I dedicate this blog to comics in all forms, manga, autobio, superhero, art books, etc. And of course, since I need a challenge, I've decided that I'll read and write (short) reviews for 365 comics during 2015.
Manga Dogs by Ema Toyama is similar to one of my favorite manga series, Bakuman. In a sentence it is the shōjo equivalent of Bakuman. However, the differences between the two series are night and day.
Bakuman was a shonen series. Shonen works often consist of having a group of protagonists compete or fight against their rivals, 'leveling up', sometimes through long battle arcs, such as one would see in just about everything published in Weekly Shōnen Jump. Bakuman both defined and defied the genre, it's a great example of shonen manga at it's best while giving readers an inside look at the processes of being a published artist/writer of manga and elevating the genre with refreshing new ideas all at the same time.
Manga Dogs is about Kanna Tezuka a 15 year old girl who has already made her debut as a manga artist. Still in high school, she joins the newly made 'manga major' at her school hoping for a peaceful and isolated classroom where she can draw her manga in peace, but instead of the otaku haven she'd imagined, the only other students in the class are three 'normals,' AKA good looking dudes, who immediately latch onto her calling her their sensei and believing everything she tells them about the world of manga.
The two series exemplify the differences between shonen and shojo manga for me. For instance, usually when one starts reading any shonen title, the readers and protagonists start at the beginning of a journey together, we're all level one, with the goal of becoming mangaka/hokage/super saiyans in the future. However, often with shojo manga things are already set up for us, our characters are already mangaka/class president/super stars and they're at level one of some relationship.
That's why Bakuman is so great. Not only does it have our two characters start out as inexperienced, unpublished, middle school hopefuls, but it also starts us out at the beginning of a romance as well. It blends the two genres making it a much deeper work, even in the first volume, than Manga Dog has managed to do in two, thus far. We really get to see the motivations and development of the characters and their relationships over time.
That is very much missing from Manga Dogs. Kanna is already set up as a published (if not extremely popular) mangaka. We don't see much in the way of her background aside from that she was seen as 'nerdy' and obviously doesn't like 'normals.' But, she needs to rely on her new harem of appropriately traited (Prince, Glasses and Shota) classmates to cheer her on. It is so true to tropes and staid plot-lines that I can't imagine it will hold any but the die-hard shojo manga readers interest for long.
The first volume sets us up, we meet Kanna and become familiar with her manga "Teach me <3 Buddha" a harem style manga about a girl who attends a school for where all the students are gods. She meets the three boys who immediately begin to idolize her and becomes the envy of normal girls when they see these three 'hotties' paying attention to Kanna.
The second volume features more bonding, including a book signing for Kanna where she is unable to tell how many actual fans came because it turned out that many attendees were the three boys in various disguises.
Oddly, whereas Bakuman I'd recommend for a Teen audience, even though it is a much more serious manga (it's still funny, but much more realistic than Manga Dogs). Even though the relationships between the characters are adult, it deals with more realistic problems, and unlike Manga Dogs no mention of yaoi or yuri ever comes up. Already by the second volume of Manga Dogs, the three have attended a Comic Mart which focused on yaoi doujinshi (fan made comics that focus on slash relationships in mainstream manga) where Kanna had to protect the boys from finding out about the horrors or gay relationships (?) and had a yuri joke scene between Shota's sister and Kanna.
In Manga Dogs readers must just assume that the characters have somehow magically become 'best friends' through these very superficial interactions, but in Bakuman readers are much more invested in the characters as they develop and their relationships evolve over time.
It's a weird mix because Manga Dogs is obviously very familiar with all the shojo tropes and though it's also obvious at times that the author is poking fun...it just doesn't have the appeal and polish that Bakuman manages.
I have to say, I'd recommend Bakuman, and leave this one by the wayside, for anyone interested in reading an entertaining, yet informative, manga about manga publishing and authors.