Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Manga Wednesday: Stargazing Dog

Stargazing Dog
Takashi Murakami

Stargazing Dog is a story about a man and his relationship with his dog.  After he loses his job and his wife leaves him, "Daddy" (as his dog calls him) drives south on a road trip where we get to see the two bond.  We know from the opening scene that things aren't going to end well for the two, as their bodies are found in his car near a camp site, long dead, but we get to see the events that lead to that lonely tragic scene.  Much of the story is told through the eyes of the dog, with a naive, loyal voice, as we see "Daddy" spiral closer and closer to his death.  I found seeing this story from the dog's point of view kind of irritating, to be honest.  It's something else when a manga like Chi's Sweet Home is all about a cute animal doing cute things and getting some laughs out of it, but Stargazing Dog is a pretty bleak, serious story, and the dog's naive voice just kind of clashes with the overall tone.  It's distracting even.  I think it would have been stronger watching the dog do the things he did silently and interpret his actions ourselves.  Instead of making him more sympathetic, I'm afraid that Murakami just makes this dog seem like he could have easily been interchangeable with a naive kid.  He kind of humanizes the dog, which seems to contradict his overall portrait of dogs in this book.  It was just an odd fit for this specific story.  I did like some aspects of the relationships between man and dog, especially in the short that follows the main story, about the man who tries to identify the body of the homeless man and prepare a burial for him.  This man recalls his own experiences with his dog growing up, particularly how loyal it was to him despite his own aloofness toward the dog, and his regret for not being a better owner to him.  Murakami's art is pretty solid with very nice backgrounds and designs for the dogs, and boxier forms for the humans of the story that give it a little character.  Unfortunately, I just didn't really connect with this story.  I felt like it pushed a little too aggressively for an emotional reaction when it was hardly earned.  It seemed a little too orchestrated for that response and just left a bad taste in my mouth instead.  I can see some people really enjoying a book like this, but it was not for me.

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