The story of Jiroumaru, an akita puppy who lives in a mountain hut with his siblings, mother, and two owners. When the puppies mother and owner die, the puppies take on the responsibility of looking after the little girl left behind, Anju.
Okay, so I have been a fan of the Ginga saga since I was a child, and Yoshihiro Takahashi's works are always really close to my heart in their entirety. So, as hard as it was, I tried to write a non-biased review about this heart-warming short story in the hopes that it'll help someone :3
Like most of Takahashi's stories, this one was also brilliant, although it was quite different than what you'd expect from Takahashi. In Ginga Nagareboshi Gin and Ginga Densetsu Weed, there's constantly a war raging and a major enemy that needs to be killed by one of the legendary Akita
dogs... Not with this one. There's no real major war or enemy, but this story solely focuses on an unknown branch of the legendary Akita family tree and how they used their heritage to defend their owners. Unlike the taking down of Akakabuto in GNG, the 'quest' is not nearly as extreme for Jiromaru and his family; instead they just want to look after young Anju and help her through the rough parts of her life. It's a heart warming story, and I personally loved it, as it brings in the nobility of Riki and his descendants into the mundane world. Also, it highlights things we overlook as a society, like child abuse and neglection, and Takahashi shines a light on darker topics of humanity fantastically through this story. But my reson for a 9 and not a 10 is because the plot seemed to be quite fast-moving and rushed. Maybe it's just me, but I would've liked if the story was a bit longer and not hurriedly jumping from one stage to another every other page.
It's Yoshihiro Takahashi, c'mon. Nobody draws manga canines better than him. In my home country of Finland, we call him "Koiramangan Mestari", or "The Master Of Dog Manga", so it's no surprise that his work gets a 10 from me. GDATJ is a lot more recent than e.g. Shiroi Senshi Yamato (where the porportions are a bit all over the place and the expressions are *cough* well, strange, but I'm letting Takahashi off because his style has become significantly more enjoyable in the 30 years that he's been drawing) meaning that the finish is a lot nicer. I especially liked the few full-colour pages right at the start of the manga.
Okay, I find Jiromaru and his doggy family adorable, Anju is a sweetheart, her grandfather, aunt and eldest uncle are noble and kind, and Anju's other uncle is a perfect villain with a perfectly idiotic family of greedy a******s. Nice variation of characters, and interestingly in this story Takahashi focuses more on the people rather than the dogs. Another thing that I liked was that Jiromaru and his siblings, despite being Weed's relatives, did not show those annoying "goody-two-shoes-rightous-goodness-annoyingly-angelic" traits that Weed has. *bleurgh* I seriously don't like Weed's personality, because he's too soft. That's why I love this branch of the Akita family: Jiromaru, Taromaru, Saburomaru and Koyuki were all dedicated to their tasks set by their mother, Yuki, showing off the noble Akita family blood of being determined, rightous and strong-willed, WITHOUT going over the top like Weed did. But I really would've liked to have seen more development within the characters, even if it was only a short story. I would've liked to have seen more of Jiromaru's siblings, and how their personalities developed as we don't really get that much of an insight into what they're like. Jiromaru is the same, though we see a bit more from him as he's the protagonist, but still not enough to make me deeply "synchronise" with the character. After all: it didn't really feel right reading a true Ginga manga by the master of dog manga where the people were more developed than the dogs.
I didn't put the book down. I couldn't. Even though I already knew the story before I read it physically, I felt the need to blast through it in one go. And... Yeah, okay, I don't often get emotional, but towards the ending, I could't help but feel a little rip in my soul and a little tear in the corner of my eye. This book was a great read, and despite the plot jumping around like a hyperactive chipmunk on coffee, I kept reading because I naturally wanted to know what would happen. It was a dramatic read after all!
Yes, I would really reccommend this to anyone who is even the slightest bit interested, and especially to anyone who is a fan of Ginga! The story is very touching, with strong themes which link to hidden and overlooked modern day issues, sprinkled with unique Takahashi-style dog characters! And if you're a fan of the Ginga saga in genreal, this is definitely worth reading, because it shows a different side to the wonderful and weird world of Ginga :3