly in the clouds. Wackiness ensues in Manga Dogs, the latest series from Ema Toyama, the creator of Missions of Love!

Despite the harem-y set up there’s not a whole lot of love, romance or romantic comedy occurring in Manga Dogs. Instead, Ema Toyama uses the set up to give us a series of short, gag focused chapters as Kanna struggles to get her manga done despite the constant presence of her three wannabe, pretty boy classmates known as the Manga dogs; Fumio Akatsuka, Fujio Fuji and Shota Ishinomori. As you may have noticed, nearly everyone in the series is named after an established manga creator and the constant references to the manga industry don’t stop there. References to magazines, series, other creators, bits of manga history and more are peppered throughout the series, hidden amongst the goofy adventures of Kanna and company. Thankfully you don’t need to be an expert to grasp them all, as Kodansha included some fairly extensive notes and annotations in the gutters to help clarify things for those readers who aren’t in danger of being found crushed to death beneath their piles of Japanese comics.

This is my first encounter with an Ema Toyama series and while I’m not exactly blown away by it, I wasn’t offended either. It can be a bit slow at times and the promises held by it’s manga industry references and hook are never really used beyond adding some brief tension and leading into some silly gags. For example, we discover that Kanna’s series, a romance series about a girl who ends up in a school populated by the Buddha statues of Japan, was suggested by her editor and that it’s constantly in peril of being canceled. Despite this the editor refuses to allow her to change the premise, insisting that teenaged girls will love the educational hook and editorial asides. Likewise brief glimpses into things like manga contests are rarely used to show or explore the actual experience and are instead use to highlight the lofty ambitions of the Manga Dogs versus the actual effort they’re willing to expend in getting there. At times this hit a little close to home and reminded me of my younger years and my pipe dream of entering into the American comics industry despite my utter lack of artistic talent, but at the same time I’m far enough removed that I was able to enjoy, relate and laugh at myself and the Dogs throughout the volume.Page from Manga Dogs, Vol. 1

Most of the comedy comes through the text and the situations rather than the visuals, though at times Ema Toyama does dip into some sight gags here and there. Things like a field trip to Comiket as the Manga Dogs discover the interests of fujoshi springs to mind, but by and large the art is serviceable but not terribly memorable to stand out. The characters adhere to various cliches, most notably with the Manga Dogs falling into some fairly typical archetypes (Shota Ishinomori is an example of.. well.. a shota cliche). The visuals reflect this nicely, but they just lack that something extra to really make them pop. Generally her style looks and feels like your fairly typical shojo style and it rarely deviates from that in any way. So while it suites the material just fine, it doesn’t really jump at you or stick with you.

Manga Dogs, Vols. 1 – 3 is a fun, little series. Ema Toyama’s decision to avoid romantic entanglements and instead focus on misplaced passions for manga and pipe dreams leads to some funny moments, but folks hoping to get an inside look at the manga business or creation will be disappointed.

Manga Dogs, Vols. 1 – 3 are available now from Kodansha Comics. Review copies provided by the publisher.

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