Title: Kinokoinu Mushroom Pup
Author: Kimama Aoboshi
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing
Volume: Volume 1, $12.95
Vintage: Tokuma Shoten Publishing Co. in 2011; July 2014 by DMP
Genre: Slice of life, drama
Hotaru Yuyami has lost his best friend. It’s been over a month since his beloved dog Hanako died, and he’s stuck in a mire of depression. He rarely leaves his house, and he hasn’t been able to draw or write any new picture books. Not only is he grieving over the loss of his best friend, he feels guilty for letting her die while tending to his work. One day, a strange pink mushroom appears in his yard, and when he checks on it again later, a strange dog pops out of the ground. This mushroom dog appears capable of understanding human speech, but is unable to verbally communicate back. It instantly becomes attached to Hotaru, however, so the man decides to keep it. Mushroom Pup picks up on Hotaru’s grief quickly, and decides to help by burning everything of Hanako’s that Hotaru hasn’t been able to get rid of. Rather than get angry, Hotaru realizes the creature is trying to help him move on. He starts writing again – stories featuring a creature called Mushroom Pup. The Editor-in-Chief’s son, who works at a mushroom research center, wants to meet Hotaru and Mushroom Pup. Yara is a serious mushroom fanatic, but he’s also a fan of Hotaru’s books, and wants to date him. Hotaru has no interest in that, but they do become friends, with a little encouragement from Mushroom Pup. There’s plenty of misunderstandings early on, while Mushroom Pup struggles to communicate with Hotaru. Unfortunately his attempts result in some trouble when the dog practices writing on the backs of Hotaru’s manuscripts.
Mushroom Pup is hard to describe. It’s equally adorable and heartbreaking. Mushroom Pup is undeniably cute, but he seems to have a slight sadistic side. He starts a bonfire and kicks Hotaru down a hill. He’s emotive, and genuinely wants to help Hotaru, but his methods are a bit harsh. Then again, harsh is probably what Hotaru needed to get him out of his slump. If you’ve ever lost a dear pet, this book is sure to speak to you. Hotaru has strong memories of Hanako that easily rise to the surface of his mind. Then Mushroom Pup comes along, like a new, rambunctious puppy, and puts a smile on his forever gloomy face. Thanks to Mushroom Pup, Hotaru even makes a friend in Yara. He’s able to get back to work, and finds himself smiling and laughing again. This is a really sweet book, and an easy read. It’s rated 13+, and I think it would be a good book for young teens. Not exclusively, of course; no reason an adult can’t enjoy it like I did. The artwork is simple, but there’s good detail where there needs to be, and also a chubby little dog with a pink mushroom for an ear.