Yatogami Kuroh has lost the only thing remotely close to family he had left—and to make matters worse, he's been charged with a final task by his master that he isn't entirely sure he'll be able to fulfill. Follow this young modern-era samurai as he sets off on a quest to track down the next Colorless King and determine if he's evil or not…and to strike him down where he stands if he is.
Warning: unless you're a fan of the series K, you're probaly wondering what the hubbub is all about. Otherwise, enjoyable short volume that deals with the backstory of Kuroh Yatogami aka Black Dog and how he found Shiro in episode one. Along the way, we discover how he obtained his sword, some brief flashbacks of his life with his master before his master passed away and more importantly, how exactly he came about on how he met Shiro.
Spoiler Alert: There's some cameos from other characters as well: Big Guy that hung with Yata appears in chapter 3 and Totsuka appears in 4.
Overall, I liked this
volume. The art was true to the story and boy oh boy is Kuroh pretty. My only complaint is that I wish there was more volumes that answered questions, mainly on Ichigen Miwa and what exactly is Kuroh's relationship to him. So despite the blurb, if you're looking for a wandering samurai story...well, you're not going to get too much other than the five chapters here. But for K fans and for fans of the Black Dog himself, you're in for a treat.
I once read that all anime (and manga by extension) is derivative. This shouldn't be shocking for most anime fans, as often times they will see the same plot points and character types get recycled and re-interpreted again and again. So, it should come as no surprise that K: Stray Dog Story is a derivative work. Yet, I'll go even further to say that K:SDS is a derivative of a derivative of a derivative- there is a lot you have to understand about the world of K and the world of anime and manga before you can fully enjoy this manga.
Likewise, this manga doesn't function as a stand-alone story very well. Even though it acts as a prequel to the anime series K, it doesn't provide much information on the world of K, so readers new to the series will probably be very lost. However, it makes up for this with a very straightforward plot. The story centers around a wandering, modern samurai named Kuroh who embarks on a journey to carry out his late master's final wish. Throughout the story, he rescues people in distress, occasionally using a weird hand power that's never really explained. There's really no feeling of distress in any of the situations he's in because Kuroh seems to possess a set of elite skills far beyond that of any of his adversaries. While the plot is easy to follow, the simplicity of it drags this manga down into mediocrity. Even high speed chases and cooking battles can't hide the fact that the story is bland at best.
However, if you interpret K as a derivative work, you're in for a few surprises. In a way, this is a parody of the samurai genre as well as the fujoshi genre. There are a handful of action genre clichés it makes look over the top (and thus pokes fun at) and there's even a thinly veiled allusion to a certain voice actor's previous work. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the K series functions brilliantly as a derivative work because it's so obviously a conglomeration of popular archetypes and tropes that have come before it, and this manga is no exception. This is why people new to anime and manga will not quite enjoy this story, or get all the references it makes, the same way as people familiar to the anime/manga scene of the late 00's will.
Yet, those wanting more from the world of K will likely be disappointed with this story as well. First of all, the drawings do not have the same crisp and stylish quality that one has come to expect from the series. The art is subpar at best, though not terrible. As well, the world of the manga seems less technologically advanced than the one in the show, almost as if the two take place in different universes (which probably was not the intention). Still, perhaps the only way this manga does expand K's world is by giving Kuroh his time in the limelight. While he is not the most complex of characters, he is charming and this story serves to flesh him out a bit more.
Reading K: Stray Dog Story straight or at face value will probably leave a vast majority disappointed. The real joy about this manga comes from knowing the genres surrounding it. If you enjoy K because of the fact that it seems aware of the demographic its catering to, then you'll probably enjoy this. If not, then this is a manga probably not worth picking up.