What happens when an epic doujin artist grows into professional gigs? You get an action-packed, sci-fi thriller with a hard-punching, cinematic art style, and a story that bleeds fandom blue. Here’s all you need to know about Dogs: Bullets & Carnage, the best manga you’ve never heard of.
Dogs: Bullets & Carnage is a post-apocalyptic dystopian sci-fi with a distinctly German feel à la Fritz Lang, and pays homage to this in character names and the dictator’s looks. The story follows Heine, an albino test-tube mutant with regenerative powers, and his attempts to deal with his past when it comes to get him via revolution. The world is a bifurcated metal megalopolis: the underground is populated with bygone-era genetic mutants and above ground is for the unseen wealthy. It smacks of Paradigm City in The Big O, the colony in “Blade Runner,” and, of course, Lang’s “Metropolis.” Dogs mashes genres and comes out the best of all possible worlds.
The art is remarkable. The bodies are highly realistic, in that idealized shonen-manga way (think D. Gray-Man more than Deathnote). But the value of the art doesn’t stop there. True to the digital renaissance in doujin, the book is colored almost exclusively in Photoshop black and white (think circle Idea’s works, or m.m.m.WORKs, for which the author also illustrates), with half-tones only when necessary (but always when necessary). This brings the book a flat feel inside the cells sometimes, but also a brutality that can be legitimately hard on the mind. All in the service of furthering a hard-hitting story focusing on despair and hope when an already-eroded world begins to crumble.
But, best of all, the art style is incredibly cinematic. From the first time I saw the petite, mute Nill, an angel-mutant, walking along the backs of church pews from an ambitious low angle, I knew this series would be one I’d be buying every volume of. And that, in only the second chapter of volume 1. The fight scenes are even more incredible, with heavy detail paid to accuracy of weapon, body, and choreography.
But what about the fandom I mentioned earlier? As you read the book, you will see the influences of the author being a doujin artist, and consumer, of shonen tales of the past decade — as with all of us of the Toonami years. How he transforms these influences, and the humor he puts with it, is what makes the story a fantastic fanwork postulate, apart from its ability to stand alone as a work. The main protagonist’s crew is basically Allen Walker, Lavi, and Lenalee-with-Kanda’s-personality from D. Gray-Man; Chi from Chobits; and Hohenheim from Fullmetal Alchemist thrown in as an assassin. Which, let me tell you, is awesome. Add Mimi, the manic newshound, Jet Black the police chief, grumpy Pinako (from FMA) as a mafia don, and Komui (from DGM) turned priest, as your secondaries; the three magi from Evangelion (headed by an evil Ritsuko) as the antagonists pushing Heine; and a spate of reoccurring comic relief villains that pack a serious punch, and you have got a story that seems an opus of a swan song to Toonami-Era anime viewer. Did I mention that this Allen can’t die? Yeah, it’s just that kick-ass.
This is not to say that Dogs lacks originality; it’s certainly made its characters and story its own. I’m simply saying that its influences are visible to the point of being a really cool doujin if you want to look at its characters that way. In any event, I stand behind this work to the point that I’d venture to call it the most satisfying shonen sci-fi in the States since D. Gray-Man. Also of note, while of the shonen style in flavor, Dogs is aimed at adults. It’s violent, but not ultraviolent as many M-rated manga are. It’s the perfect mix for those manga readers now in their twenties or above: a tasty wine, well-matured, made of the ripened fruit of 2000s-era Shonen Jump-esque stories.
Dogs is a manga, that like most, started as a short serial. Between 2000-2001, Dogs (with no subtitle) came out in UltraJump, eventually compiling into a single volume (which is Dogs volume 0 by the Viz Signature publication). In 2005, the main story line, still serialized today, began in UltraJump as well. Unfortunately, coming out with one volume roughly every six months (and slowing), this is one of the slowest-produced manga out in the States, right up there with post-hiatus D. Gray-Man and Hunter x Hunter. In Dogs: Bullets & Carnage’s case, however, it’s because the author is simply busy doing so much other awesome stuff, like writing for his doujin circle m.m.m.WORKS or freelance illustrations for magazines and video games. It’s regrettable, and leaves fans pining, but at least it’s a shared experience the fandom bonds over. Yet, all the fans stick with it — why? Because the books are worth it. Pick up a volume, and you’ll see for yourself.