It is sometime in the future, where a certain European city extends far underground, even secret, dark levels that have the key to the past. Ex-assassin Mihai has returned and is living with Kiri, who now runs a resturaunt. Sword-wielding Naoto, Haine (white hair), a mysterious product of genetic engineering and his sometime partner Badou (eyepatch).
This short, four-episode OAV corresponds to the DOGS prelude, Stray dogs howling in the dark (I have no idea why MAL has it labeled as BULLETS&CARNAGE, because that's not what this is), but while it captures the sequence of events well enough, it fails to communicate the oddly charming harshness and raw energy of the manga.
STORY - The story for the first volume of DOGS has always been a little loose and haphazard; each of the four sections focuses on a different character, and the lot of them are strung together almost forcibly as their individual stories don’t necessarily mesh meaningfully with the others around
them. The manga’s presentation did manage to find some kind of connecting thread between the four though, and each story also worked well enough as a standalone chapter. Unfortunately, while the OAV preserves the presentation order of the characters, each episode felt incredibly disjointed from the rest — actually, they felt disjointed in and of themselves as well, though I’m not exactly sure why that is.
Strangely enough, even at fifteen minutes a piece, the pacing in each episode isn’t noticeably rushed. It feels pretty scene-for-scene for the most part, but in the end, you really feel like you’re missing something. Was the story really so short and inconsequential? So… uninteresting? There is a lot of action — gunfights, swordfights, wild chases — and the action is highly entertaining and fun to watch, but the story beyond the action is sorely lacking.
Mihai is a retired assassin called back to his past, but the episode skips along too quickly for you to endear yourself to the character and the events that unfold are less emotional as a result. Badou collects information to sell and finds himself tangled up in a mob boss’s unfortunate business. As his section was always the most comedic of the bunch because of its sheer absurdity, the OAV counterpart didn’t suffer as much, but the humor did seem cheaper somehow in animated form. Naoto was raised with only hatred and revenge on her mind, but her narration in the anime flattened the story and I found it more difficult to sympathize. Lastly, Heine saves a genetically modified girl and confronts the haunting fringes of his own past in the process. Though his section is the one that explains the least, it’s also the one that’s most relevant to the on-going series. But Heine’s episode was surely the choppiest, and instead of exciting the viewer towards a continuing story, it seems to end on a note re-emphasizing its own precariousness.
Sure, DOGS’s strength never really lay in its amazingly thoughtful or unique story; indeed, the prelude does little more than introduce some characters’ pasts and other characters’ current lives, laying the groundwork for something bigger. But as I’m not left excited about the potential or possibility of more in this anime, DOGS has thus been reduced to a mindless hour of action with no beginning or end.
CHARACTER - Like the story, given the near-exactness of the presentation, I’m not quite sure why none of the characters have the charm they do in the manga, and I can’t say for sure whether my distaste is just because I was disappointed overall with this production. Perhaps the shortness of each episode has something to do with it after all — even if the sequence of events is the same, you watch through the episode faster than you would read through the chapters and you thus don’t have as much time to really care about the characters; you are less inclined to pause and rewatch the seconds of intriguing footage than you are to pause and reread a few interesting panels or pages. Mihai is an older man with a sad past. So what? Badou is a good-for-nothing with an amusing tobacco addiction. So what? Naoto is a young woman with a sad past. So what? Heine is a mysterious freak. So what?
Sure, all of these characters still have the potential to be interesting, just like their manga selves, but that potential is less obvious this time around, and I was easily bored.
ARTSTYLE & ANIMATION – Shirow Miwa’s art is gorgeous — his energetic character designs, incredible action sequences, and highly detailed environments are together the greatest strength of the manga; I can forgive the somewhat plain story and slowly-developing characters just because I can look at that art. As such, I spent many months worried about how all that style and detail would translate into animation. I wanted to be optimistic, but it seems that optimism was ill-placed after all. (Figures, right?)
