[Editor's note: Many thanks to Drew for this one. I reviewed two previous volumes of this series, and found it dreadfully boring, so I pawned this one off on him. It seems he didn't think much better of it than I did.]
Out now from Viz is volume 7 of Dogs: Bullets & Carnage, a manga that sadly tries so hard to be stylistic that its blend between Bleach and Tenjo Tenge falls flat on its face, sacrificing story for combat poses, leaving the reader scratching their head wondering what’s going on, forcing them to Google search for the plot.
The overall plot of the series is about a city that has a history of cruel genetic experiments taking place, and on the streets is a battle brewing between multiple folks with enhanced fighting powers. Some are look for revenge, some are from organizations trying to find the truth, and some are the bad guys themselves. A promising set up. In this volume, caught in the middle of this plot is Naoto Fuyumine, a babe with a dark and troubled past, and her companion Heine, who has an equally dark past, as well. Heine also has the unfortunate luck to be stuck in combat against Magato, who is trying to awaken something in Heine. Now if that wasn’t bad enough, one by one a bunch of other folks with a variety of weapons join the fight, as the pasts of our main characters come to light.
Sounds good on paper when I summarize it, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, Dogs: Bullets & Carnage doesn’t play out as neat and tidy as I described it, and is a confusing mess due to the lack of both writing and art.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: Shirow Miwa – mangaka? I write it with a question mark at the end because it honestly surprises me after reading this volume that this guy even likes to draw or write. Miwa’s art can be described as mostly good drawn characters in fighting stances…and that’s it. I am not over exaggerating when I say 95% of his pages have nothing but white space for back grounds. This might not be an issue if his characters filled the boxes, but they don’t half the time, leaving them surrounded by A LOT of white space. Then to make it worse, a majority of the pages, with each page composed of three-to-five panels only, contain anywhere from one to two panels which are just blank white. Nothing in them. Just HUGE white boxes of nothing, taking up a quarter of the page. Someone may call it stylistic, but it reads as lazy. There are four panels on a page. Only three have drawings in them, and out of those three, zero have backgrounds! It doesn’t matter how cool of a character you design, there’s nothing on the page. I might as well stare into snow for a half hour or buy a package of copy paper to “read.”
So does Miwa’s writing make up for his drastic lack of art? Nope. It’s not much better. You think the philosophical randomness that creeps into Tenjo Tenge annoys some folks, let’s talk about this manga in which you have no clue why any of these thoughts are written on the page for 40% of the volume. The razor thin plot is only enhanced by the pasts of the characters coming to light, but it’s so little that it lacks being compelling to read. Yeah, one can write it off and just chalk it up as a “fighting manga,” but if so, that means this is one of the worst fighting manga ever translated for the North American market. It is the kind of manga that turns people off from reading manga. I’d take an American comic book over this any day.
Lastly, the manga has an “M” rating for mature. I don’t know about content in previous volumes, but volume 7, aside from one bloodless hand being severed, is really-really tame. No nudity. No sex. No blood. Just a little punching and kicking with some weapons drawn in to jazz it up. I have seen Shonen Jump‘s Dragon Ball get far more violent than this, but I’m guessing the rating is by series and not volume.
Volume 7 of Dogs: Bullets & Carnage is out now, but buyer beware.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.