It’s a given that much of Miwa’s careful detail will have to be sacrificed in animation, but DOGS was a much lower budget production that I would have imagined. For almost all long to mid-range shots, characters are drawn in a lazy, oddly elongated manner; their facial expressions are a joke. Most action scenes move along too quickly for this to be noticeable, but as soon as it slows down, it gets embarrassing. Close-ups are crisper, but really don’t fare that much better, especially for Heine and Badou, who appear strangely generic and without any of the attitude found in their manga counterparts. For them, animators really don’t seem to have bothered too much in capturing Miwa’s style and only replicated the most basic aspects of his character designs. Mihai and Naoto are less of a dramatic departure, but that may be because both designs are less unique to begin with.
Thankfully, many of the backgrounds are actually pretty all right. The cityscapes are still vast and grungy, and many shots are still taken from all sorts of interesting angles. Still, they’re not amazing by any stretch.
MUSIC - The little opening theme, if you can call it that, is endearing at first — a little reminiscent of the jazz tunes of Cowboy Bebop or Baccano!, which would be appropriate enough with all the action in DOGS. But considering the rather serious and depressing themes of three out of four stories, the upbeat and cheerful melody quickly feels inappropriate. The rest of the soundtrack for the series is incredibly negligible. Many scenes are simply silent with most of the music accumulating in the action sequences, but there’s nothing really memorable.
VOICE ACTING – The OAV uses the same cast as the drama CDs, which I thoroughly enjoyed. A few fans have criticized the use of “brand name” voice actors like Akira Ishida and Takahiro Sakurai but I think both do a fantastic job as Badou and Heine respectively. They give some much needed emotion to the characters when the animation fails utterly, and both depart significantly from their previous voices so even though I’ve heard Ishida and Sakurai’s voices many times before, hearing them here doesn’t invoke thoughts of their other roles. I also really like Akio Ohtsuka as Mihai; though the actual acting isn’t nearly as impressive as the former two, the voice suits the character very well. Naoto I find to be the least impressive, but that could be a mixture of my indifference towards the character and the generic narration she gave for most of her episode. Also, I think it’s worth noting Toshihiko Seki as Bishop, the blind priest, who has some hilariously delivered one-liners.
OVERALL - The DOGS OAV has been a huge disappointment for me, though in retrospect, I’m not sure why I had such high expectations. Still, aside from the poor technical aspects (mostly terrible animation and lackluster music), most of this anime’s drawbacks are uniquely difficult to pinpoint. The story and characters are almost exactly as they were in the manga, so why do they feel so different? For the first time, I theorize that DOGS might just work better as a comic and the anime only serves to overemphasize the weaknesses that were already present in the source. Though the same events are covered, the anime does feel strangely rushed, the most important consequence of which is that you don’t feel very attached to the characters. It isn’t as intimate, and without that connection to the characters, much of the interest and potential is lost — unfortunate, as the potential is what I found most appealing about the DOGS manga… along with the art. That Miwa’s art was bastardized as much as it was undoubtedly adds a bit of bitterness on my part.
So if you’re a fan of the manga, you’ll likely be disappointed. If you’re not, you’ll likely be indifferent — enjoy the action scenes for what they’re worth and then forget about it because it wasn’t actually that interesting.
First of all, let me point out I am a huge fan of the Dogs manga, originally I never intended to watch the OVA's because I had heard that they were a very disappointing adaptation of the manga. I decided to give them a watch because of the more recent chapters of Dogs: Bullets and Carnage that I had been reading and wondered how it would be if it was actually animated, so it was with some trepidation that I watched the OVA's.
Secondly, this is not an adaptation of Bullets and Carnage, so anyone coming here expecting to see that will just have
to do with watching the original manga play out being animated.
Thirdly, it's very disappointing.
Dogs doesn't seem to work as an anime, I can't describe why it doesn't work, it just doesn't. If you want to understand what I'm getting at go and read the manga then watch the OVA's, you'll soon realise what I mean.
Now I'll be honest, Dogs story was never one of its biggest strengths, however in the manga it was enjoyable, it was entertaining, and at times it was downright funny. But the manga's storyline doesn't translate well onto the screen and it becomes all too obvious what the weaknesses with the storyline were. If there's one thing that's frustrating about Bullets and Carnage, it's that it tries to present the storylines for each character as separate entities, without really taking notice of the character interactions, as such the story feels more disjointed and broken up than the sort of one shot chapters that actually spawned it.
Another issue is that some of the humour is lost, this is more prevalent in Badou's chapter than anyone else's, his most memorable scenes in the manga are again, a victim of not translating well and his episode in the anime (in my opinion anyway) suffers more than anyone else's in the story.
The art in Dogs was always the selling point of the manga, it looked gorgeous, and the action scenes were very intense, in the anime though, the quality has dropped considerably. The character models by Kumi Ishii do at least resemble the characters in the manga but most of the time they look awkward, especially Heine and Nill who both seem to have undergone a massive change from the manga, and it doesn't suit them, in fact, most of the character designs in the anime don't suit the characters. I will cede though that at least they look good in colour.
The biggest disappointment about the art though is the action. I wondered how David production would be able to pull off the amazing action scenes in the manga, and to be quite honest, they can't, maybe that's a sign of their inexperience (they've only done 5 anime after all) but I digress; the action doesn't look good in the anime, and I mean that it doesn't look good, the manga had a way of making the action look good thanks to its outstanding panelling, the anime naturally doesn't resort to this and it suffers tremendously because of it, the gunfights are boring, the chase scenes are boring, the standoffs are boring, in fact when it's not busy being boring it's looking bad thanks to the character models. Don't go into this anime expecting to see the amazing art in the manga, you won't get it.
Before I cover the voice acting I should address the music, and really, there's nothing worth addressing, the score is instantly forgettable being some sort of weird jazz/techno hybrid which tries to create a noir feeling similar to something seen in Darker than BLACK but fails. The music won't be getting any awards anytime soon so here's the next question.
How about the voice acting?
Well, my instant reactions to the voice acting where mixed, especially Heine's voice, Takahiro Sakurai makes Heine sound older than he actually is in the manga, his voice is too deep for me to believe him as a convincing Heine and made the character less of the cool cat that he is in the manga. Shizuka Itou and Akio Ootsuka manage to make passable performances as Naoto and Mihai, but the honour of best voice actor in this little disappointment of an anime goes to Akira Ishida.
Yes Katsura fans, Ishida manages to be extremely impressive as Badou, you can literally feel that Ishida is putting his heart and soul into this performance as he embraces Badou's (very unique) personality wonderfully. Ishida needs to play crazy roles like this more often, rather than go with the weird (and annoying) bishonen that is Break Xerxes, and the creepy emo that is Gaara, I mean it when I say that Ishida is the best thing about the voice cast, his acting managed to save the sound aspect from a much lower score.
The characters are nowhere near as impressive as they were in the manga, Mihai and Naoto were never going to win any awards to begin with, it was always Badou and Heine that stole the show for me but they suffer in the anime, it's hard to describe, again it's something that you have to read the manga to understand what I'm getting at but they're nowhere near as cool as they were in the manga.
Now, I'll be honest, I made a lot of comparisons between the manga and the anime here, I admit that the anime should be judged on its own merits but it's very hard to do a review of the Dogs anime without doing comparisons to the manga in a lot of places, it's not a terrible anime by any stretch of the imagination but it is very, very disappointing. It's also worth mentioning that the anime can't pull a stand alone move either, as there are so many indications of the producers wanting to do a Bullets and Carnage anime as well.
Maybe Dogs was never meant to work as an anime.
What do you know, I think I solved my own problem there.
In my personal opinion, one of the best seinen anime ever.
Though a short one, each of the 4 OVAs presents each of the main characters fully enough. Stories twist with each other, so that even in the episode about Mihai we meet Badou, who in his personal episode calls Haine, and then, for a few second, Naoto appears before we can learn her story.
As for the plot. You spend just an hour (and it never goes to waste) to watch all OVAs, but yet it may seem to you that there is much, much more. Of course, the story continues in manga, and the
fourth episode, Haine's story, has an open end. Yet each of the stories is finished in it's own way, and though consequences come, they become the beginnings of new stories - just the way the life flows and takes us from one episode to another.
Of course, disadvantages are inevitable. One of the main is the art. Compared to manga, OVA loses in the way it is drawn. And the sound sometimes goes strange, noises may become louder than character's voice in the time when it is not needed.
But all that doesn't matter, when you learn the stories of each one you see, when you laugh at Badou's failures or compassiate to Mihai's past mistakes, so the stories take you in, and the outstanding characters of this anime make you forget about everything around you...until it ends, after just an hour, leaving you to starve for more.
I haven’t read either of the manga series for this, so this review is purely from the 4 episodes OVA point of view. Warning contains minor story spoilers
The four 15 minute episodes which make up this OVA don’t have a common plot or story between them , more to say the OVA’s seem like they are introducing the main characters for a longer anime or OVA series which is yet to come. In saying that the stories do seem to be in chronological order, in the same city and it is set sometime in the future. The other main characters are also sometimes involved
with the introductions to the other episodes main characters. The episodes break down as thus;
Episode 1 – Introduction to Mihai – This shows Mihai’s return to the unnamed city for the first time after being fired from the mafia he was working for 20 years previously. Through this he has to deal with many elements of his past which he left there, including his former protégé.
Episode 2 – Introduction to Badou – The episode is a change of pace from the first episode, the first episode having been gritty and emotional, this is a rather humorous romp through Badou’s character. Badou is an information gatherer, but when he mucks up his abseiling whilst gathering information he ends up getting more information than he can handle. This is probably the weakest of the four stories and I just don’t feel it fits in, especially when he seems to have been given a character shield, although this is offset by the humorous nature of the episode, compared to the other episodes darker and more realistic settings, this can’t help but feel out of place.
Episode 3 – Introduction to Naoto - This reverts back to the more gritty atmosphere of the first episode, and shows Naoto being taken in by a skilled knife as a child user after her parents are murdered by a skilled knife user. Themes of revenge and confused feelings run through this episode, as well as introducing some very interesting characters – this is probably the best episode of the OVA series.
Episode 4 – Introduction to Haine – We are brought into the Haine arc knowing a little about him from what was said at the end of the previous episodes and also with him having been contacted by Badou already. Haine has a few special abilities which make him a slightly different proposition from the rest of the characters shown in the OVA, the story revolves round him taking pity on a genetically engineered girl and trying to save her. Haine is probably the character with most room for expansion out of the main characters set so it’ll be interesting to if they make a longer series how it will turn out.
The artwork is the industry standard for the current production run of animated series and looks like many of its contemporise – the characters are well animated and the backgrounds are all suitably drawn. There is no animation that stands out as being different or excellently drawn, but this goes along with its gritty and somewhat humorous attitude to the series, it works out well.
Hard to fault the sound either the series is well produced and has good voice acting/lip sync (a real annoyance when its slightly off) , the music pieces played through the anime are to a good standard are occur at locations where they add emotion or tension to the scene. As the series is 15 minutes long, there is no OP per se, but the ED is rather nifty and a good listen.
This seems to be the main point behind the OVA, the introduction to the unique blend of characters which make up the show, with each of the main characters getting their own episode to ‘introduce’ themselves. The mix of characters seem like they complement each other well Mihai being somewhat older than the rest, but his experience on top of his still top drawer abilities make him something of a legend in the city. Compared to Badou – who is definitely the comic relief, but also can show a serious side when out of tobacco, this contrasts nicely and any moments can be brought to a comic conclusion through his actions.
The most interesting characters were Naoto and Heine – both have some pretty big issues but watching them in the episodes you can already tell that there is something rather special waiting round the corner when they are on screen.
This is a very enjoyable series to watch, at just 15 minutes, you can whizz through the entire set in an hour as I did. The episodes actually seem longer than 15 minutes, so much happens in each one, and on more than one occasion I was checking to see they weren’t going to miss out the action scenes, which they didn’t. The only problem I had whilst watching it was knowing that this is as far as I was going to get in watching these chatacers, that there wasn’t anything to watch after I’d finished the OVAs.
I would highly recommend this series of OVAs to anyone – but I would warn them that due to the unfinished feel of the series they may want to pick up the manga instead or wait till further series are announced. If this does become the precursor to a longer series this should mean the anime goes straight into the action without the need for introducing everyone.
I for one am going to pick up the manga and read it, because I can’t wait for the next series to be announced